The paper 'Building a Learning Organization by David A Garvin" is a good example of a management article. A learning organization involves facilitation of learning of its members of an organization as it strives to transform itself continuously (Argyris, 1991; de Geus, 1988). As noted by David in this article, this definition lacks modality of implementing it and thus needs some modification to enable it to be more practical. This paper critically evaluates David’ s article on ways of building a learning organization. It highlights the benefits of the article to managers and at the same time highlights the weaknesses of the article.
Finally, the paper highlights some recommendations concerning the article and makes a conclusion based on the discussion. Benefits to managers Many organizations are under competition from other organization. This competition forces the organizations to seek ways of remaining afloat. One of the ways modern firms are employing is a learning organization process. However, David notes that many of the definitions of learning organization lack practical applicability (Rheem, 1995). This is true from the examples highlighted in his article. He proposes that learning organization be defined as a firm skilled in creation, acquisition and transmission of knowledge and the same time be able to modify its behaviour as a reflection of the newly acquired knowledge and insights (Kaplan and David, 1996.).
Learning is a process of acquisition of knowledge, understanding and skills. It involves discovery and invention. Thus, the definition of David of a learning organization fulfils the definition of learning. The creation of knowledge constitutes discovery and invention (Wack, 1985). Once new knowledge has been discovered or invented, the knowledge can be transferred to the members of an organization.
The acquired knowledge can then be manipulated for the generation of new ideas or concepts. This is in line with David’ s last part of the definition where learning results in modification of organization behaviour. Thus, managers who strictly adhere to David’ s definition of a learning organization can be able to transform their firms into learning organizations (Senge, 1990). Learning in an organization should involve collection and analysis of data to generate new facts. The facts generated are used to make new conclusions or to modify old facts.
In addition, changes in business conditions are recognized to aid in the development or acceptance of new paradigms. Furthermore, new knowledge and understanding are incorporated into new products or technologies. The acquired facts are then used to transform the attitudes and beliefs of the members of the firm (Kim, 1995). Finally, the knowledge is transferred through various means such as teaching, communication, cross-fertilization or dialogue (Kaplan and David, 1996.). From the approach given by David in his definition of a learning organization and building blocks of the learning organization, any manager following it can achieve the learning process in an organization. Systematic problem-solving in organizations leads to better quality, robust solutions and the time consumed is similar to that used in intuitive problem-solving.
It involves the collection of data during different stages of problem-solving. Systematic problem-solving uses structured methods, which are used to solve problems today, ’ s Total Quality Management (TQM). Intuitive problem-solving in organizations is usually dysfunctional or inefficient. Thus as a building block to organizational learning, David outlines steps for systematic problem solving that are useful to managers who wish to transform their organization into learning organizations.
He emphasizes the importance of accuracy and precision to make this process successful. He suggests that employees be more attentive to details in addition to being disciplined in order to make this building block of the organizational learning process to be effective (Kim, 1995). Thus, managers need to take note of this and encourage members of the firm to be more active in the process of solving problems. They need to encourage their employees to base their problem solving on collected data rather than intuition (Kleiner and Roth, 1997).
The fact that Xerox has used the six steps to successfully solve problems should be awake up call for managers to try this out. The six steps include identification and selection of the problem, analysis of the problem, generation of potential solutions, selection and planning for the solution, implementation of the solution and evaluation of the solution (Wack, 1985).
Argyris, C. 1991., Teaching smart people how to learn. Harvard Business Review, 69(3), pp. 99-109.
de Geus, A. 1988. Planning as learning. Harvard Business Review, (March-April): 70-74.
Garvin, D., 1994. Building a learning organization. Business Credit, 96(1), pp. 19-28.
Gephart, M. A., Victoria J. Marsick, M. E., Van, B., and Michelle, S., 1996. Learning organizations come alive. Training & Development, 50(12), pp. 35-45.
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Kaplan, S., and David P. N., 1996. Strategic planning and the balanced scorecard. Strategy & Leadership, 24(5), pp. 18-24.
Kim, D. H. 1993. The Link between Individual and Organizational Learning. Sloan Management Review, (Fall), pp. 37-50.
Kim, D. H. 1995. The Vision-Deployment Matrix(TM): A Framework for Large-Scale Change. Systems Thinker, 6(1).
Rheem, H. 1995. The learning organization. Harvard Business Review, 73(2), pp. 10.
Senge, P. 1990. The Fifth Discipline: the Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday.
Senge, P. 1996. Leading Learning Organizations. Training & Development, 50(12), pp. 36-40.
Kleiner, A. and Roth, G., 1997. How to make experience your company's best teacher. Harvard Business Review (Sept/Oct).
Nonaka, I. 1991. The knowledge-creating company. Harvard Business Review, (November-December), pp. 96-104.
Repenning, N. and Sterman, J. 2001. Nobody Ever Gets Credit for Fixing Problems that Never Happened: Creating and Sustaining Process Improvement. California Management Review, 43(4).
Senge, P. M. 1990. The leader's new work. Sloan Management Review, 32(1).
Senge, P. M. and Kofman, F., 1993). Communities of commitment: the heart of learning organizations. Organizational Dynamics, (Autumn), pp. 5-23.
Stata, R. 1989. Organizational learning - The key to management innovation. Sloan Management Review, (Spring), pp. 63-74.
Wack, P. 1985. Scenarios: Unchartered waters ahead." Harvard Business Review, (September-October): 73-89.
Wack, P. 1985. Scenarios: Shooting the rapids. Harvard Business Review, (November-December), pp. 139-150.
Other Important Readings
Bowman, C. and Carter, S. 1995. Organising for competitive advantage, European Management Journal, 13(4), pp. 423-434.
Crossan, M.M., Lane Henry, W. and White, R.E. 1999. An Organizational Learning Framework: From Intuition to Institution. Academy of Management Review, 24(3), pp. 522-537.
Ellerman, D., Denning, S. and Hanna, N. 2001. Active learning and development assistance. Journal of Knowledge Management, 5(2), pp. 171-179.
Finerty, T. 1997. Integrating learning and knowledge infrastructure. Journal of Knowledge Management, 1(2), pp. 98-105.
Ford, J. 1996. The Learning Organisation: Organisational Transformations in Sweden, The Quality Magazine. Australia Quality Council, 5(3), pp. 36-41.
Garratt, B. 1999. The Learning Organisation 1r years on: some personal reflections. The Learning Organization, 6(5), pp. 202-206.
Hall, B.P. 2001. Values development and learning organizations. Journal of Knowledge Management, 5(1) pp. 19-32.
Huber, G. 1991. Organizational Learning: The contributing processes and the literatures. Organization Science, 2(1), pp. 88-115.
Massey, C. and Walker, R. 1999. Aiming for organisational learning: consultants as agents of change. The Learning Organization, 6(1), pp. 38-44.
Maula, M. 2000. The senses and memory of a firm - implications of autopoiesis theory for knowledge management. Journal of Knowledge Management, 4(2), pp. 157-161.
McElroy, M.W. 2000. Integrating complexity theory, knowledge management and organizational learning. Journal of Knowledge Management, 4(3), pp. 195-203.