Criteria for "Learning Organization" LO29592

From: Mark W. McElroy (
Date: 11/26/02

Replying to LO29582 --


Thanks for your response. I'm afraid I disagree with it, though. That
an organization is learning is no guarantee of success or longevity. It
merely increases the odds of survival. If what you are saying is that
the quality of OL at the organizations you cite is or was low, then it
would logically follow that their chances of survival were also low, and
that perhaps that accounts for their demise. In other words, you might
be saying that their vision and strategies were poorly conceived. But
that is not to say that they were not learning. Rather, it is to say
that the quality of their learning was low. So in the end, they were

Further, I find myself wanting to say that if an organization is not
learning, or if the quality of its learning is exceptionally poor, it
may very well die off. But this, in a sense, is to say that what dies
off is not an organization after all -- or perhaps it used to be but
isn't anymore -- for how could be one if it didn't learn, or if it
didn't learn above a certain threshold level of performance? In other
words, to be an organization, there must be a minimum level of learning
going on at the level of the collective, for how can an organization
survive without it, much less function as an organization? This points
to at least part of what we mean by "an organization" -- a collection of
individuals who learn together.

Finally, let's not forget the fact that some organizations die off even
in the presence of high-performance learning. How? By choosing visions
or strategies that prove erroneous in the end. Moreover, they sometimes
die off because of external factors like war or undue governmental
interference. The opposite, of course, is also true. Poor learning
organizations often survive long after they should have died.
 Monopolies come rushing to mind here. So strong organizational
learning will not necessarily lead to market-leading performance or
survival. But I do agree that market-leading performance and long range
survival is rarely possible without it.



Torrence, Elizabeth wrote:

>>To test my claim, can anyone provide
>>me/us with examples of organizations that do NOT learn?
>Yes, Organizations that have not learned their fundamental mission and
>without vision... die - close down...
>Here in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, I have seen an
>inordinate number of organizations that had no real vision and sense of
>mission who were not able to sustain changing economic conditions and
>demands (or lack of). Their CEOs and employees are causing us to be the
>state with the second highest unemployment rate.
>Additionally cognitive learning - does not necessarily change behavior...
>even in organizations. The organization gets lost in the maize of
>re-organization and loses its memory for why change at all.


"Mark W. McElroy" <>

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