Don’t just change what you know

I love brown bag lunches, when someone talks about an interesting subject while (traditionally) everyone else eats their lunch around a table (or on the other side of their video link). They’re pretty sociable, relaxed, and—of course—it’s good to learn and to encourage learning.

But while putting stuff into our heads (the knowledge, not the food) is good, it’s not good enough. Knowledge isn’t much use if we’re not going to do anything with it. At the end of the day what’s really important is what we do, not what we know.

That’s one reason I like retrospectives. They’re a complementary way of changing—they change what happens in the real world. They do so by first asking what needs to be improved, and then by creating some actions. It’s the actions that really count, here.

There are other mechanisms, too. I’ve been in countless one-off meetings called when we’ve found a deficiency in some reporting, or an excess of errors, or we’ve reviewed a production incident and our handling of it. All of these are valuable; but if we’re doing none of them then that’s a concern.

So when we think about improving ourselves, our team and our organisation we need to think about what changes outside our heads, not just inside.

Photo by Demetri Dourambeis