Is Your Company a Learning Organization, Part I

Is Your Company a Learning Organization, Part I

By Michael Trasatti, CEO

The economy is beginning to bubble up. It seems the markets set new highs almost every day, and though the employment numbers are not where we would like them as yet, people are going back to work and there is money to spend. Revenues are on the rise and internal purchases are increasing to meet demand…

What anincredibly dangerous time to be running a business.

Yeah, that…What? What was that?

You read it right. It appears that our economy is on the upswing and in times like these, organizations can significantly increase sales and hopefully the overall bottom line. But, in the midst of those wonderful trips to the bank, it is easy to set in motion a chain of events that at the very least result in mediocrity that could last for years, or spell the demise of the entire organization.

In times of prosperity things can happen fast. New staff is broughton to meet spikes in demand, product lines are added, and policies are put in place to deal with ‘right now’ problems, often without taking the time to determine the long-term implications. But, this is not to say that it does not ‘work.’ Certainly that money comes in and everybody seems to be making more of it.

Then…Then Bill Gates sells off his entire available holdings in Microsoft. The ripple effect through the technology sector and the markets as a whole would be significant. Then…Then GE misses a project target or it puts too much on the line with a type of plane (remember the Dreamliner?), or other item and lays off 10,000 people. Then…Then a business that could not possibly go out of business, does (anyone remember Montgomery Ward or TWA?) So, what is this saying about the business environment? Well, let’s put it in true car talk. Think of the difference between a 1976 vehicle and a 2013 vehicle.

The 2013 vehicle is so much better it is almost laughable, with one significant exception; the number of break points. Because the number of points of break-down have increased, the number of things that can cause those break-downs have also increased; perhaps exponentially. Our economy and the business environment as a whole is like that 2013 vehicle!

The following is a quote by Donald Schon, a true leader in the world of professional learning: The loss of the stable state means that our society and all of its institutions are in continuous processes of transformation. We cannot expect new stable states that will endure for our own lifetimes. We must learn to understand, guide, influence and manage these transformations. We must make the capacity for undertaking them integral to our lives and to our institutions.

We must in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation. In the 21st century the only sustainable competitive advantage will be an organizations ability to learn faster than its competitors.

A study by the Washington D.C. Brookings Institute revealed that 60 percent of an organizations competitive advantage is derived from internal advancements of knowledge, innovation, and learning. If your business is going to thrive it must transform into a learning organization. So, what exactly is a “learning organization?” Good question! There seems to be much debate on the details but there is a consensus on the overall structure and the definition that will be used in this and a future posting is as follows: Learning Organization: A group of people who have woven a continuous, enhanced capacity to learn into the business culture, an organization in which learning processes are analyzed, monitored, developed, and aligned with competitive goals.

A learning organization generates knowledge and learning faster than competitors and turns that learning into a strategic advantage to outmarket, outmanage, and outsell the competition. A learning organization moves beyond simple employee training into organizational problem solving, innovation and learning. For instance, in a learning organization, when a decision ends up going bad, instead of finding a head to roll, or scrapping the whole idea, the employees do an effective post-mortem and find out where things went wrong. Was it the decision?

If so, was it in fact the person who made the decision, or was it an issue with what information was available and if that could be changed would the decision have been different? And the possible questions to explore could go on for quite a bit but the key point is that the organization works together to develop a solution and keep the same problem from happening again. In a learning organization, the focus is on the only appreciating asset: The people! So you say, “OK, you have my attention, but what is here does not really help.

What does it take to really become a ‘learning organization? What are the barriers and pitfalls? What are the true signs that my organization is or is becoming a learning organization?” All very valid questions and ones that will broken down and discussed right here in subsequent posts. You are strongly encouraged to return, read, and interact. Because you see, like a true learning organization, learning cannot occur if only one person is doing all the talking. Go to dealerbuilt.com and learn how DealerBuilt’s DMS lets you own your data. You will see why DealerBuilt is at the forefront of 21st century Dealer Management Systems.

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