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Learning Organization

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Running head: WE’VE ALWAYS DONE IT THIS WAY!

WE’VE ALWAYS DONE IT THIS WAY!
Dale Chaisson
Brandman University

Self, Systems, & Leadership
Dr. Brooks
November 21, 2013

We’ve Always Done It This Way! Is it possible for an organization to succeed without some type of Learning System in place? If so, how does one quantify the success statistics? What is the culture like? Does this organization promote upward mobility? These are some of the issues, problems, and concerns I’m faced with in my current situation. Hopefully, during the course of my research and dissection of my organization I’ll be able to pinpoint the ROOT CAUSE. All to often we (human beings) tend to take the least path of resistance of any particular situation at any given time. Well, it’s time to face the music-so to speak. It’s time we cycle back and match our vision with reality. I can remember my first day speaking with the team, boy was that an eye opener! All I heard was, “this is how it’s supposed to be done. However this how WE do it because my way is proven-and has been for the last 30 years. So you just do what I say and you should be okay.” Needless to say, I knew right then and there I had my work cut out for me. As I met more and more co-workers the common theme was, “ just stay under the radar and you’ll be okay.” learning disabilities of this magnitude pose a huge threat to everyone’s forward progress. Yes, my company has a cornucopia of learning disabilities. The following is my dissection of my organization by learning disabilities by department: * The Myth Of The Management Team- Senior Management * The Illusion of Taking Charge- Supervisors. * I Am My Position- Hourly Employees. Do I attack these issues head on, or do I gradually make a difference form within? Often times I hear, “we are committed to change and encourage ideas from everyone”. When in reality, they (senior leadership) are just making these statements to keep the “wolves” at bay. It’s constant reactive vice proactive. The “Band-Aid” fix seems to be their solution to everything. Meanwhile, we get closer and closer to the iceberg of catastrophe while losing customer confidence and business. The comparison of my organization against the maturity continuum model (Covey, 1989) is that of dependence. Now from an outsider looking in, that would seem normal since the business aspect of a corporation is built upon dependencies. For example, corporations depend on employees to perform work, companies to deliver materials to build a particular product, and logistics to deliver their products to customers. However, as days past and my observations increase, it’s evident that the majority of my co-workers definitely live by the “what’s in it for me” (WIFM) rule. Unfortunately, many of them think there is an “I” in team. Eroding goals are prevalent and the opportunity to take the next step of becoming a high performing learning organization and moving up to the highest level of said continuum model- independence, is slowing slipping away.
Creating The Mental Model
Why are mental models so powerful in affecting what we do? In part, because it affects what we see. Two people with different mental models can observe the same event and describe it differently, because they’ve looked at different details and made different interpretations. (Senge, 2006) The process of creating the mental model and streamlining the implementation is an intergral part of this phase. Mainly because, mental models that go unrecognized are dangers to the learning organizaton. Thus, it is imparitive an organization clearly creates the mental model that aligns with the values and ethics of its employees. By doing so, there’s little room for error and/or mis-interpertation. My ideal situation when creating the mental model would start with two simple rules: 1. Encourage creativity- Recognizing everyone is unique and everyone matters. 2. Foster a positive environment.
The Shared Vision Phase The shared vision phase is the most important part as it is the foundation to any successful corporation. Without a shared vision, one cannot even attempt to build any sort of learning organization. My shared vision phase would entail, at a minimum, the creation of a vision and mission statement by using such tools as positive visioning, concept shifting, and values alignment. The aforementioned statements would be simple, specific and contain culture specific values of the organization as it effectively carries out its operations. More importantly, the statements must also have input from everyone. This is also be an excellent opportuntiy to utilize several excersises presented throughout the course of this term. Three powerful self reflection excersises come to mind that would definitely get the creative juices flowing: * Time Line Reflection * Current State Excersise * Vision Board Exercise
The Hiring Phase This step of the plan combines the previous phases. By the time this phase is reached, the mental models and shared visions are aligned with the core values of said corporation. The idea the hiring phase is to bring employees aboard that are genuinely committed to the “big picture.” This will be done by utilizing a interview panel that includes a team member from several cross-functional departments. Traditional interviews are not applicable as applicants are heard and not seen. Thus, preventing any preconceived notions that may cloud the judgement of the panel members.
The Team Learning And Systems Thinking Phase
This is the point where team starts thinking together and forming inter-relationships. The mental model, shared vision, and mission statement have been completed and implemented. Archetypes and system thinking maps are used to analyze problems and recommend changes/solutions to senior management. Corporate buy in is evident by the high morale displayed by the employees. Production is up and so is profit. The oganization is fostering a positive creative environment that encourages ideas for continous improvement. Often times, some old ideas need to be discarded in order to move forward. A plan has to be put in motion to successfully motivate new innovation ideas and techniques while considering the effect implementation of these ideas will have on employees.
Future State and Plan Application During the course of the term, I’ve added mulitple skills and tools to my leadership toolbox. Amongst the many, I believe going forward, personal mastery creates the foundation. In order to lead, one must know their weaknesses and strengths. Personal mastery is about approaching life from a different angle and is sometimes referred to as a rough journey towards continuous self -improvement. Personal mastery is guided by key principles like vision, personal purpose, creative tension, commitment to truth and understanding the subconscious mind. It’s being expansively present and attentive to what is happening in the moment and being able to distinguish between reality and the thoughts and feelings we project on to it. I’ve incorporated personal mastery into my everyday way of life. I peridocally cycle back and match my vision with reality. Thus, I’m able to adjust my career path and work life balance accordingly. Also added to my leadership toolbox are the six conditions for successful change (as presented by Constance, Yolonda, & George during week 7). I immediately emabarked on a mission to practice these daily. The following is a synopsis of my application of these conditions: 1. Leadership from the top- I make a conscience effort to lead by example and make every situation a professional interaction. 2. Leaders need to be prepared publicly- I ensure each time I send an email, present in front of a crowd, and/or am in charge of a project, that I’m prompt with delivery a quality product on time. 3. Support for the organization’s political head- I embrace any and all policy changes as if it was my decision. 4. Crisis, which prompts long-range planning-, I try to use every negative experience as a training opportunity. 5. Ample time frame to allow long range planning- I attack the small issues immediately as these can pose a potential problem in the future. 6. Employees must have a customer service mind set- I make a conscious effort to emphasize customer expectations by asking, “if this your (insert example), what would you expect?”

Discussing the challenges, Senge (2006) stated:
We all find comfort applying familirar solutions to problems, sticking to what we know best. Sometimes the keys are indeed under the street lamp; but very often they are off in the darkness. After all, if the solution were easy to see or obvious to everyone, it probably would already have been found. Pushing harder and harder on familiar solutions, while fundamental problems persist or worsens, is a reliable indicator of nonsystematic thinking—what we often call the “what we need here is a bigger hammer” syndrome. (pg 61) Having considered all things I’ve observed thus far, it’s evident that my several key members of my organization have settled for the easy way out. It’s similar to the monkey and the banana experiment (Stuttgart: Fischer, pp. 279-288). The ladder is present, however no one knows why it isn’t utilized. Honestly, it seems as though the (some) leaders are intentionally preventing growth. Going forward, I plan to raise self-awareness and self worth with each and every employee I interact with on a daily basis. Understanding that as their contribution is developed, it adds to the learning experience, value, and vision of the organization. It’s important to reinforce my company’s long-term goal and realize that VISION is a discipline in any company, without a vision there is no purpose or goal to attain. In order for an organization to learn, the employees must commit to an outcome or vision for what that learning will accomplish. The characteristics of the people who portray the aforementioned disciplines are easily observed in their behaviors to do the best for the success of the organization. These are the persons who are willing to share their ideas and focus on the goals of the organization. Many times they are referred to as hard working, optimistic and team players. These are the co-workers I aim to target. Bottom line, it starts with a personal choice. I can sit here and throw out a million quotes and as many references, examples, and success stories. My approach to every thing, including my current career situation, is simple; create your future. It is my opinion that learning disabilities are simply just a fear of failing while using excuse to hide embarrassment. It is also my opinion; you are in complete control of the circumstances of your life. How you experience life depends largely on the mental models that you have. A key is to start recognizing the power of those mental models, and to recognize that the world isn't the way it is, but is as you perceive it is, and that you can make changes in that by altering the mental models that shape who you are. Generally speaking, people are creatures of habit; therefore, when any type of change is introduced, it is not welcomed openly because it disrupts the person’s norm. It is as if a person’s equilibrium has been jolted due to change. However, often times, change is necessary and inevitable in order to survive and maintain success. The fear most have with change is that the outcome of the change is unknown; it can either take the form of success or failure, which is quite risky. As Kotter (1996) explains in, “Leading Change,” one can break through resistance with a vision. Culture change is important step within my company if we want continued financial growth. We (my company) have to cycle back and realize that there has been significant positives and negatives during past decade or so. However, the proverbial heart felt decisions have to be made. The generation gap has to be closed in an expeditious manner. The company cannot continue to operate as such. Enough is enough. When dealing with matters of the heart, I need to-- no I will follow my leadership instinct as I embark on this tumultuous journey on my quest to leave my positive and lasting impact on this company. I will turn the mirror on the organization and force them to address the "elephant in the room." My newfound understanding of archetypes, mental models, and learning disabilities of an organization will play a key part while I tackle systematic processes, and issues in my organization. The ability to recognize said learning disabilities allows me to quickly assess a particular (or several) situations and adjust my leadership mindset and use it to my advantage. We've always done it that way is a common phrase that is used throughout my present organization and past organizations I've been a part of. One thing is for certain and two things are for sure; when that phrase is used—beware, as this is a blatant cry for help.

Works Cited
Covey, S. R. (1989). The 7 Habits Of Higly Effective People. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
George, B. (2007). True North Discover Your Authentic Leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kotter, J. P. (2012). LEADING CHANGE. USA.
Senge, P. M. (1997). THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE Fieldbook Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization. USA: Random House.
Senge, P. M. (2006). THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization. USA: Random House.

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