Majority of the organizations have acknowledge the imperative of organizational learning and the concept of a learning organization has been the fundamental orienting summit in this. Researchers have tried to recognize the superlative forms that authentic organizations could try to imitate. This means that learning organization is an ideal, towards which organizations require to develop so that they can retort to various pressures.
As a result, the definition of ideal learning organization is indescribable. On the one hand, it is where people persistently expand their ability to construct the outcome that they truly desire, where novel patterns of rational reasoning are natured, where there is freedom of collective aspirations and where people are constantly learning to observe the whole as a group.
On the other hand, the learning organization is an apparition of possibility, which does not occur by just training individuals but through learning as a whole at all organization levels. This implies that a learning organization facilitates learning of every person as it transforms itself continuously.
Therefore, system thinking, personal mastery, mental model, shared vision and team learning characterize an ideal learning organization and consequently, the manager should strive to achieve these characteristics by determining and alleviating all the barriers against these characteristics through development of focused strategies that will enable the organization to exist in the competitive business environment.
Characteristics of ideal learning organization
System thinking is a conceptual framework that involves an approach of reasoning about, as well as the language for illustrating and understanding the forces and the relationships that mould behavior of the system (Serrat, 2009). For instance, system thinking assists the managers and the employees to know how to change the system effectively and acting in line with the economic world.
Personal mastery is the commitment that an individual makes to the learning process (Agarwal, 2007). For example, learning cannot take place in an organization until people start learning via defining what they want to achieve and how. According to a recent research, most workplace learning is incidental and not due to formal training hence, organizations need to develop a culture where personal mastery is a daily activity.
Mental models are the assumptions that the individuals and the organizations hold and the assumptions need challenge for an organization to be a learning organization.
This is because individuals possess theories that they aspire to follow and work theories that they truly adhere to while organizations possess reminiscences that conserve some behaviors (Ramalingham, 2008). Therefore, in constructing a learning organization it is significant to substitute confrontational attitudes with a culture that is open and that which facilitates inquest and conviction.
Shared vision encourages employees to learn since they possess universal identity, which bestow them focus and vigor (Agarwal, 2007). As a result, it helps the organization to triumph in a competitive business environment.
Therefore, the organization should build its vision from an individual vision. This means that the manager should not create the vision of the organization by himself but through the interaction with the employees.
Finally, team learning is the sum of the individual learning. It entails thinking skills, which allow people to build up intelligence, which is greater than an individual talent. Learning organizations possess structures, which enhance team learning, and they include boundary crossing and the openness (Serrat, 2009).
For example, employees and employers should develop open communication and shared meaning because it is a fundamental in a modern learning organization.
Observable behavior for the characteristics of ideal learning organization
In system thinking, people have embraced the notion that system thinking enhances individual learning and as a result, they focus on the system as a whole (Garvin, Edmondson, & Gino, 2008). For instance, the employees and the employer believe that they are in a position of making the organization a better place through adherence to the laid down rules and regulations.
Therefore, people work towards achieving the organization vision. As a result, the manager provides the employees with the required skills and the tools to facilitate the triumph of the organization.
On the other hand, people who apply personal mastery think in a different way. This is because they study how to use rationale and instinct to produce something (Serrat, 2010). For example, in case a conflict occurs in the absence of a manager, they will look for a solution rather than waiting for the manager to provide the way forward.
This is because these people are system thinkers and they interconnect everything that is around them and they feel connected to the organization as a whole. In addition, they will not let things fall apart when the solution is within their means.
Mental model allow people to reflect on what they have done and rectify their mistakes so that the organization achieve its vision and mission (Zarei, 2007). As a result, people are ever researching about the market situation and the organization adaptation.
For instance, learning results from looking at the universe the way it should be and for that reason, managers usually allow employees to attend business meetings so that they gain business knowledge and leave behind assumptions that can lead to downfall of the organization.
Finally, shared vision enables the company to have a goal that the employer and the employees have discussed and agreed on it (Garvin, Edmondson, & Gino, 2008). As a result, people are enthusiastic and they work collaboratively because they have a universal goal that they freely chose.
On the other hand, team learning allows open discussion and communication to flow freely across the whole organization and in every direction. For instance, the employer can freely dialogue with the employee without any segregation.
The results of the above behaviors
The above behaviors facilitate continuous improvement, the innovation, community building and allow the organization to tackle the challenges that they face (Agarwal, 2007). To begin with, when the employees reflect on what they have done, they will know where the problem occurred and rectify and this will facilitate continuous improvement.
Additionally, when people believe that they can think for themselves, they become creative and innovative. For instance, through system thinking, the employees can develop new ways of doing things that minimizes on the input while maximizing on the output. As a result, the organization reduces the cost of resources while the customers receive better services.
Additionally, community building combines the emotional and the intellectual learning. This combination is imperative because it help the organization to fit well in the competitive environment (Larsen, McInerney, Nyquist, & Donna, 2007).
For instance, free communication allows the manager to solve any problem that may occur in the learning organization without any difficulty. Therefore, this promotes an environment where people are working towards achievement of the organization goals. As a result, the pace at which the organization adapt to change increases.
Finally, the behaviors in the learning organization assist the organization to meet the following challenges. To begin with, rapid changes occur in the organizations when people are not prepared ( Cors, 2005) but in an ideal learning organization, people adapt to changes and change is viewed as learning opportunity through problem solving.
Secondly, the learning organization helps people to shift from compliance role to customer serving (Zarei, 2007). For instance, the organization require to ensure that a tactical alignment exists between the needs of the clients, the goals of the organization, individual learning and the allocation of resources.
Thirdly, the behaviors in the learning organization assist employees to formulate the use of substitute strategies, which amalgamates learning in the workplace. These substitute methods are cost effective. Finally, in a learning organization, managers are teachers and employees have power to assume responsibility and accountability for their own learning.
Barriers to achieving characteristics of ideal learning organization
Learning organizations may find it difficult to accept personal mastery due to its intangible nature as well as lack of the quantification of its benefits (Ramalingham, 2008). As a result, people view personal mastery as a threat to the organization thus employees empowerment become counterproductive because they are unaligned.
Moreover, deficiency of the culture of learning is a barrier to achieving an ideal learning organization (Cors, 2005). This happens when the organization does not have time to facilitate learning because of its hierarchical structure and when the employees are not interested in the learning process.
Additionally, managers with closed minds hinder learning because they are unwilling to participate in the mental models (Larsen, McInerney,Nyquist, & Donna, 2007). For instance, leaders who are threatened by change may feel insecure to engage in shared vision.
Finally, the size of the organization is a barrier to learning because when employees are more than one hundred, knowledge sharing decreases because of complexity of the organization structures, weaker relationship among the employees, decreased trust and ineffective communication.
Determination of progress towards a learning organization
There are ways in which a manager can determine whether the organization is progressing towards a learning organization.
To begin with, the manager can evaluate the characteristics of the organization to establish if the organization is on the road to becoming a learning organization (Serrat, 2010). For instance, if the following characteristics exists then the organization is on the right path. They include, open communication, teamwork, personal initiative and rational thinking.
Furthermore, the manager can also analyze the performance of an organization and he will know if the organization is on the course of a learning organization (Agarwal, 2007). For instance, an organization that fits well in the competitive market is a learning organization.
This is because in a learning organization, the employees are innovative and tackle any challenge that comes their way and as a result, they triumph in a competitive business environment. Therefore, the following characteristics are compelling to the organization and me: personal mastery, mental model, shared vision and team learning.
How my organization can achieve personal mastery, mental model, shared vision and team learning
My organization can achieve the above characteristics through collaborative work. For instance, I will create a shared vision with all the employees. This means that individual vision will be incorporated into the organizational vision so long as it facilitates the achievement of the organization goals.
Additionally, the employees will accesses the organization information because this will enable them to know their expectations thus facilitating mental model. For example, an employee who does not understand the importance of time management may appreciate time by reading the organization values and beliefs about time.
Moreover, through empowering people to act as well as well as acknowledging and supporting their risk taking behaviors, personal mastery prevails. This is because people will be willing to learn because no one is restricting them since they are responsible and accountable in whatever they do.
Finally, the organization can achieve team learning via open communication. For example, employees can manage change through expecting the change and generating the change that the organization requires. This will enhance team learning because the employees will need to work collaboratively in order to determine what is best for the organization.
Barriers to achieving the above characteristics
There are two major barriers to achieving the above characteristics and they include individual and organizational barriers. Individual barriers include conservative people who fear change and since learning is a personal choice, they may decide not to engage in it. Additionally, compulsory training can hinder personal mastery because employees will view it as a control and not personal development.
On the other hand, organizational barriers include the organization structure that can interfere with shared vision. For example, lack of free flow of information from bottom to top is a hindrance to shared vision.
Moreover, lack of the required tools and ideas to create sense of the prevailing situation act like a barrier to team learning. For example, employees cannot discuss about the organization goals when they do not know the vision and the mission of the organization.
Strategies to overcome the barriers
The organization can alleviate the above barriers through three strategies that include learning environment that is supportive, creation of learning processes and reinforcement leadership behaviors.
A learning environment that is supportive will alleviate closed mindedness because the employees will realize the importance of change and the learning process. Additionally, this environment will help the employees feel that learning is not a compulsory process but an individual wish.
Moreover, creation of the learning processes will help managers realize that organization structures should facilitate free flow of information so that employees interact freely with the manager. This is important because it facilitates the sharing of the vision. Furthermore, the learning process assists the employees to know what the organization expect from them and what they should do to achieve the organization vision and mission.
Finally, reinforcement leadership behaviors overcome the barrier to personal mastery and mental model. In this situation the manager, usually recognize employees who do their best to make sure that the organization produce excellent services. For example, if a manager rewards an employee who is always willing to learn, other employees will also strive to learn so that they receive the award.
In conclusion, system thinking, personal mastery, mental model, shared vision and team learning characterize an ideal learning organization. As a result, the manager should alleviate the barriers to achieving these characteristics and they include individual and organizational barriers.
The alleviation is possible through development of focused strategies that are learning environment that is supportive, creation of learning processes and reinforcement leadership behaviors. If the organization succeeds in becoming a learning organization, it will triumph in a competitive business environment.
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