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What Do Pandas And Traditional Organisations Have In Common?

Learning is a form of internal evolution; if we do not open our minds to possibilities, ideas and change, we will find ourselves stunted, and eventually, being wiped out. Despite what Ice Age, and the last melon scene may have told us, dodo birds actually went extinct due to being hunted for meat, by both humans and other animals. It was not stupidity that killed them.

Now, in contrast there is the panda. The panda, native to China has been on the brink of extinction for decades; the animals having their native habitats destroyed in commercial developments. With that, along with the length of a panda pregnancy, and the fact that they can only rear one infant at a time, means that the fact that the panda really does survive against the odds. But, why is that? This is because the human race is enamoured with the bears, their large eyes and cute and seemingly cuddly disposition. Captive conservation is the main reason pandas are still alive, allowing generations to marvel at these brilliant animals. If they had been left to their own devices, the clumsy bumbling bears would likely have reached a dead-end.

If you do not wish your company to fall extinct in the next tidal-wave of crisis; you have to work out how to improve. Rebuilding a straw house, or a twig house wouldn’t have helped two of the three little pigs; repeating the same practice cannot be a guarantee for success.

Instead, you must learn, and evolve; adapt to your scenarios so you are not lost to the changing world around you.

Learning organisations, in short, value the ability to intake information, analyse it, and reflect upon the results. They wish their employees to continue to hone their skills in practice but also through external courses and enrichment. You can’t learn everything from a spreadsheet after all.

In SAFe Distilled 5.0: Achieving Business Agility With Scaled Agile Framework, authors Richard Knaster and Dean Leffingwell, refer to the work of Peter Senge, in his book, The Fifth Discipline. In which they explain that the transformation process for becoming a learning organisation requires the following distinct disciplines.

• Personal mastery. Employees develop as ‘T-shaped’ people. They build a breadth of knowledge in multiple disciplines for efficient collaboration and deep expertise aligned with their interests and skills. T-shaped employees are a critical foundation of Agile teams and Agile Release Teams (ARTs).

• Shared vision. Forward-looking leaders envision, align with, and open up exciting possibilities. They invite others to share and contribute to a common view of the future. Such leaders offer a compelling vision that inspires and motivates people to bring it about.

• Team learning. Teams work collectively to achieve common objectives by sharing knowledge, suspending assumptions, and learning together. Agile teams are cross-functional and apply their diverse skills to group problem solving and learning. This practice is routine in high-performing teams.

• Mental models. Teams make their existing assumptions and hypotheses visible while working with an open mind to create new models of thinking based on the Lean-Agile mindset and deep customer knowledge. Mental models take complex concepts and make them easy to understand and apply.

• Systems thinking. The organization sees the larger picture, and applies a systems thinking approach (Principle #2) to learning, problem-solving, and solution development. In the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), this approach extends to the business through Lean Portfolio Management (LPM), which ensures that the enterprise is investing in experimentation and learning to drive better business outcomes

In order to create a company culture that values learning, you have to understand the nature of a learning organisation. We further explore this in our blog posts: Learning To Be A Learning Organisation, and, Could Learning Organisations Be The Solution To Active Disengagement.

Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (, is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.

He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.

The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.

To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address:

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