Are You Part of a Learning Organization?


I have the privilege to work with some very dynamic organizations and one of the indicators of whether or not they continue to grow is their ability to learn–both from their mistakes as well as from others. My first consultation with a new client serves two distinct purposes: Is this a good fit? Is this a learning organization? I have been in situations where I knew that my company could add a lot of value to a client, but, unfortunately, they were not teachable and therefore, not a viable business relationship. Here’s what I look for in making my assessment of an organization’s teach-ability quotient.

Learning organization

Secure leadership. The leader sets the tone for the rest of the organization. If the person at the top is not a learner and willing to be taught, then he or she will create a culture of insecurity and excuses. In my experience that shows up first when the leader has an excuse or explanation for every suggestion I make. One of my favorite lines of all time was “even thought this is a large city, it’s about 3 years behind the rest of the country. We just can’t move too fast.” That was just ludicrous.

Commitment to Excellence. We have played down excellence lately because the word has become synonymous with “extravagant.” But excellence compels us to do our very best in every area of ministry or business. If that’s not your focus, then why bother trying to get better?

Healthy team dynamics. Dysfunctional teams are territorial and easily threatened by outsiders. They can’t learn because everyone is usually spending  most of their time trying to figure out how to protect their territory or launch a counter-attack at the “enemy” on the chair next to them. I know that they will eventually turn on me.

What does a learning organization look like to you?

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  • Great criteria for interviewing a client (while they’re interviewing you). This is so important. With out it, you’re setting yourselfu2014and themu2014up for frustration and maybe even failure.nnP.S. These double as good questions for our own organizations as well, huh.

  • Several times I’ve been members of organizations where the leaders dreaded the very idea of their team members actually learning and growing. Unfortunately, it took me years to realize I had no obligation to stay in such an enmeshing environment.nnUnless we’re really desperate for employment–family to feed, extremely limited options–we should ask potential employers the same questions you ask potential clients. Even if we ARE desperate, we should keep our eye on the door and be ready to bolt at the first opportunity.nnLife is short. God has fashioned us for a tremendous purpose. We shouldn’t settle.

  • Great post!nIs it just me or are most excuses ridiculous? (preaching to the man in the mirror here)nnA learning organization to me is:n1. Great at really listeningn2. Open to new ideasn3. Sometimes leaps before looking

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  • Anonymous

    Now that’s what you call an “acid test.” I love it, will be sharing these nuggets.

  • you know how to cut to the core of things.nn”In my experience that shows up first when the leader has an excuse or explanation for every suggestion I make. “nnspot on. nnTo me, a learning organization is one that isn’t afraid to let it’s members assess itself. It doesn’t shy away from internal criticism. It doesn’t run from the brutal facts (if you’ll allow my to quote Mr. Collins).

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  • What I love about the idea of a ‘learning organization’ is that it’s cross cultural! I work at a hospital in Niger, west Africa, and our intercultural leadership team has been trying to implement these principles . . . change is always slow, but we’ve seen great progress due to increased ‘security’ of our leadership. Hoping ‘excellence’ and ‘healthy dynamics’ are just around the corner.

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