Tools

How Learning Roundtables Make Your Organization Smarter and More Resilient

Teams must have opportunities to be candid about the progress towards their goals, to work through how to achieve their desired outcomes, and hopefully, to learn from their colleagues’ experiences

Creating a more adaptable, more resilient organization requires time for reflection: teams must have opportunities to be candid about the progress (or lack thereof) towards their goals, to work through how to achieve their desired outcomes, and hopefully, to learn from their colleagues’ experiences.

That’s why we encourage Learning Roundtables, which bring teams together to share updates on new approaches to their work. Like retrospectives, they’re oriented to the future, with the goal of pausing, recalibrating, and moving forward together, rather than assigning blame or rehashing the past. As such, they’re a critical part of our Adaptive Planning process, and we recommend holding one every quarter. Of course, a Learning Roundtable doesn’t have to be a part of Adaptive Planning; you can set one up whenever you see an opportunity for your organization to get smarter about how it operates and build its capacity for change. If you want to host one for your team:

  • Call for participants. A Roundtable is an opportunity for teams to showcase what they’ve been working on, so your first step is to find willing participants. If you’re conducting a Roundtable as part of the AP process, ask Bet Leaders if they want to participate, or if they’d like to recommend a member from their team. Otherwise, use your network or survey the organization to identify people who are attempting new ways of working.
  • Ask participants to prepare an update for the session. About a week prior to the Roundtable, brief participants on what you expect them to share with attendees. If you want them to create a presentation, provide a template and give them guidelines (e.g., “Keep it to five slides”) to create a consistent experience, and to minimize the extra work you’re asking them to do. Topics could include:
    • What was your initial hypothesis about how to improve the work?
    • What have you observed while testing this approach?
    • Where do you feel on- or off-track?
    • What’s your biggest concern? What might stand in the way of achieving your desired outcomes?
    • What have you learned? What surprised you?
  • At the start of the Roundtable, provide background information. Your audience may not be familiar with the concept of Adaptive Planning, so start by reviewing the goals of the Learning Roundtable. This is also an excellent time to reinforce some of the values and practices of AP, like the importance of testing bets, and tolerating discomfort in order to learn.
  • Invite people to join breakout groups to learn more about the different bets or initiatives. Chances are good you’ll have found several interesting projects to share, but they may be more or less relevant for different audiences. Breaking into smaller groups to discuss projects not only allows people to focus on the topics they’re most interested in, it also creates more space for conversation and deeper learning.
  • Bring the audience back together to discuss. So that everyone gets the full benefit of the discussion, ask a representative from each breakout to share some highlights, such as:
    • What did you learn that others need to know about?
    • What new way of working do you want to introduce to your team?
    • How is this initiative impacting the organization at large?
  • Review next steps and key dates. Close out the Roundtable by outlining what the group can expect between now and the next one, as well as highlighting any milestones. Remember, the most important behavior in Adaptive Planning is not necessarily deciding what to do, but rather, developing an organizational-wide habit of reflection, learning, and iteration.
Published October 31, 2021