Public Sector Learning Organizations LO21983
Thu, 24 Jun 1999 22:38:24 -0400

Replying to LO21956 --

On 21 Jun 99, at 22:31, Rick Fullerton wrote:

> Currently I am on assignment with the Canadian federal public service,
> attached to the agency primarily responsible for developing managers
> (about 30,000 people). Learning organization concepts were widely talked
> about in the public service in the early 1990's; most departments had
> learning organization initiatives and staff to support them. Research
> papers were written; the Auditor General commented on learning
> organization in his annual report. And by 1995-6, people were on to other
> things - worrying about staff reductions, fighting the deficit (a battle
> that was won!), and improving service to Canadians.

Rick, I'm familiar with the context, since I have done work for the feds
including being somewhat involved as a minor consultant in the La Releve
initiative. I have a bunch of things to say on this, but within this
context, there will ALWAYS be "moving on to other things", which
unfortunately, continues the cynicism and resistance to real system wide

Typicially it is some senior staff, some consultants, and leaders who
initiate these grand plans, which start with a bang, then peter out
because of the size of the initatives, and the inherent inertia of large
organizations (eg. the canadian government).

> Certainly, some parts
> of the public service have continued to pay attention to this area, and
> the previous Clerk of the Privy Council (the CEO of the Public Service)
> actively spoke about boundarylessness, leadership and learning
> organization as cornerstones of public service renewal.

I'm sure you are aware that the people who do the real work of government
consider almost all this stuff corporate seagull-ism. That's when the
people, be it the Clerk, the DM, consultant or management developer swoop
in, crap all over the place, and then fly back (in this case) to Ottawa.

> Today, the conversations about learning organization have broadened to
> include knowledge management, intellectual capital, teaching organization,
> and other popular ideas. So what is missing, it seems, is a clear
> perspective on current learning organization thinking (what is new in the
> last 3-4 years?) and how this relates to the public sector. >From this, I
> would like be able to offer pragmatic middle and senior managers help in
> creating and sustaining a learning organization. Research and experience
> to ground this would of course be great.

It may be that is missing. I think much more is missing having seen these
things close up in government in Canada and the provinces. Here's a final
thought. I don't know if you can do anything useful from where you are.

....sorry to be pessimistic and unhelpful.

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