Knowledge And Organizational Theory

Knowledge And Organizational Theory

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1.0 What is a Learning Organization?

1.1 Definition of a Learning Organization

Just what makes a learning organization? In this sense the learning organization is an ideal, ‘towards which organizations have to evolve in order to be able to respond to the various pressures they face . It clearly portrays that it is essential to learn individually as well as in a collective manner.

Learning organizations are 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.

Successful organizations embrace change and development as the most important factor in the success of the organization. Without learning there is no improvement and without improvement organizations will be stagnate. Therefore learning is important for an organization to remain competitive .

However, it is difficult to see how a learning organization can be based on and derive from individual learning. An organization should take on board the ‘shared vision’. ‘Shared vision is vital for the learning organization because it provides the focus and energy for learning’ .

With this, a learning theory should be implemented based on employees’ attempts to cope with everyday problems that they encounter in their organizations.

1.2 Characteristics of a Learning Organization

A learning organization does not come on its own but instead comprises of several characteristics that defines it.

Contemporary descriptions of the "learning organization" have appeared throughout the management of literature. These descriptions portray learning organizations as capable of adapting to changes in the external business environment by practicing continuous renewal of their structures and practices. Many accounts of learning organizations suggest that the path to becoming a learning organization is often wildly experimental, intensely focused around team processes, structured into nonhierarchical clusters, and operating in virtual time/space through electronic networks.

The table below shows the positive results accruing to individuals and the organization or culture as a whole when they are present.

The first two characteristics are individual whereas the last three are group-based. The characteristics listed are general qualities that exist within a learning culture.

However, there are concrete cognitive and behavioural tools, as well as specific types of social interaction and structural conditions, that improve the chances that these qualities are achieved and sustained over time. These are the "best practices”.

While not an exhaustive list, the ones listed in the table fall under four main categories:

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a) communication and openness;
b) inquiry and feedback;
c) adequate time; and
d) mutual respect and support.

Characteristics of a Learning Organization and Associated Best Practices
Characteristic Definition Associated Best Practices Positive Byproducts

Self mastery
The ability to honestly and openly see reality as it exists; to clarify one's personal vision
a) Positive reinforcement from role models/managers
b) Sharing experiences
c) More interaction time between supervisory levels
d) Emphasis on feedback
e) Balance work/non-work life Greater commitment to the organization and to work; less rationalization of negative events; ability to face limitations and areas for improvement; ability to deal with change
Mental models
The ability to compare reality or personal vision with perceptions; reconciling both into a coherent understanding
a) Time for learning
b) Reflective openness
c) Habit of inquiry
d) Forgiveness of oneself
e) Flexibility/adaptability
Less use of defensive routines in work; less reflexivity that leads to dysfunctional patterns of behavior; less avoidance of difficult situations

Shared vision
The ability of a group of individuals to hold a shared picture of a mutually desirable future
a) Participative openness
b) Trust
c) Empathy towards others
d) Habit of dissemination
e) Emphasis on cooperation
f) A common language
Commitment over compliance, faster change, greater within group trust; less time spent on aligning interests; more effective communication flows
Team learning
The ability of a group of individuals to suspend personal assumptions about each other and engage in "dialogue" rather than "discussion"
a) Participative openness
b) Consensus building
c) Top-down and bottom-up communication flows
d) Support over blame
e) Creative thinking
Group self-awareness; heightened collective learning; learning "up and down" the hierarchy; greater cohesiveness; enhanced creativity
Systems thinking
The ability to see interrelationships rather than linear cause-effect; the ability to think in context and appreciate the consequences of actions on other parts of the system
a) Practicing self mastery
b) Possessing consistent mental models
c) Possessing a shared vision
d) Emphasis on team learning
Long-term improvement or change; decreased organizational conflict; continuous learning among group members; Revolutionary over evolutionary change

2.0 What is Global Reach?
2.1 Definition of Global Reach
Dr Philip Reece defined global reach as “The global reach of a learning organization is the organization as ability to tap into both current and future markets necessary and to be able to acquire the best people with innovation and creativity who can develop new ideas as the basis for generating current and future ‘wealth’. They then transform those ideas into new goods and services that benefit the organization’s consumers. Finally, the global reach of a learning organization is the fundamental part of the organizational culture where all staffs constantly consider how they can access new ideas and new organizational members to increase the IP (Intellectual Property) and IC (Intellectual Capital) of their learning organization. ”

What is globalization? How should it be conceptualized? Does contemporary globalization represent a novel condition?

As will soon become apparent, these questions are at the root of the many controversies and debates which find expression in contemporary discussions about globalization and its consequences.

Globalization reflects a widespread perception that the world is rapidly being moulded into a shared social space by economic and technological forces and that development in one region of the world can have profound consequences for the life chances of individuals or communities on the other side of the globe.

2.2 What drives Global Reach
It has become almost axiomatic that business success depends on expanding the global reach of an organization. Moreover, the adoption of the transnational organizational model for a multinational enterprise is widely acknowledged as the preferred means of going global. Designing effective transnational organizations depend on the effective deployment of advanced information technologies. Because globalization requires employees and business partners to be geographically and temporally distant from one another, deploying information technologies with a virtual organization is an obvious choice for overcoming spatial and temporal boundaries.

Driving global reach in a learning organization involves various ways which are considered of great importance.

New learning organizations will emphasize on-demand, informal learning, which helps employees reach the level of expert faster and stay, engaged over time. On-demand content, job aids, performance support tools, communities of practice, and coaching programs will be among the primary offerings. Learning and its delivery will be tailored to meet the learning styles and interests of workers from baby boomers to millennial. The new organization is driven by talent and leadership gaps, critical skills shortages, employee engagement, and corporate culture.

The organization measures success in terms of solving talent challenges such as filling critical skills shortages and assisting in meeting recruiting goals. The new learning organization is centralized at the enterprise or division level and aligned with human resources.

Recruitment and retainment of talents: With knowledge management as the strategic intent and learning to learn as the strategic weapon, the current management focus is on how to leverage knowledge faster and better than competitors. Research demonstrates that it is the cultural mindset of the people in the organization that primarily defines success in knowledge intensive organizations.

Training and development of the workforce: There is increasing recognition for workplace learning, but that employees must realize the benefits of workplace learning in order for the organization to evolve into a learning organization. The next pillar to extending global reach in a learning organization is the entitlement of citizens to education and training. This has been justified not only by the need to ensure that workers can effectively perform at work but also on the grounds that the provision of skills will enable workers to adapt to new demands of technological and economic changes which require different capabilities.

Reaching out to organization’s consumers: Global competitiveness requires the ability to quickly and continually bring superior value to diverse marketplaces in the face of rapidly changing needs, technologies, and environments. These competitive forces and increased complexity are prompting major changes in organizations. Successful organizations are integrating functions and processes. Managers are encouraged to play a substantial role in transforming the metrics of the organizations from a control/score-keeping system into a true knowledge creation system. The challenge is to turn knowledge into action.

1Finger, M. and Brand, S. B. (1999) ‘The concept of the “learning organization” applied to the transformation of the public sector’ in M. Easterby-Smith, L. Araujo and J. Burgoyne (eds.) Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization, London: Sage, pg 136.

2 Senge, P. et. al. (1994) The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization, pg 3

3 Lassey, Peter. (1998) ‘Developing a learning organization’

4 Senge, P. et. al. (1994) The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization, pg 206

5 Nicole A. Wishart, Joyce J. Elam, and Daniel Robey, “Redrawing the portrait of a learning organization: Inside Knight-Ridder, Inc.,” Academy of Management Executive, February, 1996, 10(1), pp. 7-20.

6 Adapted from the work of Senge (1990), Argyris and Schon (1996), Argyris (1991), and Schon (1983)


8 David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton (1999), Global Transformations

9 Marie-Claude Boudreau, Karen D. Loch, Daniel Robey, and Detmar Straud, “Going global: Using information technology to advance the competitiveness of the virtual transnational organization,” Academy of Management Executive, November, 1998, 12(4), pp. 120-128.

0 Bersin, J, (2007) ‘Reshaping the Learning Function to Bridge Talent Gap,’ T AND D, vol 61;

1Strategic positioning of HRM in knowledge-based organizations. Mohan Thite; The Learning Organization, 2004, 28 – 44

2 Workplace learning: developing an holistic model; Pamela Matthews, The Learning Organization; 1999 pg18 – 29

3 Kingsley Laffer Memorial Lecture: Work, People and Globalisation: Towards a New Social Contract for Australia; Russell D. Lansbury ,Journal of Industrial Relations, Mar 2004; vol. 46: pp. 102 - 115.

4 Twomey, Daniel F. (1995), Global competitiveness: financial manager's leadership role in knowledge creation.; Global Competitiveness
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