Organization as a Learning Organization
Interconnectivity is becoming more intense within an organization as the world becomes more universal. Being the case, running businesses in different companies has become complicated and as complexity level increases, individuals and organizations are discovering the necessity of work to survive in the business world, and are also becoming more committed in the strive for excellence (Galsworth, 2005).
Based on the above, the organizations are making a transition into learning organizations to maintain their sustainability and competitiveness. Therefore, organizational management is formulating strategies to enhance learning environment and such processes are also proving to be quite effective because they are inspiring in different organizational levels.
Learning process is additionally facilitating the construction of an organization that is committed to the culture of accountability and trust within the organization. Similarly, having an environment that facilitates learning is a modern way of sustaining contemporary, excelling and technology oriented organizations. Therefore, it is imperative to note that encouraging learning is crucial in any organization since it’s a culture of learning that enables employees to be part of the organization while promoting teamwork for the benefit of the organization (Rheem, 1995, p. 10).
The characteristics of an ideal learning organization in this analysis will be defined along with assessment of traits observed in such companies, strategies that can be utilized and barriers that prevent achievement of set goals or objectives as well as how to overcome them.
Characteristics of an ideal learning organization
As companies become educational organizations, they are better placed to acquire new skills through learning. There is also a possibility of behavior change, interpreting, acquiring and dissemination of information to members. With such, learning organizations have different characteristics that differentiate them from traditional ones. System thinking is one of the traits of learning organizations.
System thinking means that workers in whole in an organization understand the functioning of an organization and is aware of consequences of their actions in the organizations. Therefore, workers in an organization do not base their thoughts on self-interest but in the welfare of the organization. Complex systems can be created from simple frameworks in system thinking.
For instance, an organization can involve all stakeholders in designing how well they can cope with each other as well as with the environment. Stakeholders may therefore suggest having a workable solution that may help an organization. For instance, participation of employees of an organization may offer solutions to any challenge facing the company.
In turn, such participation builds a common vision for the business. What’s more, when an enterprise has a shared vision, the stakeholders work hard to achieve set goals and objectives. Even so, such results can only be achieved if they are involved. Communication is also a crucial tool when building a shared vision as it helps to convince stakeholders to adopt it.
Additionally, focus is paramount to vision and it should be employed or interpreted using system thinking model. This helps to create good social relationship between different stakeholders. The other characteristic of a learning organization is the aspect of social learning (Bingham & Conner, 2010).
Social learning is an element that occurs when people gain knowledge from others and works with them. Knowledge that many people possess today is generated from sharing and networking when they co-create, collaborate and process information by participating in an exercise. For instance, if an organization employs new staff, the new employee strives to engage with the others to have an idea of what is going on.
They shape and modify their behaviors based on performance of existing employees as well as their experiences. This is also enhanced by the fact that people have undergone the same process and have faced same challenges, offer solutions to the problems and help new employees thus, enhancing learning (Bingham & Conner, 2010).
Educational tool is also another feature of an ideal learning organization they offer (Wick, Pollock, & Jefferson, 2010). Development programs as well as corporate training should exhibit the significance of the knowledge process. It means that the purpose of learning should be directed towards rewards, improvements and benefits of an organization and be shaped by employee expectations, past experience, attitude, learning style, attitude and emotional experience.
Therefore, there is planning, facilitation and program absorption in the system of the organization (Wick, Pollock, & Jefferson, 2010). Personal mastery also exists as one of the characteristics where employees undertake learning continuously thus expanding their knowhow. Organizational knowledge occurs through persons who love to learn. Therefore, attaining mastery enables an individual to work progressively and to help his or her creativity to be of the culture of an organization.
Personal mastery is a good example of the characteristic and it can be generated from changing certain behaviors. This leads to creation of models such as behavior change, self-awareness and better attitude towards an organization.
Besides teamwork and enhanced communication, specific mental models are also developed within the organization. This helps members of the organization to be aware of the environment and the way they share knowledge. This stems out from past experiences and being the case, different mental models are based on generalizations as well as assumptions that influence the way in which a person understands the world and how to relate to it because it affects individual behavior (Singe, 2012, p. 8).
Observable Behaviors for each of the characteristic of an ideal learning organization
In system thinking, observable behaviors include employee’s ability in the organization to use simple frameworks to create complex systems. This is based on the fact that the employees of an organization can deliberate conveniently on existing challenges, thus generating workable solutions. What’s more, there is high level of trust among stakeholders of the organization.
Learning organizations also encourage openness. Additionally, they integrate workforce and implement fair channels of communication amongst workers. This enables an organization to create a dialoging atmosphere thus, offering better outcomes (Blevins 2001). Technical aspects for example, of a smooth running show and actors being called in for a show among other related aspects can be affirmed is there is open communication and trust.
Results of the Observed Behavior
There are many characteristics that emanate from learning organizations. They include reduced time used in undertaking production time because in the end, effectiveness is achieved. There is also increase in production, service delivery and quality because all stakeholders operate with the organization at the center of focus. Mastery experience also helps to cut down on costs because employees will help each to gain more experience.
Other behavioral observations include the desire to enhance organizational learning and to improve core competencies (Haney, 2003). There are also other observable results including the fact that there is increased socialization in an organization (Haney, 2003). What’s more, there is better understanding using organizational systems and technology. These are some of the factors that help to enhance performance in relevance to decision making process.
Lack of knowledge on the other hand in the management of learning organization generates conflicts in the workplace and it hinders productivity as well as development.
Barriers to achieving learning in an ideal learning organization
Failure to incorporate learning paradigm aspects may easily result in barriers to success of learning model. For instance, personal mastery can be difficult to achieve and implement because there are no measurable incomes. It can also counterproductive if it was enhanced in an organization that is not properly aligned. In such situations where there is no common vision, personal mastery will serve personal interests only for the good of an organization.
Additionally, if there is no learning culture in an organization, it is impossible to achieve change within the organization. Learning culture can develop if stakeholders in the organization are not able to share knowledge, information and ideas with other people. However, the only place where learning can be adopted successfully is the place where individuals feel that they are not being ignored, mistreated or devalued.
At the same time, focus on program often act as a barrier to learning in an organization. This is especially when there are new agendas being evaluated in isolation as opposed to being co-dependent parts of an entire organization. When the resources of an organization are limited, it may be difficult to promote learning culture in some cases.
This often occurs in the event where learning is not given support or any form of funding for instance, in cases where workers are not entitled to any resources to help them learn new ideas before undertaking any large implementation. In the presence of work-learning dichotomy in other cases, learning is bound to fail.
Resistance and passive leadership are also other barriers that can prevent organizational learning (Senge, 2006). When the management fails to put the entire organization in focus and aims at personal interests only, learning will not occur. In cases where the organization fails to encourage innovation and its implementation, it can lead to demoralization thus forcing workers to avoid learning.
Other cases include selective attention where some ideas are not treated with the attention they deserve, focus on short term instead of long term benefits as well as skilled incompetence. As a result, the need to control growth that is suppressed and intimidation are additionally, barriers that hinder this form of learning (Senge, 2006).
Assessing learning process in a learning organization
The only way in which an organization can be tested on whether it is moving from traditional to a learning organization is through assessment just like any other project. Assessment enables members to learn different principles and it plays a crucial role in enhancing their skills and knowledge especially in their groups. Assessment can also be applied through written submissions, evaluations and focus groups. At the same time, workforce in an organization may be given an opportunity to carry out self-evaluation as per set principles to find out whether the program has been helpful.
Group interviews can also be utilized to assess the learning process. Grouping under the same can be at company level where individuals are interviewed giving them an overall idea of the progress. The use of stories and other scenarios can also be used to assess whether learning in an organization has been affected. If so, this is a situation that is more likely to ignite employee’s memory for them to clearly remember certain incidences and master the new processes.
Characteristics most compelling to an employee and the organization
Appreciating differences and psychological safety are some of the characteristics that enable an organization to become a learning organization. Time for reflection is also another characteristic (Garvin, Edmondson, & Gino, 2008). When organization members are inflicted with fear or feel threatened, they can feel that their psychological safety is being jeopardized.
For an organization to captivate a psychological safety environment, members should be allowed to ask questions and room to express their ideas without any form of fear that their ideas or comments can be used against them or that the management can use their contributions without giving them due credit. If members of an organization feel psychologically insecure, it is more likely that the organization will not be successful.
Differences can also be appreciated if diversity is embraced in an organization amongst its members. Those with opposing ideas will also embrace diversity with a purpose of expanding their ideas and learning new things. Differences and diversity can also offer room for new energy and to motivate members to change their way of thinking therefore, responding positively to those who are quite different from them.
Members of an organization also need to feel comfortable as they embrace and implement innovations. This is because innovations lead to creation of great and new ideas that can be used to correct prevailing problems. Additionally, lack of time to reflect on the learning process is by itself a barrier. If the tasks are undertaken and there is no room for reflection, it makes employs less creative and it such a situation; it becomes hard for learning to take place because employees are stressed out.
When learning environment is conducive, workforce is therefore better placed to think analytically and creatively.
How to achieve the most compelling characteristics
Creating an effective communication channel that facilitates exchange of information is one of the best ways that can help an organization to achieve compelling results. This is because it allows exchange of information based on technology as well as principles that the organizations are built on. The organization can at the same time prepare questionnaires to understand how far it can achieve as per its learning.
Similarly, of an organization is truly committed to creating, maintaining and facilitating an ideal learning environment, these characteristics can be achieved. What’s more, creating the company’s vision helps to enhance awareness and training contributing to learning culture in the organization.
The company should also be in a position to embrace diversity of its employees and to set time to reflect on its learning process. This can be made possible by redesigning the culture of the organization.
Developing strategies to overcome the Barriers
There are different strategies that can be used to manage or overcome barriers within an organization. Some of them include
- Problem definition
- Determining the target population
- Creating procedural guidelines to address the issue
- Taking performance measures
- Implementing efficient system changes as well as intervention
- Developing leadership and a change strategy
Organizational learning can be achieved if an organization is committed to its missions and visions. An organization at the same time that enhances learning culture and employs shared goals is more likely to succeed in creating learning in an organization. Conducive learning environment ensures successful learning. Leadership however plays a crucial role in spearheading learning processes and learning culture.
This being the situation, the most ideal learning characteristics in an organization include personal mastery, team learning, shared visions and team learning. At the same time, learning organizations that are successful are psychologically secure, embrace new ideas and have time for reflection.
It is therefore not possible to have a perfect learning organization but many organizations that are still considered successful embrace the principle of individual valuing for the success of the organizations.
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