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Organizational Learning Essay

1408 words - 6 pages

Learning organization is a concept of collective learning that results from individual or team learning. The concept can be seen as a win-win situation based on the argument that individuals can develop as the organization grows. A learning organization may choose to empower workers by giving greater decision making power, how to complete their tasks and work in self managed teams (Spencer and Kelly, 2013) In this essay, various debates and case studies on organizational learning and learning organization will be identified and it will be discussed if the concept is in fact based on firm foundations.

According to Spencer and Kelly, 2013 workplace learning needs to begin with the ...view middle of the document...

Peter Senge, 1990 emphasizes that the role of the “leader” (i.e. manager) is “to help people restructure their views of reality”.

There is an underlying tension between work and learning and a broader concept of what lifelong learning could be. Research suggests that rhetoric proclaiming the virtues of workplace restructuring (towards cell production, self managed teams, learning organizations) seldom matches workplace reality (Bratton, 1999). A research conducted by Fred Schied and collegues (1997a, 1997) found many examples of contradictory outcomes resulting from the application of workplace learning and management reorganization strategies. They also found confirmation of Forrester’s fear of how the brave new world in relation to “work and learning” can become part of the new forms of oppression and control in the workplace. They explain how some competent knowledgeable long-time workers found themselves downgraded and left with lower pay. They also demonstrated how “empowered” workers who challenge organizational policies are often quickly silenced.

In those few cases where genuine moves towards a learning organization have taken place, workers report greater job satisfaction and more flexible work patterns and having more say over how work is conducted. Bratton (1992) reports that this is often tied to the nature of work i.e. gains for workers in high-skilled work with batch production favouring a core workforce, but few gains for less skilled workforce in mass production factories. Mike Welton (2005) commented “harnessed to the money-code the business organization is actually learning disabled. It is intensely pressurized to learn along a single trajectory: to enhance shareholder profits and interests”.

Changes at work are often used to suggest the move from Taylorism to teams and employee empowerment while many researches argue that Taylorist measurement and control at work remains or has been expanded as well as the knowledge required at work has changed from simple know-how to “work process knowledge”- understanding of the production process beyond a particular worker’s own job. It has been argued that the purpose of “work process knowledge” is to turn workers away from understandings of ownership, authority, and control and towards accepting managerial objectives and employer ownership of value added in the production process (Spencer and Kelly, 2013).

Bratton (1992) suggested that the learning organization claim of empowerment for workers in contradicted by close electronic surveillance of operating activities resulting in “computer-controlled autonomy.” And that employers are caught between two contradictory imperatives: regulating workers’ activity too tightly undermines workers learning and creative potential, whereas empowering workers undermines employer and management control.

The importance of labour productivity in growth, competitiveness and trade is closely allied to the workplace learning agenda in the HRM...

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