Learning Organization

The concept of learning organization describes an organization that continually fosters an ideal learning environment. The environment is aligned with the organization’s objectives. Peter Senge popularized this concept as a place that enables workers to expand their abilities to achieve the results they desire. It is a workplace in which new patterns of thinking are encouraged and where team members are continually learning together to reach organizational goals.

What Is a Learning Organization?

This type of work culture seeks to achieve:

  • The ideal environment for knowledge management (KM), learning, and innovation
  • The necessary leadership skills for encouraging and nurturing this ideal environment
Building a Learning Organization

The effective implementation of this discipline involves adopting five dimensions:
1. Systems thinking. This concept sees the organization as a complex system comprised of smaller systems. This means you must understand the whole organization as well as its smaller components. This requires the ability to comprehend the complexity of the organization while maintaining a long-term focus. You will frequently encounter systems maps that illustrate the connections.

2. Personal mastery. This is where you strive to clarify your focus and vision while maintaining a continual state of learning.

3. Team learning. Team members work to achieve common objectives. It builds upon effective collaboration and shared vision.

4. Mental models. This process entails recognizing ingrained generalizations, assumptions, and presumptions that impact your view of the world. In a learning organization, you must continually challenge these mental models and make room for new ideas.

5. Building a shared vision. A shared vision needs buy-in from all team members. A leader can effectively communicate what the future needs to look like; however, in the learning culture, all members have a voice. This builds enthusiasm and commitment throughout the organization.

Leadership in Building a Learning Organization
  • Leader as designer. Being a designer is closer to servant leadership than being a boss that sends out directions from above. A designer leader:
    • Helps build a common vision with shared purpose and values.
    • Identifies the strategies, policies, and structures that help transform ideas into actionable business decisions.
    • Enables productive learning processes which foster continual improvements in strategies, policies, and structures.
  • Leader as teacher. This can also be seen as a coaching role. You understand the mental models in the organization and encourage efforts to restructure non-productive views. You help your team members seek out the underlying causes of issues to identify appropriate solutions.
  • Leader as steward. This role seems a bit more subjective rather than objective. However, it is the quality of a leader to communicate the greater vision. The leader as steward outwardly serves the greater purpose of the organization and leads the team members in that direction.