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Building A Learning Organisation

Posted on the 19 January 2012 by Combi31 @combi31

A learning organisation is an organisation that learns and encourages learning among its people. It promotes exchange of information between employees, hence creating a more knowledgeable workforce. This produces a very flexible organisation where people will accept and adapt to new ideas and change through shared vision.It is said that the only constant in life is change and organisations are not spared. Change brings about not only uncertainty and risks but also opportunities for growth. Those organisations that can manipulate the information available have a bigger chance to succeed. It is therefore important for everyone to be more knowledgeable about the work environment they are in. Building a learning organisation is a means to a business goal. It is not a new theory but a concept that has become an increasingly widespread philosophy in modern companies, from the largest multinationals to the smallest enterprises. It is to be applied according to the circumstances of each business, which has to cater for it at strategic and operational levels.’Systems Thinking’ takes a holistic approach to learning whereby not only does the organisation learn but so do all its employees, irrespective of their role within the organisation. Information has to be disseminated to all levels and does not stop at top management, thus, facilitating learning through flexibility and open communication by removing barriers to communication and adopting flatter organisational structure and design.Therefore the message is clear: any organisation that is committed to future success must become a learning organisation in order to compete and survive. Today continuous improvement is a must. “Any organisation is only as good as its people and continuous improvement in business is about the development of people and therefore creating a learning culture.” (Sheppard)Systems ThinkingThe idea behind the concept coined ‘Systems Thinking’ in the 1950′s was that enterprises need to be aware of both the company as a whole as well as the individuals within the company – taking a holistic approach to managing. Gould-Kreutzer Associates Inc. defined it as “a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things; to see the forest and the trees.” System Thinking therefore tries to change the managerial view so that it includes the ambitions of the individual workers, not just the business goals.However, it was only during the 1990′s that this concept started to be taken seriously by organisations. Systems Thinking nowadays is synonymous with Peter Senge, one of the modern day gurus, who in his book “The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organisation” popularised the concept of the learning organisation, and referred to ‘Systems Thinking’ as the Fifth Discipline. Since its publication in 1990, more than a million copies of this book have been sold and in 1997, Harvard Business Review identified his book as one of the seminal management books of the past 75 years.According to Senge, learning organisations are “organisations 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. “Senge posits that the dimension that distinguishes learning from more traditional organisations is the mastery of certain basic disciplines, which he regards as a series of principles and practices that we study, master and integrate into our lives. The five disciplines that he identifies are said to be common to all learning organisations.They are:1. 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.People with a high level of personal mastery live in a continual learning mode, continually clarifying and deepening their personal vision. This takes place by assessing the gap between their current knowledge and the desired knowledge, and by practicing and refining skills. This develops self-esteem and creates the confidence to tackle new challenges.2. MENTAL MODELS. These are ‘deeply ingrained assumptions, generalisations, or even pictures and images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action. ‘The discipline of mental models starts with turning the mirror inward; learning to unearth our internal pictures of the world, to bring them to the surface and hold them rigorously to scrutiny. Every individual has his own perception of the things around him. This happens consciously and unconsciously and therefore, if team members can, through positive, constructive criticism, challenge each others’ ideas and assumptions, they can begin to perceive their mental models, and to change these to create a shared mental model for the team. This is important as the individual’s mental model will control what can or cannot be done.Author: Sandro AzzopardiArticle Source: EzineArticles.comProvided by: Digital Camera Information

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