Learning Organisations

by Sharon Varney

Benefits and challenges

Developing a learning organisation is not a task to be undertaken lightly. So, why do it?

Outcome Why do it?

1. Create a great place to work

  • I want to attract and retain great people.
  • I want to motivate and engage people.
  • I want to love coming to work.

2. Improve performance

  • I want to develop a high-performing team.
  • I believe there are better ways of working.
  • I believe there is massive, untapped potential in my organisation.
  • We need to achieve more without extra resources.
  • We need to work across a number of locations (sites/countries).
  • I want to make a difference as a leader.

3. Increase your capacity for change

  • We need to be more responsive to customers.
  • We’re facing increased competition.
  • We need to change, but we’re not sure how.
  • The pace of change is speeding up and we need to be ready for anything!

As you can see, the potential benefits for you, your team and your organisation are truly significant.

What are the challenges?

Developing a learning organisation is no easy task. For many people, it means a significant change in thinking and behaviour.

Below are some of the potential challenges you might face – and some thoughts on the value of working through them.

Challenges Key considerations

1. It’s easier to stay in our own comfort zone.

  • In a fast-changing world, staying the same can be risky.

2. It requires managers to lead by example – do what I do, rather than do what I say.

  • Developing yourself is a key part of developing your team – and many managers forget that.

3. It takes time.

  • The learning organisation is not about quick fixes, it’s about building organisations that are sustainable over the longer-term.
  • Releasing the power of team learning can save time – in time.

4. It flies in the face of entrenched views about managers always being ‘in control’.

  • You might be in charge, but you’re not in control.
  • Systems thinking can help you better understand and hence influence the wider pattern of relationships.