Becoming a Learning Organization Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Learning Organization is defined as an organization with an ingrained philosophy for anticipating, reacting and responding to change, complexity and uncertainty. It is an organization where you cannot not learned because learning is interwoven into the fabric of the day-to-day business. The concept of the Learning Organization is increasingly relevant given the increasing difficulty and uncertainty of the global business environment. Unfortunately, the Learning Organization has been a long time in coming, and by most accounts it has not yet arrived. The concept of a learning organization is a paradigm shift from the way business has traditionally been done.

One of the characteristics of a learning organization is that it moves beyond simple employee training to more of an environment that stresses problem solving, innovation, and learning. Organizations that embody the traits of such an environment consist of five areas, or disciplines, that make a learning organization what it is. The five disciplines are interrelated and include:

System Thinking

System thinking is a way of thinking about, and a language for describing and understanding, the forces and interrelationships that shape the behavior of systems. This discipline helps us see how to change systems more effectively, and to act more in tune with the larger processes of the natural and economic world. Systems thinking serve as the cornerstone for the other disciplines.

Personal Mastery

Organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it, no organizational learning occurs. Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively. It goes beyond competence and skills, although it involves them. It goes beyond spiritual opening, although it involves spiritual growth. Mastery is seen as a special kind of proficiency. It is not about dominance, but rather about calling. Vision is vocation rather than simply just a good idea.

People with a high level of personal mastery live in a continual learning mode. They never arrive. Sometimes, language, such as the term 'personal mastery' creates a misleading sense of definiteness, of black and white. But personal mastery is not something you possess. It is a process. It is a lifelong discipline. People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, and their growth areas. And they are deeply self-confident.

Mental Models

Mental Models is reflecting upon, continually clarifying, and improving our internal pictures of the world, and seeing how they shape our actions and decisions. Mental models are the assumptions and stories we carry with us about others and ourselves. Mental models help us function but do not always correlate with reality.

Shared Vision

Building shared visions is connected with the systemic viewpoint of the learning organization. Shared visioning is the ability of an organization to create a deeply meaningful and broadly held common sense of direction. Too often, visions are leader-designed instead of collectively constructed. As a result, they may be visions, but not shared. The safe order of shared visions comes from the necessary chaos of free-flowing voices and information. Many leaders and managers do not understand this point. They believe that order and structure come from control and regimentation, which actually produce stagnation. And stagnation and order are too often mixed up. For the vision to be shared, the individual sharer must perceive that he plays an active role and has an imbedded interest in the proper cultivation and formulation of this vision.

Team Learning

Team learning refers to the capacity for collective intelligence and productive conversation. This concept is obviously connected with the previous concept of building shared visions. Team learning is actually the process through which team members build shared visions. Team indicates integration, collectivity, converging and dialogue instead of disintegration, isolation, egocentrism and monologue. The learning part comes from an individualistic individual; the team part comes from a collectivistic individual. The integration of the two sides can only become possible through respect and trust for the team, which, in turn, is a reward from respect and trust of the individual.

The first discipline of learning organization is the capstone of the architecture of such an organization. This discipline, which is system thinking, will help us see how to change system more effectively while the other four disciplines are the building blocks of the structure of the learning organization. Remember that becoming a learning organization requires a commitment to the ongoing process of learning growth.

The Five Elements of Learning Organization

The transition to learning organizations is the next step in organizational evolution. However, learning organizations are not easily achieved inside the current corporate environment. These five elements are a few key ingredients in creating and maintaining a successful learning environment.


The role of communication is truly the central focus in creating and maintaining a learning organization. Attitudes surrounding traditional forms of business communication need to be adjusted. More cooperation and trust is needed to achieve our goals. Continuous learning revolves around knowledge sharing, and communication is the means for that sharing. Currently, we derive power from holding knowledge close to the chest, not sharing it. Only through demonstration, action and reward will this long held habit be successfully broken.

Reward the process

The end results are what you are striving for the gold at the end of rainbow. However, there are many paths to the gold. Some will be unsuccessful. In order to keep looking, employees must be encouraged to try again. More than the end result, it is important to reward the process of learning and the act of creativity is crucial if the gold is to be found.

Building a collaborative environment

The physical space where employees are learning must be structured to encourage learning and communication. A cubicle farm would not be an ideal environment as it separates individuals from each other. Collaboration requires both formal and informal spaces to meet to generate and exchange ideas. Although often forgotten, changing physical surroundings can be a powerful reminder when attempting to change a culture.

Formal company / job orientation

All the different parts of an organization relate and interrelate to each other. There are built in dependencies and causal relationships between departments or jobs that are not always apparent at the surface. All employees can gain great insight to their own job simply by understanding the job at next step in the workflow of the company. Providing a company orientation for new and existing employees that covers why the company is in business, what the objectives of the company are, and how each department, or job, moves the company closer to its goals will bring an enormous return on the time and effort invested.

Capturing knowledge

One way companies are trying to create learning is to place greater emphasis on the training and development of people in the workplace. The trick is to do more than simply educate employees, it is to institutionalize organizational learning, not individual learning. Training develops individuals not necessarily organizations. Without a way to capture the knowledge and skills they are gaining, the organization is not learning. When individuals leave their positions, there is usually not a process or mechanism in place to capture their knowledge. Institutionalizing organizational learning requires systems that facilitate the retention of knowledge and learning that individuals hold within the organization.

Double-Loop Learning

The concept of the double-loop learning is to ask us to not settle on the first and obvious solution to a problem, but to continue to look for alternative ways of seeing the situation that could lead to a better decision or more effective action. So the person involved in this situation must try to stand outside the situation and must observed what is happening, analyze how the problem has been framed, observed his or her own behavior as well as that of the other people involve in the situation by looking at the structural properties and the underlying dynamic situations. The core of the double-loop learning is to discern "the big picture" and not simply let the dynamics of the issue at hand dominate the thinking process.

Role of Human Resources in the creation of Learning Organization

The critical role that Human Resources play in Organizational Development and the creation of Learning Organization are:

1. Problem solvers

Human Resources can aid the development of systematic problem solving skills in the organization through planned interventions in training. Human Resources must be scientific in their approach to Human Resources development.

2. Experimenters

The learning organization also relies on experimentation. Systematic searching and testing creates innovation. Human Resources can aid in developing innovation by developing atmospheres where testing and experimentation are safe. This complement influenced innovation in Human Resources practices and administrative procedures.

3. Learning from experience

The learning organization learns from experience and others. This indicates corrective action for the mistakes that are made and scanning the environment to gain from others' successes and failure. Human Resources can play pivotal role in defining and correcting mistakes…

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