2. True learning organizations allocate the time and resources that are required to develop a competitive advantage based on the lifelong learning and training opportunities that are provided to everyone in the organization.
3. A learning organization not only develops the opportunities for learning but it also provides a corporate culture that encourage all of its members to become self-actualized, thereby contributing to the advancement of the larger society in which the organization competes. .
4. The leadership of true learning organizations ensure that the corporate vision is communicated to all members and provides a framework in which their feedback is welcomed and acted upon, as well as ensuring that an environment exists in which there "are no bad questions" concerning the direction in which the enterprise is headed.
5. Learning organizations make it possible to consolidate work and learning as well as encouraging all members of the enterprise to embrace the need for ongoing improvement in practices in order to achieve superior performance on an ongoing basis.
6. Learning organization take advantage of all of the knowledge that its members possess in order to learn from success as well as mistakes and place a high value on learning as its applies to training and education.
7. Learning organizations empower everyone in the enterprise to achieve higher levels of participatory decision-making and feedback that best sits their own particular preferences for learning.
8. A learning organization employs the best industry practices including innovations in technology to promote learning opportunities that encourage employees to learning when and where these assets are most advantageous and convenient to them.
9. A learning organization does not wait until circumstances demand a response but rather anticipates changing circumstance and develops meaningful responses before a crisis situation develops; true learning organization also inculcate this need among all of its members.
10. Learning organizations, by definition, acquire knowledge and apply it in an iterative fashion that continuously promotes innovation, and fuels further applications of what has been learned to achieve a competitive advantage.
Each of the foregoing characteristics has significant implications for all types of companies that aspire to become learning organizations because they influence the manner in which the corporate culture is developed and sustained as well as how all of the company's stakeholders view the learning process (Longworth 2003). Because the corporate culture begins at the top of the organization, the type of leadership that is in place will have an enormous impact on whether a company succeeds in the transformation to a learning organization, as well as how long it will take, and these issues are discussed further below.
Leadership and Learning Organizations
People can learn, of course, and because all organizations are comprised of people, it just makes sense that organizations can learn as well. The creation of a true learning organization therefore begins with the people who are involved and the process begins at the top. By inculcating a corporate culture that is focused on the development of its employees, companies have taken the first step to create a learning organization. According to Recardo and Jolly, "When people talk about corporate culture, they are generally talking about a set of values and beliefs that are understood and shared by members of an organization. These values and beliefs are specific to that organization and differentiate it from other organizations" (1999, p. 5). An organization's culture, then, serves to influence the behaviors of its constituency and practices within the organization (Recardo & Jolly 1999). Corporate culture consists of several dimensions, including those described in Table 2 below.
Dimensions of Corporate Culture
This dimension of corporate culture in concerned with the extent to which the communication systems that are in place and what information is delivered throughout the enterprise, as well as the manner in which it is transmitted. This dimension includes the direction of communications (top down or bottom up vs. three-way), whether the communications are filtered or open, whether conflict is avoided or resolved, and whether formal (meetings, memos, etc.) or informal vehicles are used to transmit and receive communications.
Training and Development
Employee success is to a large extent dependent on new skill acquisition. Key indices to assess are management's commitment to providing developmental opportunities and how well the organization allows new skills or behaviors to be applied on the job. A key index to review is management's focus on education; e.g., is management focused on providing education for employees' current or future developmental needs?
This dimension concerns what behaviors are rewarded and the types of rewards used. Are employees rewarded individually or as a group, are all members of the organization eligible for bonuses, and what are the criteria for advancement? Other criteria measured include the degree to which employees are involved in developing performance standards, the perceived equity of rewards, and the degree to which the organization provides performance feedback
This dimension addresses how decisions are made and conflicts resolved. Are decisions fast or slow? Is the organization highly bureaucratic? Is decision-making centralized or decentralized?
This dimension concerns whether creativity and innovation are valued and rewarded, whether calculated risk-taking is encouraged, and whether there is openness to new ideas. To what degree does management encourage suggestions for improvement? Are people punished for trying new ideas or questioning existing ways of doing things?
Does the organization emphasize long-term or short-term planning, and is planning proactive or reactive? To what extent are the strategy, goals, and vision shared with employees? Is the planning process informal or structured? To what degree are employees committed to achieving the business strategy and other organizational objectives?
This dimension relates to the amount, type, and effectiveness of teamwork within the organization. It includes, but is not limited to, the amount of cooperation among different departments, the amount of trust between different functions or units, and the level of automation currently used to support work processes. Note that an atmosphere of teamwork does not, in itself, necessarily mean that formal teams should be used in an organization. For instance, research scientists may foster an atmosphere of collaboration and teamwork but may not be a team and may operate quite independently.
The final dimension measures the fairness and consistency with which policies are administered, the accessibility of management to employees, the degree to which management provides a safe working environment, and how well management encourages diversity.
Source: Recardo & Jolly, 1999 at p. 5
While there remains a lack of consensus about some of the other facets of a learning organization, one issue is agreed upon by virtually everyone concerning the need for the organization's executive leadership team to create the type of corporate culture that will transform the enterprise into a learning organization. For instance, according to Gilley and Maycunich, "One of the most recent and widely accepted notions is that of the learning organization, characterized by a culture, pervasive throughout the firm, dedicated to improving workers, their productivity, and overall business performance via continuous lifelong learning" (2000, p. 5). Unlike a number of management fads that have come and gone, the move towards becoming learning organizations appear to have become a mainstay among leading companies in recent years. In this regard, Gilley and Maycunich note that, "In recent years, several business leaders have begun to focus attention on organizational learning. In companies such as General Electric, Motorola, and Levi Strauss, leaders have concluded that managing, controlling, directing, and facilitating learning is a key role of management" (2000, p. 15).
To make the successful transition from the traditional to the learning organization, a company's top leadership must:
1. Change the corporate culture in order to facilitate and promote learning;
2. Link the process of learning with the company's operations;
3. Ensure that all members of the organization recognize and appreciate the need for the development of a learning organization;
4. Consistently show that they are committed to developing and sustaining a learning organization.
5. Take the steps that are necessary in order to change the former organizational culture into one that embraces and rewards ongoing learning and improvement;
6. Creates the framework in which strategies for learning are applied across the entire organization;
7. Reduce, minimize or entirely eliminate the bureaucracy that hampers all of the above.
8. Develop a corporate culture that encourages the involvement of all members of the enterprise; and,
9. Develop a corporate culture that recognizes the need for ongoing, responsive and value-added learning approaches amongst all members of the enterprise.
To achieve the laudable foregoing steps, organizational leaders must concentrate on developing and improving the capacity of their organizations to learn as well as promoting self-directed learning behaviors among all employees (Gilley and Maycunich…