Biyernes, Nobyembre 5, 2010

A Learning Organization by Jolito Ortizo Padilla

To quote the old saying from Deal and Kennedy, culture is "the way we do things around here". As quality management developed throught the 1980s and 1990s we recognized that the old "macho" culture, which dealt with issues as they arose, had wide variation in the way things were done and consequently wide variation in what was delivered to the customer.

This led us into process culture and extensive documentation of the 1990s in an attempt to capture an organization's knowledge and produce consistency in its deliverables. This brought a degree of order , but also reduced agility and the ability to respond to new situations.

At the same time we saw the emergence of the "team culture" with its focus on synergy and mutual support. This had a lot of appeal to business leaders and shareholders because it meant that everyone gave 110% . This as good for the organization , but not good for the individual. If people were not team players they were ostracised and we did not know that the inevitable heroism that comes with this culture leads to inevitable burnout of the hero.

We are starting to recognize the true complexity of organizational culture. Business now aspires to be agile , with the flexibility of the macho culture , the reliability of the process culture . There is a recognition that more than 80% of an organization's knowledge is in minds of its people and we capture less than 20% of our knowledge through documentation or as explicit knowledge.

The process driven organization is now morphing into the networked organization and teamwork is becoming looser in its mode of operation. These shifts are crucial if an organization wishes to develop an effective culture of innovation. There are many new behaviours necessary for an innovative culture to prosper and perhaps the most fundamental is exploration, a behaviour that was killed by the process culture. Getting out of the box is vital in order to initiate innovation. Note talking , whether in a moleskin or on blackberry , is a lost art.

Interacting and collaborating are also behaviours that are not done well. The failure rate in collaboration is incredibly high , yet it is essential for successful innovation . You cannot have all the knowledge you need inside the box. Collaboration fails because we focus on legal and financial issues instead of investing relationships. We must take the time to understand and accept behaviours in other organizations. Just because those behaviours are different, it does not mean they are good or bad -they are just different.

Perhaps the behaviours we have lost most of all , as we became risk averse through the 1990s , are experimentation and willingness to fail. We now run away from failure. When failure emerges , meeting attendance declines and phone calls don't get returned, but failure is one of the richest sources of knowledge . If you don't look at lessons learned , you are not a learning organization. A learning organization is the platform for succesful innovation.

Peter Sange in this book, The Fifth Discipline , quotes Arie de Guess as saying :" The only competitive edge an organization has is the ability to learn faster than the competition". I will take that step further and say that edge comes from the ability to apply knowledge.

There is one cruel twist in the culture of innovation. The behaviours I have described must be dominant in the early creative stages of the innovation process. In the latter development and delivery stages where there is a need for speed , there must be a shift to an execution mode and getting things done becomes paramount importance.Successful innovators get things done. Alexander Graham Bell beat Elisha Gray to the patent office by a matter of hours. If you have a good idea, chance is someone else has the same idea. You need to move fast if you want to win.

All of these behaviours need reinforcing if you want to develop culture of innovation. The late Phil Crosby in step 12 of his 14 steps said of recognition: "Appreciate those who participate." If you want a culture of innovation, pick out the behaviours I have described and recognize them. Recognize those people who explore, collaborate, experiment, and importantly learn from failure.


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