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Monday, December 03, 2007

On Becoming A Learning Organization

Organizations with the best chance to succeed and thrive in the future are learning organizations.

Susan Heathfield (who references Peter Senge's work - author of The Fifth Discipline) describes the attributes of a learning organization in this article.

Here are some ways in which you can promote a learning organization environment in your organization:

  • Systems Thinking: The underlying structure and the interlinking components of each of our work systems, shape a great deal of the behavior of the individuals who work inside of the work system. Think about Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s admonition. When something goes wrong, rather than seeking someone to blame, ask, what about the work system caused that individual to fail?
  • Personal Mastery: States Peter Senge, “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.” (p. 7) He offers that an organization’s learning can only be as great as that of each of its individual members. Consequently, personal mastery and the desire for continuous learning integrated deeply in the belief system of each person is critical for competitive advantage in the future.
  • Mental Models: These are the deeply held pictures each of us holds in our mind about how the world, work, our families, and so on work. Mental models influence our vision of how things happen at work, why things happen at work, and what we are able to do about them.
  • Building Shared Vision: By shared vision, Senge is referring to a process in which the original vision for an organization, probably determined by the leader, is translated into shared pictures around which the rest of the organization finds meaning, direction, and reasons for existing.
  • Team Learning: Senge finds that “teams, not individuals, are the fundamental learning unit in modern organizations.” (p. 10) It is the dialogue among the members of the team which results in stretching the ability of the organization to grow and develop.
BOTTOMLINE: One of the major premises of the Six Disciplines Program is enabling the organization to become a learning organization. It's no coincidence that Six Disciplines for Excellence (which also references Senge's work) is now consistently one of the top-ranked books in the "Organizational Learning" book category on Amazon.

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