How Strong is Your Learning Culture?

One way to begin the process of creating a learning culture and to enroll others in the effort is to conduct a learning culture audit. A simple diagnostic can help you assess your organization and your management team’s orientation to learning. An assessment describes the characteristics of cultures that encourage learning and those that block learning.

While this learning culture self-audit is not exhaustive and may not be in the form that will work best for your organization, it may help you assess how you are doing as a leader of an organization that values learning and growth. We invite you to consider each question carefully and think about your behavior and that of your colleagues. You might also want employees to complete such a survey to get a sense of how they perceive you and the entire organization are doing.

By taking your organizations through this audit, you begin to demonstrate that you’re willing to ask tough questions and have an interest in hearing answers that are honest rather than reassuring.

Rank your organization on each characteristic on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being always yes and 1 being always no. At the bottom, tally your numbers to determine if your organization has more of a pro-learning or an anti-learning culture. Circle the items in each category that will require special attention from you in the coming days, weeks, and years.

Pro-learning culture


Anti-learning culture


People at all levels ask questions and share stories about successes, failures, and what they have learned.

Managers share information on a need-to-know basis. People keep secrets
and don’t describe how events really happened.

Everyone creates, keeps, and propagates stories of colleagues who have improved their own processes.

Everyone believes they know what to do, and they proceed on that assumption.

People take time regularly to reflect on what has happened and what may happen.

Little time or attention is given to understanding lessons learned from

People are treated as complex individuals.

People are treated like objects or resources without attention to their

Managers encourage continuous experimentation.

Employees proceed with work only when they feel certain of the outcome.

People are hired and promoted on the basis of their capacity for learning and adapting to new situations.

People are hired and promoted on the basis of their technical expertise
as demonstrated by credentials.

Performance reviews include and pay attention to what people have learned.

Performance reviews focus almost exclusively on what people have done.

Senior managers participate in training programs designed for new or high-potential employees.

Senior managers only kick off management training programs, rarely facilitating conversations or courses.

Senior managers are willing to explore their underlying values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations.

Senior managers are defensive and unwilling to explore their underlying
values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations.

Conversations in management meetings constantly explore the values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations underlying proposals and

Conversations tend to move quickly to blaming and scapegoating with little attention to the process that led to a problem or how to avoid it in the future.

Customer feedback is solicited, actively examined, and included in the next operational or planning cycle.

Customer feedback is not solicited and is often ignored when it comes in
over the transom.

Managers presume that energy comes in large part from learning and growing.

Managers presume that employee energy comes from corporate success and profits.

Managers think about their interest in and capacity for learning new things (their learning quotient), and the learning quotient of their employees.

Managers think that they personally know all they need to know and that their employees do not have the capacity to learn much than they know.

Total for pro-learning culture



Total for anti-learning culture


The column with the highest total represents the type of culture you have today.

© Marcia Conner, 2004-2013. All rights reserved. This assessment was first published in Creating a Learning Culture: Strategy, Technology, and Practice (Cambridge, UK; Cambridge University Press, 2004). Learn about the book and read an excerpt at

If you are interested in reproducing this assessment for personal or organizational uses, please download the printer-friendly version and abide by the following terms of use. This content may be distributed freely without the author’s permission provided that 1) the content, contact, and copyright notice remain intact, 2) the URL to the online version appears on every page, 3) you do not charge any fee for its use, 4) you send a note about how, where, and when the content will be used to for tracking purposes. If you’re interested in using the materials in a commercial or for-fee product, or on a web page, contact the author first to learn about additional guidelines.

Assessments: Learning Style | Motivation Style | Direction Style | Engagement Style | Learning Culture Audit