Ref Models for OL LO22409

Hinken, Brian (
Mon, 2 Aug 1999 12:36:21 -0400

Replying to LO22334 --
Mark says:-
>I'm looking for a graphical representation(s) of organizational learning.
>What I need is a visual flow diagram, descriptive model, or what have you
>that depicts natural learning processes in human organizations. It would
>ideally be something that captures the LO community's prevailing views on
>the dynamics of how learning "happens" in human organizations.

As an internal consultant in a hospital, I have been struggling with this
very issue: How can I develop a model that we can refer to at any point in
a meeting, and agree among ourselves "this is where we are at"? I have
developed, with the help of other Internet resources, a model that has
proved to be useful to us, as a conceptual framework for the kinds of
learning we do here.

I use two different diagrams, a simple one (Single and Double-Loop
Learning) that integrates single and double-loop learning with the
classic "learning cycle". A more complex version (Double-Loop Learning
Matrix) further integrates the "levels of understanding" of systems
thinking and the concept of "framework" into the simpler model.

I have posted a copy of each to Rick.

[Host's Note: Thanks, Brian... these diagrams are at:


What follows is a description of the "Double-Loop Learning Matrix"
diagram. The learning loops begin by "Observing Current Outcomes". When a
gap is noticed between intended outcomes and actual outcomes, this creates
the motivation for trying to make possible corrections.

In single loop learning, the governing framework is not challenged, and
improvements are attempted within the existing framework (structures,
mental models, and vision). So, possible corrections are assessed, new
actions strategies are developed, and new actions are implemented - which
leads them back to seeing whether those action achieved the desired
outcomes (EVENTS). Eventually, if the desired outcome is not reached
after several (single loop) learning cycles (PATTERNS), a group will have
further incentive to go deeper.

In double loop learning, the governing framework, itself, is assessed. A
group can make assessments in three different areas. The first area
includes assessing the value of their intended outcomes - VISION ("is this
really what we want to achieve/create?"). Secondly, they can assess the
assumptions behind their action strategies - MENTAL MODELS ("what makes us
think that these strategies will result in the outcome we intend?"). And
third, they can identify the forces that have held the old framework in
place - STRUCTURES ("what causes us to keep looking for quick fixes,
rather than fundamental solutions?"). This work all occurs in zone #5. In
zone #6, the group can take the conclusions they have developed in zone #5
and articulate the way they want the new framework to be. Then, when the
new values, assumptions and structures are articulated, new action
strategies can be designed (back to zone #3). These new strategies now are
developed under a new framework, and therefor will be different than
single loop action. Not only must the group design action strategies that
address the tangible business problem itself, but also they must design
action which cements the new framework (new vision, mental model, and
structures) in place. Action, as well as assessment of outcomes, must be
done at both a single and a double loop level.

For example, my hospital is addressing a recurring customer service
problem. Various single loop "solutions" had been attempted, with short
term impact, and a return of the same symptoms (zones 1-4). The group
decided to "go double loop learning" to get at the underlying causes of
the problem (zone 5). We used systems thinking archetypes to uncover two
general variables which caused us to allow service standards to drift, and
to look for quick fixes rather than fundamental solutions. They were
"level of ownership for the problem", and "level of priority given to
service quality". We have articulated desired level of these variables,
which must be in place in order to make any solutions "stick" (zone 6).
Now, the group must design action strategies (zone 3) which address a
tangible problem (patient wait time) while making sure that "ownership" is
addressed (service outcomes are made public, performance feedback is
given, and individual responsibility is taken, etc.), and "priority" is
addressed (clarify the standard for wait time, understand the "support"
element of service quality, etc).

Regards, Brian Hinken


"Hinken, Brian" <>

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