Organization of a LO LO7585

William J. Hobler, Jr (
Thu, 23 May 1996 20:22:38 -0400

Replying to LO7536 --

David J. Skyrme wrote

>What is the "organisation" of the learning organisation.
>to which we have had a few interesting replies. Only William Hobler (as far
>as I can see) looks at the design and structural aspects (vs. the
>behavioural ones).
>First he makes an assumption that the organisation is more than 400
>people? Why 400? Is this because this is the number now generally agreed
>to be those that can communicate effectively within a single building? I
>would put no assumption. The shift is towards networks of smaller

The 400 person assumption was just for that reason. I define a learning
organization as one in which everyone is in a close trusting relationship.
In fact I believe that it is relatively impossible for most people to
maintain this level of relationship with more than about 130 people. With
relationships outside of the work place taking some of this away and
organization of 400 people would probably be served by seven or more
'learning communities.' Some of these would be communities that span
others to expand learning beyond just one small group.

>I think you mean hierarchy, not bureaucracy.

Call it what you will there will be a supervisor and the supervised,
probably in all human organizations. Even in the small business there is
the owner that pays the wages and the worker that earns it.

>My approach to the organisation design (and its more likely to be self
>designed) would be from a systems perspective.

Much good thinking snipped here ---------------------

> One thinks of network and neural metaphors - and
>the aspects of these that traditional organisations do not effectively
>address are

More snipped...........................

My inclination is to organize around either the customers in product
industries and around the organization's strategic objectives in service
industries and government. Basically I think the organization should
organize along the axis of what they want to be. It is a future focus.

The values expressed and walked by leadership should encourage the growth
of learning organization atmosphere which serves the growth of knowledge
and sharing of that knowledge.

>The detailed structure will depends very much on factors such as nature of
>tasks (routine non-routine), level of skills, individual characteristics
>(some people like structure, others thrive in ambiguity).
>So my overall conclusion is that there is no best design, but that a
>systems perspective is a good one to start with.

I agree as long as the systems allow for growing people and their ability
to work collaboratively toward mutually agreed goals. Industry news seems
re pleat with 'work flow' implemented by 'xyz' software. This is placing
service and administrative people into the same work climate as the
assembly line. It can and has been grossly missused. I would rather form
a cross trained team and allow them to schedule their work, and reward
them for doing better work (however that is defined ethically) as a team.

I am afraid that with work flow software and the emerging process control
software that can route less structured intellectual work to a desktop we
are separating people rather than making teams. Consider the computer
programmer in a large organization. S(he) just finishes testing a module
and sends it on. The process control software notes that (s)he is
finished immediately e-mails another program specification and the
expected completion date and time. My gosh s(he) didn't even get to stand
up or look away from the computer.

People must be with people to be in a learning organization.

-- Bill Hobler

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>