June 07, 2009

Human Resource Management Lesson 6 Exercise

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

There are several definitions of Learning Organizations (LO) and some of them try to summarize the nature of LO in a shorts words, I like the definitions of Peter Senge (1990: 3):

“…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 see the whole together.”

This definition looks like that speaks about subjective issues but there are some aspects that indicate if a organization has LO or not. I going to base my analysis on my personal experience in the company that I have spoken before, Lucent. As is a American Company has got several points similar to IBM then it will be interesting to compare both.

To analyse how Lucent fits into an LO model I'll focus my analysis on the approach of the work of Senge (1990), Argyris and Schon (1996), Argyris (1991), and Schon (1983), analysing the following five aspects: Personal mastery, Mental models, Building shared vision, Team learning, Systems thinking.

  • Personal mastery: In my experience the degree of personal commitment was high and one of the main reasons was because I was younger than the median of my department. I think that the commitment is related with the opportunity to promote and the positions of Lucent were quite frozen.
  • Mental models: This point was developed moderately in Lucent because frequently there were pictures with different messages in the meetings rooms in order to learn a specific culture.
  • Building shared vision: This characteristic was very well implemented in the company because the managers towards periodical meetings with the team and there was a lot of corporative meetings in order to go in the same direction.

  • Team learning: Some of the more important things in the company is to share the knowledge, in Lucent some times the departments was very independents and individualistic.
  • Systems thinking: Act as a system is complicated, and understood all the relations between departments too, but in Lucent was very well defined the goals of each, although with the problems of a big company.

As summary the degree of LO in Lucent was good because was a big company but this opinions have been done comparing with IBM in order to have one point of reference.

Five characteristics of Senge for Lucent

2.- What changes would need to take place within the organisation to make it a learning organisation?

Some of the main problems that I have identify is the lack of involvement of the human resources department, because the main weak point is the personal mastery and the team learning and these was due to the lack of a individual career plan and the lack in the incentives to the manager and employees in order to satisfy the sharing knowledge.

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

I think these changes are desirable because against of a traditional organization LO offers several benefits for example: maintaining levels of innovation and remaining competitive, being better placed to respond to external pressures, etc …About if it is feasible I only see possible to make a plan of incentives or programs to increase the team learning.

Speaking about the developing the career plans to increase the motivation of employees, in my opinion I think that is not feasible because there are a lot of barriers. Surely will be more feasible that the involve of the human resource department increases in the promoting the LO culture because until this moment the learning issues was delegated in lines of business and I think that with the involve of the HR department a lot of efforts can be dedicated to the develop a real carrier plans that help to increase the motivation and commitment of the employees.


Marchington, M. and Wilkinson, A. (2008), 'Human Resource Management at Work' (4th edn), London: CIPD.

Helen Newell (2009), Human Resources Management Study Notes, Warwick Business School.

Web Site: ‘peter senge and the learning organization’, http://www.infed.org/thinkers/senge.htm

Wikipedia, ‘Learning organization‘, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_organization

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Kim White

    Hi Luis,

    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, Lucent in this case. You have done that pretty well although you might want to add a dimension by mentioning Pedler and Burgoyne in that debate. As such this is partly related to where you placed Lucent 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 relating to being effective as an LO depends on what best constitutes that concept. You might want to consider whether it fits any of the other alternatives.

    Don’t forget the references.



    03 Jun 2009, 20:45

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