It can be very difficult to know if an organization is truly a learning organization. Senge’s characteristics of a learning organization can sound more like slogans than like things that can truly be identified and measured. One way to determine if an organization is a learning organization can be found in this link. According to this paper, there are three main types of “building blocks” that a learning organization must have.
The first of these building blocks is a “supportive learning atmosphere.” What this means is that people in the organization must feel that it is safe for them to learn. People must be open to others’ viewpoints. They must not make others feel that unusual viewpoints or seemingly stupid questions are unwelcome.
The second building block is a set of “concrete learning processes.” An organization cannot just hope that learning will occur. Instead, it must provide structured opportunities for learning. It must have formal processes by which it looks for new ideas. It must have processes for identifying problems and trying to figure out ways to solve them. It must give workers opportunities to improve their skills.
The final building block is “leadership that reinforces learning.” In essence, this means that the organization’s bosses must engage in creating a supportive learning atmosphere. They need to show that they are willing to take the time to identify problems. They need to show that they will listen to and seriously consider all points of view.
If an organization has all of these building blocks, it is likely to be a learning organization.
One way you can tell that an organization is a learning organization is if it is successful. A really successful company has to be a learning organization. You also need to make sure the company has a vision and everyone knows what it is. Consider Apple, for example. Apple has an unusual training program designed to condition employees to be ambassadors for its brand. This method is not going to work for every company or every brand, however. Each company needs to find its own niche and develop that niche.
A company is more than the sum of its parts. All of the parts of a company work together as a system. In a true learning organization, anyone should be able to come up with ideas and have a way to share them, from the janitor to the manager.