Critical evaluation of the article titled: Building a learning organization by David A. GarvinIntroductionA 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 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 managersMany 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 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 generation of new ides or concepts. This is in line with David’s last part of definition where learning results in modification of organization behaviour. Thus, managers who strictly adhere to David’s definition of learning organization can be able to transform their firms into learning organizations (Senge, 1990). Learning in 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 development or acceptance of new paradigms.
Furthermore, the new knowledge and understanding is incorporated in the 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 learning organization and building blocks of learning organization, any manager following it can achieve the learning process in 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 collection of data during different stages of problem solving. Systematic problem solving uses structured methods, which are used to solve problems in today, ’s Total Quality Management (TQM). Intuitive problem solving in organizations is usually dysfunctional or inefficient. Thus as a building block to organization learning, David outlines steps for systematic problem solving that are useful to managers who wish to transform their organization to 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 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 successful 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).