Behavioral Competencies for LO LO22724

Richard S. Webster (
Thu, 23 Sep 1999 16:42:03 -0400 (EDT)

Replying to LO22704 --

LO Colleagues -

Steve poses useful and thought-provoking questions. My views are below
and I look forward to learning from others' responses: to improve my
learning and ability to help companies work toward individual, work-group
and organizational learning and thereby to become learning organizations

Dick Webster

Richard S. Webster, Ph.D. - President
Personal Resources Management Institute (PRMI) - Worthington, OH
e-mail <<>, tel 614-433-7144, fax 614-433-71-88


Institute R&D projects address the paradigm shift from "training,
instruction and teaching" to "learning"--a key change for those seeking
continual improvement of enterprise (companies and other
organizations); "better" leadership, systems, processes, ideas and
quality; more effective use of information and knowledge;
higher-involvement and improved productivity by company members, their
work groups and teams; a higher-performance culture with increased
profits and other desired results. PRMI is a 501(c)3 non-profit
research, development and consulting company founded in 1978.


Thought: "Things are getting better and better and worse and worse
faster and faster" (Tom Atlee). Challenge: finding and building the
"betters," in time. Idea: try learning: each person's responsibility
and opportunity, with the organization's encouragement and support,
recognition and reward.


- - -

From: "Callender, Stephen" <<>
To: "''" <<>
Subject: Behavioral Competencies for LO LO22704 -And Intro
Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 17:24:02 -0500

>I'm Director of the Center for Organizational Learning at BestBuy, a
>Fortune 200 retailer, as of a few weeks ago. Before that, I was a

>consultant at Personnel Decisions, and before that a learning coach at a
>research engineering organization and a technical training manager at a
>systems integration house. My doctorate's in Adult Education,
>centered on
>perspective transformation in response to 360 feedback and other
>and my central lifelong quest is helping others learn and grow.


>(1) Is there a defined set of behavioral competencies - for managers,
>individual contributors, executives - that helps an organization to
>a "learning organization?

>(2) To what extent are the learning organization's competencies so
>team/group/system/organization focused that individual behavioral
>competencies are transcended?

>Steve Callender <<>

Steve -

Welcome! What useful questions you pose to emerge from "lurkingness." I
certainly look forward to learnng from others' viewpoints, mine follow:

>(1) Is there a defined set of behavioral competencies - for managers,
>individual contributors, executives - that helps an organization to
>become a "learning organization?

I would say "No," and that it's a matter of culture. If top management
TRULY believes in the value and capablilities of every "member of the
company" then organizational learning and a learning organization (OL/LO)
are possible. If not, you're efforts -- any efforts -- are toast.

For useful guidelines on authentic involvement of company members, and
application of democratic management / healthy workplace practices --
descendnts of Likert's "New Patterns of Management" (about 1980 as I
recall), I find it useful to present principles from Block's
"Stewardship," Greenleaf's "Servant Leadership," "Transformational
Leadership" (Noel Tichy if memory serves), or any of the many writers who
discuss high involvement, high performance strategies and tools. This
helps ground OL/LO in the rich history of human performance and truly
effective managerial leadership (Peter Vaill's term).

When its time to move from principles to "tools"* we've found that what we
have come to call "Hi-SPIRE" tools work well. These are tools* that
produce High-Spirits (i.e. improved morale), High-Performance,
High-Involvement, improved Results and High- Effectiveness for the company
and its stakeholders: members, work groups, customers and others.

*Tools are "assessments, guidelines and other learning resources (content
and process, print or electronic) that help leaders and other members of
formal and informal work groups to make changes they want to make for
improving their performance on-the-job; e.g. resources for continual
improvement of company members' learning, involvement, ideas and
productivity; of the company's processes and systems, quality and profits;
cost-reduction and other desired results; with or without facilitation or
other outside help for the company members involved." These learning tools
could include "training programs" when the work groups involved agree with
training decision-makers that some or all members need the KSAOs#
presented in the training program.

We've found that Hi-SPIRE tools are useful when as much as a whole company
(with the committed - assertive - proactive leadership of the CEO, or as
little as one work group leader at the second level (a managerial leader
with two or more first-line managerial leaders reporting to her or him)
who has a budget and the same authentic, bone-deep commitment and desire
to solve business problems and learn more about problem-related KSAOs# as
the means to work toward OL/LO.

#KSAOs are "Knowledge, Skills, Abilities and Other performance-related
attributes -- including capabilities, competencies, expertise,
proficiencies, and the many non-learning / non-training impediments to
performance improvement for the work group(s) and company members

Hi-SPIRE tools include those that authentically involve work group leaders
and members in identifying and solving their own business problems. We've
found these tools useful: Action learning, Balanced scorecard, Compression
planning, Continual improvement (e.g. of quality, processes, systems),
Ideas program, Learning/development/growth plans, Process improvement,
Open book management (i.e. "playing the great game of business"),
Relational leadership (drawing from Robert Greenleaf's Servant Leadership
and Peter Block's "stewardship" and "accountability"), Visual workplace
and Workout (G.E.'s ideas-decision-action program).

(Other OL/LO learners in this e-group: PLEASE add your definition of OL/LO
tools [and KSAOs] and describe tools you have found useful for helping
company members build OL/LO.)

Also useful as part of the OL/LO process is preparing a "Learning
Guidelines & Glossary" for the company. This was prompted by Jim Kouzes
useful statement:

<fontfamily><param>Times</param><bigger>"Until we change our
language we cannot change our [thinking,] beliefs or our organizations."
James M. Kouzes, Chairman-Tom Peters Group/Learning Systems, co-author
<italic>The Leadership Challenge, </italic>August 7, 1998<italic>.

</italic></bigger></fontfamily>Building "Learning Guidelines &
Glossary" for the company <fontfamily><param>Times</param><bigger>reminds
us that words and phrases often used in school and college and "training"
(where learning was rarely mentioned or a joyful experience), e.g.
"student, teacher, lesson, evaluation, testing, course," might well be
replaced by words and phrases that encourage and support individual
responsibility, accountability, effort, achievement and performance
improvement, e.g. member (of the company), learner, learning coach,
learning opportunity, assessment or inventory, program.

New words call attention to new views and practices, new
opportunities and responsibilities, e.g for learning by each member of the
company and within each work group. They also help put the five OL/LO
disciplines to work (beginning with mental models, personal mastery and
shared vision; team learning and process and systems thinking follow).
They support the values and practices of organizational learning and
learning organizations (OL/LO).

</bigger></fontfamily>>(2) To what extent are the learning
organization's competencies so team/group/system/organization focused
that individual behavioral competencies are transcended?

<fontfamily><param>Times</param><bigger>If this were a Likert-scale
question I'd mark "8 - A very great deal!" The reconciliation of this
problem can come from using Action Learning (AL) as a cornerstone
strategy. Useful definitions of AL include:

Action learning (AL) is "a group-based learning process for dealing with
real business problems, while also learning more about KSAOs# considered
useful for working on the business problem -- by those participating."

</bigger></fontfamily>AL encourages leaders and members of
problem-solving / learning groups to identify, work on, and solve (i.e.
"deal with") real business problems.

AL enables those involved in AL projects to give conscious attention to
problem-related KSAOs, therby improving members' KSAOs.

#KSAOs - see definition above.

Anthony Fresina, formerly a leader in Motorola University and now a
Principle with Executive Knowledge Works, defines "action learning" as "a
learning process during which a ...selected responsible for
exploring...and providing recommendations on a problem
or opportunity. Throughout this process, individual learning [about
relevant KSAOs] remains a primary objective."

Professor Noel Tichy (The University of Michigan, author of "The
Leadership Engine," 1997-Harper Business Books) defines "action learning"
as "the process of developing employees [i.e. company members] on hard
(e.g. marketing, finance...) and soft (e.g. vision, leadership, values)
skills by having them work...on real organizational challenges [problems
or opportunities] and reflecting on their decision-making and experience
during the training [i.e. the learning activities]."

Professor Verna J. Willis (HRD, Georgia State University, Atlanta)
defines AL as a process of reflecting on one's work experience and beliefs
in a supportive, confrontational, truth-seeking environment of one's
workplace peers, for the purpose of identifying, selecting and resolving
real business problems in real time. (Professor Willis is a long-time
student of Reginald Revan's work on AL in the UK. Revan's is generally
acknowledged as the "founder" of AL, some 40 years ago.)

Action Learning (AL) is as close to a panacea as I've found for most of
the problems encountered in OL/LO projects and programs. If top
management commitment and the culture are right, then AL, and the
resources discussed under your question (1) above, will get it done. If
leadership commitment and the culture aren't right -- remember, there are
more than 5,000 companies with listed stock, plus all those non-profits
that also want to move down the OL/LO road.

Once again, I hope other LO members will report their learning on the
interesting and important questions Steve has posed.



"Richard S. Webster" <>

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