An organization that has developed the capacity to continuously adapt and change because all members take an active role in identifying and resolving work related issues. All members take an active role in identifying and resolving work related issues. In a learning organization, employees are practicing knowledge management by continually acquiring and sharing new knowledge and are willing to apply that knowledge in making decisions or performing their work.
What would a learning organization look like? As you see in Exhibit below, the important characteristics of a learning organization revolve around organizational design, information sharing leadership and culture. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Characteristics of Learning Organization
The learning Organization
1) Boundary less
1) Strong mutual Relationships
2) Sense of Community
1) Shared Vision
What types of organizational design elements would be necessary for learning to take place? In a learning organization, it’s critical for members to share information and collaborate on work activities throughout the entire organization – across different functional specialties and even at different organizational levels – through minimizing or eliminating the existing structural and physical boundaries. In this type of boundary less environment, employers are free to work together and collaborate in doing the organizations’ work the best way they can, and to learn from each other. Because of this need to collaborate, teams also tend to be an important feature of a learning organization’s structural design. Employees work in teams on whatever activities need to be done, and these employee teams are empowered to make decisions about doing their work or resolving issues. Empowered employees and teams show little need for bosses who direct and control Instead, managers serve as facilitators supporters and advocates for employee teams.
Learning can’t take place without information. For a learning organization to learn information must be shared among members: that is organizational employee must engage in knowledge management by sharing information openly, in a timely manner and as accurately as possible. Because few structural and physical barriers exist in learning organization, the environment is conductive to open communication and extensive information sharing.
Leadership plays an important role as an organization moves toward becoming a learning organization. What should leaders do in learning organization? One of the most important functions is facilitating the creation of shared vision for the organization’s future and then keeping organizational members working toward that vision. In addition, leaders should support and encourage the collaborative environment that’s critical to learning. Without strong and committed leadership throughout the organization, it would be extremely difficult to be a learning organization.
Finally, the organizational culture is an important aspect of being a learning organization. A learning organization’s culture is one in which everyone agrees on a shared vision and everyone recognizes the inherent interrelationships among the organization’s processes, activities, functions, and external environment. It also fosters a strong sense of community, caring for each other and trust. In learning organization, employees feel free to communicate openly, share, experiment, and learn without fear of criticism or punishment.
No matter what structural design managers choose for their organizations, the design should help employees do their work in the best, most efficient and effective way they can. The structure needs to help not hinder organizational members as they carry out the organization’s work. After all, the structure is simply a means to an end.