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Article No.: 1905, May 1, 2019

Article Title: Learning Agile Employees are Adaptable to Change

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, CEQC

If you’re a team leader at any level, you’ve probably observed that some of your team membersDr. Linda Gravett photo aren’t excited about any kind of change.  Of course not.  As humans, we like our routine because that brings a sense of comfort.  Yet, in order for our organizations to be innovative and competitive, employees must thrive during times of change.  This takes employees with learning agility, and as a leader part of your role is to foster learning agility in individuals across the organization.

Asking the right questions at the right time – and listening intently to the answers – is an excellent way to encourage learning agility.  One way to do this is by setting the expectation that your leaders will continuously ask what I call quality dialogue questions (QDQs), so that you build a culture that promotes healthy debate and inquiry.  The employee can initiate his/her own QDQs, as well.

Here are some examples of those QDQs.  Ask employees to fill in the blank.

  1. I’ve always wondered why we…. 
  2. I don’t think we spend enough time…. 
  3. I think we should focus on…. 
  4. Our success lies in…. 
  5. We are missing a business opportunity with…. 
  6. Everyone knows that ___________________ but is afraid to say it. 
  7. I’d like to see more______________________ around here. 
  8. Our customers would be happier if we…. 
  9. I would like to be able to…. 
  10. Our meetings would be more effective if…. 
  11. I’ve noticed that…. 
  12. I feel valued when…. 

When employees surface concerns or problems by filling in the blanks in these questions, as a leader you allow creativity and new learning by providing time to discuss and study problems deeply.

Another method for fostering learning agility is through what I call directed assignments.  These are opportunities for employees to learn from doing and observing others within and outside your company.  The directed assignments can be tied directly to your core competencies required for organizational success.  This means that employees win and your organization wins.

As an example, I developed this set of directed assignments for a client company:

Competency:    Objective Setting and Results Orientation
Assignments:    Benchmark and Analyze Strategic Planning Methods of 3 – 5
                            Global Organizations; Present Results to Colleagues
                            Facilitate the Strategic Planning Session of Another Division within
                            The Organization
                            Identify the Processes and Activities that Provide Competitors with
                            a Competitive Advantage; Present Results to Colleagues
Competency:    Communication Skills
Assignments:    Develop a Communications Plan to Advise Employees of a Change
                        in Product, Procedures or Processes
                         Facilitate Employee Meetings to Solicit Process Improvement Ideas
                         Develop and Deliver a Training Session on the Organization’s Core
                         Write a Column in the In-House Newsletter or an Industry Newsletter
                         Develop and Deliver Industry Presentations
                         Shadow Someone in the Customer Services and Public Relations
                         Department for a Week

Reading List:    The Psychology of the Growth Mindset
                         Influence Without Authority
                         Using Your Emotional Intelligence to Develop Others

Competency:     Leading Through Change
Assignments:     Develop and Implement a Communication Plan to Advise of a
                         Change in Product, Procedures, or Processes
                         Assess Incoming Customer Surveys to Ascertain Why People
                         Buy from a) Our Organization and b) From Competitors – Decide
                         What Changes the Company Must Make to Stay Ahead
                         Facilitate Round Tables with Each Business Unit and Help
                         Identify their Competitive Differentiators to Build and Enhance
                         Create a Symbol or Rallying Cry for Needed Change
                         Manage an Ad Hoc Team in a Rapidly Expanding Unit

Reading List:     Fast Company
                         Wall Street Journal
                         Harvard Business Review
                         Riding the Waves of Change, by Gareth Morgan
Linda is the Senior Partner of Gravett and Associates in Cincinnati.  For questions or comments, you can email her at or follow her on Twitter @GravettLinda.

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