!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Assessing Organizational Learning Capacity

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Assessing Organizational Learning Capacity

The March 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review provides a survey tool that you can use to diagnose how well your organization learns, and how well it refines its strategies and processes.

The survey is the centerpiece of the article, "Is Yours a Learning Organization?" by David A. Garvin (professor of business administration at Harvard), Amy C.Edmondson (professor of leadership and management at Harvard), and Frencesca Gino (visiting professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon). You can also access the survey online at los.hbs.edu.

The three-part structure of the survey reflects the authors' view, based on research findings in the organizational development field, that there are three basic building blocks that enable organizational learning:
  • A supportive learning environment — A learning organization cultivates an environment in which it is psychologically safe to ask questions, admit mistakes, etc.; in which differences in perspective are appreciated; in which there is openness to new ideas; and in which people have time for reflection.

  • Concrete learning processes and practices — The processes in question encompass "experimentation to develop and test new products and services; intelligence gathering to keep track of competitive, customer, and technological trends; disciplined analysis and interpretation to identify and solve problems; and education and training..." It is also vital that the organization have systematic means of sharing information (such as after action reviews).

  • Leadership that reinforces learning — Practices to look for include inviting input from others in discussions, asking probing questions, good listening, and providing time and resources for learning from experience.
Garvin, Edmondson, and Gino emphasize that the numeric results of the survey need to be evaluated in comparison to benchmarks, which they provide, drawing on the results of two sets of surveys they conducted in 2006 among 225 executives from a cross-section of companies.


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