Organizational learning

All posts tagged Organizational learning

Knowledge Management

Published May 3, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Most experts agree that knowledge management is not utilized to its fullest potential in many organizations.  The ability to respond quickly to changes in the marketplace and recognizing opportunities has become an important competitive advantage.  Hanley’s (2003) research asserts that knowledge management must be considered as a prerequisite, for it has become a significant component and more visible in the balance sheets that reveal the financial worth of organizations.  The asset of knowledge management has the power to deliver organizational success in a variety of ways including: (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).  In other words, knowledge management is important to the success of organizations because acquiring and processing information increases situational understanding, helps to identify and analyze relationships, and enables higher quality decision making.

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Knowledge Management Components

Some organizational leaders believe that a huge investment in information technology will bring about higher quality decisions, only to discover that the delivery and presentation of said technology shows very little improvement in knowledge generation for decision making.  Leaders in this case fail to recognize that factors identified in the decision making process encompass more than the process of base technological usage.  It also includes the following influential components: (a) the organizational culture, (b) the organizational processes, and (c) the compensation and reward systems that have been established in the firm.  Organizations with knowledge exploiting capabilities are known as knowledge intensive firms because they have implemented an organizational system that efficiently manages and uses information effectively to stimulate organizational learning.  For example, one aspect of knowledge management amalgamates organizational information in a manner that produces value by generating new intellectual property (Ward, 2006).  Organizations that do not apply knowledge management strategies can hinder organizational development and productivity.

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Knowledge Management Programs

Effective leaders and management teams comprehend that information increases situational understanding.  Hsieh (2007) postulates that knowledge management in organizations must consider three viewpoints: (a) a business view that focuses on the why, where, and to what extent the company must invest in or exploit information – including which strategies, products and services, alliances, or acquisitions or divestments should be considered from a knowledge based perspective; (b) a managerial view that is centered on determining, organizing, directing, and monitoring knowledge related activities that will help achieve business goals; and (c) a hands-on operational viewpoint that focuses on applying professional skills to manage explicit knowledge-based operation.  Knowledge management programs should include strategies and vehicles to help enable and identify the organizational direction and facilitate effective activities to help achieve those desired outcomes (Hsieh, 2007). The use of technology, organizational systems, and socialization are three examples of how knowledge management programs can be implemented in organizations to foster higher quality decision making that can affect their development and productivity.

Technology – One knowledge management program that leaders employ is the use of technology.  Researchers observe that the three common technologies utilized the most for knowledge management are e-mail, virtual face-to-face conversations, and the use of databases.  These systems can help manage knowledge as both formal and informal processes and exists at all levels: divisional, departmental, team, and individual.  For example, with communication and computer technology, personnel expertise is documented and shared within a company at unprecedented speed and efficiency.

Organizational Systems – Another example of how organizations apply knowledge management consists of the different processes and coordinated systems they execute. For instance various forms, reports, spreadsheets, and other procedures can be used to track activity and progress. This information collection process identifies strengths and weaknesses as well as progress towards outcomes.

Socialization – Finally, one of the most successful knowledge management strategies that organizations employ is social interaction. These face-to-face interactions occur at all levels and in a variety of ways, often intertwined in the production and administrative processes and include: (a) debriefing new members, (b) debriefing returning members, (c) classroom training, (d) luncheons, (e) project team meetings, (f) working with external experts on a project, (g) team conversation, and (h) informal conversations (Haney, 2003). An organization’s climate must include a system that encourages socialization as a means to stimulate staff interaction and knowledge sharing.

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Conclusion

Knowledge management is the key to the survival for any organization.  A collaborative culture that values trust and offers incentives opens opportunities for knowledgeable individuals to share information freely.  Executive leadership that does not implement and support knowledge management systems will most likely experience difficulty governing a productive and efficient organization. Most experts agree that the main constraints to knowledge management are incompetent employers, ineffective strategies, and poorly designed structures.  Organizations that foster a culture which provides support for an effective knowledge management program will experience higher levels of success, growth, and profitability in the marketplace.

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References

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

Hsieh, H.-J. (2007). Organizational characteristics, knowledge management strategy, enablers, and process capability: Knowledge management performance in US software companies. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Ann Arbor, MI, USA. Retrieved April 18, 2012, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304700978?accountid=3252

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

Measuring The Learning Experience

Published May 1, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Spitzer (2007) contends that performance measurement focuses on the following three fundamental components: (a) perception, (b) understanding, and (c) insight. The ability to measure these elements can have an extremely transforming impact on organizations in positive ways. Spitzer suggests one reason performance measurement is not always able to effectively deliver positive outcomes, is because they are rarely socialized successfully. In other words, the outcome must have a positive effective that becomes a part of the social fabric of the organization. When assessment tactics are used for the purposes of improvement rather than to make judgments, the authentic power of performance measurement is unveiled. Organizational transformation measurements can lead to improvements in strategic execution, better investment decisions, increased value creation and value capture from diverse assets (tangible and intangible), improved relationships (customers, personnel, suppliers, partners, distributors, and others), increased synergy and synchronicity of resources, increased forecasting accuracy, staff that is motivated to operate at higher performance levels, greater organizational learning, and so much more (Spitzer, 2007).

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Education involves important questions about the structure and function of knowledge, the ethical imperatives of such knowledge, and the purposes to which learning must adhere to. It is a process of individualization and socialization. Learning programs and systems can be effective but are strongly influenced by the environment (Roberts, 2012). Learning about new software at a seminar for instance, is a very different experience than learning about it from reading the manual, sitting near a fireplace, sipping a warm cup of coffee. I conduct business in a virtual environment for example. My services as an independent contractor involve creating new systems for clients who are located in other geographic regions. As a sole proprietor, forms of measurement at this time do not include appraisal systems, financial reviews, knowledge testing, skill assessments or company surveys to ascertain performance and competency gaps. This presents however, many other learning opportunities for performance measurement as we examine our working relationship to determine what systems and strategies are effective and which ones are not as efficient. Initially, we implemented techniques from past experiences and methodologies that were effective, expanding on them to incorporate technological advances. The new methods also help monitor and act as performance measurement tools. For example, one learning measurement system we employ assesses client feedback and activity. Reports are created from spreadsheets that contain client information, identifies their industry classification (broker, loan officer, real estate agent, or private lender), dates with details of activity, the type of communication utilized (email, phone, text or snail mail), whether gifts were included as part of a reach out and connect campaign, and other relevant information. These systems provide clear records with detailed accounts of the individual that can help us identify competency gaps and other components that may reveal strengths and weaknesses.

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Spitzer believes measurement is a necessary condition for success and requires action. In other words, a high blood sugar reading is not useful if it is ignored. What makes measurement so significant is the capacity to instigate informed action that provides an opportunity for people to engage in more effective behavior (Spitzer, 2007). I recommend the implementation of systems that help organize information to keep track of client and personnel activity because in my experience, they can help monitor behavior and progress, efficiently and consistently. This strategy can provide data that will assist in creating a positive experience. In an intensely competitive marketplace, businesses today are required to operate outstandingly, effectively and reliably. Organizational leaders that comprehend this notion and use performance measurement to navigate strategically with systems and processes experience a tremendous competitive advantage and are likely to achieve high performance levels that are conducive to repeat business.

References:References:

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

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

Organizational Learning Processes

Published April 22, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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There is a growing interest in the learning processes in organizational contexts fueled by a belief that innovation and education are essential for survival. Garvin (2000) postulates, that there is no one way of successful learning. Although leaders command an arsenal of skills, each method of education remains consistent, in that it requires the acquisition, interpretation, and application of new information (Garvin, 2000). We were assigned a task this week. We were to assume the top manager role of a major clothing store asked to help design a program to increase the level of organizational learning. As the top manager, my first strategy is to conduct an analysis to ascertain the current organizational behavior and develop a way to retrieve unfiltered information from the hearts and minds of the staff. The data gathered would consist of accurate intelligence and up-to-date information. The information collection process would center on identifying and comprehending behavior that is influenced by: (a) the technologies available, (b) the barriers and regulations that are implemented, and (c) the social demographics. This method would serve to acknowledge weaknesses and strengths that will assist in the design of an effective program to increase the level of organizational learning.

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Another strategy I would consider, is to include the formation of systems that incorporate employee self-analysis and assessment. This helps to encourage a learning culture that embraces openness from direct observation, feedback and evaluation as part of the process. Argyris (1992) states organizational learning is a proficiency that all organizations should cultivate. The better they are at learning the more likely they can identify and correct errors as well as recognize when they are unable to detect and correct their own miscalculations. He contends that organizational defenses are one of the most significant barriers to learning. These defenses include policies, practices, or actions that prevent participants (at any level) from experiencing growth. In this context, organizational defenses are anti-learning and overprotective. For this reason, the data collection process for the clothing store must be constructed to identify existing barriers and defenses that can obstruct the learning process. This is one way to help identify policies and actions that prevent growth (Argyris, 1992).

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Research shows that questionnaires are the most popular method used to gather information, because they obtain subjective data about the participants, with measurable documented results that can be analyzed. In order to develop an effective information gathering plan, data may be collected by survey, interview or focus group. The data collection plan would: (a) focus on specific topics, (b) contain appropriate tested questions, (c) include participation from the stakeholders, and (d) address any anonymity issues. The observation design process must also include the ease of analysis, tabulation and summation. Once the unfiltered data is collected, it will be examined and disseminated to identify problems and trouble spots that distinguish which systems are successful and which models are not as effective (Phillips & Stawarski, 2008).  Furthermore and equally important, as a means to connect emotionally and engage staff enthusiasm and support, I would recommend a briefing for the participants.  I would provide an explanation for the significance of the program and articulate that it is part of a special campaign with end goals that will reflect positive results. Finally, I would endorse the use of incentives and include an introduction video or other form of electronic communication from the highest executive officer to personalize the plan and help manage any employee fears. For the clothing company scenario, the combination of these strategies will help provide the detailed intelligence required in the development and design of a more effective learning organization.

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References:

Argyris, C. (1992). on organizational learning (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, Inc.

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

Phillips, P. P., & Stawarski, C. A. (2008). Data collection: Planning for and Collecting all types of data. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.