Building Performance Goals around Learning

High performance is not just about achieving, but learning!

In the current environment we can no longer depend on what we have always done to achieve what we have always got. In short, we have to shift from focusing on what we achieve to focusing on how we achieve it. If you depend on behaving in the same way to get the results you want you will be sorely disappointed.  You may sustain results in the short-term, but not in the long-term.

How would it be for you if you organized your time, energy, and resources primarily around the objective of learning, instead of around performance? How would your day be different? For many people, their daily activities – what they do and how they go about doing it – would be dramatically changed.

In an environment of accelerating change we can no longer view ourselves as experts – our knowledge, experience and insights have an increasingly short shelf-life.  Rather we have to learn and challenge ourselves on an on-going basis.  Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, viewed himself not as a definitive expert on retailing but as a lifelong student of his craft, always asking questions and taking every opportunity to learn. We need to do the same

Becoming a learning person certainly involves responding to every situation with learning in mind. But it involves more than that; it requires that we set ourselves explicit learning objectives. Look at your personal list of long-term objectives, your midterm objectives, and your current to-do list. How many items fall into the performance genre and how many fall into the learning genre? How many begin with the structure “My objective is to learn X,” rather than “My objective is to accomplish Y”? Most people operate off of to-do lists. They’re a useful mechanism for getting things done. A true learning person also has a “to-learn” list, and the items on that list carry at least as much weight in how one organizes his or her time as the to-do list.

There is a company in California called Granite Rock, a stone, concrete, and asphalt supplier which has institutionalized the idea of having learning goals.  Rather than having performance goals each employee is asked to set his or her annual objectives in the format:

Learn __________ so that I can __________.”

By doing this people looking to not only improve themselves in what they learn, but in how they apply it.  This is key.  If you cannot use what you have learnt then it will not help you perform. Similarly, if all you do is focus on performing then you will never learn, and if you never learn you will be unable to adapt, and if you cannot adapt you will become irrelevant and obsolete.

It is not a matter of performance or learning, it is about learning and performance where learning is the oil which, when applied, improves the performance engine. If you let the performance engine run at full throttle with no oil you will end up with a broken engine, a broken business and broken people.

My question to you is this: what are you going to do to build learning and its application into the core of your business?

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