Organizational Learning – Team and Management

Organizational Learning Differences for the Team and Management

(Mental Models)

By Shawn P. Quigley

In a previous post, we discussed the five principles behind Organizational Learning (L.O.). In this post, we will discuss how the different levels of an organization view the principles and why these different views make it difficult to obtain a learning organization. We will divide an organization into two levels; worker and management. As we have previously discussed perception does not change reality, but it does change how we respond to it. With that, lets’ begin our discussion.

Mental Models

Mental model or as we have previously called it the open mental model is the topic for this discussion. As we have previously stated an open mental model is the action of continually clarifying and improving upon our perspective of a situation or environment. This requires that we listen to the positive and negative perspectives of others and weigh how those perspectives can applied to clarify or improve our own perspectives. If that we not challenging enough there is another part to the application of the open mental model, position within an organization. It should be all too evident that where you stand determines what you are seeing and what you see shapes your perspective on everything.

Team and Management Perspectives

The position of a worker is obviously a subordinate role to that of management. It is this position that commonly hinders an individual from providing or even approaching a management team member with a perspective that differs from what they see as the management’s perspective. In some cases, this concern of possibly challenging the perspective of management can become so ingrained in an individual that even larger issues go unreported until something dramatic occurs. How does a worker overcome this dilemma? Usually they do not and if they do, they become fearful that their position is in jeopardy. This concern about having an open dialogue is often referred to as office politics by the individual harboring the concern.  So how is this dilemma overcome by the worker? It cannot be done solely by them. This requires an environmental change by the management team. This environmental change to promote useful and open dialogue can only occur from the top down if it is to succeed.

Team has No Fear of Reprisals

That brings us to the management team’s role in fostering an open mental model. The irony of why some members of the management team do not promote this environment is that they also are concerned about their position of power. This is to mean that if a manager were to allow his/her employees to modify his/her perspective. What would happen next? Would the employee replace the manager? What most managers fail to realize is that one of their purposes is to facilitate their personnel to grow and develop. Without this constant development of their employees, management team members themselves will not be able to advance. So actually promoting an environment where an open mental model can flourish aids employee, manager and employer.

Organization Environment

In summary, the first step to having an environment where an organization can reap the benefits of an open mental model requires trust in people’s desire to better themselves and the organization. With establishing a good method for sharing perspectives within an organization, some of the concerns of negative results can be minimized. Thus aiding in the development of the desired state of openness and sharing of perspectives. However, as stated previously the first set toward this goal must come from the management team and it must be supported honestly.

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