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Toward a learning organization, guidelines for bureaucracies

by Ford, David Franklyn

Abstract (Summary)
Today, organizations find themselves faced with constant change resulting in re-organization, downsizing, rightsizing, outplacement, mergers, and an ever increasing pressure to become more cornpetitive and better able to do more with less. This has become a challenging task for leaders in many organizat ions. Research is showing though, that some organizations are en joying signif icant success. The leaders and the employees are dealing rnuch more effectively with the onslaught of change. Many of these are what Peter Senge (1990) calls " learning organizations " . In these organizations there is a shared vision, teamwork, open-ness, and a deep rooted commitment to the principle of learning at al1 levels. For many other organizations such as government, steeped in the conventions of traditional bureaucracy, it appears to be an almost impractical approach to leading an organization. These large bureaucratic machines have struggled perhaps more than otherç, to adapt to new demands and become more changeagile. The reasons for this are numerous. This paper examines the bureaucracies, clarifies some of the challenges it faces, and outlines a set of principles and guidelines which would move an organization toward the concept of a learning organization. iii Prior to that however, a comprehensive review of the literature reveals what Senge and others are saying about the learning organization. Senge is used as a benchmark against which other opinions are explored, cornpared and contrasted . The five disciplines which Senge outlines are fully explored and discussed, with a view to developing a definition of the learning organization. Throughout this review, there is continuous reference to the bureaucracy and the unique problems it faces in becoming more of a learning organization. Also, as part of the literature review, the concepts of organizational learning and the learning organization are examined. This is necessary in order to develop an appreciation for the overall process of becoming a learning organization. The inter-relationship and interdependence of these concepts are discussed. Finally, as these appreciations and understandings are fully developed, a set of principles and guidelines are compiled which recapitulate the ideas and perspectives presented throughout the paper on how to move toward the concept of the learning organization. 1 would like to express sincere thanks to my advisor, Dr. Jean Brown, who has provided not oniy extremely helpful advice, but also encouragement and support throughout the whole process of my research and writing. 1 would like to thank Dr. Bruce Sheppard, whose guidance and suggestions were also most helpful. I wish also, to thank Dr. Frank Riggs for his administrative assistance and advice, and Ms. Dorothy Joy whose administrative expertise in the process made matters so much easier. 1 wish to thank al1 members of my family for their interest and encouragement, especially my wife , Cheryl , who has always been very supportive and my young daughter, Ellice, who always had the interest to inquire as to rny progress, and the patience for me to finish.
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Source Type:Master's Thesis

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Date of Publication:01/01/1997

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