We’re taught from an early age that hard work is key for success. What we’re not taught is that hard work comes in two equally important forms: effort to perform and effort to improve.
Team’s lengthy to-do lists tend to trap them in chronic efforts to perform a relentless drive to execute tasks as best as possible and trying to minimize mistakes. With this, the Regulatory team develops “tunnel vision” focusing only on getting things done.
This might make them feel productive, but it leads to stagnation. When someone is focused only on execution, they respond to challenges by working harder, working more hours, hiring more people, and at times even cutting corners.
When team switches to include efforts to improve, known as “knowledge & learning zone,” they can get things done in ways that make them more effective. Not only does this result in better outcomes, it makes journeys more interesting, enjoyable, and fulfilling.
Set the stage for the knowledge & learning zone
In everyday work, most of us tend to get stuck in the performance zone, fixated on getting things done as flawlessly as possible. This might work fine while we’re novices, but once we become proficient, this single-minded focus leads to stagnation, or worse.
Most of us don’t have the luxury of spending significant blocks of time every day to learning or practicing a specific skill. The biggest opportunity to accelerate our development is to get things done in ways that also lead to improvement engaging in the performance zone and the learning zone at the same time, which is called as learning while doing.
We need to be clear on when it’s appropriate to stay in the performance zone, and when and how to engage in the learning zone. For example, if we are under a tight deadline for a high-stakes project that’s at risk, it might be OK to stay in the performance zone. Conversely, to ensure regular engagement in the learning zone, consider scheduling knowledge sessions across divisions to help people better understand the all functions and explore ways to enhance collaboration.
Embed learning opportunities in daily tools and processes
Developing consistent routines supports high performance. That’s why we use standard procedures, templates, checklists, weekly meetings with set agendas, daily standups, strategic planning processes, dashboards, and quarterly reviews.
But these systems shouldn’t have a sole focus on getting things done. You can design processes that encourage team members to regularly enter the learning zone.
Have current systems/tools include relative yet context based regulatory updates, articles, chat rooms and news. Utilizing these, design meeting agendas to include sections that prompt participants to share questions, ideas, insights, or feedback.
Overcoming the Performance Paradox
Regulatory team’s lack of awareness of the two forms of effort, along with their human bias to overvalue the present and undervalue the future and the presence of systems that have not been designed for learning, all lead to a persistent underinvestment in team’s development.
Research in many domains shows: The highest performers are those who regularly engage in the learning zone. It doesn’t need to take more time. It’s about how we go about our daily work while getting things done.
When we explore, we discover ways to work smarter and achieve greater impact.