BUSINESS_WORLDPutting the right people on a team doesn't guarantee success. The most effective, high-performing teams are committed to continually learning.

Teams in the modern organizational world are awash in change and confronted by continually shifting opportunities and threats. Those that do not learn and adapt are bound to fail. According to Dennis Lindoerfer, there are four general practices teams can engage in to ensure they are learning as they work: establishing a climate for learning, continually assessing team members’ work together, working with a team coach, and managing knowledge effectively. In this scenario, the team leader plays an essential role to successfully accomplish the learning team’s objectives



1.Developing a learning environment. Taking time to establish the environment and the processes for learning is the prerequisite for rapid learning and effective team performance in the future. Team members must actively ask questions, discuss errors, engage in experimentation and reflection and seek external feedback. In "high learning" teams, mistakes are analyzed for how improvements might be made; and feedback, both positive and negative, is considered to be essential and helpful rather than critical. The results of feedback and analysis are then put into action, and the cycle of reflection, evaluation and action continues.


In order for this to work, team members must trust that others will not embarrass, reject or punish them for speaking up or identifying errors or problems. They must also feel confident that team members will support each other during challenging times. However, this does not mean a lack of conflict within the team. Lindoerfer afirms: "In fact, one of the most reliable indicators of teams that are learning is the visible and effective conflict of ideas. In great teams, conflict is frequent and productive."


2.Continually assessing the team work performance. Team members should routinely examine how they are working together to identify what is effective about their working methods and what is not, and to make decisions about how to alter their ways of operating to increase their effectiveness. The team will want to agree on metrics — such as adherence to norms set at the team's beginning, progress against performance goals, effectiveness of team decision-making, performance against stakeholder expectations. Then team members can assess themselves against their metrics in ongoing, routine ways as a part of meetings or work sessions. Other periodic activities, such as after-action reviews or formal team assessments, should be factored into the team learning process as well.


3.Working with a team coach. A coach who is skilled in team dynamics and process facilitation can work directly with the team to help the members become more aware of what is working well within the team and what isn't. The coach can provide information about alternative approaches, encouragement to the team for efforts to use this new information, and feedback to the team about the impact of these efforts. Coaches can also be used to facilitate the ongoing assessments and periodic assessments.


4.Managing  knowledge effectively. Capturing and disseminating emerging knowledge is essential for team learning. Teams need some disciplined approach to capture lessons learned and best practices from the team's work and disseminate these among the team members and to others in the organization. The choice of method will be driven, to a large extent, by the information technology resources available to the team, knowledge management norms and expected practices in the larger organization.


Learning teams also know how to effectively acquire and disseminate new, "outside" knowledge relevant to the team's tasks. This information may come from research partners, technical experts, competitors, business partners, stakeholders and other teams.


Teams are a powerful force in the modern organizational world. The dynamic nature of this world requires continual adaptation and innovation. By engaging people in the effective learning behaviours outlined here, teams can deliver on the tremendous potential they carry. "When teams put together all four practices — developing a climate for learning, assessing their work together, working with a team coach and effective knowledge management — they create a powerful lab for learning," says Lindoerfer. Good leaders know that team learning is not a separate activity or an occasional event. They value it and make time for it on a daily and weekly basis.