Friday, 24 February 2012
Here's a tale of two oil companies.
Both of them needed to construct and install a series of offshore patforms.
One company chose a design for their platforms, and used the same design for each platform, and employed the same engineering and installation contractors. The other redesigned each platform, and tendered anew for different engineering and installation contractors.
Which of these two was the Learning Organisation?
You might guess the second one, because they are changing each time. The first company sounds too much as if it was "Copy-Pasting" - where is the learning in that? The second one at least had the option for improving the design each time. Surely it must be the second one?
Well, in fact, it was the first company that turned out to be the Learning Organisation, despite its standardisation strategy.
By keeping the design consistent, they and their contractors were able to learn about the processes of construction and installation, and were able to cut the design/construct/install cycle time by 30%.
The other organisation however showed none effects of learning. Because they went back to the drawing board each time, there was no consistency, and no established baseline to learn from. Costs and construction times were all over the place. Rather than being a learning organisation, they were a tinkering organisation. They changed designs for the sake of change, usually to no added benefit.
A standardisation strategy does not mean you are not a Learning organisation. Many companies combine standardisation and learning to great effect.
A poliscy of constant change does not, in itself, make you a Learning Organisation. Sometimes change is just tinkering.