Create a learning organisation
Does your organisation have a learning disability? By Kenny Khoza
The survival of any organisation very much depends on the internal and external strategies that the organisation implements as part of their differentiation/growth strategy. The learning organisation concept gained broad recognition when Senge published his bestselling book The Fifth Discipline, The art & Practice of The Learning Organisation in 1990. In it, he writes that a learning organisation values, and derives competitive advantage from, continuing learning, both individual and collective.
Many managers have in one way or the other referred to and categorised their organisation as a learning organisation, maybe with or without the understanding and knowledge of what a learning organisation is. As human resource professionals we have a responsibility and a challenge firstly to educate the Board Room about what is a learning organisation and secondly to turn our organisation into a learning organisation. We can only do these if we understand what a learning organisation is.
In his book, Senge defines a learning organisation as “a place where people continually expand their capacity to create results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are natured, where collective aspiration is set free and where people continually learning how to learn”.
A learning organisation values and derives competitive advantage from continuing learning, both as individual and as collective. The core fundamental of a learning organisation is based upon five learning disciples and they are:
• personal mastery This is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience and of seeing reality objectively. An organisation's commitment to and capacity for learning can be no greater than that of its members. But surprisingly few organisations encourage the growth of their people in this manner. Instead we need to be forced by legislation to develop or grow people in our organisations. We do see development as the differentiation element within organisation .The learning organisation learns as its people learn and develop personal mastery;
• mental models There are "deeply ingrained assumptions, generalisations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action. Very often, we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effects they have on our behaviour." As Senge notes, "Mental models of what can or cannot be done in different management settings are no less deeply entrenched." They restrict our thinking and our behaviour, and thwart organisational progress;
• shared vision If any one idea about leadership has inspired many organisations for thousands of years, it's the capacity to build and hold a shared picture of the future we seek to create, that is, vision. When there is a genuine vision people excel and learn, not because they are told to, but because they want to. Building shared vision "involves the skills of unearthing shared 'pictures of the future' that foster genuine commitment and enrolment (voluntary participation) rather than compliance”.
• team learning In general, teams learn all the time in sports. However, in business it is much rarer. Yet even in many organisations/business and non profit organisations, there are striking examples where the intelligence of a team exceeds the intelligence of the individuals in the team, and where teams develop extraordinary capacities for co-ordinated action. When teams are truly learning, not only do they produce extraordinary results but the individual members are growing more rapidly than could have occurred otherwise. A key component of team learning is what Senge and many other scholars call "dialogue” - the capacity of the members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into a genuine 'thinking together'; and
• systems thinking Systems are everywhere, but when you are a part of one, it is doubly hard to see the whole pattern of change. Instead, we tend to focus on snapshots of isolated parts of the system, and wonder why our deepest problems never get solved. System thinking is a conceptual framework, a body of knowledge and tools that has been developed over the past fifty years, to make full patterns clearer, and to help us see how to change them effectively.
Kenny Khoza is a Training and Development Manager at Silverstar Casino: Tsogo Sun, www.tsogosun.co.za.
Senge P, The Fifth Discipline, The art & Practice of The Learning Organisation, 1990.