Are "Teams" a meaningful unit of learning? LO13409

Malcolm Burson (
Mon, 28 Apr 97 08:18:45 PDT

Replying to LO13363 --

On Wednesday, April 23, Stever wrote

In getting my bearings, I'm wondering what it means for a team to
Organizations have learned when they can do something new (e.g. a
new product, or new rate of innovation) they couldn't do before.
Structurally, they seem similar to individuals. Whether that's inherent,
or whether we've set them up this way on purpose, there's always a
locus of control at the top. Even in so-called "learning
organizations," projects that self-directed teams come up with must
be approved by upper management, etc. When the layoffs come, it's
still this upper locus of control which sticks around, and it's the
"fingers" that get laid off.

While individual learning is certainly necessary in a learning
organization, the upper management will completely make or break
the learning. Similar to a brain, it has to be there (often called
"buy-in") in order for a learning organization to work at all.

--------end quote -------

Stever, before we get further into what it means for a team to learn [and
in your comments I'm not sure if you're distinguishing "team learning"
from "team building"], could we explore some of your assumptions as quoted

For example, is it necessary in a learning environment for the projects of
a self-directed team "to be approved by upper management?" or is this
merely the transfer to self-directed teams of the usual
command-and-control structures? In other words, it seems to me that
"self-directed team" does not necessarily imply an orientation or
commitment to organizational learning.

Similarly, can you help me understand the reasoning behind your assumption
that "upper management will completely make or break the learning?" While
this may often be the way things are practiced, that doesn't convince me
that this is desireable or necessary. In fact, I would assume that this
was the opposite of good organizational learning.

But I'd be interested in hearing why you think differently.

Malcolm Burson
Community Health and Counseling
Bangor, ME


Malcolm Burson <>

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