Jan Leslie in a perceptive message wrote
<Quote> I would even go further: I even try not to use the phrase
"Learning Organizations" ... Organizations do not learn. People learn.<End
But organizations are groups of people. Moreover groups of people respond
to conditions in consistent ways as a result of training or repeated
stimuli. That is they 'learn' a response. Whenever you see a group of
fire fighters move into a burning house you see a group learned response.
Is it so far fetched to attribute to groups of people the ability to
Again Jan Leslie wrote
<Quote>An organization ... "sometimes" seems to have a side effect of
trying to control its members<End quote>
Group learned behaviors can be a response to force or fear of destructive
force (being fired) or learned behaviors can be a response to incentives
that appeal to each member of the group. The recent fall of centrally
controlled economies is one example of the failure of force and fear in
forming sustainable behavior patterns.
Leadership, in part, is about finding and using the right incentives. Two
forces seem to be altering the definition of 'right' incentives. The
first is, in the industrialized world, the satisfaction of the primary
needs for sustaining life. Many people are choosing to move away from
high pay and prestige for other values in life just as the CEO of American
Express has. The second is more general access to how managerial and
political systems have manipulated behavior and assumed control of our
lives. It is more accurate to say how managers and politicians have
assumed control of our lives. This paternalistic behavior from people in
authority is less and less acceptable.
I once thought that the primary role of a leader was to clear obstacles
out of the path of those he or she lead. It is that and more than that.
At least the leader must help people establish goals and objectives and
then provide them the capability to attain them. Note: I believe that the
leader cannot direct. Rather, provide freedom to grow, to make errors, to
learn and succeed.
Providing the capability to attain goals must be active. If the led
require added skills then training or education is called for. This is
not an 'equal opportunity' situation, it is assuring that the resources
needed to attain chosen goals are available when needed.
The people led also have a stake and responsibility in the process. They
must discern what is in the best interest of the organization and
themselves. Hopefully these are congruent. As the interest of the
organization and its people come more and more congruent, more and more
freedom of choice and action can be experienced. Using knowledge of their
mutual interest, their choices should support their own growth and the
growth of the organization.
Organizational and individual growth can also be a defining attribute of a
Note that in this scenario organizational control atrophies and is
replaced by individual, self control. It is similar to maturation process
of children, as they assume personal responsibility and exhibit self
control more freedom of choice is allowed them.
In a true "learning organization" are there a roles for leaders and
managers? If there are what are the roles? Is there a progression from
their roles in the hierarchical organization of today to the "learning
organization"? I suggest that these questions may profit from discussion
by this august group.
-- "William J. Hobler, Jr." <firstname.lastname@example.org>