First Principles of LO LO11714
Tue, 7 Jan 1997 18:06:27 -0500

Replying to LO11696 --

For quite a while, I have been a silent (and contented) reader/observer,
but the exchange between Rol and Marilyn prompts me to respond, for
intellectual and emotional reasons.

Marilyn quite appropriately asks why the emphasis on Senge's Five
Disciplines. Afterall, other normative theorists, including Watkins
(1994), Garvin(1993), May(1993), McGill(1992), Tomassini(1991),
Lessem(1991), Garratt(1990), Pedler(1989), Hayes(1988), Normann(1985) and
others!! all identify factors and/or conditions which they claim engender
the creation of a learning organization.

The effort to connect the notion of (scientific) principles and Newton's
law of physics with Senge's five LO disciplines is confusing. What is the
purpose of such an exercise? - to see specifically how the five
disciplines somehow comprise or define LO First Principles? or is it more
generally about the empirical or substantive basis for any normative
approach? I think Marilyn's ending comments focus on the latter question
when she suggests research on describing why and under what conditions
learning occurs.

An important research question is whether we consider learning a dependent
or intervening variable. That is, if we are going to study learning, how
does it fit in our overall theory of organization. For example, given how
the LO has been defined, the LO label could easily be replaced by the
Adaptive Organization(AO) or the Effective Organization(EO). Which brings
me back to the empirical issue. What is the role of learning in whatever
end state or condition we are trying to achieve and/or maintain. Given
the definition of the whatever-we-call-it (LO, AO, EO), it seems that our
concern is for learning as a means rather than as an end. So from a
systems perspective we can ask, how does learning relate to other
organizational processes in realizing the AO or EO?

Also to go back to Newton and the confusion for me, one cannot understand
Newton's laws without understanding the properties of matter. We cannot
understand the learning in and of organizations unless we have a theory of
organization. What theory of organization does any LO normativist use as
a framework to generate a set of prescribed disciplines and what is its
basis? Without some some sense of that, how can we know whether one
normative theory (or set of disciplines) is more valid than another?


Tony DiBella


Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>