1.1 Introduction
The Learning Organisation is a concept that is becoming an increasingly widespread philosophy in modern companies, from the largest multinationals to the smallest ventures. What is achieved by this philosophy depends considerably on one's interpretation of it and commitment to it. The quote below gives a simple definition that we felt was the true ideology behind the Learning Organisation. "A Learning Organisation is one in which people at all levels, individuals and collectively, are continually increasing their capacity to produce results they really care about."

An organisation that learns and encourages learning among its people. It promotes exchange of information between employees hence creating a more knowledgable workforce. This produces a very flexible organisation where people will accept and adapt to new ideas and changes through a shared vision. Organizations do not organically develop into Learning Organizations; there are usually factors prompting their change. It has been found that as organizations grow, they lose their natural capacity to learn as company structures and individual thinking becomes rigid. When problems arise in the company, the solutions that are proposed often turn out to be only short term (single loop learning) and reemerge in the future. In order to remain competitive, a lot of organizations have faced restructurings which have resulted in fewer people in the company and this means that those who remain need to be used more effectively. To create a competitive advantage, companies need to be able to learn faster than their competitors and also develop a customer responsive culture. Argyris identified that in light of these pressures, modern organizations need to maintain knowledge about new products and processes, understand what is happening in the outside environment and produce creative using the knowledge and skills of all employed within the organization. This requires co-operation between individuals and groups, free and reliable communication, and a culture of trust. These needs can be met through embracing the tenets of the Learning Organization.



2.2 Background
The importance of learning was first put forward by a Chinese philosopher, Confucius (551 - 479 BC). He believed that everyone should benefit from learning. "Without learning, the wise become foolish; by learning, the foolish become wise." "Learn as if you could never have enough of learning, as if you might miss something." The underlying cause for recent emphasis on organisational learning is because of the increased pace of change. Classically, work has been thought of as being conservative and difficult to change. Learning was something divorced from work and innovation was seen as the necessary but disruptive way to change. The corporation which is able to quickly learn and then innovate their work will be able to change their work practices to perform better in the constantly changing environment. Change is now measured in terms of months not years as it was in the past. Business re-engineering used to concentrate on eliminating waste and not on working smarter and learning. March and Olsen (1975) attempt to link up individual and organizational learning. In their model, individual beliefs lead to individual action, which in turn may lead to an organizational action and a response from the environment which may induce improved individual beliefs and the cycle then repeats over and over. Learning occurs as better beliefs produce better actions. Common (2004) discusses the concept of organisational learning in a political environment to improve public policy-making. The author details the initial uncontroversial reception of organisational learning in the public sector and the development of the concept with the learning organization. Definitional problems in applying the concept to public policy are addressed, noting research in UK local government that concludes on the obstacles for organizational learning in the public sector: (1) overemphasis of the individual, (2) resistance to change and politics, (3) social learning is self-limiting, i.e. individualism, and (4) political "blame culture." The concepts of policy learning and policy transfer are then defined with detail on the conditions for realizing organizational learning in the public sector.



Major research into `the art of learning' did not actually start until the 1900's. In the 1950's, the concept of Systems Thinking was introduced but never implemented. Gould-Kreutzer Associates, Inc. defined Systems thinking as: "A framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things; to see the forest and the trees." This means that organisations need to be aware of both the company as a whole as well as the individuals within the company. Up until the introduction of this concept, companies concentrated on their own needs not the needs of their workers. Systems Thinking tries to change the managerial view so that it includes the ambitions of the individual workers, not just the business goals. One of the systems used was called Decision Support Systems (DSS). This was for the use of corporate executives to help them make decisions for the future. It was in fact the building of the models, which defined the systems, that benefited the management rather than the system's operation. This was because the building of the model focused on what the business really was and the alternatives available for the future. One benefit of DSS was that it made implicit knowledge explicit. This makes extra knowledge available to the organisation and will tend to allow the organisation to learn better because explicit knowledge will tend to spread faster through an organisation. In this respect DSS can be considered as an additional method of communication in organisations. This systems tool was predicted to be necessary for every executive's desktop. But this did not happened. In the 1970's, the same idea was renamed to Organisational Learning. One of the early researchers in this field was Chris Arygris from Harvard. He published a book on the subject in 1978. Even with this published information the concept still wasn't physically taken on by any companies.



Characteristics of a Learning Organization
A Learning Organization exhibits five main characteristics; systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, a shared vision and team learning.

Systems thinking
The idea of the Learning Organization originally developed from a body of work called systems thinking. This is a conceptual framework that allows people to study businesses as bounded objects. Learning Organizations employ this method of thinking when assessing their company and will have developed information systems that measure the performance of the organization as a whole and of its various components. Systems thinking also states that all the characteristics listed need to be apparent at once in an organization in order to be a Learning Organization. If one or more of these characteristics is missing then the organisation will fall short of its goal. However O¶Keeffee believes that the characteristics of a Learning Organisation are factors that are gradually acquired, rather than developed simultaneously.

Personal mastery
Personal mastery is the commitment by an individual to the process of learning. There is a competitive advantage for an organisation whose workforce can learn quicker than the workforce of other organisations. Individual learning is acquired through staff training and development, however learning cannot be forced upon an individual if he or she is not receptive to learning. Research has shown that most learning in the workplace is incidental, rather than the product of formal training, therefore it is important to develop a culture where personal mastery is practiced in daily life. A Learning Organisation has been described as the sum of individual learning, but it is important for there to be mechanisms by which individual learning is transferred into organisational learning.

Mental models
Mental models are the terms given to ingrained assumptions held by individuals and organisations. In order to have become a Learning Organisation, these mental models will have been challenged. Individuals tend to have espoused theories, which they intend to follow, and theories-in-use which is what they actually do.

Similarly, organisations tend to have µmemories¶ which preserve certain behaviours, norms and values. In the creation of a learning environment it is important to replace confrontational attitudes with an open culture that promotes inquiry and trust. In order to achieve this the Learning Organisation will have mechanisms for locating and assessing organisational theories of action. If there are unwanted values held by the organisation, these need to be discarded in a process called µunlearning¶. Wang and Ahmed refer to this as µtriple loop learning.¶

Shared vision
The development of a shared vision is important in incentivising the workforce to learn as it creates a common identity which can provide focus and energy for learning. The most successful visions build on the individual visions of the employees at all levels of the organisation and the creation of a shared vision is likely to be hindered by traditional structures where a company vision is imposed from above. As a result, Learning Organisations tend to have flat, decentralised organisational structures. The topic of shared vision is often to succeed against a competitor, however Senge states that these are transitory goals and suggests that there should also be long term goals that are intrinsic within the company.

Team learning
Team learning is the accumulation of individual learning. The benefit of sharing individual learning is that employees grow more quickly and the problem solving capacity of the organisation is improved through better access to knowledge and expertise. Learning Organisations have structures that facilitate team learning with features such as boundary crossing and openness. Team learning requires individuals to engage in dialogue and discussion, therefore it is important that team members develop open communication, shared meaning and understanding. Learning Organisations also have excellent knowledge management structures which allow the creation, acquisition, dissemination and implementation of this knowledge throughout the organisation.



6.1Benefits of being a Learning Organization
There are many benefits to improving learning capacity and knowledge sharing within an organization. The main benefits are;
y y y y y y

Maintaining levels of innovation and remaining competitive Being better placed to respond to external pressures Having the knowledge to better link resources to customer needs Improving quality of outputs at all levels Improving corporate image by becoming more people orientated Increasing the pace of change within the organization

6.2 Why a Learning Organisation ?
A company that performs badly is easily recognisable. Can you spot the signs? Do your employees seem unmotivated or uninterested in their work? Does your workforce lack the skill and knowledge to adjust to new jobs? Do you seem to be the only one to come up with all the ideas? And does your workforce simply follow orders? Do your teams argue constantly and lack real productivity? Or lack communication between each other? And when the "guru" is off do things get put on hold? Are you always the last to hear about problems? Or worst still the first to hear about customer complaints? And do the same problems occur over and over? If any of these points sound familiar the answer for you could be a Learning Organisation.


How to Create a Learning Organisation
The Building Blocks Implementation Strategies The Golden Rules People Behaviour

The Building Blocks
Before a Learning Organisations can be implemented , a solid foundation can be made by taking into account the following : Awareness Environment Leadership Empowerment Learning

Organisations must be aware that learning is necessary before they can develop into a Learning Organisation. This may seem to be a strange statement but this learning must take place at all levels; not just the Management level. Once the company has excepted the need for change, it is then responsible for creating the appropriate environment for this change to occur in.


Centralised, mechanistic structures do not create a good environment. Individuals do not have a comprehensive picture of the whole organisation and its goals. This causes political and parochial systems to be set up which stifle the learning process. Therefore a more flexible, organic structure must be formed. By organic, we mean a flatter structure which encourages innovations. The flatter structure also promotes passing of information between workers and so creating a more informed work force. It is necessary for management to take on a new philosophy; to encourage openness, reflectivity and accept error and uncertainty. Members need to be able to question decisions without the fear of reprimand. This questioning can often highlight problems at an early stage and reduce time consuming errors. One way of over-coming this fear is to introduce anonymity so that questions can be asked or suggestions made but the source is not necessarily known.

Leaders should foster the Systems Thinking concept and encourage learning to help both the individual and organisation in learning. It is the leader's responsibility to help restructure the individual views of team members. For example, they need to help the teams understand that competition is a form of learning; not a hostile act. Management must provide commitment for long-term learning in the form of resources. The amount of resources available (money, personnel and time) determines the quantity and quality of learning. This means that the organisation must be prepared to support this.

The locus of control shifts from managers to workers. This is where the term Empowerment is introduced. The workers become responsible for their actions; but the managers do not lose their involvement. They still need to encourage, enthuse and co-ordinate the workers. Equal participation must be allowed at all levels so that members can learn from each other simultaneously. This is unlike traditionally learning that involves a top-down structure (classroom-type example) which is time consuming.


Companies can learn to achieve these aims in Learning Labs. These are small-scale models of real-life settings where management teams learn how to learn together through simulation games. They need to find out what failure is like so that they can learn from their mistakes in the future. These managers are then responsible for setting up an open, flexible atmosphere in their organisations to encourage their workers to follow their learning example. Anonymity has already been mentioned and can be achieved through electronic conferencing. This type of conferencing can also encourage different sites to communicate and share knowledge, thus making a company truly a Learning Organisation.

Implementation Strategies
Any organisation that wants to implement a learning organisation philosophy requires an overall strategy with clear, well defined goals. Once these have been established, the tools needed to facilitate the strategy must be identified. It is clear that everyone has their own interpretation of the "Learning Organisation" idea, so to produce an action plan that will transform groups into Learning Organisations might seem impossible. However, it is possible to identify three generic strategies that highlight possible routes to developing Learning Organisations. The specific tools required to implement any of these depends on the strategy adopted, but the initiatives that they represent are generic throughout. These initiatives are ably described using Peter Senge's Five Disciplines of Learning Organisations (Senge, 1990). The three strategies are:

For many companies, adopting a learning organisation philosophy is the second step to achieving this Holy Grail. They may already be taking steps to achieve their business goals that, in hindsight, fit the framework for implementing a Learning


Organisation. This is the accidental approach in that it was not initiated through awareness of the Learning Organisation concept.

Once an organisation has discovered the Learning Organisation philosophy, they must make a decision as to how they want to proceed. This is a choice between a subversive and a declared strategy. The subversive strategy differs from an accidental one in the level of awareness; but it is not secretive! Thus, while not openly endorsing the Learning Organisation ideal, they are able to exploit the ideas and techniques.

The other option is the declared approach. This is self explanatory. The principles of Learning Organisations are adopted as part of the company ethos, become company "speak" and are manifest openly in all company initiatives.

The Golden Rules
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. Thrive on Change don't be scared Learning Organisations feed on change go all the way (no half-way house); committed; focused know objectives; plan Encourage Experimentation experimentation is a necessary risk individual input rewarded encourage throughout the company Communicate Success and Failure review assessment (continuous/self)


14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32.

The Learning Cycle Diagram - monitor, review, conclude, change Facilitate Learning from the Surrounding Environment find internal and external sources of information learn from experience of other companies (open your eyes) above all discuss customer needs Facilitate Learning from Employees encourage participation and experimentation (linked to point 2) invest in training - multiskilling (getting most from employees), morale empowerment/responsibility remove hierarchy Reward Learning everybody's wants their work to be appreciated - boost morale !! benchmarks for performance appraisal rewards A Proper Selfishness clear goals/abjectives hints on clarifying abjectives A Sense of Caring care for the individual ways of implementing this care

People Behaviour
Behaviour to Encourage

There are five disciplines (as described by Peter Senge) which are essential to a learning organisation and should be encouraged at all times. These are: 1. 2. 3. Team Learning Shared Visions Mental Models

4. 5.

Personal Mastery Systems Thinking

Team Learning
Virtually all important decisions occur in groups. Teams, not individuals, are the fundamental learning units. Unless a team can learn, the organisation cannot learn. Team learning focusses on the learning ability of the group. Adults learn best from each other, by reflecting on how they are addressing problems, questioning assumptions, and receiving feedback from their team and from their results. With team learning, the learning ability of the group becomes greater than the learning ability of any individual in the group.

Shared Visions
To create a shared vision, large numbers of people within the organisation must draft it, empowering them to create a single image of the future. All members of the organisation must understand, share and contribute to the vision for it to become reality. With a shared vision, people will do things because they want to, not because they have to.

Mental Models
Each individual has an internal image of the world, with deeply ingrained assumptions. Individuals will act according to the true mental model that they subconsciously hold, not according to the theories which they claim to believe. If team members can constructively challenge each others' ideas and assumptions, they can begin to perceive their mental models, and to change these to create a shared mental model for the team. This is important as the individual's mental model will control what they think can or cannot be done.

Personal Mastery
Personal mastery is the process of continually clarifying and deepening an individual's personal vision. This is a matter of personal choice for the individual and involves continually assessing the gap between their current and desired

proficiencies in an objective manner, and practising and refining skills until they are internalised. This develops self esteem and creates the confidence to tackle new challenges.

Systems Thinking
The cornerstone of any learning organisation is the fifth discipline - systems thinking. This is the ability to see the bigger picture, to look at the interrelationships of a system as opposed to simple cause-effect chains; allowing continuous processes to be studied rather than single snapshots. The fifth discipline shows us that the essential properties of a system are not determined by the sum of its parts but by the process of interactions between those parts. This is the reason systems thinking is fundamental to any learning organisation; it is the discipline used to implement the disciplines. Without systems thinking each of the disciplines would be isolated and therefore not achieve their objective. The fifth discipline integrates them to form the whole system, a system whose properties exceed the sum of its parts. However, the converse is also true - systems thinking cannot be achieved without the other core disciplines: personal mastery, team learning, mental models and shared vision. All of these disciplines are needed to successfully implement systems thinking, again illustrating the principal of the fifth discipline: systems should be viewed as interrelationships rather than isolated parts.

The Laws of the Fifth Discipline
1. 2. Today's problems come from yesterday's solutions. Solutions shift problems from one part of a system to another. The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back. `Compensating feedback': well intentioned interventions which eventually make matters worse. Behaviour grows better before it grows worse. The short-term benefits of compensating feedback are seen before the long-term disbenefits. The easy way out usually leads back in. Familiar solutions which are easy to implement usually do not solve the problem.

3. 4.

5. 6. 7.



10. 11.

The cure can be worse than the disease. Familiar solutions can not only be ineffective; sometimes they are addictive and dangerous. Faster is slower. The optimal rate of growth is much slower than the fastest growth possible. Cause and effect are not closely related in time and space. The area of a system which is generating the problems is usually distant to the area showing the symptoms. Small changes can produce big results-but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious. Problems can be solved by making small changes to an apparently unrelated part of the system. You can have your cake and eat it too - but not at once. Problems viewed from a systems point of view, as opposed to a single snapshot, can turn out not to be problems at all. Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants. A systems' properties depend on the whole. There is no blame. The individual and the cause of their problems are part of a single system.

Behaviour to Discourage
An organisation which is not a learning one also displays behaviours, however these should definitely not be encouraged. Rosabeth Moss Kanter studied a range of large Americam corporations and came up with rules for stifling initiative : 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Regard any new idea from below with suspicion -- because it is new and because it is from below Express criticisms freely and withhold praise (that keeps people on their toes). Let them know they can be fired at any time Treat problems as a sign of failure Make decisions to reorganise or change policies in secret and spring them on people unexpectedly (that also keeps people on their toes) Above all, never forget that you, the higher-ups, already know everything important about business.

These rules are expanded in her book "The Change Masters". The Learning Organisation needs to break every one of these rules frequently.



Why Learning Organisations Work
The People Develop
A Learning Organisation encourages its members to improve their personal skills and qualities, so that they can learn and develop. They benefit from their own and other people's experience, whether it be positive or negative.

Greater motivation
People are appreciated for their own skills, values and work. All opinions are treated equally and with respect. By being aware of their role and importance in the whole organisation, the workers are more motivated to "add their bit". This encourages creativity and free-thinking, hence leading to novel solutions to problems. All in all there is an increase in job satisfaction.

The workforce is more flexible
People learn skills and acquire knowledge beyond their specific job requirements. This enables them to appreciate or perform other roles and tasks. Flexibility allows workers to move freely within the organisation, whilst at the same time it removes the barriers associated with a rigidly structured company. It also ensures that any individual will be able to cope rapidly with a changing environment, such as those that exist in modern times.

People are more creative
There are more opportunities to be creative in a learning organisation. There is also room for trying out new ideas without having to worry about mistakes. Employees' creative contribution is recognised and new ideas are free to flourish.


Improved social interaction
Learning requires social interaction and interpersonal communication skills. An organisation based on learning will ensure members become better at these activities. Teams will work better as a result.

Teams and Groups Work Better
Learning Organisations provide the perfect environment for high performing teams to learn, grow and develop. On the other hand these teams will perform efficiently for the organisation to produce positive results.

Knowledge sharing " Openness Creates Trust "
A team is composed of highly specialised members who can not and are not expected to know everything about a job. In this case the sharing of common knowledge is quite important for the completion of a job. Within learning organisations in general, and teams in particular, information and knowledge flows around more freely. This makes for higher productivity within teams and between teams as they build on each others strengths. Trust between team members increases and hence they value each others opinions more.

In any organisation people depend on each other for the completion of their jobs. Learning Organisations will increase this awareness, and improve relations between people at a personal level. By knowing more about other people's roles, needs and tasks, members can manage their time better and plan their work more efficiently. This dependency is decreased as learning is enhanced, letting people get on with their own job better as they rely less on others.


The Company Benefits
An active learning organisation will have at its heart the concept of continuous learning. Therefore it will always be improving in its techniques, methods and technology.

Breakdown of traditional communication barriers
The old hierarchical communication barrier between manager-worker has devolved into more of a coach-team member scenario. Leaders support the team, not dictate to it. The team appreciates this which in turn helps them to be highly motivated. All workers have an increased awareness of the company's status, and all that goes on in other departments. Communication between and across all layers of the company gives a sense of coherence, making each individual a vital part of the whole system. Workers perform better as they feel more a part of the company; they are not just pawns in a game.

Customer relations
A company's first priority is its customer's needs. A Learning Organisation cuts the excess bureaucracy normally involved with customer relations allowing greater contact between the two. If the customers requirements change, learning organisations can adapt faster and cope more efficiently with this change.

Information resources
Over time a company builds up a pool of learning, in the form of libraries, and human expertice. This pool of knowledge within learning organisations is larger than average. New problems and challenges can be met faster using this increased resource.

Innovation and creativity
As more people in every level of a company engage in continual learning a valid contribution can come from any member of the company, and from any part of the company. Being innovative and creative is the responsability of the whole

workforce and allows learning organisations to adapt to changes in the state of the market, technology and competition efficiently. Moreover, this creativity gives rise to an increased synergy.The interaction between high performing teams produces a result which is higher than was planned or expected of them.


Risk Analysis
Risks if You Implement the Changes
to be effective, the change must be drastic and not introduced slowly as time is money not all employees want to learn and will resist the change the openness created endangers the trust between employees ignorance about learning; that is not following the proper learning cycle `Over the top': too much emphasis on learning and not enough on getting the job done "To encourage the learning organisation as the `end' is an exercise in futility" anonymous too much freedom and information can create misunderstandings information overload, too much to absorb at once "To love knowing and not learning: shallowness" , Confucius the culture of the country may be a disadvantage the perils of being a pioneer

Risks if You Don't Implement the Changes

survival of the fittest overtaken by the competitors become inefficient fail to embrace new ideas and increase productivity


The Future
In the future the following areas will become increasingly more important: Investment in Learning Technology Information Highway Knowledge is the Key Unemployment Learning Culture Customer - Client Relationships Conclusion

Investment in Learning
There will be more emphasis on learning and hence more investment in improving individuals, teams and the organisation. There will be more emphasis on the ability to learn and take on board new ideas and methods. Training will be provided by people within the company who actually do the work. Training will no longer be a separate activity but an integral part of the teams in the company.


The price per performance ratio of technology will increase greatly. The value of technology compared to labour will improve by an even greater amount. Technology will become more cross functional and transparent.

Information Highway
The increased access to the information highway will make information more available and to a wider audience. Barriers to learning, such as lack of information and the availability of material will be reduced. Learning Organisation will harness this form of information and use it to their advantage. Employees regardless of their status will have access to information that previously only their managers had.

Knowledge is the Key
In the future, organisation will be based on knowledge and not just physical assets such as land or products. The most important employee will be a `knowledge worker' and employees will be judged on their ability to learn.

The increased use of technology and the increased efficiency of individuals will lead to some necessary redundancies; whether this leads to an overall increase in unemployment is more debatable. The true `knowledge worker' will be able to adapt his/her skills to re-employment.

Learning Culture
Previous organisation cultures which are based on position or hierarchy will disappear. The culture of an organisation will be based on learning and the skills of individuals.

Customer - Client Relationships


A learning culture will help customers and clients understand each other's needs better. It will allow a greater degree of co-operation between customer and clients.

`Like it or not, the years ahead will be an era of change and competition'. `The only thing one can predict about the future is change'.


Case Studies of the Learning Organisation
Motorola continues to grow at a significant rate, with 20000 associates hired each year. With this growth, Motorola has the need to train people for their own hiring. Jeff Oberlin, director of Motorola University's Department of Emerging Technologies and Human Resource Trends explained: "We can't keep using traditional classroom methods of instruction to spread the message for Motorola. Our reach isn't far enough to get to everybody. We must find creative ways to help new associates, world-wide, become productive members of a team and receive consistent messages about how we do business; the core values of Motorola, and the tools and techniques we use." Jeff's charter is to closely re-examine MU's methods of spreading information, delivering training, and determining new and better ways of providing Motorolans with the knowledge and skills required to meet the ever-changing demands of the industry. He went on to say, "The use of CD-ROM, Internet applications, wireless data, and a host of other emerging technologies must be fully explored. Our intent is to find those situations where alternative training delivery is the best way to transfer information."


Multimedia training would allow Motorola to: Get training to all Motorolans world-wide, including emerging markets Reduce training times and costs Increase knowledge of the firm The first step is to build a department of technology to research, develop, and eventually teach the how-to aspects of multimedia based learning. "Once we determine how to use the various technologies available to us, we want to share that knowledge with the business." Motorola is looking for associates with expertise in a number of areas: Computer based training The Internet Satellite and business television Wireless communication Corporate education departments Software Video

The Conception
Motorola University was started in 1981 as the Motorola Training and Education Centre. It was created to provide training needs and established itself as a corporate department. During the 1980s, Motorola University's original aim was to help its company build a quality culture which would then develop an internal training system. In addition, they set up corporate-wide training plans and training investment policies. By 1990, Motorola University had expanded its operations in the United States, Eastern Europe, South America and the Asia-Pacific region. The Galvin Centre for

Continuing Education was opened in 1986 while the Singapore Training Design Centre was opened in 1989. Today, many mangers, supervisors and employees from all parts of Motorola have attended diversity training. This training helps participants to have more opportunities to develop and achieve their full potential

10.2 Apple Japan
Until 1989, Apple Japan, the Japanese arm of the multinational Apple Computing corporation, held only 1 percent of the country's personal computer market. The appointment of a new company president marked the beginning of an era -- he started the drive to increase Apple's presence in the market and accelerated change. The company was to achieve annual sales of $1 billion by the end of 1995. To meet this challenge the corporation approached the management consultant firm, Arthur D. Little, who have built up a wealth of experience in information technology and company restructuring. Apple Japan requested a sweeping plan to penetrate the market and increase efficiency within the company. In order to do this, they planned to reposition the brand, expand the range of distributors, improve customer management, and introduce the concept of the Learning Organisation into the workplace.

In order to implement Learning Organisation techniques, Apple was advised to tackle the Five Disciplines which are essential to a learning organisation: Team Learning, Shared Visions, Mental Models, Personal Mastery and Systems Thinking. Although group meetings were a regular part of company practice, more time was allowed for group discussions and team education. This kept the work teams well informed and increased every individual's input to their project. With the increased emphasis on team learning, a shared vision was naturally introduced, allowing each member to work towards the same goal irrespective of their position. Each employee of the company had their own mental model of how the organisation, their managers and team colleagues operate. By trying to bring each

person's mental model into line with the rest of the team, the learning process was made more efficient and teams acted more coherently. Personal Mastery was also addressed by encouraging managers to set their staff challenging but reasonable goals, and introducing training programmes. The crucial discipline was Systems Thinking, which brought all the other factors together. This enabled each employee to make decisions, taking the whole system into account, instead of focusing specifically on their own problems. These disciplines were implemented by moderate restructuring and a program of education that was applied to everyone in the organisation.

The re-organisation resulted in a marked improvement in the company's sales, with growth exceeding the most optimistic projections: Market Share grew to 15% in 1995 from 1% in 1989. Annual sales soared to $1.3 billion in 1994, with the sale of 520 000 computers Although not all of the success can be attributed to the introduction of the Learning Organisation concept, the results indicate an unprecedented improvement. The learning organisation was a major player in instituting this growth.

10.3 Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales (YPF)
YPF, the largest company in Argentina, is today a focused, highly productive oil and gas company involved in the exploration and production of oil and natural gas. It also refines, markets and distributes oil and petroleum products. In 1989, the company employed 52 000 permanent and temporary staff, and included holdings in fields as far away from its main business as hospitals and cinemas. The challenge facing the company was to transform itself from an inefficient state-owned bureaucratic centre into an efficient private company that could attract international investment. In order to facilitate this change, the company went about re-designing its organisational structure and culture. They turned to the American management consultant firm, Arthur D Little.

From the outset, the Arthur D Little team worked with the YPF management in reorganising their business. It was felt important that this re-design be only the first step in a long term aim of becoming a dynamic and modern organisation. The concept of the Learning Organisation was introduced. The establishment of a measurement system was perhaps the biggest step -- this enabled the employees to evaluate and review what was going on in the company, thus learning about current processes and seeing what worked well. The introduction of working groups also benefited the business, as ideas could be discussed, and perceptions aired. Everyone in the business became more aware of the company's purpose and the collective effort reaped dramatic results.

Losses of almost $579 million in 1990 were transformed into profits of $256 million in 1992 and $706 million in 1993 The number of staff was reduced from 52000 to around 6000 In July 1993, 44% of YPF was offered on the New York and Beunos Aires stock exchanges, raising $3 billion for the Argentine government. $1 billion has since been raised with the sale of further 13 % This entire restructuring was completed in just two years, leaving the company with a strong framework and tools for continuous learning and improvement


Hopefully reading this article has given you an insight into the Learning Organisation philosophy. With any luck it should have given you a few pointers and ideas to implement it in your own company. The perfect Learning Organisation is not an attainable goal,it is merely a desirable concept: there is no correct implementation of the Learning Organisation. Every company can continuously adapt and adjust and some will be better Learning Organisations than others, but every one of them has something new to learn. Finally it should be mentioned that the Learning Organisation is just a means to a business goal, created to improve productivity and most importantly profit. Quite how long this philosophy will remain fashionable is unknown. What is certain is that for any company in today's global marketplace continuous change and adaptation is the only way to survive.


1. Ibid., for review of these studies. 2. Khandwalla, P.N. (1992). Excellent Corporate Turnaround. New Delhi: Sage. 3. Schein, E.H. (1985). Organizational Culture and Leadership, p.9. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 4. Sathe, V. and E.J. Davidson (2000). µTowards a new conceptualization of culture change¶, in N.M. Ashkanasy, P.M. Celeste, and M.F.Peterson (eds), Handbook of Organizational Culture and Climate, pp. 279-296. New Delhi: Sage. 5. Quinn, R.E. and M.R. McGrath (1985). µThe transformation of organizational cultures: A competing values perspective¶, P.J. Frost et al (eds), Organizational Culture. London: Sage. 6. Pareek, U. (2002). Training instrument for HRD & OD. New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill. 7. Kluckohn, F. and F.L. Strodtbeck (1961). Variations in Value Orientation. Evanston, IL: Rowe Peterson. 8. Pareek, U. (2002). Training instrument for HRD & OD, Chapter 100. New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill.


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful