Managing learning outcomes and creating a new practice

The effects of COVID-19 affect the employees’ tasks and life situation in different ways. Some have more tasks to solve. Others have experienced that their usual tasks are put on hold. Some experience long working days. Others experience working days with a higher level of flexibility. To enter unknown territory during the COVID-19 pandemic and to create a meaningful, new common practice requires that managers and employees together explore the lessons learned and the new experiences which have arisen during a time in which the organisation is facing continuous adjustments.

Two dialogue guides are available below. Mangers can use these guides to initiate and/or continue gathering of experience and lessons learned which can support the establishment of a new common practice in the unit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two dialogue guides were created at different times during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first dialogue guide was established as a tool to gather experience during the first period in which the employees were working from home. The second guide was established as a tool for continuous experience gathering in a time of continuous change during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both guides focus on the gathering of experience and lessons learned from the ‘previous’ practices and the practices we have ‘now’ in order to create a new common practice. The new common practice should therefore cover parts of our previous practices as well as the practices which have been a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dialogue guide 1

Dialogue guide 1 – gathering experience and lessons learned from the first period of working from home
The purpose of dialogue guide 1 is to create an overview and a common basis for a dialogue about the experiences and the lessons learned in the unit when the place of work changed from AU to the employees’ homes, and then (for a while for some employees) back to AU.

To start the gathering of experience based on dialogue guide 1 may seem a bit outdated as the COVID-19 situation continues to affect the organisation and the work. However, as a result of the lockdown and the fact that employees had to work from home, many new practices arose. Innovative ideas were implemented, and during this phase, the organisation had to react, adjust, test, learn from and adopt new initiatives within a very short period of time*. If this time filled with contrasts is put into perspective in relation to the previous practice in the unit, there will probably be some lessons learned which already form the basis for the unit’s current practice.

How to facilitate the experience gathering process by using dialogue guide 1
It is suggested that the manager first assesses whether it makes sense to start collecting lessons learned through 1:1 dialogues with team members in order to create the new practice together afterwards, or whether it will be possible to use the guide directly as a framework for a dialogue in the team.

Whether you take the first or the second approach, it is important that managers make it clear what the purpose of the dialogue guide is and how it will be used, and establish a shared understanding of the individual elements. Finally, it is important to define how you will take the next steps into the new common practice together.

Download dialogue guide 1 in Word format.
Download dialogue guide 1 in PDF format.

Dialogue guide 2

Dialogue guide 2 – experience gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic

Dialogue guide 1’s design and intention of incorporating the ‘previous practice’ into the ‘current practice’ also apply to dialogue guide 2. Dialogue guide 1 uses questions concerning the time before COVID-19, whereas dialogue guide 2 makes it possible to begin and continue the experience gathering process based on the unit’s current situation caused by COVID-19. This makes it possible for the unit to establish a new common practice by including previous experiences and the lessons learned in relation to COVID-19 with the new, recent experiences and lessons learned. Dialogue guide 2 is therefore a tool which can be used to continuously build a new practice based on the experiences which arise on an ongoing basis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to facilitate the experience gathering process by using dialogue guide 2

If the unit has not been through an experience gathering process or created an overview in relation to the experiences and lessons learned from the first period of working from home, it may be a good idea to start the unit’s experience gathering process with dialogue guide 1. This is recommended in order to become familiar with the elements from the previous practice that you have brought forward from the first period of working from home and into the current situation with COVID-19, but also to create clarity.

If it is not possible or meaningful to start with dialogue guide 1 in order to continue the work with dialogue guide 2, we recommend that a clear framework is established that defines which period you are talking about in the first two columns ‘The previous dialogue’ and ‘During’ before the experience gathering process starts.

If you have already started the experience gathering process in your unit, you inform your employees that the first column ‘The previous dialogue’ refers to the new practice which you established together during the last experience gathering session  – i.e. ‘where we ended our last experience gathering session’.

Column two ‘During’ focuses on the time from the last experience gathering session and to the present day. The purpose of column three is to establish what the unit sees as a meaningful and efficient practice for the future based on the learning uncovered during the last session and the experiences of the unit during the time since the last session.

As recommended in connection with gathering experiences from the first period of working from home and in connection with the use of dialogue guide 1, in this case we also recommended that the manager considers whether the experience gathering process should start in 1:1 dialogues with the individual employee and then the unit can continue the work together, or whether the unit should work on the experience gathering together from the beginning.    

Download dialogue guide 2 in Word format.
Download dialogue guide 2 in PDF format.

The dialogue guide elements

The dialogue guide elements

Horizontal axis:

Focus on: ‘Focus on’ is used in all columns. This means what the employee and the manager have focused on and will be focusing on during the period in question, things that work as well as things that are difficult. This will especially become clear in the first two columns. In the third column, it may be a good idea to try to describe what you will focus on changing in relation to the things that are difficult and maintain in relation to the things that work in the new common practice.

New common practice: In the third column, work is done to describe the new common practice. This requires that you work together to describe the practice you would like to see implemented in the unit before the next experience gathering session. This means that you should imagine that you are in the next experience gathering session and look back in order to be able to describe the practice which has characterised the past period. A way to look at your practice can be to think of it as signals, signs that you will see in the time to come. One example could be ‘Flexible working hours’. In the time to come, which signs will we see that can show us that this is working? Which signs will show us that this is not working?

Vertical axis:

Tasks: In the ‘Tasks’ category, there are three sub-categories ‘Tasks within my/our field’, ‘Administrative tasks’ and ‘Strategic tasks’. The three categories are inspired by Bendix’ (2012) leadership triangle which includes these categories. However, his fourth category is not included because it primarily concerns people management. It is important to emphasise that these task sub-categories are ONLY for inspiration and can either be removed or replaced.

Collaborative communities: The collaborative communities category focuses on what we do together in order to succeed with AU’s core tasks. How does a collaborative community work in a time with COVID-19? What is a collaborative community in a time of change and how do we succeed with the tasks that support AU’s core tasks? The articles (in Danish) below provide information about aspects that managers should have in mind in order to make the collaborative community work in times when the physical surroundings for work change from working from home to returning to work at AU: ‘Sådan får I arbejdsfællesskabet til at hænge sammen, når kontoret åbner igen’ (how to reestablish collaborative communities when workplaces reopen) and ‘Ti råd til når jeres arbejdsplads åbner igen’ (ten tips for reopening your workplace) (Arbejdsmiljøweb)

Work/collaboration at a distance: This category concerns the physical surroundings when working at a distance as well as the way in which the unit collaborates when it is not possible to meet physically at work. The focus here is the meaning/consequences/opportunities involved for the employees in the unit when a workplace is created at home. How you can meet as a unit when you are away from each other, and which routines are created when we work and collaborate at a distance.

* The article Develop agility that outlasts the pandemic (Harvard Business Review) provides information on the importance of agility during a time of crisis and how to continue to use the established level of agility after the Covid-19 period as well.