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Designing the Learning Organization Published: Sunday, December 29, 2002 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

Both people and organizations have trouble with the “short runs” at productivity. A host of quick fixes, such as reducing staff to improve quarterly profits, turn out to be expensive and counterproductive. Paths to high performance and productivity must be carefully laid out. The various path must support and enhance the vision, mission, goals and strategic plans of the organization. Senior management commitment and employee competent involvement is imperative if change are to be taken seriously, much less implemented.

Maintaining productivity is a complex, continuous effort. The process of assessing, maintaining, and improving personal productivity requires a delicate and profound understanding of human psychology and social idiosincracies plus good interpersonal skills and knowledge of work processes and outcomes.

Unless there is a full comprehension of the institutional culture and the configuration of subcultures and coalitions that have to be involved from start to finish in designing and implementing organizational improvement process, most will resist having productivity poured on them from above. Competent involvement results in the “buy in”, or having ownership by the part of the people in such processes. Ownership builds acceptance and understanding.

Organizations differ in shape, structure and function. Many organizations are highly structured bureaucracies. The bureaucratic structure of many organizations resembles the Industrial Age more than the Knowledge-Technology Age.

The learning organization could be a replacement for the bureaucratic organization. Re-design processes aim at helping change the current shape of the organization. The learning organization is skilled at creating, acquiring and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights.

The other day a distinguished executive asked me if I could “concretize” more about the learning organization. My answer was that is an organization carefully structured for systematic problem-solving and of innovation, for experimenting with new approaches, for learning from its own experience and past history, for learning from the experiences and best practices of others and for transferring knowledge quickly and efficiently throughout the organization in order to improve the quality of its performance and the scale of its competitiveness.

Learning organizations focus on double-loop learning. Single loop learning looks at ways to improve existing processes and methods. Double loop learning examines other ways of doing things and answers the question: What are we learning from what we are learning? In the learning organization people have opportunities to create, transfer and transform knowledge in order to improve performance.

The purpose is to create a setting where people can learn, grow and contribute, use information to add value and transform existing knowledge for market and customer delight objectives.

The learning organization is always in transition. Organizations that stop learning stop growing. When we create an organization that can learn better, we get a higher return on expertise. 

Copyright 2002 QBS, Inc.
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