October 17, 2008

Human Resources Management: Lesson 6 – Exercise:

Question 1: Thinking about an organisation that you know well, evaluate the extent to which it conforms with the LO model.

In my opinion it’s not easy to give an answer to this specific question: in lesson & readings we do not have one preferred LO model, “there is not an agreed consensus about what a learning organisation is”[1] and none of the proposed authors’ definitions and opinions are defined as the 'right' or 'most correct' one.

Among the several definitions and concept proposed in literature about the LO concept two characteristics are, in my opinion, the most important ones:

  1. An LO organization has a systematic and well-organised structure for managing learning and development[2]

  2. An LO one is an organization where[3] new skills and capabilities are developed (i.e. new things can be performed), new awareness, attitudes and belief are created.

The organization I’d like to deal with in this question is the delivery department of “GL Informatica” (already mentioned in my blog 2). This department mainly deals with customization and personalization of SW sold to customers and with development of new SW product perceived needed from customers. Stimulated by the need to be competitive and looking for new way of achieving competitiveness this company define itself “oriented to learning” that is a concept, in my opinion, still far from the LO described in this lesson but whose aims include those 2 characteristics I mentioned above.

In fact I recognize the particular way in which this organisation designs itself “to value, manage and enhance the skills and career development of its people” but I’ve also to sincerely admit that it seems not due to “ensuring continuous organisational transformation”[4] but to increase market share, market attractiveness, maintain competitive advantage…

Another characteristic that may let us think to “GL Informatica” as an LO organization is the low “rigid organization” it’s based on. Variety is widespread despite, in my opinion, it may be more due to the fact that we’re dealing with a quite small company then to the awareness that "to learn is to disorganise and increase variety”[5]

So summarizing, according to the definition given at the beginning of this answer, “GL Informatica” is not a complete LO organization.

Compared to several competitors it’s really learning oriented but it may 'improve' this position. It should make its “commercial” targets match the LO goals and should exploit its small dimension in order to get all the long term advantages brought by being a L.O.

Question 2: What changes would need to take place within the organisation to make it into a learning organisation?

In order to become a real LO, several activities may be started/implemented. For instance, managers could act more as “mentors, coaches and facilitators”, could more encourage risk-taking approaches and could try to develop some experimentation. As per my experience job rotation encourages learning as well.

Decision-making process, company strategy, reporting structures may be modified in order to exploit the “perceptions of the nature, legitimacy and outcomes of learning that are likely to be central to employees”[6]. This is a shared goal between management and employees that shouldn’t be ignored: it’s one of the main part of the “psychological contract” that ensure companies a continuous commitment in a contest of high dynamic labour market.

I also suggest “GL Informatica” to implement these changes as soon as it can since growing in size its bureaucratic structure is increasing as well. As stated by Salaman (2001) bureaucracy and rigidity are obstacles to any learning activities.

Less “isolation” is also suggested. Consultants are often alone at customer site and brain storming sessions seldom occur. The idea that “learning is a social and participative activity rather than merely a cognitive activity”[7] should be more developed in the company. Communities of practice, non formal and high socialized should appear as well.

Question 3: To what extent do you think these changes are a) feasible and b) desirable?

In my opinion employees, management and also HR dept could benefit from all the changes described in the previous paragraph.

Analyzing the “feasibility” all the changes suggested don’t seem to me too hard to be implemented, but it depends strictly on the “level” GL want to reach.

Again becoming a complete LO organization is perhaps a not reachable target for GL (still wandering if organisation and learning are essentially at odds[8]...?) in a so dynamic and competitive environment but (in a medium to long term strategy) investments in this contest are recommended. As already mention all the above should occur now that the already established boundaries are still editable.

Dealing with the “desirability” in my opinion

  • employees should like and appreciate a similar approach;
  • management may find new challenges in it and, in a medium-long term optic should understand the benefits it may take;
  • HR dept (centralized) may find only opportunities in it and I think also a reduction in the contrast between HR and management will occur.

[1] Lesson 6

[2] Marchington and Wilkinson (2005)

[3] Senge's (1994)

[4] Swan and Preston (1998)

[5] Salaman (2001)

[6] Findlay et al. (2001)

[7] Gheradi (2001)

[8] Salaman (2001)

  • The Warwick MBA for IBM – Human Resource Management (IB811Z), Lesson 6
  • Mick Marchington and Adrian Wilkinson, Human Resources Management at Work. People Management and Development, Third Edition, CIPD, 2007

- 2 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Andrew Charlwood

    Although there is no consensus and agreement about what constitutes a learning organisiation, there is more agreement between different models than I think you allow for. I think that all LO models would put forward an image of the organisation which is more specific and exacting than the one you put forward. Your other two answers are quite good, but are handicapped by the fact that you have adopted an unconventional definition of the learning organisation. You would do better if you thought again about how you defined an LO, using a specific model from the course notes, then answered the next two questions with reference to that specific model.

    20 Oct 2008, 17:45

  2. This lesson’s exercize (in particular Q1 and Q2) has been modified after Andrew Charlwood’s comment.

    23 Oct 2008, 12:43

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