Organizational Learning Constructs

The nature of learning at the organizational level is a challenge to measure. Huber (1991) defines  organizational learning as the development of new knowledge or insights that have the potential to influence behavior.

There are a number of human resource development articles that reflect the individual learning experience and objectives. In considering the organizational learning process, I began to look at the organization level for learning in online communities of practice for an organizational science perspective.

Image via Organizational Learning Software… <http://www.sqakki.com/LearningOrg/>

In researching and working on my final organizational theory paper, I began to assess how learning characteristics can be evaluated in online learning networks and communities of practice. There are a number of models and evaluation instruments to assess learning in organizations; however the constructs established by Yang, Watkins, and Marsick (2004) provide a solid framework for methodology and empirical assessment:

Systems Thinking – Senge (1990) identifies a learning organization as an organization that has the ability to creat alternative futures and possesses the following five disciplines: team learning, shared visions, mental models, personal mastery and system thinking. 

Learning Perspective – The learning organization is an “organization that facilitates the learning of all of its members and continuously transforms itself in order to meet its strategic goals” (Pedler, Burgoyne & Boydell, 1991). Eleven areas are identified through which this occurs: a learning approach to strategy, participative policymaking, informating, formative accounting and control,, internal exchange , reward flexibility, enabling structures, boundary workers as environmental scanners, inter-company learning, learning climate and self-development for all.

Strategic Perspective – a learning organization requires an understanding of the strategic internal drivers necessary for building learning capacity. Goh (1998) identifies five core strategics building blocks: clarity and support for mission and vision, shared leadership and involvement, a culture that encourages experimentation, the ability to transfer knowledge across organizational boundaries, and teamwork and cooperation.

Integrative Perspective – the concept of the learning organization is “on that learns continuously and transforms itself..Learning is continuous, strategically used process – integrated with and running parallel to work” (Watkins & Marsick, 1996).

These constructs will help define and lay the ground work to establishing a solid theoretical framework for assessment. I welcome any and other suggestions to reviewing online communities of practice with regards to organizational learning.

References

Huber, G.P. (1991). Organizational learning: The contributing processes and the literature. Organization Science, 2; 88-115.

Goh, S. C. (1998). Toward a learning organization: The strategic building blocks. S.A. M. Advanced Management Journal, 63(2); 15-20.

Peddler, M., Burgoyne, J., & Boydell, T. (1991). The learning company: A strategy for sustainable development. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Random House

Watkins, K.E. & Marsick, V. J. (1996). In action: Creating the learning organization. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development.

Yang, B., Watkins, K. E., & Marsick, V.J.(2004). The construct of the learning organization: Dimensionsmeasurement, and validation. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 15(1); 31-55.

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