Learning In The Learning Organization Management Essay
Management in 20th century has come up with various developments and practices from which learning organizations is one. Generally speaking, learning organization is an organization which gives an opportunity to its employees to learn such skills that help them develop themselves professionally. Organizations do help their employees to learn more as it adds value to the organization’s human resource and help the company to sustain its competitive advantage in the market. To be a learning organization is also important because of the change that now takes place very quickly in the market and organizations have to keep track of the changes taking place Senge (1994).
Though many researches have been conducted on the area of learning organizations and to define the concept, but no definite definition has yet been provided. Some of the definitions given by some researchers are as under:
According to Senge (1990), organizations which provide its employees an opportunity to develop their professional skills in order to achieve job targets more effectively are called learning organizations. Moreover, such organizations also allow its employees to think more creatively and innovative ideas are welcomed. Idea of a learning organization could not be instituted in an organization with out support of top management because it is always upper level management who decides the mission and commands it to the whole organization.
Another definition by Watkins and Marsick (1992) states that a learning organization is one where employees’ participation is encouraged in the process of change and change is managed through overall involvement of all levels of managers and workers. Change in learning organizations is always managed keeping in view the core mission and values of the organization and all the processes are aligned according to these values. It’s important for any business to change itself according to the market needs and state its procedures parallel with the changing environment.
From the above definitions it is evident that it is necessary for every organization to embrace the change as economic environment changes very rapidly. It also helps an organization to sustain its competitive edge in the market by coping with the frequently occurring changes in the market. An organization which fails to keep track of the changing situation of the market ultimately looses its competitive advantage and standing in the market.
Employees in learning organizations enhance their skills and abilities to keep pace with the changing needs of the business. Such organizations not only encourage learning at individual level but of organization as a whole. Moreover, results achieved from these leanings are implemented to improve the working and get better business results.
For an organization it is also important to have such systems and procedures that help make it learning organization and keep it updated with the changes in external environment. An organization must adopt a learning approach towards its procedures and employees must get acquainted with the systems that are implemented to cope with the change. It is also important that such an environment is created in the organization which is flexible and allows employees to participate. Such a flexible environment would help the workers to share their experiences and learning with each other. Moreover, employees must get self-development opportunities in order to enhance their professional skills at independent level and collaboratively participate in the progress of the organization.
Pre-requisites of a learning organization:
For an organization to become a learning organization, there are some requirements that must be met. Senge (1990) has explained five major requirements which an organization must meet in order to be a learning organization. These pre-requisites are as under:
Shared Visions: It is important for an organization to have a shared vision because it gives a purpose for existence of an organization. Vision of an organization provides encouragement for learning and supports employees to learn and develop. It also helps to create long-term commitment from employees with the organization. Shared vision implies that there is a commitment from people throughout the organization with their participation. This commitment of employees keeps them stay with the organization in good as well as bad times. Employees in an organization may have personal commitments and vision about organization but it must be aligned with the organizational vision as a whole. Individual vision standing alone possesses no value until and unless it is directed towards overall vision of the organization (Senge 1990, 12).
Systems thinking: System is a perception of all elements that affect each other and operate together for a common purpose. Systems thinking demands employees not to view the organizational performance at individual level but through structural aspects. Systems thinking allow employees to see the real side of each structural aspect rather than conceiving change as a imaginary concept. Systems thinking need the other four disciplines to enable a learning organization to come about. Systems thinking provide a positive proper framework to have focus on structural patterns and find relationships between them. It also helps problem solving process and removes the system of putting blame on an individual for a problem. It helps to se that how interrelated factors work together and give birth to a problem and how that problem could be solved by exploring the issues connected with a problem (Senge 1990, 10).
Team Learning: Team learning is a process which supports and enhances the capability of a team to produce that outcome which its members wanted to get. Team learning is important because now organizations have team working system. So it is important for a team to learn so that an organization may become a learning organization. Team learning helps a team to coordinate with each other to develop their skills and get the desired results (Senge 1990, 13). It can be inferred from the above discussion that an individual’s learning contributes to team learning and team learning ultimately contributes towards development of a learning organization.
Personal Mastery: Personal mastery means that employees are realistic in their approach towards work and their focus is to be the core person of the organization. Personal mastery could be attained by having commitment for lifelong learning. With out achieving personal mastery employees (at individual level) and organizations (at collective level) fail to learn how to create more and new ideas in order to track the change. It is also important to provide right environment to the employees in order to get positive results form their work and help developing a sense of purpose. Personal mastery is always related to a proficiency level which could only be achieved through life long learning and not without it. It also shows a straightforward association between organizational learning and employee’s development (Senge 1990, 11).
Mental Models: Mental models must be well managed because they stop implementation of new organizational trends and practices. The process of mental modeling starts with a sense of reflecting one’s own self and finding structural concepts and rules. It also helps to understand that how these two factors impact that how we work in our workplace life. Here the role of managers is also important as to integrate mental modeling and systems-thinking skills. Moreover, the skills learnt must be practiced in real environment on regular basis. To implement change, it is unavoidable to have an open environment and working conditions (Senge 1990, 12).
Besides all the five requirements presented by Senge, there are also some other requirements like cultural support and leadership for a learning organization. An organization must implement a culture that promotes a learning organization and encourage employees to see the real picture of the things and events. The culture must support true speaking and presentation of bitter true facts should not be discouraged. Moreover the culture should promote the sense of accountability and employees must feel accountable for their deeds.
According to Senge (1996), an effective and supportive leadership also plays a vital role in developing a learning organization. The leadership based on hierarchies does not support learning organization, so there must be matrix of people from all levels of management in order to make a learning organization. In addition to this, employees must be made realize that they all have ability to solve the problems they face and keep track of the market changes.
Conformation of Intel with requirements of learning organization:
Intel is a international company involved in the business of computer and processor manufacturing and providing a wide range of such products to its customers located all over the world. The products provided by Inter Corporation are based on the core aspect of innovation and continuous knowledge development.
By analyzing the requirements of a leaning organization discussed above, it can be said that Intel is indeed a learning organization as it fulfills all these pre-requisites. As technology changes within seconds, Intel has developed a culture which is open to innovation and introducing new ideas for product development and improvement. Intel has a clear vision which is communicated throughout the organization and employees work to attain that vision. Also the culture is so diversified and open that employees feel free to take initiative and risk to develop new products and give ideas. As leading company in technology industry, Intel has provided its employees with an opportunity to learn more and use their learning towards achievement of objectives of Intel. All the functions and systems incorporated in Intel are interrelated thus making it possible for employees to gain knowledge and spread it throughout the organization. Intel could never be able to be leading firm if it could not have encouraged a culture of learning and knowledge communication.
Features of a learning organization:
Every organization is a set of certain features that distinguish it from other organizations operating in the market. Learning organizations also have certain features which make a distinction between them and other organizations. According to Garrett (2001) these features are as under:
Continuous Learning: In a learning organization, employees should share the knowledge they have and take opportunity of learning new things. The workers should consider their job as an opportunity for getting knowledge and applying that knowledge in order to get positive outcomes. It is important factor in learning organizations that organization is regarded as a source of getting knowledge and creating new leanings. Moreover, the learning organizations must provide opportunities to its employees to learn continuously and keep themselves up-to-date.
Generating and Sharing Knowledge: In learning organizations, such systems are incorporated that help generation of knowledge and employees are encouraged towards it. Such system also provides facility to share the knowledge among employees. Management also focuses to devise such strategies which support knowledge generation and sharing.
Critical Thinking: Critical thinking is one of the important features of learning organizations. The employees should be encouraged to analyze things critically and draw conclusions. They are also encourages to give new ideas and make new assumptions and test them in order to create something new.
Flexibility and Encouragement of Experiences: In learning organizations, employees must have freedom to take risk at their own and they must have back up support of management. Employees must be encouraged to develop innovative ideas so that organization gets something new out of it. They must be able to experiment with new processes and introduce new products or services.
Assisting the staff: In learning organizations it is important to provide sufficient assistance to the staff and they must be appreciated for their innovative ideas. Employees must be provided with an environment which is open to learning and innovation and supports self-development activities of the employees.
Learning culture: It is far much important that environment of an organization encourages learning and promotes new ideas presented by the employees. Learning organizations always reward the learning of its employees if learning is aligned with its objectives.
Make information accessible: It is important for learning organizations to give its employees access the necessary information required by them in order to enhance their learning.
Manage the knowledge: It is important for learning organization to manage the knowledge acquired by its employees by keeping information up-to-date and maintaining records of all the information.
New way of thinking: Learning organization introduces new ways of thinking and problem solving approaches among its employees. Employees are encouraged to think out of box and solve the problems faced by them in new ways and discard old ways of doing things.
Relationship among functions: in learning organizations all the functions, activities and procedures are considered interrelated and compatible with the organizational environment.
Open communication: Employees of a learning organization can openly communicate their ideas and knowledge to rest of the employees without fear of top management because the culture supports transfer of knowledge.
Focus on achievement: The main focus of employees is on the achievement of goals and objectives a learning organization set for itself. Employees participate in attaining these goals by putting their individual and collective efforts.
Above mentioned features help to identify whether an organization is learning or not. Presence of all or some of these characteristics in an organization identify that it is leaning otherwise not.
Analysis of Intel according to features of a learning organization:
An organization may become a learning organization only if they hold the characteristics of a learning organization. Many companies fail to encourage learning either because of lack of interest for learning or because the employees are not directed to learn. But above mentioned features help to determine whether an organization is learning or not by analyzing these features with the characteristics of that organization.
As continuous learning is one of the basic features of learning organization, it can be seen that it has been practiced at Intel. Employees at Intel are provided with the opportunities to enhance their skills and professional abilities in order to make the company ready to face the challenges of the market. Knowledge gained by employees is widely spread throughout the company. Press releases, seminars, trainings and workshops arranged by Intel for its employees locating globally help them share the knowledge and create new ideas. Critical thinking is encouraged among the employees as it is the core aspect for technology business. Employees are encouraged if they learn something new and give innovative ideas. The working environment at Intel is flexible enough to provide employees with the opportunities to communicate their learning and experiences freely with other employees. The culture at Intel encourages learning and if an employee’s achievements are rewarded to motivate them. Employees keep in view the vision and objective of the company and their activities are directed towards achievement of those goals.
From the analysis it can be concluded that Intel is a learning organization as it fulfills all the requirements and holds the features of learning organization. Also real learning is practiced at Intel throughout the world and culture facilitates knowledge sharing foe coping with the market changes.
Garrett, B. 2001, The Learning Organization, Harper Collins
Senge, P. et. al. 1994, The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization
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Senge, Peter. 1996, Leading Learning Organizations. Training & Development vol. 50, no. 12: 36-4.
Watkins, K. and Marsick, V. 1992, ‘Building the learning organization: a new role for human resource developers’, Studies in Continuing Education 14(2): 115-29.