It’s the end of the second quarter. That means it’s a great opportunity to take stock of what you have accomplished thus far in 2017. Obviously, it is nice to be able to check items off your to-do list but that may not be the only, or even most appropriate, form of midyear assessment you should be doing. Applying our knowledge management training to enhance productivity and impact, here are some other questions you should be asking:
- What’s Working? And, why? Once you have identified your successes, see if you can also identify the reasons for your success. Are those reliable and repeatable reasons or will you need to take further action to ensure those conditions continue in place?
- What’s NOT Working? And, why? Once you have identified your failures, see if you can also identify the reasons for those failures. Remember, this is not about blame. And, it is also not about settling for the most obvious answer. Try digging a little more deeply to unearth entrenched conditions or patterns of behavior that undermine potential success.
- What needs to change? In other words, what do you need to do to increase what’s working and decrease what’s not working? Here again, don’t settle for the obvious or superficial answer. Push further to see if you can identify deeper or more widespread patterns that should be harnessed or disrupted.
- Am I prepared to make those changes? Is my team ready to make those changes? This is a tough one. It is not just a question of willingness to change, but also the ability to change.
- If yes, why? Once you know why you also know how to harness the positive energy of your team to continue on an upward trajectory.
- If no, why? Once you know why you also must determine what needs to be addressed to prevent a continuing downward spiral.
- What’s surprising? This is always a good question to ask — and ask often. This question engages all our senses in scanning the environment and reporting back. Sometimes the surprises we observe are weak signals initially but keep paying attention to them. They may well herald important upcoming changes.
- What have I learned? Life presents multiple (even daily) opportunities to learn. However, sometimes we allow ourselves to become so busy that we do not stop long enough to take note of the lesson. Or we are so set in our ways that we refuse to learn the lesson. In either case, we will find that the same issue comes up time and time again until we learn the needed lesson. There is no social promotion in life. Consequently, it pays to stop our striving momentarily so that we can take stock of our learning — or lack thereof.
- What do I need to learn? While you are focused on learning, celebrate what you have learned and then do an honest assessment of what you have left to learn. Paradoxically, it is as we learn more that we begin to understand how much more there is to learn. This is a good place to be — even in our areas of acknowledged expertise. The key is to develop intellectual humility so that we remain open to the possibility of the lesson when it arrives.
- How do I improve my rate of learning? For those of us working in the learning or knowledge management functions of an organization, we know that one of the key indicators of our success is whether we are improving the rate at which the entire organization learns. The same applies to us individually and to our teams. So keep looking for ways to improve your rate of learning. Inevitably, this will mean improving your observation skills and increasing the frequency of reflection. Then, take the critically important step of creating feedback loops to feed the results of that observation and reflection (i.e., the learning) back into your processes and work product. The faster you do this, the more useful your learning will be.
Armed with all this information, remember the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:
For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.
[Photo Credit: Keith Evans]