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Toyota has specifically created the TPS to break down the organizational barriers between suppliers and create a more effective approach at managing knowledge workflows between suppliers and also with Toyota itself. To accomplish this, Toyota actually works with suppliers to re-engineer their internal learning processes, making available a system integration team that is responsible for creating the necessary process integration links within and between suppliers (Dyer, Nobeoka 2000). This integration of processes within suppliers and just Toyota itself can take up to a year or longer, and when overlaid to the broader supplier network, it can take easily up to eighteen months to two years. All of this effort and investment made by Toyota however is focused on transforming knowledge of processes and quality standards into a competitive advantage. Toyota is unique in that it's open nurturing of suppliers and the continual investment in cross-supplier collaboration (Amasaka, Sakai, 2009). Clearly Toyota is competing primarily on knowledge and second on products (Dyer, Nobeoka 2000). This approach to creating a learning ecosystem is also prevalent in the approach taken for integrating lean manufacturing concepts throughout factories globally, where the TPS is modeled in specific markets where supply chain coordinated at the local level is critical (Black, 2007).
The structure of the learning organisation then is more attuned to a continuous learning process (Amasaka, Sakai, 2009) to ensure trust and continual enrichment is attained across the entire supplier base. For organisations to sustain this level of continuous learning processes the velocity of information and the quality of it must be consistently high; this was a key lesson learned by Toyota in terms of keeping suppliers participating in the knowledge transfer aspects of their TPS (Dyer, Nobeoka 2000). Further, the consensus-based approach to integrating new it investments throughout the supply chain globally also ensured a higher level of adoption initially as well, especially in the area of shared manufacturing metrics (Amasaka, Sakai, 2009). The continuous learning process then became an essential part of the learning ecosystem. Suppliers began to rely on the TPS cross-supplier coordination and collaboration to better understand how to stay in compliance to Toyota's quality management standards and also ensure a higher level of on-time deliveries (Dyer, Nobeoka 2000).
Applying Learning Theories to Organisations
The learning theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism and information or connectivism as learning theories all apply from different contexts within organsations. Using the Kolb LSI the development of operand-based conditioning strategies for ensuring learning outcomes (Simmons, 2006) in addition to classical conditioning in the case of individualized learning structured using scaffolding (Najjar, 2008) have proven effective for behaviorist based approaches to nurturing learning. Cognitivism in the context of organizational learning has relied extensively on the Kolb LSI to understand the gestalt of learning processes specifically along the dimensions of autonomy, mastery and purpose. The use of constructivism in the context of organisational learning is evident in the approaches used by Toyota in the development of their TPS as a platform for cross-supplier knowledge sharing (Dyer, Nobeoka 2000). Finally connectivism is the precept on which learning ecosystems are based on to ensure more trust and greater information sharing velocities over time (Hannah, Lester, 2009). In short, all four learning theories are pivotal in the development of learning ecosystems within organisations and also enabling individual learning.
The enabling of learning at the individual level sets the foundation for organisational learning over the long-term. When learning strategies center on autonomy, mastery and purpose (Hannah, Lester, 2009) at the individual level, combined with support from senior management (Godkin, Allcorn, 2008) greater levels of long-term retaining of knowledge occur. The Internet has also made it possible to create more personalized approaches to learning, through a technique called scaffolding (Najjar, 2008) which creates individualized learning strategies that can be participated in and monitored over time. Through the use of the Personality Classification Method (Woods, Carter, 1985) and Kolb LSI research instrument, it is possible for organisations to assess learning styles and create optimal teams that will enable and nurture learning over time. All of these factors together also can fuel the development of learning ecosystems within organisations. Learning ecosystems are nurtured and developed when each member of the network is regularly receiving insights and knowledge through a collaborative network. The Toyota Production System is one such learning ecosystem, credited with transforming knowledge into the competitive differentiator of the company (Dyer, Nobeoka 2000).
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