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					                                                                                 HRQMC Briefing Paper
                                                                                      6 January 2003

                                 Learning Organizations

Lots of discussion has gone on about handling knowledge as a resource, with little practical suggestion
for front line managers. Telling everyone you are busy managing knowledge will most likely get some
odd looks and a word from the boss about productivity and tending to business!

But there are some useful perspectives and approaches that won’t get you into trouble and can even be
articulated in a briefing to show how aggressive you are about productivity.

In traditional, control/authority forms of management, and even in our new networked, Lean,
organizations, we mostly likely deal with problems and initiatives with ANALYSIS. Elements and
processes are assumed to have definition of themselves, without reference to the larger system they
operate within. Everyone is a specialist. We strive to ensure the availability of necessary skill sets, to
implement lean practices which eliminate waste and reduce time of processes. The results are worth the
effort, but don’t address all the need.

Today, fragmentation is the cornerstone of what it means to be a professional, so much so that we call
ourselves "specialists." Accountants worry about books, operations managers worry about production
and inventory, marketing managers worry about customer base, and nobody worries about the business
as a whole.

Problems like the decline of a corporation's vitality and innovativeness resist piecemeal, analytic
approaches. We continually fragment problems into pieces; yet the major challenges we face in our
organizations and beyond are increasingly systemic.

       For example: new technology, a constant feature of our work environment, demands that we
           change organizational structure and processes. New equipment means new workforce
           organization and staff support, and new ways of working. Computerized communications
           means implementing just-in-time material flow. Synthetic materials mean closer tolerances
           and a demand for less variance in production flow.

Nature of Change

Analytic methods address the need to outdo the competition and improve value of the organization
through productivity. Analytic methods are the means by which we make the resources we have more
productive. To make those resources do something different, to take advantage of new markets or
overcome a crisis, we need other means.

Big Changes historically occur with 2 characteristics:
       1. They affect everything.
       2. They demand new methods and tools. Our best tools/skills are developed as useful ways to
           deal with the old situation, but that has all changed

          Future State                         Resources                 Organization to Accomplish
Big Changes                         Regional                            Learning
Little Changes                      Organizational                      Managed

If your strategy presumes only little changes that can be handled completely within the organization then
you are in for some shocks in the near term. Mergers, technology advances, demographic shifts, terrorist
defense policies, and new competition each portent significant decision making challenges to even small
                                                                                 HRQMC Briefing Paper
                                                                                      6 January 2003

organizations. The life span of any corporation in America is 4 to 5 years. Continuing beyond that
means successfully dealing with a Big Change.

In simple terms this is the offer that cannot be refused. So how best to cope while minimizing cost and

Ways to Change

       How to address changes? Two ways: Lineal and Systemic.
        Lineal presumes a point of autonomous authority and accountability.
        Systemic presumes the capability to exercise judgment and reason at every step and level.

Learning Organization:
        Embodies new capabilities beyond traditional organizations
        Build by communities of servant leaders
        Arise through performance and practice
        Treat process and content as inseparable
        Accommodates the danger of learning

Work of the Region - to support Learning Organization structures
       Community-Building Activities
       Practical Experimentation and Testing

Trends and Characteristics

The future comes out of trends already occurring in our present. We know some features of the future
from these trends, as listed here. In further briefings we'll track the trends and elaborate on what they
are becoming.

      Costs will crash
      Systems will be customer/user centered and personalized
      Operations will become constant - 24/7
      Convenience will be a high value
      Convergence of technologies will increase convenience, expand capabilities, and lower costs
      Expert system empowered processes will develop
      Middlemen disappear
      Changes can come from anywhere
      Resources will seek opportunities anywhere
      The rapidity of better, less expensive products will lead to a continued process of replacement
      Focus of policy will be on success
      Venture capitalists will focus on opportunities
      Real breakthroughs will create new products and new expectations
      Speed matters
      Start small but dream big
      Business-to-business is the first big profit opportunity
      Applying quality and lean thinking can save enormous amounts
      Partnering will be essential

Mary Jean Menintigar Mary Jean Menintigar