Learning Knowledge for Effective Performance

1 January 2017

It instills organizations with new ideas and information which is a essential component of learning organization. Peter Senge’s 5 disciplines are essential for a learning organization. Systems Thinking is the crucial discipline which brings all the other factors together into a balanced theory and practice. Figure 1: The 5 Basic disciplines of a learning Figure 2: “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter organization Senge

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It allows organizations to see the big picture and differentiate learning patterns within the organization. Using this principles, organizations can work with a system to create solutions to challenging problems in every field as Senge believes that current problems are results of solutions that were applied in the past. Systems thinking involve learning to distinguish general behaviours and create new ones to familiarize with special terms and tools that aid decision making and also allow employees to participate in decision making.

It also helps managers to detect repetitive patterns such as common ways of solving problems, present goals and policies that restricts the growth of the organization. It is similar to single-loop learning. Although it takes time to be implemented, it promises a wide range of benefits to companies and improve overall achievement (Delio, 1998). Toyota For example, TPS (Toyota Production System) is an approach created by the founder of Toyota, his son and his engineer that manages logistics, manufacturing and interactions between customer and supplier.

TPS was created to bring consistency to the system and enable an effective production process, which eliminates waste. As a result, TPS worked well and has increased production and improved quality of cars. The system has made what Toyota is today: a leader in the automotive manufacturing and production industry.  Personal mastery is the discipline that describes personal growth and learning. Individuals who have a high degree of personal mastery are continuously seeking learning opportunities because they “are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence and their growth areas” (Senge, 1990).

Their self-improvement and self-discovery abilities motivate a learning organization as they are self confident and have great commitment and responsibility towards work. Personal mastery allows one to distinguish what is important and picture the real world more clearly. Therefore, managers must help to create the environment to change by creating an atmosphere that promotes personal mastery within organization where employees should feel comfortable to create personal visions. Managers who are serious in delivering personal growth will send a powerful message to his or her employees.

Disney At Disney, successful films are not made only from the ideas of managers. In fact, the top management attends an event called ‘Gong Show’ three times a year where an employee at any level is encouraged to throw ideas and story lines. Employees at Disney feel comfortable to create their personal vision. Managers then respond immediately and reward the employee. The results would be an extraordinary concept of animated film.  “Mental models are deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting” (Senge, 1990).

Mental models are the way how one sees things, learn and react to situations on a daily basis. Generally, people do not do what they say but they behave according to their mental models. Mental models are very important in an organization because it is relates to consequences that occur. It is rather difficult to develop systems thinking if mental model is fixed in past experiences. For example, a manager will find it difficult to handle with interpersonal problem in the organization if he or she has a different perception on an employee. Many organizational learning fail when managers ignore the power of mental models.

When managers in an organization develop the ability to work with mental models, it will be necessary for employees to learn new skills and orientations. Both systems thinking and mental models fit together as systems thinking concentrates on how to modify assumptions in order to show causes of problems and mental models look at revealing our hidden assumptions (Taggart. J, 2009). Therefore, it is worthless for managers to engage in systems thinking until their mental models change. Apple Japan Apple introduced the concept of learning organization into their workplace.

Apple was advised to embark upon the Five Disciplines which are important to a learning organization. Each employee had a mental model of the way the organization operates. The learning process was more efficient when each employee’s mental model was brought in-line with the rest. Managers at Apple also encouraged Personal Mastery to staffs to place reasonable goals. The essential discipline was Systems Thinking, where it facilitated each employee to make decisions, taking the whole system into account, instead of analyzing specifically on their own problems.

All the 5 disciplines were implemented through a program of education and it marked improvement in sales and growth. (Adapted from: Case Studies of the Learning Organization, n. d. ) SHARED VISION Senge’s (1990) shared vision is not an idea but a deeply embedded belief shared by many that provides focus and is a vital part of generative learning. Shared vision is derived from personal vision. Therefore, managers should encourage employees to develop personal vision so that organization’s vision succeeds as both vision are engaged. It provides the focus and energy for learning making it an important component of a learning organization.

Shared visions encourage new ideas and concepts within organization while encouraging experimentation. Senge claims that managers should understand that their high position in an organization does not mean that their personal vision is also the organization’s vision. Although visions are mostly visualized by top management, it is not consider a shared vision until others in the organization connect it with their personal vision. General Motors In General Motors (GM), a group of executives decided to implement a new approach in automobile manufacturing as well as a new friendly working environment.

Pfeffer and Sutton (2000), discuss creating an organizational learning environment with a shared vision in a case study based on Saturn. The Saturn employees were labeled as risk takers. Later, these staffs sought and embraced a systemic change in Total Quality Management . As a result, Saturn developed into a successful car company due to its shared vision among employees. TEAM LEARNING Team learning is where a group of people work together to create results that they truly desire. Team learning is built on the discipline of personal mastery and shared visions but these alone are not enough to act wholly.

Team learning involves two primary ways of communication among members which are dialogue and conflict. These are essential ingredient for learning. Dialogue among members in a team creates a language that helps deal with difficult situations and focus on structural issues. It helps members to learn how to recognize the patterns of interaction which provides an opportunity for members to interact with one another and discover possibilities. Conflicts is a norm in team and teams must know how to deal with disagreements well. A well handled conflict is important in a team as t often leads to effective brainstorming and problem solving matters. According to Senge, 1990 “the difference between great teams and mediocre teams lies in how they face conflict and deal with the defensiveness that invariably surrounds conflict. ” General Electrics An example here is Jack Welch, CEO of General Electrics ( GE) came up with a solution call the Work-Out program to ‘clean up’ GE and improve productivity. It got every employee to get involved in challenges and problems. It has adapted a learning culture among employees which make GE a learning organization.

As a result, GE increased its market share from $13 billion in 1981 to $500 billion in 2000. Figure 3: The Work-Out program implemented in 1981 increased Market capitalization by $487 billion.  Figure 4: Kolb’s Cycle of Experiential LearningDEFINITION Concrete experienceConcerned with something that has happened to you or that you have done. Concerned with adopting your new ideas into practice. Reflective ObservationConcerned with reviewing the event or experience in your mind or exploring what you did and how you, and others feel about it.

Abstract ConceptualizationConcerned with developing an understanding of what happened by seeking more information and forming new ideas about ways of doing things in future. Active ExperimentationConcerned with trying out the new ideas as a result of the learning from earlier experience. Table1: Brief definitions of Kolb’s cycle of Experiential Learning. Figure 4 and Table 1 adapted from ‘Reflection on and in the workplace by L Allin and C Turnock, 2007. One may begin at any stage, but must follow each other in the sequence: •concrete experience (or “DO”) •reflective observation (or “OBSERVE”) •abstract conceptualization (or “THINK”) active experimentation (or “PLAN”) Kolb, an American educational theorist explains how experience is translated through reflection into concepts, which is then used as a guide for current and new experimentation. This can be applied in the several forms of informal and formal learning in the organization where learning becomes more effective as employees gets hands on experience on the knowledge they have gained. It also improves performance at workplace and influences the behavior of the learner and as such employees can enhance their performance as they are able to understand and learn better.

Learning increases ability to contribute to the organization’s success. It also contributes to a better understanding, increases communication, improves quality of decision making within organization. Organizational learning is essential for innovation ( Laundry, 1992). Innovation is vital for organizations to survive in the competitive world today. Organizations are required to think out of the box and practice continuous learning to remain top in the market. Organizational learning has affected performance of individuals as well as organization as a whole in a positive way.

Most firms these days are categorized as learning systems. Organizations such as Fiat, Toyota, Motorola and a few others have improved tremendously after learning took place. They had both formal and informal ways of knowledge acquisition, sharing and implementation of knowledge and skills. Motorolo today is a well developed organization because of its learning processes and culture where employees are fully committed to total quality management. Organizational learning fosters a great opportunity for meeting goals, visions and values.

Here, a manager plays a huge role not only as a charismatic leader but also as a motivator that guides employees towards change, shapes the design and structures of the organization and overall creates a positive impact on the organization. The factors that add to effective performance through organizational learning are the skills developed by employees, resources that are available in helping them learn, reward system given by employers, environment and culture. Competitive advantage is a strength a company has over their rival firms. It is an bility to operate at minimum cost, produce quality goods, and invest in Research and Development. Through organizational learning, a firm can develop the necessary knowledge that is vital for effective performance. Intrinsic knowledge can also be applied in organizational learning. Intrinsic knowledge is the knowledge which resides within the organization in terms of work relationships, attitudes and behavior. They are difficult to transfer from one to another. Employees in a company which has developed strong intrinsic knowledge will be able to use them in the operations and gain productive performance.

It will help them to show a higher proactive personality together with commitment. It becomes a competitive advantage to the firm as it will be hard for competitors to follow. Federal Express’s efforts and approach of investing heavily on team learning among employees has enhanced quality and gained success. It is the ability of the firm to practice continuous learning that made it what it has become today. Although learning is a slow process, once initiated, it feeds on itself and will continue to grow and improve efficiency of employees.

Today, more organizations are realizing the importance of learning to be successful in their respective markets. Knowledge within learning organizations must be discovered and shared among employees so they can work in a team to enhance problem solving, decision making and response to challenges. Therefore, managers in organizations should take the necessary steps to shift from organizational learning to a learning organization. Organizations such as Totoya, GE, Disney and others are clear examples of how learning efforts have helped these firms to achieve high performance and compete against competitors in the 21st century.

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