Learning

All posts tagged Learning

Employee Staffing

Published June 7, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Employees are the lifeblood of an organization. In order for them to perform their responsibilities effectively, they must have certain knowledge and skills to accomplish their tasks. Axulay (2012) contends that in order to train staff effectively, employers need a plan with specific parameters and regulations to help their employees navigate with purposeful intent to achieve their organizational goals. Employee development needs to be calculated, measured, strategic, and a deliberate procedure (Axulay, 2012). This research takes a closer examination of the staffing process and the strategies leaders use to produce the most effective results. As an example to support our research, we will analyze, assess, and provide recommendations for a fictitious case scenario where employees at an organization are operating at below par performances in the assembly of cell phone tuning devices. In addition, a closer examination reveals of some of the effective principles, activities, traditional methods, and misconceptions behind the obstacles that create barriers which prohibit efficient learning. The research deduces that training employees plays a significant role during the staffing process because it provides practical tools that produce a high probability of success, creates a climate that is open to new types of learning, and provides employees an opportunity to expand their skills.

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Training

The Purpose of Training

Many employers and managers recognize the significance that training plays during the staffing process. However, according to Stolovitch and Rosenberg (2011), most employers are not cognizant that learning means change. As more companies transit into learning organizations, they are moving from traditional methods of training and development and evolving into groups where workplace learning is part of their culture (Stolovitch & Rosenberg, 2011). The purpose for instructing, educating, and training employees is to permit them to absorb information.

The Leader’s Role in Training

Leaders are learning that the most effective training methods employ a variety of learning devices that include expanding: mental (cognitive), physical (psychomotor), and emotional (effective) knowledge and skills. In addition, they design activities, learning plans, and incorporate practical tools that will yield the most effective results (Stolovitch & Rosenberg, 2011). Employers also apply technology that encourages fundamental education to support the training process. Subsequently, they create efficient methods to measure the effectiveness of their training programs, thereby alleviating ineffective and counterproductive systems. In short, the most successful leaders find ways to restructure the mindset of trainers so that they transform the individual being trained, rather than their students just becoming recipients of an educational process.

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Assessment

Employee Readiness

Employers that do not train staff risk high employee turnover and set the stage for staffers to experience job dissatisfaction. Axulay (2012) suggests it is essential that staff development is strategically planned. Additionally, the most effective trainers are able to ascertain whether staffers are at the discovery, developmental, or demonstration stages to implement the most productive training methods that will yield the highest results (Axulay, 2012). Their goal is to penetrate barriers that impede receptivity in the learner.

Case Study Analysis

In one case study, for instance, where cell phone assembly line employees are operating at below par performances, the line-manager is looking to change the behavior of staff members. Axulay (2012) contends one way to accomplish this is for leaders to help staffers comprehend the impact their poor performance has on the organization and other staff members. The next step is for managers to identify the causes for low quality performances and whether staffers are ready and receptive to change (Axulay, 2012). The readiness assessment phase is imperative because employees will not have the ability to change their behavior unless they first acknowledge a need to change it. The line leader must ascertain the reason employees are producing poor quality workmanship and the staffing factors that are contributing to the problem and assess whether it may be a training issue. To tackle this systematically, they must determine a variety of factors. They have already discerned the need for change, but in order to determine what type of learning the employees require, they must decide whether it is based on knowledge deficiencies, a lack of skills, or merely an unhealthy attitude. For example, some employees may disagree with assembly line protocol, or have personal trait issues, while other employees simply do not perform effectively because they do not value or take pride in their occupation on the assembly line. Once these factors are determined, an efficient training system can be designed to produce more effective results.

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Strategizing

Identifying the Problem

Organizations that implement training programs for employees create a climate that is open to new types of learning. Kolb (1990) purports that more often employers tend to focus valuable time improving weaknesses in personnel due to technical deficiencies that they believe can be remedied merely with proper training. However when individuals are asked to perform outside their comfort zones, people are resistant to change creating barriers that affect the learning process (Kolb, 1990). Employees eventually become frustrated, dissatisfied, and perform poorly.

Designing an Effective Plan

Regardless of the causes, it is evident that a lack of motivation is at the core of why the assembly line employees are not engaged in high performance levels in addition to insufficient training. For these reasons, we recommend that managers design and implement an evaluation process designed to ascertain the number of employees who are delivering substandard outcomes due to skill deficiencies and identify those who are struggling with personal trait issues. Kolb’s (1990) research concludes that when employees are underpaid and feel unappreciated, employers experience higher absenteeism and substandard work performances (Kolb, 1990). On the other hand, employers benefit substantially by nurturing a culture where personnel are appreciated and rewarded for outstanding performances. Under these conditions, employees are more inclined to participate enthusiastically, offer innovative ideas, display higher levels of energy, and engage in superior productivity.

Apprenticeship Programs

Training provides employees with practical tools that help produce a high probability of success. Bednarek’s (1990) research looks at another kind of system organizations implement to experience high levels of success from their employees: apprenticeship training programs. His research studied organizations where employees were not just the master craftsmen they were also trained and became the trainers themselves in their apprenticeship programs. In addition to teaching employees new skills, these kinds of programs also include instruction in theory that is applicable to their trade so that the student receives a whole picture of the business that supports the learning process (Bednarek, 1990). Apprenticeship training systems educate employees from a platform that is methodical, precise, and consistent because they have been tested and proven effective. Based on Bednarek’s studies, our next recommendation for the assembly line crew would be to establish an apprenticeship program that outlines standard procedures, policies and repercussions for violating those parameters. Effective tutoring programs can help establish consistent outcomes, are nurturing, and usually produce higher results.

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Conclusion

The line managers in our case study strive to achieve organizational goals by providing superior quality products in a cost effective manner. Indeed, these are important goals that all effective leaders strive to achieve for their organization. Amernic’s (1982) research deduced that the reason personnel shortages are elevating at record rate is because of a serious need to educate and train employees (Amernic, 1982). Organizational leaders who can identify whether an employee requires more knowledge and information, more opportunities to practice their knowledge and skills, or more situations where they can apply their expertise effectively on the job, will have an edge on how to elicit better performances from staff members. Successful employers who cultivate developmental goals that define their brand’s vision of success design systems that are practical for achieving those outcomes.  To these leaders, goals are the key to their results and effective employees is the significant component that helps an organization to support their vision. Employees that are trained to focus on the value they achieve from their behavior and not the behavior itself will most likely experience successful outcomes.  Our research concludes it is imperative employers identify the root causes of poor work performances and design effective employee training programs as a significant part of the staffing process. This strategy provides employees the opportunity to expand their skills and encourages higher levels of performance, which is a significant contributing factor to attaining organizational goals.

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References

Amernic, J. (1982, June). Training programs counter personnel shortages. Canadian Datasystems. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/208855476?accountid=32521

Axulay, H. (2012). Employee development on a shoestring. Danvers, MA: ASTD Press.

Bednarek, D. (1990, August). Skillfully crafted apprentices/programs turn employees into craftsmen. Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee, WI, USA. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/333428413?accountid=32521

Kolb, R. (1990, October 2). Focus on employees’ positive contributions demanding that workers perform tasks outside of their “comfort zones” is counterproductive. Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee, WI, USA. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/333455300?accountid=32521

Stolovitch, H., & Rosenberg, M. (2011). Telling ain’t training (2nd ed.). Danvers, MA: ASTD Press.

Learning Organizations and Effectiveness – Part II

Published May 17, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Transitioning Into a Learning Organization

As the world continues to expand, older models of running an organization, under the direction of a unilateral black box control system, are proving ineffective. These forms of control usually develop from individuals trying to control the situation like Steve Jobs displayed during his reign at Apple. In today’s ever evolving marketplace, leaders are finding success by developing organizations that center on relationships with the intent of creating a whole entity from a variety of components. This is a type of operational control system that is attached to ongoing and real time explanations between divisions and is designed to achieve stability in organizational relationships (Espejo & Reyes, 2011).

Institutions that are making the transition into an effective, well-oiled learning-machine incorporate mechanisms to include a systematic collection of information for analysis and dissemination. They are open to new ideas and focus on cooperative education and training by conceiving programs that meet their needs. Learning is conducted over an expanse of time. Leaders implement clear communication devices, seek unfiltered information, and engage in advanced levels of problem solving. These are tools that help motivate staffers to work together in a cohesive manner and require full participation as well as accountability (Cates, 2009). Organizations that embrace openness to criticism and accept change increase their odds in succeeding.

To effectively transit into a learning organization, leaders must conduct annual and monthly reviews to help identify their strengths and weaknesses. Information collected from these reports is used to decide strategies that can assist to develop higher skill levels.  Used effectively they provide systems that serve to motivate advanced performances (Silberman, 2007). For example, annual reviews give insight to the volume of transactions an organization generates, identifies individuals who experience more developed levels of achievement, and reveals areas where improvement is needed. These systems help organizations strengthen their weaknesses.

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Four Motivational Characteristics

Companies are likely to achieve higher levels of success by becoming a learning organization because it fosters a climate of collaboration. Four motivational characteristics of an effective learning organization are: (1) collection of data and intelligence, (2) experiential learning processes, (3) experimentation with new ideas, and (4) changing unfavorable conditions by sharing information and building strong relationships (Garvin, 2000).

The Collection of Data and Intelligence – Because organizations are not always adept at delivering positive outcomes, devising methods to collect data and intelligence from personnel, suppliers, partners, distributors, consumers, and others is essential. This can be accomplished by methods that measure performance levels. This includes surveys, observation, appraisal systems, financial reviews, knowledge testing and skill assessments that are used to ascertain performance levels, and competency gaps (Roberts, 2012).

The Experiential Learning Process – Most scholars are in agreement that experience is a factor that is underestimated and in some cases disregarded. However, research reveals that experience pervades all manners of the learning process. Experiential learning encompasses an individual’s active engagement from both the inner and outer world. Active participation is the key element of experiential learning because it involves the entire person through thoughts, emotions, and physical activity (Beard & Wilson, 2006).

Experimentation of New Ideas – Experimentation is a fairly new concept in organizational management and therefore an uncommon practice other than for market research and research and development purposes. For experimentation to truly become effective, organizations must encourage an open atmosphere that considers all views. Experimentation in this context attempts to produce or prove something new and creates a series of events and activities that can be analyzed in order to discover unidentified barriers. Effective experiments gather data that is important in the development and management of the organization (McClain & Smith, 2006).

Sharing Information – Effective leaders also understand the importance of collaborative management and develop cohesive systems. They build strong relationships and create a foundation in which they become more adept at working together to achieve outcomes and desired solutions. By establishing a shared vision and clear channels to open communication where people feel safe in sharing knowledge, they build a genuine trust and camaraderie. This is an integral component that can determine a company’s failure or success. Efficient business collaboration unites individuals, increases performance and productivity, and gives an organization a competitive advantage (Peterson, 2001).

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Achieving Goals

Learning organizations that work together and collaborate are capable of achieving higher levels of success because everyone is focused on a common goal that is larger than their individual goals. For example, they strive to make their organization safer, logical, standardized, and fluid. Additionally, they are connected in more cost effective ways, upgrading their systems and policies in doing so (Galsworth, 2005).

Furthermore, organizations strive to ensure they achieve the outcomes they desire.  Once data from knowledge management systems are collected, received, interpreted, and processed, priorities and deadlines are implemented to help keep them on track to accomplish their goals. Follow ups and feedback are essential to monitor effective and ineffective systems. Evaluation of systems and experimental results also helps discern errors and is factored in for the development or adjustments that will make the organization run more efficiently and the staff work together more productively.

Organizations also implement the use of electronic communication devices as a means to achieve their goals and facilitate the learning experience. This includes the implementation of discussion boards, social networking, and instant messaging tools. These components allow organizations to communicate and coordinate events and programs in real time from remote locations removing time and space limitations. In addition, organizations work collaboratively to address and achieve larger goals like environment problems, unemployment, urban development and more (Fink, 2007).

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Identifying Obstacles

Today’s leaders are learning to become more flexible as they endure enormous amounts of external pressure to survive.  In order to achieve the desired outcomes leaders are required to identify the following types of system blindness that can hinder their goals: (a) spatial, (b) temporal, (c) relational, (d) process, and (e) uncertainty. Spatial blindness, for example, only allows a fragmented viewing of a system, not the entire whole. Relational system blindness, on the other hand, is the perception an individual may experience by perceiving only what is happening to them, not necessarily what is occurring elsewhere. Identifying system blind spots can help leaders understand some of the challenges they encounter (Oshry, 2007).

Situations that are stressful and create fear also create obstacles. For example, Reason’s (2010) studies indicate leaders who engage in methods of intimidation constrict the learning process. Because of this, leaders must learn that fostering a culture of stress and fear creates an environment that encourages learning disabilities (Reason, 2010). Leaders who are able to identify organizational disabilities can tackle elements that threaten a company’s productivity. Instead, they adopt strategies to support organizational learning by creating an environment that nurtures innovative patterns of thinking. Therefore, organizations need to work together to achieve a collective vision that thrives and must strategically implement programs and systems that are designed to help them produce the outcomes they desire. In doing so, they can motivate genuine learning. Team members are inspired because they are focused on more significant matters. Effective leaders know how to bridge teamwork and fabricate a creative climate that is free from confining attitudes (Senge, 2006). Leaders who have functioned together as part of a team or group that has achieved extraordinary goals comprehend the advantages of a collaborative learning experience. There is an acknowledgment and recognition in each other’s strengths and compensation to make up for each other’s weaknesses.

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Strategies for Successful Outcomes

Learning organizations have the ability to introduce innovative opportunities that solve issues. One fundamental element to efficient learning is the innate ability to reflect and review the learning process. This helps identify which methods are effective and which are not. Spitzer (2007) postulates the key to success is measurement because it can reveal the organization’s current position in the marketplace, identifies strengths and weaknesses, and helps in the development of new goals. For this reason, performance measures have a transformational effect (Spitzer, 2007).

Decentralization of the decision making process is another effective strategy for positive outcomes. This exists where organizations foster a climate of trust and unbiased communication systems. This model can address the needs of the whole company rather than that of one individual who is leading with a personal agenda. In addition, when organizations run into issues based on gender, race, and age, working together in collaborative effort can minimize these kinds of challenges (Peterson, 2001).

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Conclusion

The reality is that we are all discovering how to learn together and are inherently evolving into a learning community. Leaders are beginning to understand that people are capable of learning quicker when they put their attention on actions that solve problems. In the long run, an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition will likely be the key component to their longevity. This research concludes that a healthy learning environment fosters good decision making. It is derived from knowledge, hard work, experience, and in some cases, as a result of bad decision making. Organizations that learn to adapt by identifying their errors and seek new opportunities for learning will set themselves up for a prosperous existence.

A successful learning organization is the driving engine that motivates and inspires individuals. The most effective leaders today are flexible, apply active listening skills, and develop methods that will improve organizational performances. Even though it stifles growth, organizations are likely to achieve higher levels of success by becoming a learning organization because it fosters a climate of trust; creates a culture of decentralized decision making; and it integrates people, systems, and technology. Leaders that adapt a learning paradigm will most likely outlive those resistant to change.

References:

Baack, D. (2012). Organizational behavior. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

Beard, C., & Wilson, J. (2006). Experiential learning: A best practice handbook (2nd ed.). London, England, UK: Kogan Page.

Bingham, T., & Conner, M. (2010). The new social learning: a guide to transforming organizations through social media. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Blevins, R. (2001). A study of association between organizational trust and decision-making, communications, and collaboration in comprehensive, regional institutions of higher education. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Ann Arbor, MI, USA: ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. Retrieved April24 2013, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304707494?accountid=32521

Cates, C. L. (2009, May 17). The creation of a large scale corporate feedback system with a view toward learning organizations and sustainable change in higher education. Cincinnati, OH, USA: ProQuest LLC. Retrieved April 4, 2013

Espejo, R., & Reyes, A. (2011). Organizational systems: Managing complexity with the viable system model. New York, NY: SPi Publisher Services.

Fink, L. (2007, Jul-Sep). Coordination, learning, and innovation: The organizational roles of e-collaboration and their impacts. International Journal of E-Collaboration. Hershey, PA, USA: IGI Global. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/222376102?accountid=32521

Galsworth, G. (2005). Visual workplace visual thinking. Portland, OR: Visual-Lean Enterprise Press.

Garvin, D. (2000). Learning in action: A guide to putting the learning organization to work. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Haney, D. (2003). Knowledge management in a professional service firm. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Ann Arbor, IN, USA: ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. Retrieved April 18, 2013, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305334057?accountid=32521

McClain, B., & Smith, D. (2006). Experimentation in a collaborative planning environment. Monterey, CA: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Oshry, B. (2007). Seeing systems: Unlocking the mysteries of organizational life. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Peterson, M. (2001, February). International collaboration in organizational behavior research. Journal of Organizational Behavior. Chichester, US: Wiley Periodicals Inc. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/224884660?accountid=32521

Reason, C. (2010). Leading a learning organization. Bloomington, IN : Solution Tree Press.

Roberts, J. (2012). Beyond learning by doing: Theoretical currents in experiential education. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Schein, E. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Senge, P. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday Publishing.

Silberman, M. (2007). The handbook of experiential learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Spitzer, D. R. (2007). Transforming performance measurement: Rethinking the way we measure and drive organizational success. New York, NY: AMACOM Books.

Ward, T. (2006). Implementing knowledge management to support effective decision making in a joint military environment: Key enablers and obstacles. Minneapolis, MN, USA: ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. Retrieved April 18, 2013, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304910517?accountid=32521

Wick, C., Pollock, R., & Jefferson, A. (2010). The six disciplines of breakthrough learning. San Franciso, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Learning Organizations and Effectiveness – Part I

Published May 15, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Introduction

The world has become more interconnected and, as a result, conducting business is more complicated.  Individuals are constantly discovering how to work together in a world business community to survive and are committed to higher levels of excellence in doing so (Galsworth, 2005). As a result, companies are transiting into learning organizations for sustainability. Organizational leaders, therefore, are creating an environment that embraces group learning practices. In other words, company leaders are discovering new ways to inspire commitment and the capacity to learn from personnel at all levels in order to excel.  The issues we  examine in this research, look at the methodologies that organizations incorporate to achieve higher levels of success by fostering a culture that facilitates the learning process. We analyze how cultivating a climate of trust can support an environment that consists of decentralized decision making, and how integrating people, systems, and technology are utilized to achieve those goals. We will also identify characteristics of ideal learning organizations, observable behaviors, barriers that prevent goal achievements, and scrutinize various strategies that are incorporated to help overcome these barriers.  Our research concludes that when it comes to what makes an organization successful, applying efficient systems to encourage the learning process is a key component that allows an organization to flourish.

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Characteristics

Learning organizations are experts at producing, acquiring, interpreting, transferring, and retaining knowledge specifically focused on the modification of behavior to reflect the new knowledge. One characteristic that organizations adopt as part of the learning paradigm is social learning. Social learning occurs where people receive knowledge from others, with others. It transpires inherently wherever individuals gather – at town meetings for example – and between colleagues having lunch, just as easily as it happens in a school situation. In addition, social learning appears in the workplace when we pose a query or text message a friend with the same inquiry. Social media tools also allow learning to take place unconstrained by distance or time boundaries. Most of the knowledge acquired in today’s organizations, in fact, comes from engaging in networks where people collaborate, co-create, and process information with full participation. Successful corporate leaders encourage group networking to help acquire further knowledge and experience. Social learning, for example, is easily observed in new hires. When an individual is initially engaged in a new occupation, they seek knowledge from discerning the performance of others and modeling their behavior, or by asking another employee for assistance. In the meantime, training still serves as a valuable tool in the learning process because it provides individuals solutions to challenges that have already been mastered by others (Bingham & Conner, 2010). A new hire employee in the fast food industry, for example, during the initial training period may constantly resort to others for guidance in remembering various elements like product prices, contents for special meal packages, and other applicable systems of operation.

Another significant characteristic of learning organizations are the educational tools they implement.  Wick et al. (2010) purport that corporate training and development programs can and should provide strategic significance to the learning process. Leaders must support training programs because of the benefits, rewards, and improvement in workplace performances. The most effective executives comprehend that each individual’s learning experience, however, is shaped by a variety of components including: (a) his or her expectations, (b) aptitude and emotional experience, (c) prior experiences, (d) learning style, and (e) attitude. Therefore, the success of acquiring new skills and training programs rely on the design, facilitation, and absorption of the program (Wick, Pollock, & Jefferson, 2010). Effective training programs, therefore, should include follow-ups, assessments, and continual re-evaluation to keep skills honed and the creative energy stimulated to maintain a cohesive organization.

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Observable Behaviors

Baack (2012) explains that artifacts are one example of an organization’s observable behavior. They are observed by the overtly stated values and norms that identify organizational behavior (Baack, 2012). Artifacts, for instance, can transmit nonverbal messages in a non-linguistic manner. An organization’s culture, on the other hand, is determined by other behavior and observable artifacts.  They are represented in the physical signs of an organization’s dominant culture like the Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood or the Pentagon building in Washington. The logo like McDonald’s golden arches, can become synonymous with quality service as a trustworthy organization.

Schein (2010) discusses the behavior and connection between leadership and culture as a significant factor in both an organization’s macro- and micro-cultures. His research is focused on another kind of observable behavior: the influence superiors have on subordinates.  He contends those who are resistant to change do not experience organizational longevity (Schein, 2010). In the fast food industry, employees were encouraged, for instance, to operate by adopting a modeled behavior which included identical uniformed attire, as well as the manner in which food items were prepared and delivered to consumers.

Another significant behavior learning organizations foster is a climate of trust. This type of conduct encourages openness, integrates people, implements fair communication systems, and utilizes technology efficiently. In this climate, organizations can address larger issues collectively for more effective outcomes (Blevins, 2001). For a theatrical stage manager, for example, the key component is making sure the technical aspects of a show run smoothly, like actors called on time and in place for their performance, that the prop crews run efficiently, and lighting cues are properly administered. Trust and open communication are the elements that can make or break a significant theatrical experience.  In these kinds of learning arenas, building stronger relationships enhances the creative process significantly.

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Behavioral Results

Most experts agree that the ability to respond quickly to changes in the marketplace and recognizing opportunities gives organizations an important competitive advantage. Hanley (2003) asserts that knowledge management is essential for an organization as a method to monitor behavioral results. Behavioral results from effective knowledge management systems include: (a) the reduction of cycle time, (b) the improvement of quality, (c) lowered costs, (d) increased organizational learning, and (e) improved core competencies (Haney, 2003). Learning organizations that effectively integrate technology, people, and systems, produce a cohesive union experience with extraordinary results. Knowledge management is important to the success of an organization because acquiring and processing information increases situational understanding, helps identify systems, analyzes relationships, and enables higher quality decision making.

Efficacious leaders and management teams actively look for information and programs to increase situational understanding which results in behavior that incorporates the use of technology, organizational systems, and socialization. These elements foster higher performances in decision making that can affect the development and productivity which produces value by generating new intellectual property (Ward, 2006). An entertainment production company for example, utilizes information and technology for the production of high quality intellectual property in the form of audio and video files that are distributed to various social media outlets. Organizations that do not apply knowledge management strategies can hinder an organization’s development and productivity.

Barriers to Characteristics

Now that businesses and economies have become global, performance and consumer demands are unyielding. The period essential to reflect, assess, and identify barriers is inadequate. Financial capital emerges at the sacrifice of social and natural capital.  Senge’s (2006) research identifies that one significant barrier organizations encounter is suppressed growth. This comes from their inability to embrace an environment that nurtures the learning process (Senge, 2006). Organizational cultures where individuals learn together expand their capacity to create desired outcomes. In addition, an organization’s failure to evaluate and make adjustments to rapid growth and expansion can cause a company bankruptcy or, in extreme cases, place the public in danger. Where innovative and expansive patterns of reasoning are nurtured, companies tend to experience more success.

At a former place of employment, for example, one of the partners displayed poor leadership skills. Long hours and little compensation began to create stress and discontent among the staff. The partner did not possess highly developed leadership techniques and was therefore unable to motivate staff members. The deficient leader was unable to identify and comprehend the barriers he created by displaying immature, temperamental, out-of-control behavior. This ineffective behavior did not serve to motivate the crew. His actions revealed inadequate leadership from the lack of respect he showed towards his subordinates. His behavior communicated that he did not value his staff. He was incapable of piecing together that workers, who are offered little compensation, rarely receive compliments or support, and are exposed to continual reprimanding, are not inspired or inclined to give their best performance. This unproductive environment was nurtured from poor behavior and feedback from a leader who rather than show appreciation and gratitude for their services, used means of intimidation and fear as his M.O. These kinds of conditions constrict the learning experience and foster low morale in personnel. Needless to say, this leader’s methods were ineffective.  They only served to create more barriers and, as a result, he was never able to achieve the level of success he envisioned.

This concludes the end of part I. Part II will be released this Friday. Stay tuned …

References:

Baack, D. (2012). Organizational behavior. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

Bingham, T., & Conner, M. (2010). The new social learning: a guide to transforming organizations through social media. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Blevins, R. (2001). A study of association between organizational trust and decision-making, communications, and collaboration in comprehensive, regional institutions of higher education. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Ann Arbor, MI, USA: ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. Retrieved April24 2013, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304707494?accountid=32521

Galsworth, G. (2005). Visual workplace visual thinking. Portland, OR: Visual-Lean Enterprise Press.

Haney, D. (2003). Knowledge management in a professional service firm. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Ann Arbor, IN, USA: ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. Retrieved April 18, 2013, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305334057?accountid=32521

Schein, E. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Senge, P. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday Publishing.

Ward, T. (2006). Implementing knowledge management to support effective decision making in a joint military environment: Key enablers and obstacles. Minneapolis, MN, USA: ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. Retrieved April 18, 2013, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304910517?accountid=32521

Wick, C., Pollock, R., & Jefferson, A. (2010). The six disciplines of breakthrough learning. San Franciso, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

The Learning Paradigm

Published May 13, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

Learning_Paradigm

Scholars confirm that to maintain a successful place in today’s global market, there is a need for organizations to be flexible and as a result, today’s CEOs are learning to make necessary adaptations in order to achieve their goals. In addition, because leaders are being bombarded by enormous amounts of external pressure to survive, they have come to understand that learning is the key to their long-term survival and growth. Research indicates that executives are devoting more time to educating their staff and transforming their companies into learning organizations in order to keep up with the expanding global marketplace.  In other words, they are actively seeking opportunities for learning and create an environment with events and activities that support the learning process (Garvin, 2000).

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In addition, effective executives acknowledge that their actions create their reality. If they want to see a different reality, they must learn to take measures that employ efficient strategies. This includes plans that are designed with specific goals to achieve the outcomes they envision. Successful leaders in today’s global marketplace are the ones that tackle organizational learning disabilities because they pose a threat to the company’s productivity.  By adopting strategies that support a learning organization, executives are setting up an environment that nurtures new and expansive patterns of thinking, where collective aspiration thrives and people work together on learning how to produce the results they desire. Leaders that have the flexibility to move their organizations toward a learning paradigm know how to ignite and reignite that spark of genuine learning because it helps drive individuals to focus on what really matters.  Strong leaders are capable of bridging teamwork into macro-creativity and create a climate that is free of confining assumptions and mindsets (Senge, 2006).

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People learn faster when they put their knowledge into action solving problems. Marquardt et al. (2009) refer to this as action learning.  The emphasis on learning is what makes this process strategic rather than tactical in equipping leaders to respond to change more effectively.  Simply translated it is the dynamic process that involves a small group of people working together to solve real organizational problems, while focusing on how their learning can benefit individuals, groups, and the organization as a whole (Marquardt, Skipton, Freedman, & Hill, 2009). I believe successful leaders in today’s organizations must have the flexibility to move their institutions toward a learning paradigm, by applying superior active listening and developing skills that will improve individual, team, and organizational performances. In conclusion, leaders that are flexible and adapt a learning paradigm will most likely outlast those that are too rigid and resistant to change.

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References:

Garvin, D. (2000). Learning in action: A guide to putting the learning organization to work. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Marquardt, M., Skipton, L., Freedman, A., & Hill, C. (2009). Action learning for developing leaders and organizations: Principles, strategies and cases. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Senge, P. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday Publishing.

Learning Through Experience

Published April 29, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Scholars agree that experience is a concept that is undervalued, underestimated and in some cases, even disregarded. According to Beard and Wilson (2006) experience pervades all forms of learning. Their definition of experiential learning is the process of active engagement between the inner world of a person and the outer world of the environment.  Active engagement is one of the basic components of experiential learning. It involves the entire individual, through thoughts, feelings and physical activity. Experiential learning takes on many appearances that include recreational or leisure activities, exhilarating journeys or adventures, experimentation or play. In other words, people learn new skills by doing them. A teacher who directs their students to learn rhyme and meter by instructing them to create a dance routine to a poem in iambic pentameter is one example of experiential learning (Beard & Wilson, 2006).

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A fundamental element to effective learning is the ability to reflect and review the learning process.  This helps identify which methods are effective and which are not. Root issues however, tend to remain unaddressed. For this reason measurement is an essential component to high performance, improvement, and success in any business or other area of human endeavor. In fact, Spitzer (2007) postulates the key to success is measurement because it can reveal the organization’s current position in the marketplace, identifies strengths and weaknesses, and helps in the development of new goals. For this reason, performance measures have a transformational effect on the way people and organizations examine their work, products and customers (Spitzer, 2007). During my employment in the mortgage and loan industry, I observed many formal and informal reflection and review processes that were developed as the organization grew. For example, as the organization achieved higher levels of success, the number of employees increased. This included additional loan officers, processors and administrative staff. At this new level of corporate operations, management conducted annual reviews to verify the organization was complying with policies and operating legally within the corporate framework to avoid substantial penalty fees.  At this stage, operation managers were legally required to work in compliance with labor laws and began to implement systems that offered employee benefits including health insurance and paid vacation time.

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Annual and monthly reviews were conducted with focus centered on the volume of loans and closings. This could help identify methods loan officers and processing teams incorporated and give insight to what was effective as well as pinpoint weaknesses. Weekly and monthly sales strategy meetings were also conducted to assess the volume of lead activity and identify why some transferred into sales and why others didn’t. Once the information was collected and evaluated upper management could then decide on tactics and training programs to help staffers develop higher skill levels, use them consistently, and incorporate systems that would assist to motivate them (Silberman, 2007). The founders of the mortgage company, for example, decided to seek professional assistance to help guide the company’s success and engaged the services of an elite mortgage and loan coaching company. Annual leadership meetings were conducted. The executives were assigned new tasks and set short and long term goals. Monthly calls were scheduled and each team leader was required to submit a progress report to monitor activity.

Leaders that actively work to improve themselves and their organizations, seek new opportunities to learn. Those who are wise enough enlist the guidance of successful mentors and coaches. These trailblazers do not underestimate the value of experiential learning and are able to make adjustments based on methods of trial and error. These are the bosses and organizations employees are proud to be a part of.

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References:

Beard, C., & Wilson, J. (2006). Experiential learning: A best practice handbook (2nd ed.). London, England, UK: Kogan Page.

Silberman, M. (2007). The handbook of experiential learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Spitzer, D. R. (2007). Transforming performance measurement: Rethinking the way we measure and drive organizational success. New York, NY: AMACOM Books.

References:

Beard, C., & Wilson, J. (2006). Experiential learning: A best practice handbook (2nd ed.). London, England, UK: Kogan Page.

Silberman, M. (2007). The handbook of experiential learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Spitzer, D. R. (2007). Transforming performance measurement: Rethinking the way we measure and drive organizational success. New York, NY: AMACOM Books.

Learning Organizations

Published April 19, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Introduction

Garvin postulates that learning organizations are enterprises skilled at creating, acquiring, interpreting, transferring and retaining knowledge; purposefully modifying behavior to reflect the new knowledge. There are six critical activities that must transpire within a learning organization that includes: (1) the collection of data and intelligence, (2) bench-marking or learning from the successful practices of others, (3) learning from past history and experience, (4) experimentation of new ideas, (5) the encouragement of systematic problem solving, and (6) sharing that information throughout the organization. Knowing what to do, doing what we know, and following through are the three key components that affect the learning process. Failure will most likely occur when leaders seek solutions to problems from a very narrow parameter and from one source only. Learning is not a random event; it occurs as a result of pursuing clearly aligned goals (Garvin, 2003). Furthermore, it is difficult to learn effectively from one experience alone. This research examines learning organizations and the significance of components that affect the learning process including: (a) an openness to new perspectives; (b) receiving unfiltered information; (c) the acknowledgement of strengths, weaknesses, and biases; and (d) the ability to perform with a sense of humility.

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Cooperative Education

Organizations that apply specific learning mechanisms allow systematic collection, analysis, storage, dissemination, and the use of information that is applicable to their effectiveness (Lipshitz, Raanan, Popper, Micha, Oz, & Sasson, 1996). In addition, effective learning organizations must remain open to new ideas. Cooperative education focuses on the basic conceptual differences between education and training. In a rapidly changing world however, neither education nor training has the longevity they once enjoyed. Innovation for example, must begin with the recognition that the instructors do not produce learning. Learning is conducted by the learner alone and occurs over a period of time, especially once the student engages actively in the new acquired training. Effective teachers need to become designers of the learning process in participation with the student. To ensure that organizations remain in control of their destiny, each one must develop new approaches, evaluate, educate, and make applicable adjustments in order to creative a cohesive model. Successful learning organizations create clear communication, engage in advanced levels of problem solving, and consist of personnel that are highly motivated, accountable, and work as a cohesive team (Cates, 2009).

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Capitol-EMI Records, my former place of employment, for example, evolved into a cohesive learning organization as a result of the ongoing development from technological upgrades. Management learned to work together as a team in conjunction with the manufacturing plants, corporate offices, and the artists to transit from each model of intellectual property. Initially, the product delivery system for music albums, for instance, was comprised of a porcelain record disc. The next phase of development occurred when the delivery system adapted a more durable vinyl format. Music products continued to evolve with the development of the 8-track system, which was followed by the introduction of a more condensed version in the manufacturing of cassette tapes. The next shift occurred when audio manufacturing transited from an analog system to a digital platform when the compact disc was introduced. Music was now produced from a higher quality audio signal whose digital representation paralleled that of a live concert event. Although compact discs are still available for purchase, the current industry standard allows consumers to download products in an MP3 file format direct to their electronic devices. Capitol-EMI, along with all the other record industry giants learned to evolve and adapted to the changing trends and technologies to contend with the competition, remain profitable, and maintain a share of the marketplace to satisfy consumer appetites.

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Application and Examples

Research conducted by Bersin and Associates (2008) identified 80 organizations that represent best practices in the implementation and execution of the learning process that drives their business. These institutes were chosen because they exceed industry averages and incorporate many best practice mechanisms of organizational learning. Executives provided details for this research on a variety of factors including: (a) the types of learning services implemented; (b) the relationship between HR and corporate learning, (c) the performance management methods adopted, (d) attention to the needs of young workers, (e) the use of advanced technologies, (f) e-learning capabilities, (g) employee career path guidance, (h) global training capabilities, and more. Their research concludes that the organizations developed advanced skills and maturity in strategic planning, learning programs and delivery systems, effective talent management, efficient technology and infrastructure, and valuable performance measurement and analysis (Anonymous, 2008). One of the outstanding learning companies identified in the Bersin research is Home Depot (HD). HD employees take pride that their organization is a people-centered institution. Staffers share the consequences of both successful and failed performances. In addition, HD displays solidarity during challenging times and a keen ability to learn from their hardships. One such example occurred when CEO Robert Nardelli assumed the helm of the organization. Under his militaristic style of leadership, the corporation suffered significant market share loss. The organization discovered that the former GE leader’s tactics which received success in his previous arena, proved ineffective in the HD culture. Nardelli was eventually removed and the HD Board of Directors made effectual changes as a result of that valuable experience.

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Conclusion

Acquiring knowledge from one experience only does not produce strong results, especially in a competitive expanding global marketplace. In addition, learning organizations must remain open to innovative ideas and cultivate a climate that supports team learning in alignment with organizational goals. Organizations that embrace openness to criticism and accept change, where the rate of learning is equal to the rate of change, will have a better chance of longevity. A healthy learning environment encourages good decision making that is derived from wisdom, knowledge, and experience, often as a result of bad decision making. Organizations that can learn from their mistakes and identify opportunities for learning that tend to get lost along the way, will most likely discover and remain on the path of a long and prosperous existence.


References

Anonymous. (2008, August 12). Bersin and Associates names 80 high-impact learning organizations. New York, NY, USA: PR Newswire Association LLC. Retrieved April 3, 2012, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/450191254?accountid=32521

Cates, C. L. (2009, May 17). The creation of a large scale corporate feedback system with a view toward learning organizations and sustainable change in higher education. Cincinnati, OH, USA: ProQuest LLC. Retrieved April 4, 2013

David, G. (Director). (2003). Building a more effective learning organization [Motion Picture].

Lipshitz, Raanan, Popper, Micha, Oz, & Sasson. (1996, September). Building learning organizations: The design and implementation of organizational learning mechanisms. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. Arlington, VA, USA. Retrieved April 3, 2013, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/236344403?accountid=32521

Organizations as Systems

Published April 17, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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As human beings, we spend most of our lives in systems: a family system, a classroom, peer groups, teams, organizations, community, nations, and ethnic groups to name a few. When individuals fail to recognize systems, they tend to fall out of partnership with one another and their surroundings. They are prone to misunderstandings and invent information to explain what they do not know. They create falsehoods and biases. In short, they become separated when they could remain a part of something. People become oppressed when they could live in accord with one another. As a result, most systems, organizations, families, and other groups squander much of their potential. When this occurs without awareness or choice it becomes a blind reflex. Oshry (2007) identifies five types of system blindness: (a) spatial, (b) temporal, (c) relational, (d) process, and (e) uncertainty.  For example, when a person suffers from spatial blindness, they only see part of a system, not the whole. They see what is happening to them, but not necessarily what is occurring elsewhere for instance. They cannot view another’s perspective or comprehend some of the issues they face, the stresses they may feel, nor can they ascertain how their views impact their lives or that of others (Oshry, 2007).

Black-Box

Espejo and Reyes (2011) research contends there is a distinct difference between what they classify as a black box organization and an operational interpretation of an organizational system. The former is concerned with the transformation of inputs and outputs; the latter centers on the relationships that create a whole entity from a set of various components. The black box description is often formulated from an individual’s concept who is trying to control the situation from the outside. In other words, it is a form of unilateral control.  An operational system on the other hand, is connected to ongoing explanations between components that are determined to achieve stability in their relationships. Control in this model is quite different than that of the unilateral control system of the black box frame. It is attained from communications, accommodation and mutual influence (Espejo & Reyes, 2011). An independent contractor for example, may create their own systems of operation, as well as adhere to the systems and parameters from those that hire their services.

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Garvin (2003) postulates that an effective organization must consist of the following six critical activities for a learning organization to be successful: (1) collect information, (2) learn from the successful experiences (benchmark) of others, (3) learn from past experiences, (4) experiment with new ideas, (5) encourage problem solving, and (6) share knowledge (Garvin, 2003). For many businesses, important information for projects  flows as input and data processing. Once data is received, it is then interpreted and formulated into a new project ascertaining priorities and giving attention to deadlines.  A client that conducts a monthly Lunch-n-Learn presentation, for example, to recruit and motivate new clients, would require systems in place to manage the event. Once the data is received regarding an upcoming event, the information is processed and transformed into intellectual properties in the form of invitations, a press release, and creative marketing to support the event. Next, reports are organized from the feedback of potential participants. Once the presentation is completed, follow up systems are implemented to keep connected with participants, including appreciation forms of communication like thank you cards. Feedback for self-assessment is also important. It helps make the next presentation more effective. With having systems in place, including the organization of client information, leaders can evaluate and learn from their mistakes by observing what works and what does not. These systems serve as a tool that help people learn and work better together, as well as serve others more efficiently. Acknowledging mistakes, keeping open communication, listening to feedback, and engaging in active action reviews, are some of the systems organizations have implemented to make their working relationships more effective.

References:

Espejo, R., & Reyes, A. (2011). Organizational systems: Managing complexity with the viable system model. New York, NY: SPi Publisher Services.

Building a more effective learning organizztion (2003). [Motion Picture]. Retrieved April 2, 2013, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hXwBw2EZKHE#!

Oshry, B. (2007). Seeing systems: Unlocking the mysteries of organizational life. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.