Organizations in the United States are constantly changing. Some are changing for the better and others are changing for the worse. Those that are successfully changing are most likely considered learning organizations. These learning organizations are constantly learning and incorporating new knowledge into their everyday work. They all have a lot in common in the way they go about their day to day and long term operations. I would like to discuss some specific organizations and why they are considered learning organizations. Before examining a few organizations, lets look at what a learning organization is and what some characteristics of learning organizations are.
A learning organization is one of any size that encourages an environment of learning and progress. An organization can come in many different forms. It can be a large business, a small local business with a few employees, a school or non profit organization. The vision may be the most important aspect of a learning organization. Looking toward the future and constantly trying to improve and evolve will make a successful learning organization. Richard Karash has said "A 'Learning Organization' is one in which people at all levels, individually and collectively, are continually increasing their capacity to produce results they really care about"(Karash).
In his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization, Peter Senge talks about the five disciplines that make up a successful learning organization. Those five disciplines are shared vision, mental models, personal mastery, team learning, and systems thinking. Mastering these five disciplines may take a lifetime but practicing them day in and day out is essential to a successful learning organization. Having a shared vision is asking the question What do "we want to create together?" The right mindset and belief of success is behind the mental models. Personal mastery is making sure that you are self aware and are capable of knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Team learning is a sense of comradery and knowing that everyone is in it together. Systems thinking is making sure that we always keep the big picture in mind and understanding the interrelationships throughout the organization.(Senge)
There are numerous organizations that have done the right things to become learning organizations. One of those organizations is the U.S. Army. The U.S. Army has shifted towards a learning organization Since the Golf war in 1991. They have focused on training, knowledge, and learning in an effort to improve the organization. David Garvin, a Harvard business professor and leadership consultant, conducted a workshop with the United States Forest Service in which he discussed successful learning organizations. He gave many examples of successful organizations, including the U.S. Army. He spoke about how critical it was for learning to take place and information to be shared throughout the organization. "The Army found for instance when it was in Bosnia, the first group of troops in, the quickest thing they found was if you found a snow covered road without tracks, it typically meant it was mined. You wanted to pass that information along as soon as you could to make sure no other units found it out the hard way"(Garvin). This was a good example of the importance of information sharing throughout an organization because it obviously could have had fatal consequences.
The Army has also implemented after action reviews(AAR) to ensure learning and retaining of information. After any training mission or real life situation, the Army reviews the situation and critiques performance. These AAR's are now conducted on a daily basis(Garvin). By conducting the AAR directly after an action, the information is still fresh and the people are more likely to retain information and learn from what just happened. In the early 1990's Staff General Gordon Sullivan had a vision of introducing new...
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