LO as Hype/Fad? LO2733

Duncan Sutherland (dsutherland@gc.net)
Mon, 11 Sep 1995 08:05:34 -0400

Replying to LO2720 -- was: Intro -- Julie Beedon
[...Subject line changed by your host...]

>I sometimes worry that 'learning organisation' will become the
>next hyped thing which people will dabble with and then say does
>not work - why is it that we try new things for a few months/years
>and then move on to another fix?

You're right, Juile. Management _does_ have a penchant for 'quick fixes'
as well documented by Michael McGill in AMERICAN BUSINESS AND THE QUICK
FIX (Henry Holt, New York, 1988). In fact, Peter (Senge) the Great,
himself, suggested that this might well be the case with respect to the
learning organization in a lecture he gave earlier this summer in
Washington, D.C. Peter also noted that organizational learning 'doesn't
work' in many -- perhaps _most_ -- cases. Personally (and probably
heretically given the focus of this particular list!), I think
'organizational learning' already _has_ become a fad -- although that
doesn't mean that its 'fundamental truths' are any less valid. This
really shouldn't surprise us because the same thing has happened recently
with respect to so-called 're-engineering' and its close cousin 'business
process re-design'. It has been noted that as many as two-thirds of all
re-engineering projects ultimately fail (see, e.g., John A. Byrne,
REENGINEERING: BEYOND THE BUZZWORD [Business Week, May 1993, 12]).
Nevertheless, many of the underlying principles of re-engineering, as
articulated by Michael Hammer et al. (see, e.g., Michael Hammer and James
Champy, REENGINEERING THE CORPORATION [HarperBusiness, New York, 1993]),
remain both commonsensical and valid. The bases for many (if not most)
business fads are to be found in conventional wisdom that management has
had for years if not decades -- but needs to be reminded about from time
to time!

>It sometimes seems to me that the concept of a learning organisation
>is easier to describe than to achieve and the the individual
>defensive routines and barriers to learning are magnified immensly
>inside organisations.

I was particularly struck by this statement. You seem to be talking about
'organizational change' as much as about 'organizational learning'. Are
these one and the same thing in your mind? It seems logical that
organizational change would almost inevitably involve learning new ways of
working (i.e., organizational learning). However, they do not seem to me
to be the same thing. Any further thoughts on this?

Duncan Sutherland
Chief Executive Officer
The Sutherland Group, Inc.
698 Counselors Way
Counselors Close
Williamsburg, VA 23185

804-221-8077 Phone 804-221-8078 Fax dsutherland@gc.net