Proposed project: search for learning organizations LO30666

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 10/07/03

Replying to LO30648 --

Dear Organlearners,

Don Dwiggins <> wrote:

>I have a wild idea to propose: a volunteer collaborative project
>to search for and track the progress of learning organizations.

Greetings dear Dwig,

I do not think it is a wild idea. Anyway, i have been doing it for the
past six years. As a scientist i need to observe a LO from a distance in
addition to being actively involved within them.

>It's probably best to begin with a caveat: as has been discussed
>on this list before, there's no clear definition of a LO, nor is it
>easy to say, either from the outside or inside, that a particular
>entity is a LO.

Perhaps it is easy to say for someone from the inside of an organisation
what makes it different from usual organisations, but that it is difficult
for us to recognise in that articulation that the person is refering to it
as a LO.

>I propose, therefore, that the search be for organizations that
>exhibit at least some important characteristics of a LO. (It
>might be worth using At's distinction between a tacit and
>explicit LO.) Clearly, there's more that needs to be said about
>this aspect; please jump in.

I live in South Africa. It is country which cannot be compared with the
developed countries. It also has a recent history of 50 years of
apartheid. Apartheid is the deliberate breaking of wholeness, one of the
11 essences of a LO. So what i have found is by far not the norm.

I have not yet found one organisation which could articulate in Sengian
terms that it is indeed a LO. But i found two who are LOs and know that
they are different from OOs (Ordinary Organisation), but they knew nothing
of Senge's work. I call them "tacit LOs" as you have indicated. I had to
search for clues that all 5Ds (five disciplines) of a LO are PRACTISED in
them. Strangely enough (perhaps very important too), they are not
organised according to the 5Ds. But most catching of them are their

>As to "organization", I'd suggest accepting any (inter)active
>group of more than, say, 6 people that has persisted for at
>least, say, 10 years and is likely to continue to persist for
>some time. This could include organizations that are commercial,
>government, social, religious, ...

Unfortunately, these two "tacit LOs" do not fit to all your suggestions.
Both had more than 6 people. But the one lasted for only one year because
of administrative ruling. The other one is about twenty years old, but
only the last 5 years it had been operating as a LO.

>Ideally, a searcher could describe the nature of the organization,
>and the characteristics that lead him/her to propose it as an LO.
>Even more ideally, someone (a tracker) could provide periodic
>"progress reports" to give a rich picture of the organization's

The 5 year old "tacit LO" is a religious organisation. What strikes me
about it in addition to its metanoia, is its compassion for society at
large -- its "social responsibility" in managerial language.

I am also mentoring four tiny organisations to emerge into LOs. But i keep
far away from Senge's articulations. I guide them in terms of their own
articulations of what they want. Their number of members range between 8
and 14. They are not yet LOs, but already at this stage the personalities
of several members are blooming. I find this most pleasing.

>There'd need to be someone/someorg to serve as a
>coordinating/recording agency, and to make available the reports
>of the searchers and trackers.

This 5 year old "tacit LO" is doing such a good job that i do not want to
awaken it to the fact that it is a LO. So i have some difficulty with this
suggestion of yours. But in the case of formal LOs, i cannot foresee any

>My own feeling is that a serious effort of this kind would
>turn up, even after winnowing, literally thousands of LOs
>and near-LOs (the vast majority tacit).

I have heard of some six other organisations who might be "tacit LOs" too.
But they are far from Pretoria and i cannot make it to them because of my
full time job. Searches on internet for the domain .za have revealed
nothing so far and definitely nothing for formal LOs. So let us assume
that there are 10 "tacit LOs" in South Africa. In terms of the ratio of
population numbers, the US can easily have more than a thousand of them.

Dwig, i have studied Benjamin Franklin's autobiography very carefully the
second time. Having read it the first time to get an overall impression, i
got the hunch that he wanted to set up "tacit LOs" and transform existing
organisations in "tacit LOs". Again i have to use the word "tacit" because
how could Franklin knew of Senge's articulations almost three centuries
later. The second study confirmed my hunch. But as i have said, one has to
search for clues pointing to the 5Ds rather than expecting Sengian
articulations for them.

It reminds me of the sonar exploring of the body's organs, something which
i had to undergo several times the last few years. Each time the sonar
specialist allowed me to look at the screen. I had to use my imagination
to see what they claim they are seeing. The last time my physician was
with me and i mentioned my difficulty to recognise what the sonar
specialist sees. He answered: "Oh, we call them the shadow doctors!" The
sonar specialist just smiled.

To search for a "tacit LO" is like looking at the shadows which the 5Ds
make. We will have to become "shadow doctors" to detect them.

>Again, please jump in...

I support your call whole heatedly.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> 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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