Organization of a LO LO7497

William J. Hobler, Jr (
Sun, 19 May 1996 21:25:13 -0400

Replying to LO7474 --

Michael McMaster in a reply to Bill Hendry asked,

>Bill's question raises a question for me.

>What is the "organisation" of the learning organisation. I keep
>hearing about behaviours but don't recall seeing anybody address the
>organisation as organisation.

>Any takers?

Sure, and I ask the list to treat this just as a starting place.


1. That the organization under consideration is large, It is larger
than about
400 people. This assumption is made to exclude small easy to create
learning communities. Well, relatively easy to create.....

2. The organization is in a business that is regulated by more than one
government agency. This assumptions is made to require some interface
with a bureaucracy that can determine its fate.

3. The organization is in one a developed nation in the current era. This
assumption forces consideration of the communications rich world of
today. At least some of the people working in the organization will
be technology aware and all of the people will have exposure to
global working conditions.

The organizational structure of this organization, if it is a learning may
take many forms. I postulate that at least three forms will co-exist, a
traditional hierarchy, permanent teams, and transitory teams.

The hierarchy will exist to "manage" the organization. That is the
financial accounting, resource management and regulatory reporting
functions will be performed in a traditional bureaucratic structure.

There will be perminent teams of collaborative people. These will take on
the form of learning communities. While the work and performance of these
teams will change over time the community structure will be relatively
constant. These teams will exist to accomplish the core business of the
organization, They are the 'engine build' team in n automobile factory or
the 'Customer Care' team in a software manufactoring group.

There will be teams formed to solve a particular problem. These teams
will form, perform and desolve. In some instances these will be formally
called together and in some cases a group of people will get together
because they feel that a collaboration would make their work easier.

There may be some groups of peole who form a learning community to fill
some business needs not covered above. For instance a group may form
because there is a need to collaborate among organizational units that is
not otherwise recognized. For instance. In a electric, gas and
telecommunications utility leaders in the maintenance and repair may
collaborate on scheduling and accomplishing their work.

I think that this is not radically different from many organizations
today. There may be a move away from the bureaucracy, but I think that
elimination of it is at least several generations away.

My conception of the level of trust needed to sustain a learning community
is that the neccessary trust cannot be built in large communities. I
would (my opinion) place the upper limit of a learning community at about
130 people. Therefore I see a large organization containing several to
many learning communities with considerable overlap among them. While I
think that a Chief Executive Officer and the direct reports should be a
learning community I think that learining communities have to be formed
horizontally and vertically in an organization.

I am going to stop. There are many aspects of this I would like to
explore but that will be contingent on the reponse to this post.

-- Bill Hobler

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