Critically reflect on your organizational context (procurement department) and how it contributes to or hinders a learning organization
Enhancing Individual Learning at the Procurement Department
Unlike traditional organizations, which were static, organizations are becoming dynamic with the consistent changes that are taking place in the market, and in order to take a competitive advantage constant learning is essential. This has formed the basis for a learning organization, whose idea is to gain a competitive advantage through learning. According to Saw, Wilday, and Harte (2010), a learning organization is one that not only appreciates and promotes learning from its own practices, but also looks further than its own systems for lessons, and avoids self-satisfaction. This means that the learning process should be both an internal and external process with the organization appreciating that learning from daily experiences is critical. Learning organization gets its basis on the idea that both individual and collective learning are the key to the long-term survival of any organization (Jones & Robinson 2012). A learning organization builds up itself through smoothing the progress of learning of its members. Several tools exist to register the development of an organization in its mission to develop into a learning organization or accomplish organizational learning (Small & Irvine 2006).
A procurement department is in charge of running the purchasing activity for an organization. Two types of purchasing or procurement departments exist, and the difference is the way in which the process of requesting for materials occurs. Whereas in a centralized model all requests for materials centre to this department, in a decentralized model, various departments have the autonomy to process their own requests. However, even in the decentralized model, it is the duty of the procurement department to manage the supply chain. Organizations can adapt supplier development programs to make value for organizations through the creation and transfer of information among supply chain partners (Giannakis 2008). This means that the department has an obligation of ensuring that there is continuous learning at individual and collective levels.
Developments in the current world such as technical evolution, globalization, and deregulation are shifting the competitive formation of the marketplace in a way that the efficiency of conventional sources of an organizations' competitive advantage is imprecise, and firms need to focus in the development of distinguishing capabilities that are not easy to replicate by contenders. As a rejoinder to escalating instability, some organizations are construing that knowledge and learning become principal foundations of competitive advantage.
In the present severe economic atmosphere, individual knowledge is the most important quality for competitive advantage. However, organizations should support the accumulation of the personal knowledge and embed it into organizational culture as organizational knowledge making it a significant factor for the support of performance enhancement (Ji and Thomas 2008). This means that learning should not only occur at individual level, but it should also be collective for an organization to achieve its performance goals. An organization should be able to transfer the knowledge that individuals acquire to all its entities in order to enhance performance. Individual learning will ultimately lead to collective learning to enhance the organization's performance through the application of knowledge management activity.
Learning organizations should enhance both collective and individual learning processes by providing a wide range of opportunities (Serrat 2010). Collective learning is an important aspect that a learning organization should take into account, and it involves learning between teams, organizations, dyads, societies, and communities. A procurement department can ensure this by organizing its functions into team activities. On the other hand, collective learning encompasses characteristics such as associations, mental models, common vision and meanings, and cognitive and behavioral learning (Garavan & McCarthy 2008). A procurement department should develop and communicate to its members the organization's common goals and objectives while allowing them to interact freely with each other for the purpose of sharing experiences. This implies that collective learning, which is a product of individual learning, leads to the overall success of an organization as it depends on both aspects.
It is not easy to get the actual characteristics of a learning organization because of the varying definitions that exist with regard to a learning organization. However, according to Jones, and Robinson (2012), there are common characteristics that the most popular definitions identify. The common characteristics of a learning organization that Jones and Robinson identify, form a basis for the good practice that enhance learning at all levels namely individual and collective learning. First, a learning organization provides continuous learning opportunities for its members. This means that the organization should allow its members to engage in learning activities such as giving them a chance to test with new thoughts, allowing them time to advance their studies, and exposing them to the external working environment for new experiences. For a procurement department, it is possible for its members to learn through ongoing training for new skills, and through giving them new challenges to handle. This will ensure that individual staff members continuously learn by acquiring new skills and getting experiences that enhance learning at an individual level.
The second characteristic of a learning organization is that it promotes inquisition and exchange of ideas making it secure for the members to communicate candidly and take risks (Jones & Robinson, 2012). The procurement department can enhance learning by encouraging and supporting teamwork. For example, staff members can work with others from the various department s where they can build trust over time and be able to share their experiences openly. It is now common knowledge that teams have become a crucial source of knowledge and carrying out work in any organization (Knapp 2010). By supporting teamwork within and without the department, the management of the department will enhance learning at the individual level, which will extend to the rest of the organization ensuring collective learning.
The procurement department can enhance individual and collective learning of its members by creating an environment that supports creative competition among its members. This is because a learning organization should support creative apprehension as a foundation of energy and regeneration (Jones and Robinson 2012). When there is creative tension in an organization, people will open up their minds to think beyond and devise new ideas. This will ensure that there is continuous learning of the members, who would like to have others adopt their ideas. It is paramount that organizations enhance the learning process by encouraging healthy competition for the betterment of the performance of an organization.
The procurement department does not function in isolation, and the leadership ought to appreciate this fact. A learning organization enhances learning of its members while being conscious of and networking with its environment (Jones and Robinson 2012). The management of the procurement department should understand that external factors such as the economic environment within which they operate have an effect on their purchase power. It should give their members an opportunity to learn such like issues in order for them to make informed decisions. If they learn the external factors, which affect their functions, then the management will not have serious challenges in explaining to them the reasons for some decisions.
When an organization realizes that learning is a tool for achieving its goals, then it will invest in ensuring that its members and all partners in a network learn consistently. According to (2112), using learning as a means of achieving an organization's goals is the key to successful knowledge management in a learning organization. To achieve this, a procurement department, for example, can invest some resources to train the procurement staffs on the dynamics of the procurement process. However, since it works in collaboration with other departments, it can include some staffs from other departments to be able to achieve the goals of an enhanced procurement process (Landoli, Luca & Zollo 2007).
Individual learning in isolation will not be helpful to the organization. There has to be a link between learning and the overall performance of the organization. It is the responsibility of the organization to ensure that its members work for its competitive advantage. A procurement department can ensure this by ensuring that the procurement process does not only provide a basis for the learning of its staff but enhancing the overall performance of the organization. For instance, giving the staff members an opportunity to go for further studies should not only advance their career aspirations, but should arm them with more skills and knowledge to facilitate their performance. This will apply across all departments to ensure that the company's overall performance improves. Linking individual learning with organizational performance is a crucial characteristic of a learning organization in making it have a competitive advantage in the marketplace (Jones and Robinson 2012).
Collaborative learning is critical for the procurement department while dealing with the network partners in the supply chain. The procurement department can enhance this through a process known as Collaborative Product Commerce. According to Giannakis (2008), Collaborative Product Commerce ensures that a number of diverse learning backgrounds encourage each other.…