Creating a Community of Learning

The Golden State Warriors recently won the NBA championship. Along the way, they established an extraordinary pattern. In the third quarter of each game they tended to outscore their opponents by a large margin. A recent article reports what happens at half-time and begins with the following account. (
“The 15 minutes between the end of the second quarter and start of the third are a carefully choreographed production, featuring clips of game footage, wardrobe changes and managerial strategies straight out of business school. Coach Steve Kerr, based on interviews with players and coaches, has worked to create an environment of inclusion. This is not a place for Lombardi-esque rah-rah speeches. Rather, the Warriors’ halftime locker room is a high-speed 360-degree team review.”
“Everybody is a leader here,” said Pachulia, the veteran center. “At least you have a feeling that you’re a leader.”
The article goes on to explain what transpires. Here is a list of the main patterns that occur in the half-time locker room.

  • Coaches spend 3-4 minutes by themselves sharing observations and sometimes venting.
  • Players have the same private 3-4 minutes to tend to personal issues.
  • Coaches enter and head coach Steve Kerr and makes a brief review of the good and bad.
  • Video clips from the first half are projected onto a screen.
  • The clips include positive plays which Kerr likes to emphasize.
  • Each message is condensed into a small morsel.
  • Each coach speaks briefly and players also voice their observations.
  • The coaches become equals in a community of learning.
  • The orientation is, “If you see something, say something.”
  • Half time is for seeing what is happening and recalibrating.
  • All this happens in approximately five minutes.

The article states, “There is confidence born in the routine of halftime — confidence that the players will heed their message and execute the plan.” The team typically goes out and dominates the third quarter.

  • What items in this account most violate your expectations?
  • Create an explanation of what is happening and why the team does better.
  • How could you turn your unit into a community of learning?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization

2 comments on “Creating a Community of Learning

  1. Brilliant. This is inspect and adapt at its best and actually showing a path to organizational learning: leave the range at the door, psychological safety, focus on the process so learning is repeatable…
    It made me wonder how many times I don’t contribute to the team learning in the shorter loops that could enable immediate wins, because I am too focused on the longer term part of the game.

  2. Dear Bob:
    Thank you for a great post and for bringing the NYTimes article to our attention. A wonderful example of what you have termed “sacred spaces” as so well described in your book “The Deep Change Field Guide” (San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass, 2012), 154. It illustrates the importance of creating safe spaces for our teams, a primary role of leadership.
    Ricardo Levy

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