August 20, 2009

Human Resource Management Lesson 6 Exercise

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.


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  1. Kim White

    Hi Alexander,

    There is enough course material to indicate that the Learning Organisation is not a unitary concept. The definitions vary significantly. As the question gives you no indication of which definition to use a good start means debating the relative merits of the different perspectives on the concept and settling on a preferred definition or the one that best describes the particular organisation in question, IGF in this case. You open up withn a discussion on the definitions and this is good . As such this is also partly related to where you placed IGF on the Purcell and Storey models.

    Picking the definition shapes the rest of the answer in a number of ways. The main effect is to shift the balance between the organisational concerns on the one hand and those of the individual on the other. In short is this about the synergies gained through organisational learning or is it about the culture and climate in terms of the experience of the individual?

    Your conclusion on where IGF stands in relation to the concept of being an LO depends on what best constitutes that concept. Whilst I think this answer could have more substance to it nonetheless your approach to the question is spot on.

    Regards,

    Kim

    23 Aug 2009, 21:16


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  • Hi Alexander, I don't think you need too much further feedback from me. You need to add in the theor… by Kim White on this entry
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