Measuring Organizational Learning LO19846

Roy Benford (
Sat, 14 Nov 1998 11:47:39 +0000

Replying to LO19599 --

I have been following this thread on measuring organisational learning and
would like contribute expereriences from my role as a Parish Councillor
(the lowest level of democracy in the UK) and from UK news associated the
50th birthday of Prince Charles.

> A learning organization is defined as an organization skilled at creating,
> acquiring and transferring knowledge and ultimately at modifying its own
> behavior accordingly (Garvin, 1993).
> The individual acts as the agent in the learning process, but
> organizational learning transcends individuals and refers to the process
> by wich the group or organization improves the range of activities it
> performs to provide goods and/or services.

This suggests that organisational learning is an emergent property of an
organisation which concurs with my feelings that societal learning can
arise from chaos, given the right factors. As such, measuring the amount
of learning taking place at the individual level is unlikely to give an
indication of the amount of organisational learning that emerges. Rather
than restrict myself to a positivistic view of measuring organisational
learning, I am going to consider negative aspects of organisational

As an example of an organisation that has poor organisational learning, I
would like to suggest my local parish council. Recently, I scanned
through old minutes of meetings prior to sending them to the local
archives. I found it interesting to note that some topics would repeat
with varying cycles and the problems were the same. The clerk and past
chairman, agreed with this view, so the view was unlikely to have emerged
from some personal bias in my information processing. My interpretation of
this is that the council is not learning or it is forgetting what had been
learnt. The cycles were typically in excess of 5 years which is outside,
in my experience, most commercial organisations measuring periods.

So where does Prince Charles fit? In the UK, we have no legislation
against discrimination on the grounds of age and ageism is very prevalent.
Definitely too old at 50 and possibly at 40 or even 35. A comment by a 50
year old on UK news "We have to sit back and watch the young learn by
making the mistakes that we made so that they can learn by their
experience". To me, that indicates a lack of societal learning and is an
extremely expensive approach to learning. I wonder how may companies add
the cost of business mistakes to their training budgets!

Perhaps, in stead of measuring organisational learning, organisations
should be measuring the level of factors that inhibit organisational
learning to ensure that they are low and organisational learning my occur
as an emergent property of the organisation.

Roy Benford
Fulmer, UK


Roy Benford <>

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>