Organizational Learning: A Theoretical Perspective
Asif Arif (24.01.2016)
The aim of this report is to develop understanding about organizational learning. The scope of report includes the concept of OL with several definitions and then theories of OL, which helps in understanding the behavior of people in complex situation to take appropriate actions.
1. Concept of Organizational Learning:
The concept of Organizational Learning has been defined by many scholars, which includes the Argyris & Schon (1978), Fiol & Lyles (1985), Huber (1991), Levinthal March (1993), Day (1994), Sachez (2001) and so many other scholars. Here are some of definitions;
Organizational Learning is basically the process of identifying and rectifying the errors form the organization (Argyris & Schon, 1978).
Organizational Learning is process of learning through its information processing and change of behavior (Huber, 1991).
OL refers to process of change in behavior and cognition, without focusing to increase the organizational performance (Crossan, 1999).
Finally, Sachez (2001) states that OL is conducting with aim of generating, disseminating and applying the knowledge on an organization, which revolves within five learning cycles, individuals, individual-Groups, groups-organization and others.
The above definition provides the common understanding from different contexts, which describes to collect and use the organizational knowledge in order to understand the external or internal factors, which affect the organization. So there is need for organization to understand the environment, and behave like a learning organization, which is very successful to understand and adopt the change into business environment by finding opportunities from it.
2. Theories of Organizational Learning:
As defined above, organizational learning is studying the behavior of individuals and groups in different organizations, their structures and different circumstances (Shafritz 2001). The theory of organizational learning provides an organization with help to understand the complex situation and also provide knowledge to develop strategies or take actions into complex situations (Berger 2000 Bolman & Deal 2003, Birnbaum 1988). Here we will discuss the some of important theories and concepts of organizational learning, which helps to understand the concept of OL and its application to solve environmental problems by understanding the people’s behavior within the organization.
According to Senge (1992) the focus of organizational learning is heavily on individuals, along with the strong leadership, because when people expands their capabilities into shaping future, then there is need of strong leadership which are responsible for creation of mental modals and shared visions.
Garvin (1991) states that organizations can learn only, when behavioral and cognitive developments can be done with in organizations and organizational learning can be measured through conducting audit of behavior and performance of behavioral changes and cognitive developments.
According to Argyris & Schon (1996) the organizational learning comprises on both cognitive and behavioral development and organizations learn through individuals. And learning is based upon detecting errors and rectifying errors within the organization.
Duncan & Weiss (1979) has presented its theory which states that organizational learning is based upon increase in the organizational knowledge to improve the performance and actions by understanding the actions and behaviors of individuals which run the organization.
These above theories also focusing on only two thing, one is cognitive development and secondly behavioral development, and if we find the theories of others authors like, March & Olsen (1975), Shrivastava (1983), Huber (1991), Stata (1989) and others, we will find only these two perspective to understand the concept and theory of organizational learning.
3. Organizational learning: A Critical Review:
Organizational Learning is considered as non-imitable asset for company, which can provide the competitive edge to company along with the financial benefits (Barney 1991, Werner felt 1984) and can be used to develop new entities and product efficient products by organization. But there is a lot of criticism on Organizational Learning regarding is philosophy (theories), its concept, its methodologies and its implementation which vary from individuals to individuals, organization to organization and situation to situation.
Sources of Data Includes the already available criticism made by different authors during peer review of against the story and some more critical points as suggested for enhancing the level of understating. Here we will discuss the important issues in OL concepts;
As theory of OL do not focus on other performance measures which includes the creativity, innovation and leadership. So when any planned project is not implemented and regulated, becomes fails. As it does not focuses the other performance parameters. For example, when Honda got successes on one country, is considered the high product quality and design and other performance factors are neglected, like creativity, innovation and leadership. So these issues are not discussed properly organizational learning.
According to R. Mark Biddle (2005), Although OL is considered non-imitable & valuable resource for organization but this theory does not cover several issues, First, its focuses more the product performance and productivity more than learning improvement and it also does not discuss the product performance results for considering as input for learning or knowledge (Takeuchi & Nonaka 1995). Secondly, the theory of OL is neutral, and does not define the learning value, role of behavioral development and ways of learning are not discussed. Third, OL does not behavior as distinct element is organization to achieve growth and productivity.
The March & Cyert (1963) has publish boon on organizational learning, which have important outlines were, organizations learns from its experience, organization in short run, changes its behavior according to pre-defined rules and in long run, changes its behavior due to broad general rules. But Dill and Cangelosi (1965) produced its book, which contains the argue against former book, which states that the model of March & Cyert (1963) may be good in stable circumstances but it does not show suitability from working in dynamic circumstances, as there are lot of tensions between organizations and individuals.
A different critique on OL has presented by Schon & Argyris (1978) which states that the model of Cyert and March is based upon the rationality assumptions, as individual behavior does not follow the rationality and both organizations and individuals protect themselves from happening unpleasant event by developing defensive measures. And the issues defined by Schon & Argyris (1978) were later discussed by other scholars, like Weick & Daft (1984), Shrivastra (1983), Hedberg (1981) and so on.
According to Carig Herndon (2006), in the criticism, it has bee identified, the organizational learning process is single loop learning, which is not enough, because the organization is established and run by some norms and values, which governs the organization into decision making and taking corrective actions and these norms and values are included on double loop learning process.
Yes. Off course, the critique by March & Cyert (1963) is suitable, in which it states that OL theories are not suitable for dynamic circumstances. Because organization has to deal a lot of factors, (external & internal), stake holders and some other opposite forces from market, influence the business decisions, so org. have lot of stress in dealing these forces and the ideal situation does not even exist into org. framework but always stress and tension, so this theory can not work.
It has been many critical arguments and also solution for enhancing organizational learning through two important perspectives, behavioral development and cognitive development of individuals and groups within the organization to observe from all theories presented by authors, so the in order to get the ideal level of rationality, the individual’s behavior and cognitive process must be targeted to prepare suitable actions for diverse circumstances.
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