All entries for Thursday 20 August 2009
August 20, 2009
Starting this exercise I paid attention to the fact that there is no clear definition what the Learning Organization (LO) means. There are a number of definitions in different literature. For example, LO is “Organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to learn together” (SENGE, P.M. 1990. The Fifth Discipline. London: Century Business). Another author gives us the following definition: “an organization that facilitates the learning of all its members and continuously transforms itself" (PEDLER, M., BURGOYNE, J. AND BOYDELL, T. 1997. The Learning Company: A strategy for sustainable development. 2nd Ed. London; McGraw-Hill).
To answer the questions of this exercise I would take as the definition the one that was done by Pedler (1997).
To specify the features of the LO I would use the ones proposed by Senge (1990):
- Systems thinking;
- Personal mastery;
- Mental models;
- Shared vision;
- Team learning.
As a target organization I would like to stress your attention to one of the IBM organizations that I used to work for some times ago. This is IBM Global Financing (IGF). The specifics of this organization are it's size (it has roughly about 2000 employees world wide, what is very small in terms of IBM population) and it's business (IGF is a kind of internal captive bank that provides short and long term financing for IBM business partners and customers).
Sticking to Pedler's definition and Senge's five features I would say that IGF is very close to LO model. First of all the management style, which is very similar to all IBM departments, is "sophisticated human relations" according to Purcell's classification (Purcell, 1986) and HR department, using the Storey's model (Storey J. 1992), plays the advisors role.
While working in IGF one of responsibilities was to assess the business development of the department overall, by its components (like business lines, products etc.), and understand and assess the place of IGF in the whole IBM picture. This fits in the feature of Systems thinking that allows me to study on the real business by understanding the details of the business line and it's place in corporation.
IGF management was interested in the development of the employees. During my career I was always involved in the personal and group study process. IBM has a developed tool - IDP (Individual Development Plan). Every employee has to set personal IDP annually and assess the results at the end of the period with the manager. By IDP I was always motivated to perform the personal learning by participating in different trainings, online education courses etc. Also IGF had semiannual team meetings for the whole European staff. This exchange of experience during the group trainings was also very effective.
Shared vision was also in focus in IGF. Using regular meetings. Exchanging the opinions IGF team always had a shared view on the issue that was supported by most of team members and management. This consolidated team position was a result of hard teamwork and long discussions inside the team.
By looking at all features that I have mentioned above I would say that IGF is very close to the model of LO. There are a couple of steps to go. For example, I do not see the huge attention to the Mental modeling in IGF. There is no proactive development of the sub corporate culture for IGF employees. Also I would be willing to see more frequent pan-European team meetings to create the society of IGF professionals and enforce the personal development of each employee.
From my point of view the changes that are still required for IGF to become an LO are feasible and desirable. Management is deeply interested to create the LO to get all the benefits of this model and get the competitive advantage.