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Becoming a Learning Organization, Term Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1736

Term Paper

In today’s diverse business sector, the needs for characteristics that make your organization standout are a necessity. With new advances in technology, intensifying competition, and shifts in customer preferences, organizations must restructure in order to maintain success. Making certain changes to the structure of your organization as well as identifying how certain groups in your organization can become more effective are a few solutions. Ultimately, all of these changes lead to an organization, which fosters learning. It is essential that your organization stays effective and the best way to do that is to become a learning organization.

Learning organizations are places where employees outrival at accumulating, creating, and transferring knowledge. By facilitating learning, organizations can continuously transform and adapt to the ever-changing business environment (Garvin et al., 2015). Many organizations have used this method to their advantage. That is why learning organizations are so successful, because they have been around long enough to show how encouraging the growth of knowledge can help adapt to changing trends. Your business can become more learning oriented by changing focusing on three major areas of you business’s structure.

The most important change your organization must make is to facilitate a supportive learning environment. A supportive learning environment that has several characteristics that ultimately promotes the continuous expanse of knowledge and future learning (Garvin et al., 2015). One of the important features of a supportive learning environment is the openness to new ideas and psychological safety. This is achieved by fostering a work environment that encourages everyone’s ideas and questions. Even if said ideas and questions are wrong or present a minority viewpoint, employees must feel conformable with sharing (Garvin et al., 2015). There also needs to be an appreciation for differences in opinion. Different viewpoints encourage not only fresh thinking but they also motivate team members to work towards the best solution (Garvin et al., 2015).

Another change needed to become a learning organization is to emplace a concrete learning process and guidelines. Similarly to a business, as successful learning process has multiple interconnected divisions. Successful learning processes comprise of “the generation, collections, interpretation, and dissemination of information.” (Garvin et al., 2015: 111). Knowledge gathered from past projects must be analyzed and more importantly shared with teams. This process is essential for maintaining efficient and innovative projects.

The last change needed to be a successful learning organization is to restructure your leadership. Organizational success is largely based around the conduct of an organization’s leaders. A organization’s leadership must lead the way and encourage new ideas. Harvey Golub, former chief executive of American Express known for his leadership, once said “I am far less interested in people having the right answer than in their thinking about issues the write way” (Garvin et al., 2015: 113). This mentality is essential because a learning organization focuses on the process of learning rather than the exact content. Each lesson and piece of knowledge can be used to create innovative projects.

These characteristics also act as the barriers, which divide successful learning organizations from the rest. Physiological barriers include the inability to reflect on past projects and the typical bias associated with past mistakes (von Zedtwitz,2002). Rather than using past mistakes as an advantage, most employees will look negatively on such mistakes and dispose of them without applying proper analysis. This enables all mistakes to be viewed as negatives which also discourages the expression of new ideas because the fear of being wrong trumps innovation.

Another common barrier is team-based shortcomings. When trying to analyze past projects, team members may be reluctant to properly discuss the negatives of the process. This is because employees typically don’t want to rehash past mistakes in fear of looking inferior and incompetent. Sometimes teams will blame outside factors such as poor guidance, poor clients, and poor leadership (Von Zedtwitz, 2002). There is also the possibility of internal competition, which at the surface looks great for innovation but in reality can work against the learning process. In order to get an advantage, teams will withhold information from other teams or leadership. Withholding valuable information hurts an organization’s efficiency because it allows other teams to make mistakes already made by other teams (Von Zedtwitz, 2002).

Management restraints also act as common barriers. Organizations expect a lot from the different levels of leadership. This leads to time restraints and improper post-project analysis. Organizations ted to focus on budget, time, and output. Leaders are then predisposed to focus on those factors rather than the project as a whole. This prevents team leaders from properly identifying what when wrong during the project and what was successful (Von Zedtwitz, 2002). A way to combat this barrier is to generate an efficient the project management system in which managers have the ability to ensure the constant evolution of your organization (Havila et al., 2013).

In general, most organizations do poorly in re-using knowledge and learning from previous projects (Havila et al., 2013). This is due to the fact that after completing projects, teams usually disband. When a new project comes along, new teams are formed and start from scratch rather than using past projects as stepping-stones to facilitate better projects. Learning organizations recognize this typical flaw and use several methods to fix said issues. From a project management standpoint, working in a learning organization is ideal. The unique challenges faced by project organizers center around the fact that lessons learned from past projects don’t transfer to future projects (Julian, 2008). Rather than learning from one’s mistake, teams will make the same mistake over and over again. This is costly and inefficient for a business. A method used by successful learning organizations to combat this is the use of project management offices. These project management offices are “assigned various responsibilities related to the centralized and coordinated management of those projects under its domain” (Julian, 2008: pg 43). Its main role is to maintain knowledge learned by projects and implement these lessons on future projects in order to keep project teams from making the same mistakes. A survey showed that around 80% of all research and development projects were left unreviewed after completion. On top of this astonishing finding, the remaining 20% of research and development projects were reviewed without any guidelines (Zedwitz 2002). This study clearly shows how the status quo is inefficient and needs immediate work.

Using this format, project managers will be able to manage their teams using guidelines and tactics based around past projects. This makes each finished project better than the last. If your organization implements a more learning based project management system, any future changes to the business environment will be easy to overcome. This can be achieved by adopting a strong organizational work culture in your business. A work culture is basically the guidelines and pathways of communicating information that your organization wants to encourage (Irani et al., 2004). A strong work culture starts with your organizations leadership and trickles down through the ranks. By internally integrating your work culture throughout your organization, the continuum of your organization’s goals and strategies are ensued (Irani et al.,2004).

Improvements in internal communication and work culture ultimately increase customer satisfaction. This is essential for market growth and sustainability because it allows your organization to adapt while maintaining profitability (Irani et al., 2004). When you continue to make the same mistakes, you prevent innovation and allow for redundant costs. Projects upon completion should be thoroughly analyzed by the respected project managers in order for the collection of significant information. Managers are sitting on information that can help evolve the project completion process (Julian, 2008). But this information is typically over looked and successful organizations make gathering this information a priority. These organizations have used these business strategies to battle these barriers and became successful during all types of fluctuations in the marketplace.

There are several prime examples of companies that have implemented these approaches and flourished. Hewlett-Packard created a system in which projects would be analyzed post completion in order to find the roots of any problem witnessed during the project (Von Zedtwitz, 2002). This has helped HP innovate throughout market fluctuations since the programs instillation in 1993 (Von Zedtwitz, 2002). Another example of the success from organizing a project-review process can be seen in the United States Army. The Army After Action review process has been the model used by many companies wishing to create a more efficient project review system. This system asks groups four simple but important questions. What did we set out to do? What actually happened? Why did it happen? What do we do next time? (Garvin et al., 2015) By asking these questions, project managers are able to locate issues within their team and address them well before the next project. These organizations made very small changes to their business structure by prioritizing knowledge based learning. The culture of the business as well as the actual functions had to be altered in order to foster an innovation friendly work environment. As we can see, these small but necessary changes can have tremendous effects on an organizations success (Irani et al., 2004).

Most organizations fail to operate at full potential due to small barriers, which result in big losses. In order to ensure the sustainability and profitability of your organization, you must foster a knowledge based project management system. The solutions to common errors lie with past failed projects and this information is waiting to be utilized. Project managers should be encouraged to create an environment where new ideas and the sharing of knowledge are rewarded. Successful organizations that have withstood the technology boom, the change in consumer preference, and other fluctuations have knowledge gathering/sharing systems in place. A learning organization uses their mistakes to their advantage, making any negatives a positive. This process alone will make your organization survive market fluctuations, innovate, and ultimately be the success story that other business will look up to.

References

Garvin, David, Amy Edmondson, and Francesca Gino. (2015) ‘Is Yours A Learning Organization?’. Harvard Business Review: 109-116. Print.

Havila, Virpi, Christopher J. Medlin, and Asta Salmi. (2013) ‘Project-Ending Competence In Premature Project Closures’. International Journal of Project Management vol. 3l, no. 1, 90-99. Web.

Irani, Z., A. Beskese, and P.E.D. Love. (2004) ‘Total Quality Management And Corporate Culture: Constructs Of Organisational Excellence’. Technovation vol. 28, no. 4, 643-650. Web.

Julian, Jerry. (2008) ‘How Project Management Office Leaders Facilitate Cross-Project Learning And Continuous Improvement’. Project Management Journal vol. 39, no. 3, 43-58. Web.

Von Zedtwitz, Maximilian. (2002) ‘Organizational Learning Through Post-Project Reviews In R&D’. 2002 R&D Management vol. 32, no. 3, 255-268. Web.

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