07. How can you make learning come alive?

aKeep podcast


Listen to this episode to discover how people at Sanofi Pasteur make learning come alive.   (19:42)



  • Digital transformation is really human transformation

  • Learning is the first step, but must be followed by Apply and Share to become truly alive

  • Visibility and saying “good job!” are important

  • Big change initiatives often fail

  • Learning needs to be integrated into business as usual

  • Networking, relationships, interacting beyond your own bubble are part of learning

Human transformation, not digital transformation

Comments from Dany to kick off our conversation…

Bringing in new digital tools is probably the easiest part of change. What is more difficult is to have these tools used productively.

We need to explore these opportunities of new ways of working, which are now becoming possible, thanks to these tools.

Learn, Apply, and Share

I suggested to Dany that “Learn” is what most companies do with their institutes and initiatives and so on.

I added that “Apply” is one step further and that “Share” is still  deeper.  That’s what I think is pretty unique about the program Dany and colleagues have designed.

Why Shift?

They call it Shift. That suggests to me that there’s something big going on. I asked Dany to talk about this.

His response:

“The name Shifts refers to the end result. What are we trying to achieve? A shift from an earlier way of working. It’s a more permanent change. You can almost compare it to an earthquake and the plates have shifted and they’re not going to revert back. That’s what we want to see happening. So that’s why it’s called Shift.”

Interestingly, Shift starts with a one-page document.

Dany explains:

“It’s one page,  just one side of a page. And that describes Learn, Apply and Share. So, it’s very simple. Basically, everything described in a short template. What we want to create here is a mini project, a mini commitment situation.

“It describes how the business is going to benefit from the training efforts. And then other information like who is doing this, which department, which location, how much time we think we will spend on that. And it describes those three steps. It says, I’m going to learn this tool. I’m going to apply it in this way. And then I’m going to share it in this or that way.”

A practical example.

  1. We have a lot of activity up-skilling going on for data visualization. So in this case, this would be step one. I will learn to use this visualization tool. Okay. That’s one.
  2. I will use my learning to compare the output of this new tool with the standard tool we already have at the company.  Using our own data sets and not believing what other people say. So that’s the applied part.
  3. I will share this information, because as a company, we are trying to figure out which of the two tools we should use going forward.

“We want to stick to just only one. And my analysis would contribute to that decision process because I will get examples and facts and I’ll compare the two tools and we can use that to get to a decision. So that’s the goal. So, metrics are automatically incorporated proactively in this approach.

“We know who’s doing this, to which department this person belongs, what the value is going to be for a business in a very concrete way. It’s a very practical example and not some broad typical line,. It’s very concrete. And since the manager also signs up on this mini project, it becomes a business objective.”

Learning is normal business, not going the extra mile

“It’s not something like training is going the extra mile, an after-hours investment, where nobody knows even that that investment has been going on. If we want as a company, something like this to happen, it’s part of our work. And it also allows us  to congratulate that person. To say “great job!”.”

Shift is an evolution of M

M is an earlier initiative created by Dany. As he explains:

“M is a teenager and Shift the grownup, with the teenager, having more chance to explore, a little bit more fun factor. It was very much ahead of its time with regard to employee experience.”

“It’s typical for a large company to do big change initiatives. And when there is a decision to do it, go big, there’s a champion. There are big budgets and a lot of good comes out of that. But there’s also a reality that these initiatives are very often limited in time.

“And the urgency evolves. The champion moves on. The budget goes to other uses. And much of that change has then the risk of reverting back. And the pressure is gone. People go back to their own old ways of doing. So project M  didn’t have that big burst approach where everybody’s supposed to participate.

“It was a slower approach, but every step along the way – the idea was to integrate those small changes as they become then part of our DNA in a more natural way. Less friction, but more enduring change created by the people. And so that’s why we call it change that was socially constructed, because it came from the people and also even to a point of going to the next step of being locally relevant. To give you an example, there was the M mindset that people know what it stood for, but how you implement that on different sites of the company that was a local approach.

“M had the strong, early adopter mindset while Shift is more targeted, more short-term oriented and more directly linked to the business objectives. So in that sense, it has a stronger link and a stronger impact on the company, short term. But what they both have is what you have described in your research, around gig mindset behaviors although they are executed in different ways.”

Gig mindset behaviors

Gig-mindset behaviors underlie both M and Shift: networking, building relationships, interacting beyond your own bubble.

Dany invites people who want to do something similar in their organization to get in touch with him on LinkedIn.

His last point is about leadership and that you will get better results with leadership buy-in.

I suggest you get in touch with Dany for his perspective on how to get buy-in and how to create a context for an effective “living learning” initiative.


First published May 12, 2021

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