LO is an idea or goal? LO29497

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@postino.up.ac.za)
Date: 11/13/02

Replying to LO29473 --

Dear Organlearners,

Peck Ong <Peck.Ong@postgrads.unisa.edu.au> writes:

>Learning Organization is an ideal rather than an achievable
>goal??? Field (1995) argues that it is an ideal. What do
>you all think?

Greetings dear Peck,

I think your question has to do with the two fundamental ways in which any
system can get transformed.

The one way is that of a gradual transition with no abrubt changes along
the path. It is like a seedling tree growing into a muture tree or walking
up a hill. It goes like this, moving your eyes from left to right:-


The other way is that of a seemingly gradual transition until a radical
shift to a new path is encountered. It is like a worm becoming a butterfly
or walking uphill when suddenly having to climb over a cliff. It goes like
                                _>* (emergence completed)
                      _>* (emergence about to happen)

The second way involve what is called an emergence. There is a drastic
change in how the system functions. In my own experiences of learning
organisations, in all cases they resulted as an emergence. In four cases
it just happened with no-one planning for it or even having had it as an
ideal. In the fifth and last case i had the wonderful opportunity to plan
for it to happen spontaneously, but without telling anyone what ideal i
had in mind. Actually, four LOs emerged within one big organisation and
recently a fifth!

I must explain how i did it with the following joke. A genealogist always
had the subpressed passion to become a motor mechanic. One day he decided
that enough is enough. He enrolled for a training course as a mechanic.
The other trainees were jealous of him because he performed better than
them. Then the final practical examination came. Each had to overhaul a
car's engine in a given amount of time. Some passed with a small margin
while the rest failed. The geneaologist got 150%. They were furious at the
the trainer and demanded an explanation. He said that it was the first
time in his life he saw anybody do a complete and perfect engine overhaul
through the exhaust pipe.

What this joke tells us that we should try not to remove the head and the
sump of the engine to lay bare all parts for easy access. We should rather
deal with the engine as a whole which must not be taken apart, but
accessed through the natural ports which it has. The same with an
organisation. By the time that organisation has been convinced by
gatehring analitical data that it is not a LO, the chances of overhauling
it has become slim.

This has a crucial strategic implication. A few persons in a position to
influence executive decisions have to protect the ideal of becoming an LO
without laying bare in gory details (dedicated terminology) what it will
involve. They will have to encourage and promote every step towards the
emergence into a LO, using the existing "language" of the organisation.
They will have to bear immense patience with this task.

>How achievable is the learning organisation model in
>today's organisations?

I think that it is achievable, but not in the usual manner of making a
grand decision and then everybody jumping to its tune. Allow me to

The emergence of the organisation into a LO may take several years to
happen. Furthermore, the emergence has to happen "cell-wise". By this i
mean that a few sections have to emerge into "minor LOs". As they gain
expertise and set example, other sections will the also emerge into "minor
LOs". Eventually 90% or more of the organisation will consist of "minor
LOs". This may take a few years! Only then will the organisation as a
whole be aware of its new status and ethos.

>[Host's Note: On our home page http://www.learning-org.com,
>I say, "Are there any examples of Learning Organizations? Yes,
>but the Learning Organization is an ideal, a vision. Various
>organizations or parts of organizations achieve this in varying
>degree." ..Rick]

I agree Rick. Transforming an organisation into a LO is not instantaneous
by the waving the magic wand of an executive decision. It is rather like a
farmer who have to restore an over exploited farm. It is done by allowing
sections after sections to regain their natural robustness. These sections
will need assistance and care because they have been exploited too much to
accomplish it on their own.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@postino.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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