30th April 2021
Learning Organisation (LO)
The Learning Organisation is hailed by management guru, Peter Drucker as the organisational concept of the future. Peter Senge’s Five Disciplines revealed the 5 pillars of LO as illustrated in Figure 1, as portrayed in Spotify, a Swedish audio streaming and media services company that champions learning and continuously transforming itself. Employees are encouraged and persuaded to continually develop their know-hows, capacities, and chances to innovate (Flood 2014).
At Spotify, the organisation structure is people-driven with largely autonomous and focus on self-management, communication, and accountability. The benefits are evident in LO and the traits of Transformational leadership (TFL) (Cruth, 2021) as shown in table 1 (Anders, 2020).
We acknowledge that there are pitfalls to LOs, but the benefits in table 1 outweighs by bringing about the competitive advantage through enhanced competencies, personal mastery, greater efficiency, increased productivity, which are the important drivers for performance. (Sanchez & Heene 2010).
When Martin Lorentzon and Daniel Ek founded Spotify in 2006, their vision and mental model were to tackle the piracy in the music industry (Martin 2014). They influence the learning to be competitive by being visionary and as a programme developer, Daniel knew what motivates the team; and capitalized that trait (Sriram 2020). Spotify’s annual revenue growth rise from €6.76bn in 2019 to €7.88bn in 2020 and enjoys continued growth (Iqbal 2021).
Another example of LO with an exemplary change agent is Netflix. Reed Hastings leadership style has addressed much of the barriers to learning organisation and successfully made Netflix a successful company today. Figure 2 illustrates how Netflix has applied Senge’s LO disciplines into its business model.
Barriers to The Learning Organisation
Continual and disruptive change is inevitable, change agents such as Martin, Daniel and Reed has made it for the companies they led, resulting in positive outcomes. Figure 3 illustrates the barriers to LO (Thomas & Allen, 2006). Leaders must challenge these barriers by resolving and tackling the complexity of the systems, break the resistance through motivations and regular dialogues and communications, as we see in the two successful LOs.
Highlighting some examples: Martin restructured the Spotify organisation into squads, tribes, and chapters to break the conventional structural silos. Reed at Netflix provided necessary resources and emphasis on what can be learnt from mistakes instead of blame game.
The change agents mentioned, display characteristics as illustrated in figure 4.which are the characteristics of successful change agents (Lunenberg, 2010). Hasting positively reinforces the nine factors to one another and synergizing the people, resources, energies, and activities involved in interacting in the change effort that mutually support success. Hemophilly, is predominant in all the leaders with their shared vision and thinking alike with the team.
The view of leadership in LOs are as displayed and defined in figure 5. The leaders build the organization where they continually expand their teams’ capabilities, clarify their vision, share their mental models, and comprehend the complexity (Senge 1990). Both Martin and Danial portrayed these additional leadership traits by uniquely reshaping the business operations and organisation whilst Danial was more of the “Teacher”, coaching and mentoring the teams and Martin designed the structures and visions.
I have reflected in this post from a macro view where Learning Organisations have benefited companies and the employees, when they are looped into the shared vision of the organisation. Thus, creating a win-win situation for all. Change is predestined, and employee’s resistance is unnecessary and may sometimes be disruptive to the flow of the operations. However, as we go deeper into the organisation and understand the challenges, we see how ethical leaders will apply various theories and models to motivate their team.
Leaders are the catalyst to achieving these goals and to be an exemplary leader, the ‘toolbox’ is wide and deep, from being ethical, able to motivate followers and running the business. In a learning organisation, the leaders have additional traits as we see above.
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