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Kerryn Kohl

The Coaching House


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Building a SADEL organisation: the framework


Building a Self-Directed, Agile, Digital, Exponential, Learning (SADEL) organisation is critical to survival in a digital world. In part 2 of a 5-part series, organisational behaviourist and learning strategist Kerryn Kohl takes an in-depth look at the framework required to build this type of organisation.

In part one I outlined three major shifts that need to be made to establish and grow the Self-driven, Agile, Digital, Exponential Learning (SADEL) Organisation. These included:

  • Shifting towards a self-driven learning culture: Before organisations can truly embrace and benefit from learning we need to develop our ‘self-directedness’ and be empowered to do so. The potential to be self-directed exists within us, however the capability must be developed and enabled. Self–direction is a skill and a learned behaviour, but its development is often stifled within organisations, especially hierarchical ones. Therefore organisations must focus on allowing us to develop this capability through true empowerment practices.

  • Adopting an agile philosophy and mindset: Agility has always been a core competence, but now that the world is changing faster than we ever imagined it could greater emphasis is being placed on it. Agility is about how fast we are able to adjust our paradigms and behaviours in response to changes in our environment. To me this means the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn… at a rate of knots these days!

  • Moving from physical to digital: Physical training methods are fast being phased out,  and digital learning technologies are increasing. While digital learning is not a silver bullet, when organisations digitise learning they allow employees to become proactive and engaged learners who are partners in the learning process. However to harness these benefits we have to enable self-directedness first.

Understanding the extent of these shifts from an organisation’s cultural point of view is critical, and we should not underestimate the size and complexity of the change process we will need to undergo. I will look at how to navigate this change process a little later on in this series, but for now I would like to focus on building a framework to drive the SADEL organisation.  

A framework for the SADEL Organisation: Kohl & Craig 2016

This is an inward-out model; we have to start with developing a SADEL mindset within each learner or individual within the organisation before moving outward.

The individual

At the core of this framework lies the individual or the learner, more specifically the mindset and skills of each learner. Here we need to focus on embracing and building growth mindsets that power self-direction and agility within each individual. A growth mindset enables an adaptive learning environment, rather than a mechanistic one where we have to know everything upfront (Dweck).

We also need to pay careful attention to building digital fluency, a skill that will cut across all generations and bridge the divides. Another key skill to develop is adaptability to change; with the pace of technological advancements and the rate at which functional skills will be redefined, it has become increasingly important to master the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn at pace.

The team

This individual SADEL mindset will then permeate and influence the way we work as a team. This is the second key area of focus in the framework. Our individual mindsets influence the way we engage as a collective or team, it drives the way in which we converse and has a heavy weighting on the quality of our collaboration.

The organisation

Once our team model embodies the SADEL mindset we are then able to imbue the organisational layer and influence the leadership culture or brand adopted by the organisation.

This culture will then be one that understands the importance of learning as a key driver of organisational agility. Through embracing learning and driving quality conversations and collaborations, we are able to simplify our organisational processes and become increasingly innovative.

This SADEL organisation is then ‘held’ or contextualised by the external environment and embraces the ebb and flow of constant environmental changes and influence. In turn, this enables the organisation to be mindfully responsive to change rather than reactive.  

The environment will constantly influence the way in which the organisation is structured. By this I mean that the organisation is able to discern and adopt technology at pace. And as more and more automation is adopted within the organisation, its structure will need to shift swiftly to provide career mobility while at the same time embracing a contingent workforce model.

Managing change

The SADEL organisation will be one driven by predictive analytics, heavily focused on trend tracking, assigning predictive meaning to these trends and pre-emptively responding based on capabilities.

From the brief outline above the extent of these shifts from an organisation’s cultural point of view becomes a little clearer, and gives insight into the change we will need to manage in order to embrace the SADEL organisation.  

In the next part of this series I will drill down and bring each element of the framework into clearer focus, starting with what lies at the heart of this model: the individual learner.

I would love to hear thoughts and insights on the above. Let’s start a conversation!   


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