Abstract In “a simpler way” authors Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers share, “(…) as we look into the organization, we see multiple

selves – messages, goals, and behaviors that tell conflicting stories. How do we know what is important to the organization? Which identity should we honor? Which should we ignore?” (1996, p. 59) In the research and development 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 only shown one “window” of an entire project and we don’t often know what is truly important not only for the project, but also for the company. I think this lack of information and knowledge of the entire scope of a project is a grave downfall for our company and I believe it is leading quickly to corporate demise. Some of the personal identities unfolding show evidence or signs of selfish private and single agendas created by individuals as a matter of self-preservation. These are learned values carried over from mechanistic systems they have experienced in the past. This “corporate baggage” dictates a constant threat and competitiveness that they nurture out of fear. These individuals therefore, try to make themselves indispensable to the company as a selfimagined way of creating the infamous “job security.” Withholding information and controlling the knowledge base are two examples of what often surfaces as power plays and 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 each other and then like Humpty-Dumpty, we will all fall down.” He was absolutely right, this is indeed what happened and the company folded, “reorganized,” filed bankruptcy, and was 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 and values remained the same. Being able to discern which identity to honor in this instance and which to ignore was an act of futility, for these evolving roles stifle the creative flow of the organization and actually hinder “self-organization.” The daily struggle was the only thing that remained as a constant. Our organization thus suffers from what the authors refer to as “multiple personality disorder” and they are correct, it does “confuse us with their incoherence” (Ibid. p. 60). There is no integrity or unity, only conflict and continuous struggle. Learning Organizations Learning enables companies to have a better understanding of how to change in alignment and evolve customer needs and market dynamics. Rate of change is constant and needs to be combined with processes of accomplishing work and learning so both can be done simultaneously. It is necessary to speculate about the future so you are not caught off guard. Knowledge management shows the largest growth rate for companies (forty-eight percent); learning organization and system think rate the second highest growth rate of forty-four percent; employee learning rates at thirty-seven percent; organizational development interventions at almost twenty percent; and executive development programs such as mentoring (twenty percent) and coaching (twenty three percent) reflect how organizations are addressing information and the need to develop and to expand competencies. The ability to gather, sort, and effectively analyze information can greatly enhance an organizations competitive advantage by showing them areas of most concern. Information can be gathered from many sources:

customers, suppliers, and partners. Knowledge must come from the bottom of the organization, as they are the people who work closely with the sources. Traditional training, distance learning, and computer learning address the following 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 planning The challenge for organizations is to know which tool to use, timing, and how to use the learning tools together. Characteristics and behaviors of learning organizations involve organizational design and culture and continuous expansion of their own capacity to create a future. Core disciplines of a learning organization such as system thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, and team learning help progressive organizations create an environment of innovation that diffuses knowledge and aligns highest capabilities with the deepest personal and professional aspirations. Leadership must have a passion for the company mission, the ability to take risks, the desire to attract risk takers to the mission, and act as both a student as well as mentor. Leaders must be constant learners who learn from followers, mistakes, and adversaries. Employee learning is enhanced through the use of innovative technology.

Knowledge management Knowledge management is a critical factor in gaining the competitive advantage, increasing profits, and success. Knowledge management requires the systematic leveraging of information and expertise to improve organizational innovation, responsiveness, productivity, and competency. The corporate culture must provide motivation by aligning knowledge management with a reward system, performance management system, technology, and a clearly defined skill set. Learning Organization Models and Tools Many innovative approaches help organizations that recognize the need to learn and to analyze. Systems thinking is a learning tool that focuses on interactions within a system and the elements that produce behavior. Personal mastery is an individual approach to accelerating the pace of success, harnessing the power of decisions, and commanding the forces of pain and pleasure to compel you to follow through. It is a way of conditioning your thoughts, feelings, and of changing your behavior permanently. It addresses goals setting, driving forces, values, and personal balance. Personal mastery can help individuals achieve a more purposeful life. Shared vision works with groups, teams, or organizations to close the gap between needs and resources. The elements of shared vision help individuals and organizations build a quality life through the development of just, moral, and creative attributes characterized by productivity, participatory and democratic process, and harmony. Learning teams present both a challenge and opportunity for individuals and organization to expand or grow their knowledge base. Critical elements of learning teams include a specifically defined task or problem, successful team dynamics and interaction, clearly defined roles, mediated

communication, and facilitation. (West) A mental model is a theory of thinking and reasoning representative of real or imaginary situations. Summary Changes taking place spark new and innovative approaches for companies who desire to maintain their competitive advantage. Some of these changes and assumptions include: • Customer centered attitudes; work and the structure of work changes with customer needs. • Supply chains form around a single project and are disassembled when the project ends. • Manufacturing capacity is bought and sold on an open market as opposed to traditional manufacturing models in which the plant was owned by an organization. • • Increased diversity. Changes in demographics. With a serious decline in birth rates, aging baby boomers are moving into leadership positions or retiring. The values of younger generations, rise of ethnic minorities into leadership positions and elderly people remaining in the workforce as part time or contract workers, is compelling organizations to rethink their strategic plans. Companies are faced with new challenges in learning how to cope and manage change. Employee burnout forces companies to focus on quality of work life to retain talent. The level of competition due to changes in technologies and globalization force companies to benchmark in order to identify core competencies and gain the ability to analyze, utilize, and capitalize on information to create or enhance its competitive

advantage. Organizations are learning how to maximize performance by aligning organizational dynamics: vision, organization design, culture, compensation, and strategy. Analytical tools help organizations foster a climate that promotes constant learning while helping individuals to strengthen interpersonal skills in order to prepare them to work on teams, network, and to manage conflict with all portions of the value chain. Shorter product life cycles means employers must motivate employees to think outside of the mental model, grant direct access to customers and suppliers, help employees learn to manage outsourced relationships, and to learn and think strategically. More than ever, organizations are listening to employees and customers to make accurate changes. Leaders are charged with helping individuals understand how they contribute to a situation and facilitate change appropriately by reflecting and obtaining feedback. Organizations support continuous change by matching it with a culture of continuous learning and leaders must model desired behaviors. Organizations invest in knowledge infrastructures and learning labs to promote knowledge networking. Competitive advantage lies in increasing knowledge, relationships, and motivation that distant rivals cannot replicate. Organizations are striving to make the lives of employees better by fostering a willingness to change and helping employees develop self-confidence. Companies recognize that the knowledge worker is a human asset that has mastered a skill set, is able to work in teams, and exhibits enhanced interpersonal skills allowing them to cope with the gap in values created by changing demographics.

Organizational development is a process that drives and embraces the following ideologies: the customer is integral part of process; quality is checked continuously; change is a necessary aspect of a successful project; problems are viewed using a systemic approach; reflection is utilized to enhance learning; knowledge is captured for future use; and appropriate closure is reached with all stakeholders. Learning organizations evolve. They are not born of rigid procedures – the process is not debilitating, it is invigorating and exhilarating and leaders and management need to recognize this and let it go and let it happen, let it mature in and of its own accord without trying to master or to control it.

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