Which multinational companies are learning organizations LO29772

From: Malcolm Burson (mburson@gwi.net)
Date: 01/06/03

Replying to LO29723 --

On December 23, Jon Benn wrote, in response to Julia (Kychua?)'s request,

> I think G.E. fits the bill. And their work-out program seems just the way
> to create a learning organization.

After waiting to see if anyone else would take this up, and with some
hesitation about (a) being oppositional; and (b) reviving a dormant thread
on the list, I must respectfully disagree.

Jon, while GE is frequently cited for its LO practices such as workout
(for which see "The Dance of Change"), I remain convinced after many years
of consideration that process, practice, and learning technology are not
sufficient. If LO is to mean anything, then a learning organization's
values and actions-in-the-world must be consistent with the underlying
ethic (respect for difference; care for the systemic whole of the
planet/universe and life, et al.) that I, for one, find running as a
constant and vibrant stream through The Fifth Discipline and its successor

And on this score, GE fails miserably. To cite but three examples, GE has
(1)wholeheartedly adopted promotion practices that arbitrarily eliminate
the famous "lowest 10 (or 20) per cent performers," regardless of all
other factors. (2) GE has repeatedly attempted to deny responsibility
for the full-scale pollution of the Hudson River and its surrounding lands
with PCBs, and has spent hundreds of millions on advertising and public
relations efforts designed to evade this responsibility; and (3) the
recent news coverage of Jack Welch's executive compensation and severance
packages demonstrates that the company clearly took resources that might
have been used for many different purposes and rewarded instead arrogance
and greed.

It's an argument that's been made before, but I risk making it again: if
the Nazi government had faithfully used LO practices to ensure that all
its followers were learning through the use the tools of the five
disciplines, would we consider them an example of a learning organization?
LO is not just about practice, but outcomes; and even if we cannot agree
on the precise ethical principles that should govern those outcomes, I'm
willing to risk the assertion that there are some, and they are implicit
in the value system which informs the discussion on this list.

But then, as always, I welcome the thoughts of those who see it

Malcolm Burson
Director of Special Projects
Maine Department of Environmental Protection



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