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Learning Organizations

Learning Organizations

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Published by: cstraubel7507 on Mar 25, 2010
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11/20/2012

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AbstractIn “a simpler way” authors Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers share, “(…) as we lookinto the organization, we see multiple selves – messages, goals, and behaviors that tellconflicting stories. How do we know what is important to the organization? Whichidentity should we honor? Which should we ignore?” (1996, p. 59) In the research anddevelopment arena, it is often difficult to discern what is truly real or imagined. In our company, our work is often classified requiring security clearance. We are often onlyshown one “window” of an entire project and we don’t often know what is truly importantnot only for the project, but also for the company. I think this lack of information andknowledge of the entire scope of a project is a grave downfall for our company and Ibelieve it is leading quickly to corporate demise. Some of the personal identitiesunfolding show evidence or signs of selfish private and single agendas created byindividuals as a matter of self-preservation. These are learned values carried over frommechanistic systems they have experienced in the past. This “corporate baggage”dictates a constant threat and competitiveness that they nurture out of fear. Theseindividuals therefore, try to make themselves indispensable to the company as a self-imagined way of creating the infamous “job security.” Withholding information andcontrolling the knowledge base are two examples of what often surfaces as power playsand a “battle of wills” among leaders and this filters to staff members as well. One of my colleagues commented one day, “(…) the top dogs will soon begin to devour eachother and then like Humpty-Dumpty, we will all fall down.” He was absolutely right, thisis indeed what happened and the company folded, “reorganized,” filed bankruptcy, andwas reborn with a new identity. “New identity” is a term I use loosely as the
 
circumstances that led to the demise, did not change – the old corporate ways andvalues remained the same. Being able to discern which identity to honor in thisinstance and which to ignore was an act of futility, for these evolving roles stifle thecreative flow of the organization and actually hinder “self-organization.” The dailystruggle was the only thing that remained as a constant. Our organization thus suffersfrom what the authors refer to as “multiple personality disorder” and they are correct, itdoes “confuse us with their incoherence” (Ibid. p. 60). There is no integrity or unity,only conflict and continuous struggle.Learning OrganizationsLearning enables companies to have a better understanding of how to change inalignment and evolve customer needs and market dynamics. Rate of change isconstant and needs to be combined with processes of accomplishing work and learningso both can be done simultaneously. It is necessary to speculate about the future soyou are not caught off guard. Knowledge management shows the largest growth ratefor companies (forty-eight percent); learning organization and system think rate thesecond highest growth rate of forty-four percent; employee learning rates at thirty-sevenpercent; organizational development interventions at almost twenty percent; andexecutive development programs such as mentoring (twenty percent) and coaching(twenty three percent) reflect how organizations are addressing information and theneed to develop and to expand competencies. The ability to gather, sort, and effectivelyanalyze information can greatly enhance an organizations competitive advantage byshowing them areas of most concern. Information can be gathered from many sources:
 
customers, suppliers, and partners. Knowledge must come from the bottom of theorganization, as they are the people who work closely with the sources.Traditional training, distance learning, and computer learning address thefollowing trends in learning organizations:
Knowledge management
Learning organization and system thinking
Leadership development
Creating and leveraging community of practice
Improving employee ability to learn
Diversity to enhance learning
Group reflections
Scenario planningThe challenge for organizations is to know which tool to use, timing, and how touse the learning tools together. Characteristics and behaviors of learning organizationsinvolve organizational design and culture and continuous expansion of their owncapacity to create a future. Core disciplines of a learning organization such as systemthinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, and team learning helpprogressive organizations create an environment of innovation that diffuses knowledgeand aligns highest capabilities with the deepest personal and professional aspirations.Leadership must have a passion for the company mission, the ability to takerisks, the desire to attract risk takers to the mission, and act as both a student as well asmentor. Leaders must be constant learners who learn from followers, mistakes, andadversaries. Employee learning is enhanced through the use of innovative technology.

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