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Learning Organisations EuroScoutDoc/2007

Learning Organisations EuroScoutDoc/2007

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Published by Europak Online
EuroScoutDoc in area of strategic priority "An Organization for the 21st Century" published by WOSM European Scout Region in 2007 focusing on the topic of learning organisation.
EuroScoutDoc in area of strategic priority "An Organization for the 21st Century" published by WOSM European Scout Region in 2007 focusing on the topic of learning organisation.

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Published by: Europak Online on Nov 01, 2011
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Euro.Scout.Doc - Page 1 of 9
Learning Organisations
The learning organisation is a concept that isbecoming an increasingly widespread philosophyin modern companies, from the largestmultinationals to the smallest ventures. We thinkthis could also be a philosophy for the ScoutMovement as well.What is achieved by this philosophy dependsconsiderably on one's interpretation of it andcommitment to it. The quote below gives a simpledefinition that we felt was the real meaningbehind the Learning Organisation.The following pages give an overview of thelearning organisation and may prove useful to anyreader interested in learning more about it. Wehave also included some reflections and outcomesfrom events organised by the WOSM - EuropeanScout Region on this issue.
What is a learning organisation?
"… A learning organisation is one whichimproves its knowledge and understanding of itself and its environment over time, by facilitating and making use of the learning of itsindividual members." (P J Thurbin, 1994)
There are many characteristics of learningorganisations and these include:
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Creation of learning teams and structures
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Open encouragement and reward forinnovation and creativity
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Regular feedback processes
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Sharing of a common vision
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Acceptance that both success and failure arepart of the learning process.The underlying cause for recent emphasis onorganisational learning is because of the increasedpace of change. Classically, the work environmenthas been thought of as being conservative anddifficult to change. Learning was somethingdivorced from work and innovation was seen asthe necessary but disruptive way to change.Organisations that learn quickly and then innovatewill be able to change their work practices toperform better in the constantly changingenvironment. Change is now measured in termsof months not years as it was in the past.
The Shift to a Learning Organisation
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Training
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Hierarchical top-down control
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Work isolated from life
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Structured
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Organisations as mechanical structures
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Control
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Rules & Values
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Adversarial
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Learning
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Collegial and networking
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Work integrated with life
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Interactive
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Organisations as dynamic organic systems
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Commitment and co-operation
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Shared goals and procedures
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Mutuality; win-win
 
 
Euro.Scout.Doc - Page 2 of 9
Why a Learning Organisation?
An organisation that performs badly is easilyrecognisable. Can you spot the signs?
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Do your members and staff seem unmotivatedor uninterested in their work?
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Does your staff lack the skill and knowledge toadjust to new jobs?
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Do you seem to be the only one to come upwith all the ideas?
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And does your staff simply follow orders?
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Do your teams argue constantly and lack realproductivity?
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Or lack communication between each other?
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And when the "guru" is not at work do thingsget put on hold?
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Are you always the last to hear aboutproblems?
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Or worst still the first to hear about customercomplaints?
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And do the same problems occur over andover?Scouting is not a business but if any of thesepoints sound familiar the answer for you could bea learning organisation. The terms “company”, “workers” and “employees” are used on fewplaces in this paper as the thinking is based onbusiness. But the ideas transfer easily toScouting.
How to Create a Learning Organisation?
The Building Blocks
Before a learning organisation can beimplemented, a solid foundation can be made bytaking into account the following:
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Awareness
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Environment
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Leadership
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Empowerment
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Learning
Awareness
Organisations must be aware that learning isnecessary before they can develop into a learningorganisation. This may seem to be a strangestatement but this learning must take place at alllevels; not just the management level. Once theorganisation has accepted the need for change, itis then responsible for creating the appropriateenvironment to enable this change to occur.
Environment
Centralised, mechanistic structures do not createa good environment. Individuals do not have acomprehensive picture of the whole organisationand its goals. This causes political and parochialsystems to be set up which stifle the learningprocess. Therefore a more flexible, organicstructure must be formed. By organic, we mean aflatter structure that encourages innovation. Theflatter structure also promotes passing of information between colleagues and so creating amore informed workforce.It is necessary for management to take on a newphilosophy; to encourage openness and reflectionand to accept mistakes and uncertainty. Membersneed to be able to question decisions without thefear of reprimand. This questioning can oftenhighlight problems at an early stage and reducetime consuming errors. One way of overcomingthis fear is to introduce the possibility forquestions to be asked and suggestions madeanonymously.
Leadership
Leaders should foster the Systems Thinkingconcept and encourage learning by the individualand by the organisation. It is the leader must beready to help team members structure their viewsif they need this help. For example, they need tohelp the teams understand that competition is aform of learning; not a hostile act.
 
 
Euro.Scout.Doc - Page 3 of 9
Management must provide commitment andresources to encourage and support long-termlearning. The organisation must be prepared tosupply enough resources (money, personnel andtime) to ensure that quality learning takes placefrequently.
Empowerment
The term Empowerment means that the focus of control shifts from managers to workers. Theworkers become responsible for their actions; butthe managers do not lose their involvement. Theystill need to encourage, enthuse and co-ordinatethe workers. Equal participation must be allowedat all levels so that members can learn from eachother simultaneously.
Learning
Organisations can learn to achieve these aimsthrough small-scale models of real-life settingswhere management teams learn how to learntogether through simulation games. They need tofind out what failure is like so that they can learnfrom their mistakes in the future. These managersare then responsible for setting up an open,flexible atmosphere in their organisations toencourage their staff to follow their learningexample.
Creating a Learning Environment
The creation of a learning environment must be aconscious and deliberate exercise on the part of the organisation and the management structurewithin the organisation.To create a learning environment we need to:
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Analyse how learning takes place
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Encourage fast and smarter learning
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Provide a range of learning opportunitiesincluding problem-solving groups, jobrotations, mentoring schemes, action learningprojects
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Learn from what goes wrong i.e. acknowledgeboth success and failure learning
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Encourage experimental learning and risktaking
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Depoliticise learning by encouraging learningopenly across boundaries
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Encourage a climate of trust
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Increase accountability for learning on anindividual and group basis
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Set up appropriate control and reward systemsto encourage learning and recognise expertise.During the European Management Seminar in2004, we organised an Open Space session onhow to create a learning organisation. In theattachment, you may find the questions used andcould take them for your own discussion.
Why Learning Organisations Work?
The People Develop
A learning organisation encourages its membersto improve their personal skills and qualities, sothat they can learn and develop. They benefitfrom their own and other people's experience,whether it be positive or negative.
Greater motivation
People are appreciated for their own skills, valuesand work. All opinions are treated equally andwith respect. By being aware of their role andimportance in the whole organisation, the workersare more motivated to “add their bit”.

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