This is the third and final article in a 3-part series. The first article was titled “How ‘Learning Organizations’ Beat Natural Selection”
After detailing the importance of a learning culture within a learning organization, I would like to briefly look at several barriers to organizational learning.
These barriers will sometimes be difficult to overcome, and may even cause short-term setbacks. Yet a setback, or we can even refer to it as failure, are really the major driver of adaptation, or organizational learning itself.
The success or failure of learning and organizational development depends on a number of factors, and this is not always the mark of competence in your leadership. When it fails, it’s easy to assume that either you have failed as a leader, or that your team has failed you, and this quite simply isn’t often the case.
Thomas Edison, in his career, tried over 150 times to make a working light bulb, before he at long last mastered the filament technique that once dominated lighting technology. When asked about it, he stated that he had not failed, as he had found over 150 ways to not make a light bulb.
Here are some of the most common barriers that you will encounter as you begin your training process:
1. Stubbornness and Resistance to Change
A key challenge in any change management initiative, or in organizational learning in the big picture, is resistance to change from the stakeholders involved. Whether making significant technological changes within the organization, a transition in leadership or in a shift in the everyday processes that make up the average work day, initial resistance is both natural and common, yet it must be overcome for an organization to continue to adapt.
This is where management must be able to communicate effectively with their teams in order to increase understanding for the need to change, to increase motivation to succeed and to show that their feedback is valued and is an important part of the decision-making process. Managers should stress that the changes are for the benefit of the organization and teams.
2. Lack of Direct Leadership
For an organization to continue to learn and adapt, it must have leadership that is engaged in key processes of learning and performance improvement.
These include awareness of and being involved with individual and team training, the software and tools which aid individuals and teams in performing their tasks, the IT help desk teams which respond to lack of knowledge retention on how to perform specific processes, the HR and organizational development teams that monitor the larger picture of performance appraisals and employee development and the departmental managers who can provide direct feedback about specific individual and team progress and results.
These leaders must not be passive, but be active and direct in observing and analyzing team and departmental performance, and to formulate, plan and implement the necessary changes toward performance improvement.
3. A Focus Solely on Individual Rather than Team Success
In some organizations, a mindset sinks in of congratulation and adoration of personal accomplishments, but a sense of team spirit and unity isn’t really there. Beyond a sense of zeitgeist within the company as a whole, teamwork is viewed as a means to an end, and not something to be valued itself.
For organizational learning to be successful, then team success and unity must be valued equally to if not more than individual success and prosperity. In organizational learning in particular, individual learning and success is only a prerequisite to the larger team and organization.
4. Lack of Value for Learning Itself
In some environments, learning for the sake of knowledge and wisdom itself isn’t present, which can result in a disregard by parts of the whole for the new learning being introduced. The problem here is that for an organisation to be trained as a unit, some individuals must learn new information they don’t immediately need to apply.
When individuals don’t value new learning and growth for its own sake, this will make that aspect of organizational learning very difficult and troublesome overall.
5. Short-Term Focus
It’s often easy to focus on stop gaps to solve short term problems without looking at the big picture. Unfortunately, this is a mistake in organizational learning, as the big picture must always be the focus of all involved. This includes the people learning as well as the leadership in charge.
6. Too Much Control
While being organized and planned out is always valuable, it’s often an unintentional habit for leaders to abuse charts and graphs and the like when planning out organizational learning like any other procedure. The problem is that this kind of thing will frustrate those involved, and the act of charting and plotting everything will take on a mind of its own. It is best to keep the plotting and charts simple. They are needed, but only in small doses most of the time.
The key in the end remains motivation, a willingness for an organization to change and grow, and consistent evaluation of what’s the barriers to organizational change and how best to overcome them.