AutoCo Epsilon & Learning Histories LO10116

George Roth (groth@MIT.EDU)
Sat, 21 Sep 96 22:02:57 EDT

Replying to LO10080 --

At 9:44 AM 9/19/96, Benjamin Compton wrote:
>Senge's presentation was centered around his, and his colleagues
>involvement in the AutoCo Epsilon project. Information about the project
>can be found at the following URL:
>[Host's Note: This was a very large scale satellite program downlinked to
>many sites world-wide. I attended at a site near Boston and thought it was
>excellent, and I heartily second the recommendation to retrieve and read
>the AutoCo Epsilon case. It is a very serous examination of a real and
>important org learning project, with the company name disguised, conducted
>by the MIT Org Learning Center. ...Rick]
>Last night I read the online version (some 40 pages shorter than the
>printed version), and found it to be very enlightening. I thought,
>perhaps, if there was enough interest, we might use this as a springboard
>for some good dialogue. Personally, I'd love to share my thoughts and
>feelings with others about the project, and what I learned from reading
>the paper. Any takers?
>The paper impressed me enough that I'm going to start having exploration
>meetings on Tuesday and Thursday at 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. with my
>colleagues, where we explore what we learned from the report, how we can
>apply the lessons learned in our own business and in the business of those
>we work with.

I can not say how pleased I am to get this feedback on the AutoCo
Learning History. This document is the first in a series of learning
history manuscripts that will become available through the MIT Center for
Organizational Learning (and published as well). [By the way, only the
first part (Origins and the first of six themes) of the AutoCo Learning
History is available on the web. The rest my be ordered from the MIT
Center - order form available on the web site. The reason for this is that
learning histories are meant to be read and discussed in groups - as Ben
suggested above.]

The intent of the AutoCo Learning History, and the learning history
projects in general, is to produce documentation that provides context and
information for others to learn from. Learning histories are a process
for capturing, assessing and diffusing pilot projects in organizations.
They are in-depth oral histories, with commentaries, that help an
organization's people learn more effectively from deep changes that some
parts of the company have been through. In the organizations we work
with, we help people cultivate and codify their collective judgment of
their progress, and in their development of a learning history, help
organizations replicate successes and avoid failures.

We have over the last two to three years worked to develop this "learning
history" approach, and given the long invested in developing the
methodology and writing the learning histories, hoped that our objectives
would be met as they reached more general audiences.

I would like to "talk" more with people that are interested about:

1) the implications of organizational learning efforts in large
corporations based on reading the AutoCo Learning History. The format of
a learning history is aimed at providing material for people having a
group conversation about it. As such, a learning history is a means to
more informed conversations, a "transitional object," for conversations
that create experiences from which people learn. And, there are five very
important themes in the AutoCo document beyond what is on the web.

2) the general issues in assessment and producing documentation that
examines learning efforts as vehicles for diffusing learning and creating
learning opportunities. We have worked a lot on principles of the process
of planning for, conducting, writing, validating, and disseminating such
learning manuscripts. There is a paper, available on the MIT Web sit,
that I authored which outlines what we have found to be "essential
characteristics" of efforts that promote learning from assessment and
documentation. I think this is a critical, leading edge issue in the
development of learning processes, and improvement efforts, in
organizations in general. I will also go so far as to propose that we are
creating an exciting innovation in the evaluation and OD fields. And, now
that I have been provocative, to be more humble, I would be happy to hear
what others think and learn from that.

3) opportunities to learn more about the methodology, and how to
construct teaching and learning program for developing this new set of
skills. We have a curriculum that teaches people the learning historian
skills in the process of doing a learning history. This is a six day
program done in an initial three day module, several months later, after
doing work, another two days to critique and reflect on initial drafts,
and then one day several months beyond that again on the dissemination
process. There are ongoing practitioners meetings to continue to develop
skills and refine and share practices. I would be interested in learning
from people who have established new fields that involve theory, method,
practice and associated tools.

Thanks for your comments,

George Roth
MIT Center for Organizational Learning
30 Memorial Drive E60-311
Cambridge, MA 02139
fax: 617/252-1998


George Roth,,

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