Putting learning culture development into practice to increase agility


As already described several times, the learning culture is a central aspect for the ability of organisations and individuals to learn and change (Krapf 2016a, 2016b, 2017a, 2017c). In other words, the learning culture can be seen as an element to increase agility. In an earlier article (Krapf 2017b) I presented a generic procedure model for the development of learning cultures for practice (see also Fig. 3). In this article, I would like to give an example of how this model can be used to increase agility in teams.

Basis of learning culture development

The above-mentioned procedural model serves as the basis for the development of learning cultures to increase agility (see Fig. 1). The basic idea is that learning culture development – following a dynamic cultural approach – must be approached from an understandable description (Friebe 2005, p. 23; Jenert und Gebhardt 2010, p. 4). This means that both a (descriptive) understanding of the (team-specific) learning culture and a (prescriptive) objective must be present. In the generic procedure model, a model combination of Schein (1997) and Sackmann (1991) was presented as a reference framework for an understandable description (Krapf 2016,2017b). This can now also serve as a basis for the raised purpose of increasing agility. As a specific supplement, an appropriate target image must also be developed to determine the direction in which the learning culture should be influenced.


Figure 1: Basis for the development of learning cultures from a comprehensible description (Krapf 2017b)


Target image of the learning culture to increase agility

If agility is defined relatively broadly as the ability to achieve efficient and effective change (Krapf 2017a, p. 32; Zobel 2005, p. 160), then numerous scientific findings can be drawn on. For example, the same ability is attributed to the learning organization (Argyris and Schön 1999, p. 190; Senge 1994, p. 14). There are also some studies on the role of learning culture in a learning organisation (Marsick and Watkins 2003, p. 142; Schilling and Kluge 2004, p. 367). This can be used as a basis for the development of learning cultures in practice by using these findings to operationalise the corresponding target image. The practical example below uses the learning culture construct of Marsick and Watkins (2003), which was developed and scientifically validated to promote the learning organization.


Figure 2: Learning culture construct for increasing agility (Krapf 2017b)


Translation of theory into practice

The two theoretical learning culture constructs (see Fig. 1 and Fig. 2) can now be used for practice in the procedural model (see Fig. 3). This includes an initial team workshop, which results in team-specific fields of action. If fields of action of learning culture development for increasing agility are to be defined, the construct of Marsick and Watkins (2003) can be used as an orientation model. This works like a spotlight that illuminates relevant aspects of the learning culture to increase agility and thus supports the reflection in the team workshop. The model combination of Schein (1997) and Sackmann (1991) also serves as an additional structuring aid in order to discuss the team-specific learning culture in a broad sense and thus not to apply the orientation of Marsick and Watkins (2003) in an apodictic and unreflected manner.


Abbildung 3: Vorgehensmodell für die Praxis zur Lernkulturentwicklung (Krapf 2017)


Concrete application of the procedure model in practice

How can such a team workshop be designed in concrete terms? It would go beyond the scope of presenting the complete script. Nevertheless, the main features of such a system should be outlined:

  • As shown in the procedure model (see Fig. 3), first of all a joint reflection in the team on the learning culture follows. In the present context of increasing agility, the construct of Marsick and Watkins (2003) serves as an orientation aid, whereby the authors developed a questionnaire for both science and practice (Watkins and Marsick 1999). In my team workshops I recorded the items from the short version of the questionnaire in simplified form on A3 posters. The team can then give an assessment of the actual and target state of the learning culture directly in the workshop with adhesive dots.
  • This assessment with adhesive dots is then reflected together in the team, and then, with the aid of the model combination of Schein (1997) and Sackmann (1991), the focus is then opened up to the team’s own learning culture. At the end of this part, the team has a relatively deep understanding of their own learning culture (with regard to agility).
  • This team understanding is now being used to develop fields of action. Various creative methods can help here. In my workshops, the team members first had to think about their own needs for action and then discuss these individual ideas in a collective. As a result of this last part of the workshop, the team will agree on a few fields of action for the development of learning cultures as well as on the next steps how to approach these fields of action.
  • Irrespective of which fields of action are chosen and which measures are defined for their treatment, a reflection instrument is suitable as a meta-intervention (Krapf 2017). This helps the team to continue working on their own learning culture after the workshop and to iteratively adapt the measures planned for this (see Fig. 4).


Figure 4: Reflection instrument for sustainable learning culture development (Krapf 2017)



Learning culture development in the team is based on an understanding of context and target group. If the learning culture is to contribute to increasing agility, the orientation model of Marsick and Watkins (2003) can have a supportive effect. However, it is important that the individual categories and question items in the model are not used in an unquestioned or dogmatic manner. Rather, they serve as reflective impulses so that the team can identify potential for increasing their own ability to learn and change. Applied in this way, the model can still contribute effectively to increasing the agility of teams despite its relatively high age.


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Argyris, C. & Schön, D. A. (1999). Die Lernende Organisation. Grundlagen, Methode, Praxis. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.

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Jenert, T. & Gebhardt, A. (2010). Zugänge zum Begriff der Lernkultur. Eine Systematisierung auf Basis kultur- und lerntheoretischer Überlegungen (Bd. 2). St.Gallen: Institut für Wirtschaftspädagogik (IWP Arbeitsberichte).

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Krapf, J. (2017c). Was für eine Kultur braucht eine agile Organisation? https://​joel-krapf.com​/​2017/​04/​06/​was-fuer-eine-kultur-braucht-eine-agile-organisation/​. Zugegriffen 6. April.

Krapf, J. (2017d, September). Agilitätssteigerung durch Lernkulturentwicklung als Antwort auf die Digitale Transformation, Stuttgart. https://​www.slideshare.net​/​JolKrapf/​agilittssteigerung-durch-lernkulturentwicklung/​1. Zugegriffen 04.11.2017.

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