This paper explores the implications of the learning organization phenomenon for the training and development field. In particular, it considers the following questions: what is a learning organization? - how and why has this phenomenon come about?; does the pursuit to become a learning organization signal a greater or lesser role for the training profession?; and what is or should be the role of training in learning organizations? INTRODUCTION
Today, the rapid pace of change that we all experience demands an unparalleled learning response from organizations (Bennett, 1994). Major economic, social and technological pressures from all around the globe have dramatically altered the environment within which organizations must perform. Rapidly evolving technology, increasing global interdependency, shifting economic bases, diminishing natural resources and a more diverse workforce are just some of the competing tensions that come into play. Organizations that fail to adapt to these environmental pressures in a quick, flexible and comprehensive fashion will cease to exist. Today more than ever before, survival of the fittest means survival of the 'fittest to learn' (Marquardt, 1996). The popular term used to describe this regenerative organizational species is the 'learning organization'. For the past decade, the learning organization has been a 'hot topic' (Peters, 1992; Tobin, 1998), both in the scholarly and practitioner press (Easterby-Smith et al., 1998) - and, why wouldn't it be? In a world characterized by continuous discontinuity, ambiguity and paradox (Pascale, 1990; Laszlo, 1994; West, 1994), the ability of an organization to learn and change is of considerable theoretical significance and practical importance (Edmondson and Moingeon, 1998). There is broad consensus that the hallmark of an effective organization lies in its capacity to learn (Adler and Cole, 1993). Moreover, it is generally accepted that any Organization that does not promote learning -especially fast learning - cannot expect to compete successfully' (Schein, 1993; Bennett, 1994; Bennis, 1996, p. v; Guns, 1996; Schwartz, 1996). Thus, to transform an organization in ways that support learning, responsiveness and innovation - to become a learning organization - has become a major expression of corporate purpose (Mills, 1992). The learning organization is a topic that suggests an enhanced role for the training profession - if only because of its given name and the ostensible link between 'learning' and 'training' (Tobin, 1998). The purpose of this paper is to explore the ramifications of learning organizations for the training and development field. Specific questions of interest include the following: * What is a learning organization? How and why has this phenomenon come about? * Does the pursuit to become a learning organization signal a greater or lesser role for the training profession? * What is or should be the role of training in learning organizations? The literature is full of diverse perspectives regarding what a learning organization is and where the training function fits within this entity. In very simplistic terms, a learning organization is an organization that values and prioritizes learning (Braham, 1995) on an ongoing basis. Hence, learning is the operative word - one that suggests a never-ending developmental journey or process, not a final outcome or a particular destination point. After that, the issue of training's role is very much a matter of philosophical outlook. While cynics may ask, 'If an organization learns by itself, who needs training?' (Kramlinger, 1992, p. 46), to the optimists among us, the question is one of carpe them - how can the training profession capitalize on the prominent role of learning in high-performance work? This paper argues on behalf of the latter position. Hence, the concept of the learning organization does not minimize the role of the trainer; it changes it. Just as organizations must learn...
References: Ackoff, R (1998) Transforming organizations into market economies. In Halal, WE (ed.) The Infinite Resource: Creating and Leading the Knowledge Enterprise, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco.
Adler, PS and Cole, RE (1993) Designed for learning: a tale of two auto plants, Sloan Management Review, 34, 3, 85-94.
Bair, J (1997) Knowledge management: the era of shared ideas, Forbes, 1, 1, 28.
Bell, D (1973) The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting, Basic Books, New York.
Bennett, JK (1994) The building blocks of the learning organization, Training, 31, 6, 41-49.
Bennis, W (1996) Editor 's preface. In Guns, B with Anundsen, K (eds) The Faster Learning Organization: Gain and Sustain the Competitive Edge, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco.
Benveniste, G (1994) The Twenty-First Century Organization: Analyzing Current Trends - Imagining the Future, Jossey-Bass, Inc., San Francisco.
Braham, B (1995) Creating A Learning Organization, Crisp Publications, Menlo Park.
Calvert, G (1994) Grasping the learning organization, Training and Development, 48, 6, 38-43.
Easterby-Smith, M, Snell, R and Gherardi, S (1998) Organizational learning: diverging communities of practice, Management Learning, 29, 3, 259-272.
Edmundson, A and Moingeon, B (1998). From organizational learning to the learning organization, Management Learning, 9,1, 5-20.
Fletcher, L (1997) Information retrieval for intranets: the case for knowledge management, Document World, 2, 5, 32-34.
Galagan, PA (1998) Re-inventing the profession. In Woods, JA and Cortada, JW (eds) The 1998 ASTD Training and Performance Yearbook, McGraw-Hill, New York.
Galbraith, J and McGrath, J (1997) The 'learning ' in the learning organization, The Public Manager, 26, 1, 34-38.
Gates, B with Hemingway, C (1999) Business @ the Speed of Thought: Using a Digital Nervous System, Warner Books, New York.
Gephart, MA (1996) Training and trainers in a learning organization, Training and Development, 50, 12, 43.
Gephart, MA, Marsick, VJ, Van Buren, ME and Spiro, MS (1998) Learning organizations come alive. In Woods, JA and Cortada, JW (eds) The 1998 ASTD Training and Performance Yearbook, McGraw-Hill, New York.
Guns, B with Anundsen, K (1996) The Faster Learning Organization: Gain and Sustain the Competitive Edge, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco.
Halal, WE (1998) Introduction. In Halal, WE (ed.) The Infinite Resource: Creating and Leading the Knowledge Enterprise, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco.
Harrison, B (1994) Lean and Mean. The Changing Landscape of Corporate Power in the Age of Flexibility, Basic Books, New York.
Hutchens, D (1998) Outlearning the Wolves: Surviving and Thriving in a Learning Organization, Pegasus Communications, Inc., Waltham, Mass.
Kanter, RM (1995) World Class: Thriving Locally in the Global Economy, Simon and Schuster, New York.
Ketchum, LD and Trist, EL (1992) All Teams Are Not Created Equal: How Employee Empowerment Really Works, Sage, Newbury Park, CA.
Kofman, F and Senge, PM (1995) Communities of commitment: the heart of learning organizations. In Chawla, S and Renesch, J (eds) Learning Organizations: Developing Cultures for Tomorrow 's Workplace, Productivity Press, Portland, OR.
Kramlinger, T (1992) Training 's role in a learning organization, Training, 29, 7, 46-51.
Lankard, BA (1995) New ways of learning in the workplace, ERIC Digest 161 (ED 385778).
Laszlo, E (1994) Vision 2020: Reordering Chaos for Global Survival, Gordon and Breach, Switzerland.
Marquardt, ML (1996) Building the Learning Organization, McGraw-Hill, New York.
Miller, ffl (2000) Class Lecture Notes in TRDEV 460: Foundations in Training and Development, Penn State Harrisburg, School of Behavioral Sciences and Education, Middletown, PA.
Mills, DQ (1992) The learning organization, European Management Journal, 10, 2, 146-156.
Nadler, L and Nadler, Z (1994) Designing Training Programs: The Critical Events Model, second Edition, Gulf Publishing Company, Houston.
Neef, D (1998) The knowledge economy: an introduction. In Neef, D (ed.) The Knowledge Economy, Butterworth-Heinemann, Boston, MA.
Negroponte, N (1995) Being Digital, Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
Nerney, C (1997) Getting to know knowledge management, Network World, 14, 39, 101.
Nonaka, I (1991) The knowledge-creating company, Harvard Business Review, 69, 96-104.
O 'Dell, C and Grayson, CJ Jr (1998) IfOnIy We Knew What We Know, The Free Press, New York.
Pascale, RT (1990) Managing on the Edge: How the Smartest Companies Use Conflict to Stay Ahead, Simon and Schuster, New York.
Pasmore, WA (1988) Designing Effective Organizations: The Sociotechnical Systems Perspective, John Wiley & Sons, New York.
Peters, T (1992) Liberation Management: Necessary Disorganization for the Nanosecond Nineties, Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
Popper, KR (1969) Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 3rd edn revised, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.
Schein, EH (1993) How can organizations learn faster? The challenge of entering the green room, Sloan Management Review, 34, 285-292.
Schwartz, P (1996) The Art of the Long-View: Planning For The Future in an Uncertain World, Doubleday, New York.
Senge, PM (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Doubleday/ Currency, New York.
Snell, R and Chak, AMK (1998) The learning organization: learning and empowerment for whom? Management Learning, 29, 3, 337-364.
Stamps, D (1997) Managing corporate smarts, Training, 34, 8, 40-46.
Tobin, DR (1998) The Knowledge-Enabled Organization: Moving From 'Training ' to 'Learning ' to Meet Business Goals, AMACOM, New York.
Toffler, A (1970) Future Shock, Random House, New York.
Von Krogh, L, Ichijo, K and Nonaka, I (2000) Enabling Knowledge Creation, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Watkins, KE and Marsick, VJ (1992) Toward a theory of informal and incidental learning in organizations, International Journal of Lifelong Education 11, 4, 287-300.
West, P (1994) The concept of the learning organization, Journal of European Industrial Training, 18, 1, 15-20.
Zemke, R (May 1998) In search of self-directed learners, Training, 35, 5, 60-64, 66, 68.
Zuboff, S (1988) In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power, Basic Books, New York.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document