Organisational learning & work engagement: study of an IT Organization.

Author:UdayBhaskar, A.
Position:By Contribution

Introduction

Coping with uncertainty and turbulence has become imperative for organizations to survive. The survival/coping strategies are an outcome of accumulation/acquisition of new knowledge that happens through 'learning'. The rate at which individuals and organizations learn may become the only sustainable competitive advantage (Stata, 1989). Hence, learning can be viewed as something very vital to the core of an organization.

Learning per se happens in all organizations, but when the amount and nature of learning happens in a large scale/ magnitude, such an organization could be termed as a 'learning organization'. Though the concept of 'organizational learning' is rooted in academic and practitioner literature since a long time, 'learning organization' became more popular with the advent of Senge's work in 1990 through his seminal work The Fifth Discipline. Senge (1990) defines a learning organization as one "where people continuously expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together". So a learning organization is one where new knowledge is generated with the collective learning of people. From its inception till date, the notion of 'learning organization' has captured the attention of both researchers and practicing managers as 'something' that can be incorporated into organizational design, to bring significant effect on organizational outcome. This concept was conceived as something that can be incorporated into organizational design, to bring about significant impact on organizational outcome. According to (McGill & Slocum, 1993:67), the primary responsibility of the management and the focus of management practices in learning organization are to create and foster a climate that promotes learning. Here the management encourages 'experimentation creates a climate for open communication, promotes constructive dialogue, and facilitates the processing of experience'. On the other hand, employees are responsible for 'gathering, examining, and using the information that drives the learning processes'. The several core behaviors pertaining to such type of organizations are; learning culture, continuous experimentation, network intimacy, accurate information systems, reward system that recognizes and reinforces learning, proper selection of human resources, and role of leader in promoting learning. (Watkins & Marsick, 1996) identified seven complementary action imperatives that lead organizations towards becoming learning organizations. These are, create continuous learning opportunities, promote inquiry and dialogue, encourage collaboration and team learning, establish systems to capture and share learning, empower people toward a collective vision, connect the organization to its environment, use leaders who model and support learning at the individual, team, and organizational levels. According to (Ulrich et al., 1993a: 52), in order to build and diffuse learning throughout an organization, managers should ensure that certain ideas that need to be generated and generalized in the organization. Some of these are; building a culture focused on learning capability, development of competence, ensuring a fluid organizational structure, proper reward management system. Thus, certain attributes or characteristics are unique to a learning organization.

Mishra et al. (2005) suggested certain learning mechanisms through which organizations augment adaptability requirements and stand out as learning organizations. What distinguishes learning organizations from others? Do they have some specific attributes that define their learning capability? Is there a relationship between organizational learning capability and performance outcomes? In this context, Mishra et al. (2005) noted "one of the major research challenges articulated in the literature is in establishing relationship between attributes of a learning organization and organizational performance".

Watkins & Marsick (1996: 4) proposed an integrated model for a learning organization and defined one as "that learns continuously and transforms itself ... Learning is a continuous, strategically used process--integrated with and running parallel to work". They proposed seven action imperatives or dimensions viz., create continuous learning opportunities, promote inquiry and dialogue, encourage collaboration and team learning, create systems to capture and share learning, empower people toward a collective vision, connect the organization to its environment, provide strategic leadership for learning and two dimensions relating to performance outcomes viz., financial performance and knowledge performance that characterize organizations in their journey towards learning organizations. Further they proposed that learning activities should occur at four organizational levels, i.e., individual, team and/or...

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