Lubricating Learning

It was my absolute pleasure to speak with Garry Ridge, the CEO of WD-40 for episode 52 of Learning Uncut.  Like me, many listeners will have a can of WD-40 somewhere in their home, garage or workplace.  A familiar product from an extraordinary organisation, which was described in a Harvard Business Review article as having a ‘learning-obsessed culture.’

I first became aware of the culture at WD-40 through the work of my friend and colleague, Nigel Paine.  Nigel includes WD-40 as a case study in his book Workplace Learning.  We used the organisation as an exemplar in our Building Learning Culture programme that we ran in 2019.  Like the programme participants, listeners will gain insight into what it takes to build learning culture and some tactics that you may be able to adapt to suit your context.

Garry has worked with WD-40 for 33 years and been the CEO since 1997.  He remains excited about his role and about the organisation, which has flourished under his leadership.  Employee engagement is at an enviable 93%.  When you listen to Garry share his views and practices in regard to leadership, personal learning and organisational learning the high engagement level makes perfect sense.

Episode Highlights

–  How the product WD-40 is the outcome of learning.

– What learning means to Garry and how he approaches his own learning.

– Servant leadership – “Our job as leaders is not to be in charge. It’s to take care of the people in our charge.”

– Why learning is important to organisations.

– The spontaneous identification of ‘learning moments’ ingrained into how work gets done. The learning moment takes away the fear of failure.

– After action reviews as a disciplined way of looking at an outcome and what can be learned from it.

– The use of deliberate approaches to embed learning into work.

– Formal learning programs and opportunities at WD-40, including the Leadership Lab.

– The pivotal role of the manager as coach

– The use of the Maniac Pledge to give people permission and responsibility

– What it takes to create organisational values that actually mean something and drive behaviour.

– How key decisions are recorded to capture corporate history.

– Garry’s expectations of his learning and development team.

– Garry’s advice for learning professionals who aspire to adopt a learning culture, but don’t yet have a leader who truly values the power of learning. His words will give you courage, confidence, and the impetus to keep on going.

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Check out Learning Uncut Show Notes for Great Resources

Garry Ridge is generous and prolific speaker about leadership, learning and WD-40’s culture.  An online search will surface many interviews and presentations by Garry.  A curated selection of the most relevant is included in the episode show notes.  Be sure to check out the show notes of all your favourite episodes which always include resources that supplement and expand upon key ideas from the episode.


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