This month we will look at the third principle; “Learning by Doing”.

The concept is very simple, however most of the business world is very logical and silo’ed in its thinking when it comes to managing change. Everybody understands the concept; but rarely is it used effectively.

The concept is based on the simple Plan-Do-Review-Improve cycle that is been around for many years.

So the theory is simple; you have a plan, you go and do stuff, when you’ve done things you regularly review how well those things have been done, which allows you to develop an improved plan for further implementation. But…

As simple as it is, the problem with many organisations is that the culture is driven very much by tasks, planning is a task and so is implementing (doing!) When reviewing happens it becomes another task; looking at business results with numbers. This is not what reviewing should do. Reviewing should;

  • Look at and discuss how things are happening,
  • Examine how the people behaved giving certain new activities
  • Question why have these things have happened in the way that they have

These things exist in the organisation regardless of the transformational change programme. The programme merely highlights and these situations should be seen as opportunities to further improve the organisation’s capability, not an indifference to the implementation of the programme. Again, this is old thinking that prevents true transformational change in organisations.

We still don’t see this in organisations as much as we should.

So linking this with “Learning by Doing”, new thinking needs to be introduced into the business that will allow people to start a Transformational Change process without knowing all of the answers. In reality the business probably hasn’t been through this type of change process and even if it has, the existing culture creates the same old thinking and doesn’t embrace new methods etc. which ultimately destroys the concept of Transformational Change.

The diagram above shows the different mentalities towards implementing change. The Project Management mentality is very much governed by “Left Brain Thinking” which is ideal for implementing a piece of machinery or large infrastructure, where logical step-by-step processes need to be planned and managed. Very much like a train on the tracks. The train is going in a clear direction and shouldn’t stop without good reason. Change Management however requires a different type thinking (Right Brain Thinking), it is aiming towards a Vision, but the journey will not be as predictable as the train. It’s more like a ship on the ocean having to divert and change direction given changes in its situation. I.e. wind and tidal changes etc. Organisations with thousands of people are very much like this journey. Unfortunately, so many Managers manage Transformational Change like a train on the tracks!

Of course, there should be plans in Transformational Change, which are linked to the “Vision” of how the business will be in years to come. This outline plan should be clear on how we are going to get there over time and a short-term should be more detailed i.e. for the next month or the next two months.

The reality is though, Transformational Change involves people, often many people and people aren’t predictable and that’s why it’s so important to continually review how things are going by questioning what’s happened  and how as its happened and then be able to steer the transformational process back towards the vision.

Review and Improve is a critical part of “Learning by Doing” and throughout the Transformational Change journey there should be many review processes (meetings) put in place at all levels of the business to examine how things are being implemented and what can be learnt and adjusted in real-time.


Martin Gummery, Managing Director, NewLeaf International Ltd.