Learning Organization Case Study

Learning organization is not a new concept. Traces of this concept could be found in eastern philosophies. The article discusses the characteristics of a learning organization and how to lead a learning organization.

What Today we live in a world of mounting expectations (both shareholders and employees are expecting more from organizations). Demand for immediate fulfillment of needs & wants has never been so intense. How to survive in this environment (forget about thriving)?

In the last 200 years there has been tremendous progress in the outside environment (I refer to the instruments we use, the complexity of activities we involve in). But as individuals, we remained the same. Our mental makeup remained the same. We are still driven by the same old motives: power, hunger, sex, and belongingness. When the environment around us is changing, we also have to change our mental habits to align with it (I assume that motives are reflection of habits). For example, command and control style was appropriate in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, the same style is no longer relevant. Knowledge economy needs teamwork. A leader of knowledge economy, unlike one of the past, has to share his power. If we do not change with the times and environment, we will naturally be overwhelmed by the environment.

That is what is happening currently. The crisis of today is due to human being's unwillingness to change and belong to future. In future the progress of organizations depend all the more on their people. Organizations have to unlock the potential of their people. Top managements can no longer afford to set agendas and expect people to march on to fulfill them. They have to accept them as partners. To motivate the people, first they have to understand them. People have to be seen as creatures who are here to realize their potential selves (self here refers to the unique role only one individual can play).

In the ancient Indian system, the work in the society was meant to ensure inner development of the individual. This should be the aim of future organizations. Organizations must create such an environment where people develop internally as well while working. For example, ability to change mental models, systems thinking, personal mastery are such inner improvements. At personal level mastering these disciplines leads to better personal relationships. At organizational level, can ensure the growth of the organization.

The Concept of Learning Organization

The basic idea of learning continuously can be traced to eastern philosophies. They state that one never understands anything completely. And life is a continual process of learning. One cannot say the word "learning" in Chinese without saying both "study" and "practise" constantly. One cannot say, "I learned something" in Chinese. It is literally impossible.

Organizations are continuously changing either through mergers or some other means. Changes are significant and rapid in some cases. They are slow and not so significant in some other cases. In any case when the organizations are changing, they are trying to adapt themselves to the changing surroundings. In the process they are also learning. A learning organization is an organization that is continuously expanding its capacity to create its future.

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Since today’s educational professionals face numerous challenges in attempting to address issues pertaining to failed school improvement efforts and a dissatisfied public, current experts propose seeking improvement from the existing capability within the organization as an option to improvement. The theory of organizational learning is an appropriate model for change. At this time, current research findings on learning organizations within the educational domain are limited. This study examined a school district in Texas that had demonstrated continuous academic improvement from 1994-1998 as evident in the Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) for the state of Texas. The purpose of the study was to determine whether and how its leadership was responsible for the student success that had been achieved. The study’s focus was to determine if in the process of achieving a state of continuous improvement, the leadership of the district transformed it in ways that manifests the characteristics of a learning organization. George P. Huber’s model of organizational learning, which includes the following four constructs: knowledge acquisition, information distribution, information interpretation, and organizational memory was used to discuss the finding. These constructs were useful tools in bringing an understanding to the kind of leadership employed to move this school district forward toward becoming a successful learning organization. The findings from this qualitative single case study determined that the organizational leadership set the vision and directed the efforts in a collaborative manner toward goal attainment for all students. This results-based orientation was supported by high inclusive learner expectations, empowerment of individuals creating a sense of ownership of results, experiences with the improvement process, and engagement in authentic activities that created a sense of co-responsibility for results. Moreover, this study demonstrated the utility and value of Huber’s model in determining the characteristics of a learning organization.


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