Objections to Learning Organization LO24028

From: Swan, Steve R. SETA CONTR (SwanSR@ftknox5-emh3.army.mil)
Date: 02/22/00

Replying to LO24015 --

I'd be nice to have this future manager's (leader's) address.

[Host's Note: I believe it's good practice not to mention someone's email
address in a public forum unless they've given permission. If you or
anyone else would like to contact my student correspondent directly, just
let me know. ..Rick]

Isn't it interesting that the student asks: "I would like information
about the pros and cons of the learning organization." A very good
question (critical thinking) and open system approach to examining an
"organizational model." And yet the response is: "When people resist

In every approach to management, leadership or organization development
there are pros and there are cons. For the LO, in my limited study thus
far (I am a doctoral student in education/human resources development) and
looking to the use of LO, I have found something that is common to many
organization/management approaches: definitional "diversity." One
authority states that an LO is XYZ and the next says it is ABZ or may be
AYX. No t a big deal, as this is and shall be true to the constructs we
use to label good and bad ends of organizational (life if you will)
characteristics. So the con with LO to this point: It can be whatever you
like and can have some modicum of support for (justify).

I recommend to this student, and anyone wanting to keep the flame of
critical thinking alive, to take a glance at the following site:
http://csab.wustl.edu/research/85.asp Insights from Business Strategy and
Management "Big Ideas" of the Past Three Decades.

Richard Mahoney, former Chairman and CEO of Monsanto Company, takes a look
at many "big ideas" in management )and organization development). LO is
placed in the category of "business unit strategy." Seems appropriate.

Big Idea : The Learning Organization
Typical Reference : The Fifth Discipline by Peter M. Senge, 1990
Description : Organizations must constantly learn new ideas, new ways, or
they wither as so many have done. Combining shared vision, teamwork, and
openness it is the antithesis of the bureaucratic organization.
Duration : Commonsense ideas--practiced in principle but not always in fact.
Corporations are averse to change unless in dire straits. Successful
companies often stay too long with the game plan--failing to encourage
employees to challenge practices--a flawed behavior largely unchanged by
books arguing otherwise. The concept, however, is one of the seminal
management ideas of the '90s.

This does not have an explicit critical view of LO, as that is not Mr.
Mahoney's intent. The point, it seems to me, is that the LO is an approach
to organization development. To this point, a con might be, oversell. This
brings to mind a nice little truism of life: When setting a trap for mice,
using cheese as the bait, leave room for the mouse. As in any complex
approach to problem solving (leadership/management) some place to high a
premium on a specific solution or style. That gets to the student's
question: What are the cons of the LO mindset? Anecdotal as it might be,
if in the student's limited research so far no cons are explicitly
identified by the LO users/proponents, then oversell (group think) "is in

Now to the research technique. I suspect that a large portion (80%) of the
sites visited by this student are "commercial advertising" sites and not
research or journal or open article access sites. That would have an


"Swan, Steve R. SETA CONTR" <SwanSR@ftknox5-emh3.army.mil>

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