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23 The process of learning and developme... > The notion of the learning organizat... - Pg. 285

Chapter 23 the Process of Learning and Development 285 organization achieves what is intended and, secondly, when a mismatch between intentions and outcomes is identified and corrected. He distinguished between single-loop and double-loop learning. These two types of learning have been described as adaptive or generative learning. Single loop or adaptive learning is incremental learning that does no more than correct deviations from the norm by making small changes and im- provements without challenging assumptions, beliefs or decisions. Organizations where single-loop learning is the norm define what Argyris calls the `governing variables', ie what they expect to achieve in terms of targets and standards and then monitor and review achievements, and take corrective action as neces- sary, thus completing the loop. Double loop or generative learning involves challenging assumptions, beliefs, norms and deci- sions rather than accepting them. On this basis, learning takes place through the examination of the root causes of problems so that a new learning loop is established that goes far deeper than the traditional learning loop provided by single-loop or instrumental learning. It occurs when the monitor- ing process initiates action to redefine the governing variables to meet the new situation, which may be imposed by the external environment. The organ- ization has learnt something new about what has to be achieved in the light of changed circumstances and can then decide how this should be done. This learning is converted into action. The process is illustrated in Figure 23.5. As Easterby-Smith and Araujo (1999) commented, single-loop learning could be linked to incremental change. In contrast, double-loop learning is asso- ciated with radical change, which may involve a major change in strategic direction. It is generally assumed that double-loop learning is superior, but there are situations when single-loop learning may be more appropriate. the notion of the learning organization A learning organization was described by Senge (1990: 3), who originated the idea, as one `where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together'. Further definitions of a learning organization were provided by Wick and Leon (1995: 299), who stated that it was one that `continually improves by rapidly creating and refining the capabilities required for future success', and by Pedler et al (1997: 3), who referred to it as an organization that `facilitates the learning of all its members and continually transforms itself'. Garvin (1993) suggested that learning organizations are good at doing five things: 1 Systematic problem solving ­ which rests heavily on the philosophy and methods of the quality movement. Its underlying ideas include relying on scientific method rather than guesswork, for diagnosing problems ­ what Deming (1986) called the `plan-do- check-act' cycle and others refer to as `hypothesis-generating, hypothesis-testing' techniques. Data rather than assumptions are required as the background to decision making ­ what quality practitioners call `fact-based management', and simple statistical tools such as histograms, Pareto charts and cause-and-effect diagrams are used to organize data and draw inferences. 2 Experimentation ­ this activity involves the systematic search for and testing of new knowledge. Continuous improvement programmes ­ `kaizen' ­ are an important feature in a learning organization. F I g u r e 23.5 Single- and double-loop learning Define expectations Take action Decide on corrective action as necessary Single-loop learning Monitor and review Double-loop learning Re-define expectations as necessary