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Unlocking learning

How can a small scale enterprise with limited resources and no trained HR manager create a learning organization? one who can't seem to get the right solutions. David Abraham gave a groan. .rom the corner of his eye, he could see his boss making straight for his cabin. An urgent quotation had to be sent, but it would clearly have to wait. .rom long experience, David knew that a visit from his boss would not be short one. Melvin Miranda, Managing Director of Miranda was a great man, but once he started talking, he kept talking. Melvin, in fact, was the reason why David had joined Miranda Interlock Pavers Private Limited ten years ago, in 1995, the year Melvin launched the Manipal based company. Melvin was well regarded in business circles as a highly successful entrepreneur, a multi-skilled professional, and also a teacher, trainer, and consultant, with an innovative business approach and management style. David had been by Melvin’s side through the multi-faceted problems faced by small scale industries, ranging from starting a new venture, the legal aspects, technology upgradation, human resource development, and so on. Both men were conscious of the socioeconomic impact of the small business. "David,” boomed Melvin, "Glad I caught you! I’ve been thinking about our new office in Goa. I'm not sure that the boys out there do things the way we like to do things. We need to transfer our culture there, but I'm sure they also have some learnings for us here." Melvin was believer in the concept of the learning organization a firm his and That is the challenge facing Melvin Miranda, a man with his heart in the right place, but

management philosophy was, "To survive in the market, you need to

It had won many prestigious awards from both state and central governments since its inception." Outwardly David nodded acceptance." he continued. Goa and Mangalore. Over time. and civil works. Concrete interlocking blocks was a new concept when Melvin pioneered Miranda Interlock Pavers and by 2005. he was asking himself whether Melvin had been able to implement his philosophy successfully. it had established marketing offices at Bangalore. The objectives of the company were: • To manufacture and sell concrete interlocking blocks. motivation and facilitate them to grow along with the organization • To exploit fully the potentialities of the sales personnel by . "I believe in providing employment to people. curbstones. It also undertook laying jobs. it manufactured pavement blocks and hollow blocks. and training them to grow with the organization. Inwardly. what matters is what you could do for your people and society.make the system a learning system. hollow blocks • • • and kerb-stones and make them available for construction activity To provide employment to the people by employing them in its manufacturing and marketing activities To implement the concept of interlocking pavement and popularize their product concept To maintain customer satisfaction by maintaining the quality of the product and regular supply of product at reasonable price as per the customer’s specification • To exploit fully the potentialities of the sales personnel by providing them proper training. the firm had carved a commendable niche for itself in the construction engineering market. Its products were widely used in roads and paved areas intended for the pedestrian or in low speed vehicular traffic and parking places. A small scale company." "At the end of the day.

motivation and facilitate them to grow along with the organization • To maximize profits with acceptable limits.providing them proper training. so that both the management and the employees can benefit and to facilitate the future expansion of the unit Exhibit 01: organizational structure of Miranda Managing director General Manager Assistant general manager (agm) Works manager/supervisor Machine operators 1 1 3 10 7 office staff sales force permanent workers Daily wage workers Machine operators 7 3 19 13 30 29 .

" he exhorted his team. Rs45mn.ELVIN'S APPROACH WAS TO MOTIVATE AND ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO PERFORM WELL Miranda Interlock Pavers was governed by six board members. and adopting modern technologies in the work process for continuous improvement brings the learning culture into the system.Y04. reserves of Rs2. he could not concentrate on each and every aspect of the company and was forced to delegate a few tasks to the people (Exhibit 01 explains the way the tasks were delegated).5mn. and annual sales. to know about their work progress and their needs. Starting the business was not a challenge but sustaining become a competitors major for concrete blocks but its key competency it had lay in challenge. he used to meet each one of his employees. "We need to improve ourselves if we are to survive. . "Shared vision. In . a third slightly lower costs. New competitors however had recently entered this bastion.2mn. team approach. Miranda Interlock Pavers had several manufacturing pavement blocks. knowledge. One new entrant had slightly better technology. and useful developing internalized commitment by all involved and a sharp understanding of the criteria for effectiveness to meet the challenges of complexity. another slightly better marketing." Melvin's management approach was to motivate and encourage people to perform well and he tried to ensure job satisfaction. and to ensure that processes were in place. Melvin Melvin had begun prodding wanted an his managers. To deal with these valuable and complexities. its paid up capital was Rs11. Earlier. asking them to focus on creative planning. total assets at market value. As the company grew. and Miranda Interlock Pavers' managers were beginning to feel the heat. Rs75mn. It employed 125 workers.

and inspite of the churn of people at the branch offices.000 at an appealing 5% interest. This strengthened Melvin's belief that a large part of his success was due to his people. but after some time there were no takers for the money. Melvin brought in a few professionals at the middle managerial level to improve the company's processes. General Manager had wide experience in handling the myriad challenges of running a small business. interested in the latest innovations. Miranda Interlock Pavers' machines were due for upgradation. Since the employees could not understand the logic of the offer. S Vishwanathan. But the original employees did not accept the change and 5 . a former schoolmate of Melvin’s.Despite the expansion of business activities and sales. He enjoyed the fact that two of his key people were old friends. Miranda Interlock Pavers had retained more than 60% of its employees since its inception. Another nonstarter was a scheme where all employees were asked to deposit Rs50 every month. Melvin's genuine concern for employees manifested itself in several ways. David. without any delay of supply to its customers. and any one in need could borrow a maximum of Rs15. The Production and Operations manager. he launched an inhouse cooperative store to make available grocery items at a subsidized price to employees. but the management had not yet decided to switch over to new machines as the old ones seemed to be working smoothly. and the money returned to them. But. At one point. somehow it was not successful. TO ADDRESS THIS SENSE OF UNEASE MELVIN ASKED AN INDEPENDENT HR AGENCY TO CONDUCT A SURVEY As the Miranda Interlock Pavers grew. was a true techie. the idea was abandoned. He then designed a new scheme where the company would use the money and pay employees 10% interest. The scheme started off well.

felt that they are not being given the respect or value as they used to get before. Melvin was in the process of introducing major changes. 6 7 A sensitive manager. At the front line level too. And it was to address this sense of unease that Melvin asked an independent HR agency to conduct a survey on how managers perceived the organization. Melvin knew that not everyone was happy with the changes which were being introduced. Though everyone in the organization knew that change was necessary to keep Miranda Interlock Pavers nimble and competitive. 3 headsof department . . client features and their incentives. Exhibit 02: people responsible for creating learning culture environment 25 20 15 10 5 0 1 2 3 4 5 1 ceo . a sense of unease had crept into the company. Melvin hoped to build a team approach and a greater willingness to share responsibilities. He also invited Aptech to organize a training program to make all office staff conversant with computer usage. professionals 5 strategic planner . Instead they become a little suspicious of the systems approach. 7 others . 4 development . and all salesmen underwent a short induction program introducing them to the market. Through this. So far Miranda Interlock Pavers had been providing "on the job training" for workers. Currently an effort was on to encourage office staff to become well versed with all the jobs being done in the office so that one absence would not affect routine processes. 2 senior managment team . 6 qualityt professionals . Melvin had hoped for a rise in employee productivity.

20% of employees felt that these tools have been practiced consistently only in the past one year. A significant majority felt that training was only availably to front line employees. NOT DECISION MAKING Age: more than 60% of the people have level are in the age group of 45-50 years worked in Miranda except the finance Interlocking Pavers since its inception. In other cadres. However. But employees felt the frustrated that they rarely got opportunities to talk to Managing Director as the Managing General Manager or the Director now played the role of a commander in chief.The study discovered some uncomfortable facts as well as some reassuring signs: EMPLOYEES FELT ONLY TASKS WERE DELEGATED. (Exhibit 03) Rewards: hierarchies have developed over the years. employees 7 . "We hardly get any occasion to meet MD and GM. Melvin himself was perceived as being consistent with the company's objectives. Managing director: the Managing Director is seen as the person responsible for promoting learning in the organization. and the company was viewed as being a learning organization (Exhibit 02). People at the senior management Manager. they either belong to the 2235 age group or the 30-40 age group. who is younger. While the company vision tries to marry profit with personal success." This statement was made in varied forms. Learning: approximately 60% of employees were familiar with the Organization Learning principles. and appreciated that many managers did try to implement tools like "on the job training" and "demonstration". rarely spending time with his employees at different levels.

Post reengineering support Pilot Pilot demo in functional units demo in business units Off the job training On the job training felt only tasks were delegated. Exhibit 03: familiarity with organization learning concepts and tools Familiarity with OL concepts Very familiar Some what familiar Unfamiliar Total 3 33 19 55 Use of OL tools. Rewards and incentives based on performance have taken place only once. not decision making. models Frequent Rarely Occasion al Never Total 4 15 23 13 55 Past five year Past six month Past year Under consideration Never Total 3 1 10 32 9 55 Dramatically increased Increased slightly Remained steady Decreased dramatically Total 55 9 28 14 0 Practicing OL Description of firm Exhibit 04: application of OL tools and models in business improvement activities . Miranda Interlock Pavers was loosing the practice of earned authority. in the tenth year of its establishment. This has led to an erosion in team spirit. performance and rewards.

Practical information: the organization gave importance to knowledge 9 . 90% of the people were not aware of the company's sales. An attempt was made in the previous year to make employees computer literate but it did not materialize (Exhibit 04). transparency: a large number of respondents felt that corporate values were not aligned with business processes. and the negative cultural sharing factors were cited as the major barriers in the information process. The Tally package is used to maintain accounts. Other communication tools like email and voice mail are available only at the senior management level. Information is restricted to their routine tasks and the employees are not aware of the futuristic plans of the company and the know-how about the competitors (see exhibit 05). They felt they are not encouraged to take risk and performance based work routines.Lack of time 15% Organizational equipments 17% Politics 15% Others 2% Negative culture factor 24% Lack of IT support 13% Protecting information 14% Exhibit 05: barriers to knowledge creation and information sharing Computer literacy: computers were installed a few years ago but only staff at head office operate IT tools.

technological trends. People believe that IT has enabled them to increase their ability to meet market need and customize the product and services. (Exhibit 07). and risk is given in Exhibit 09. time. Information use and sharing has not been practiced fully. IT: the company has invested on IT activity to focus on financial management and to perform routine tasks. Strategic planning and Information system have not been managerial level considered as important role players. Achievements: the breakthrough performance achieved at MAKERS is mainly change 08). The not properly introduced (Exhibit management concept was . IT activity has not been used as a tool for knowledge sharing and exchange with external resources. 90% of the people opt for email and also people at managerial level feel the importance of the new IT gadgets as they have branch offices at different places. But little importance was given to the relationship between the employee and employer.about customer requirements. Knowledge transfer is rarely practiced (exhibit 06) Consultants: the functional units that lead organizational learning activities are quality (69%). The concept of Information System is yet to be deployed. People at the assert that management consultants are the only external source who promotes organizational learning principles in an organization. People assert that those who facilitate knowledge flow have the role in changing the individual and corporate behavior but it has not been much practically implemented or observed. Their awareness to the fact that it will reduce the cost. and HR (51%). employee needs and social and political requirements. Exhibit 06: type of knowledge important to business as perceived by the people in the manufacturing and marketing area. organizational development (56%). and competitor's intelligence as factors for business success.

logistics 7. finance 12. em ployee relation 11. em ployee training 10. public relation • majority of the employees revealed that the organization has been able to measure the organizational learning results in customer atisfaction and productivity only • discussion with the executives also revealed that targeted success could not be achieved owing to lack of professionalism in the recent years Exhibit 08: OL program relationship in business practice 11 . custom service er 4. m arketing 3. Manufacturing 2. strategic planning 9.00000000feff0000050102000000000000000000000000000000000001000000e0859ff2f94f6810ab9108002b27b3 0030305c293b5f282a0e000500027d082d007d080000000000000000000000000100000002000d0014000300000 007001400020000003f3f3fff202020202020202008001400020000003f3f3fff202020202020202009001400020000 00050000496e70757492087500920800000000000000000000010214ff050049006e00700075007400000007000 de20f5ca0640fada636a1344dc3a8d86d9266641c6793e0599edfa56b5f1d4aea91493a4fe33c2f086492029238299 009a01000000009b01000000009c0103000040bf011c001f000300040008003d3d3d020000000052525202cdcc0 000000000052080c0052080000040000000000000056080c005608000064000200560600001e101e0000000301 3b47b8d76a3e5e31dfa4b3332af76bbddf66a218b256a40f6b135835f692cb736163dbc01597c7b06dfea6ef47acb1 Exhibit 07: breakthrough performance through OL tools and models 50 40 30 20 10 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 1. health / safety 8. purchasing 5. distribution 6. r & d 14. inform ation system 13.

Exhibit 09: role of IT information system Declined • Question 1. What problems can be visualized in translating shared vision & team approach into execution? Is Melvin’s approach for collective involvement succeeding? . 2.

5. 6. 4. Why people centered approach is finding obstacles? How to align goals & vision to performance? As Miranda Interlock Pavers attempts to evolve into a learning organization.3. what is it doing right and should retain? What practices should it discard and what processes should it introduce? 13 .