Business Case for LO LO17518

Richard C. Holloway (
Mon, 23 Mar 1998 21:16:30 -0800

Replying to LO17511 -- Was: Intro - Ann Clancy

Welcome, Ann -- you wrote (in part):

> One area of particular interest to me is how to make the business case for
> becoming a learning organization. It appears that much of the literature
> on the subject is rather "soft" in this regard. Can anyone recommend an
> article or book that may be of help in this regard? (I do have copies of
> the Fifth Discipline and the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook.)

I hear this question frequently. It comes from people who usually confuse
cost with investments. I don't have many responses, but one of them is
personnel turbulence or turnover. There are very specific costs
associated with replacing people (recruiting, orienting, loss of knowledge
and information, orientation, transitions). Your human resource people
can easily find that cost for you. Learning organizations tend to reduce
the personnel losses that occur in those organizations that use people
like cogs in the organizational machine.

High risk (associated with organizational cultures that foster violence
(like harassment) and internal competition rather than cooperation and
teamwork) has definite costs to organizations (litigation, sabotage,
unhealthy stress, absences). Insurers spend a great deal of money trying
to teach their customers how to behave appropriately (to reduce lawsuits).
Learning organizations tend to foster cooperation and teamwork.

Learning organizations increase quality through improved processes,
because they can focus on significance rather than the dramatic--this is
especially true for teams, coaches, managers and executives who are
"systems-savvy" and who try to fix processes rather than people.

Of course, many managers want to know how well something worked for
someone else before they are willing to try it themselves--and, if they're
concerned that they may be out of a job (midlevel managers have been
sacrificed in other organizations) in a learning organization, then that
risk needs to be addressed.

Anyway, those are just a couple of things. Not very many, with their eye
on the P&L statement, their bonuses and their mental models of how it's
worked before, are willing to chance it. But, if your company has hired a
learning coordinator, it seems that someone there is advocating
change--how exciting and fortunate for you.

walk in peace,

Doc Holloway

"Love not what you are, but what you may become."  - Miguel de Cervantes

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