Does Your Organization Have a Learning Disability – Disability #1 – "I Am My Position"

Does your organization have a learning disability?

As we progress through life we are required to learn new skills to advance to the next level. Even when we enter the working world we are required to learn new skills. We stop growing and advancing as soon as we believe we have learnt everything we need to know. At that point we begin vegetating.

The same can be said for organizations. Every organization grows with enthusiasm up to a point and then it slows and even stops. An organization needs to learn to grow. When an organization believes it knows everything it needs to know it will stop growing. The problem, in the case of an organization, is that it needs to learn just to stay in one spot let alone advance.

Think about how computers have changed the face of business. By refusing to learn about computers a company today could not hope to compete. Without computers there are very few companies that can survive and thrive.

In 1983 a Royal Dutch/Shell survey found that a third of the firms in the Fortune 500 in 1970 had vanished. They were not just smaller but they ceased to exist. The survey estimated that the average lifespan of a large industrial company is less than forty years. Not long considering all the effort that goes into building a company.

Peter Senge in his book “The Fifth Discipline” identifies 7 learning disabilities found in organizations. Over the next 6 eZines I will cover each of these disabilities. If you can see any of these disabilities in your company then we really suggest you put some effort into solving the problem. We addressed one disability “The Myth of the Management Team” in a previous eZine. Follow this link to read about that disability

The best way we have found to create a learning organization is through Best Year Yet. Everything that is needed in a transformation is addressed within the program.

Learning Disability 1 – “I am my position”

We are so loyal to our jobs that they have begun to define who we are and how we think. Many people can’t see themselves doing anything else and when asked what they do for a living will respond “I am an accountant” or the equivalent. They usually do not see the purpose of the organization they work for or how they contribute to the whole. Most see themselves within an organization over which they have little influence.

A job is seen as that, a job – defined by limits and tasks. Something which we try and cope with and do our time in, according to the job description. Jobs and functions do not overlap. We do not see how our job has any impact on another function within the organization.

The problem with “I am my position” is that we see the organization as a bunch of silos, none interacting with the others. An accountant only does accountant work and a marketing manager only does marketing work. The accountants are not concerned with how their decisions impact any other positions or functions within the company. They make accounting decisions based on accounting impact and not organizational impact.

The other problem associated with this learning disability is that people have little sense of responsibility for the results attained when the different silos interact. They only see their responsibility for their silo and no more. As a result when problems occur it can always be blamed on ‘someone else’. Problems get lost and nothing is learnt from unexpected results.

A learning organization on the other hand ensures systems thinking – the process of seeing the organization as a whole interacting organization. Where each decision is evaluated on how it impacts the whole. Holistic management in Best Year Yet terms.

Do your people interact? Do they understand how their decisions impact the entire organization?