Monday, 5 October 2009

Learning without liberty (2)

Miss Liberty
Originally uploaded by laverrue
I was reading Nancy Dixon's book "The Organizational Learning Cycle (how we can learn collectively)" over the weekend, and Nancy's 4 principal components of Organisational learning struck a chord. They are

1. Widespread generation of information
2. Integration of new/local information into the organisational context
3. Collective interpretation of information
4. Having authority to take responsible action based on the interpreted meaning.

By "widespread generation", Nancy means that "the generation of information needs to be the responsibility of all members of the organization, rather than leaving those tasks to specialized functions such as R&D or customer service". So this is very much a view of learning that includes everyone in the organisation.

However point 4 is as important as points 1 through 3, and brings me back to my post from last week on "Learning without liberty", based on a JFK quote.

A learning organisation must empower* people to change what they do, based on what they have learned. In disempowered organisation, producing and integrating new learning only leads to frustration, if you cannot take action. I have seen this most clearly in the public sector, where staff at low levels can be very aware of learning, and the need to take change, but are blocked from taking action by either a lack of a route to escalate the need for change, or by conservatism (or by the political considerations) from overlying hierarchy.

To mix Nancy Dixon and John F Kennedy, we can conclude

"Learning without having that authority to take responsible action based on the interpreted meaning, is always in vain"

JKFs quote was punchier, Nancy puts the quote into an organisational learning context.

*(Also note that Empowerment is one of the four cultural elements in my OPEC acronym)

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