Anglian Water is, in geographical terms, the biggest among the ten water companies found in the region of the United Kingdom. It engages in delivering water for drinking and carrying out the removal of waste-water as well as sewage from people’s homes and premises (Anonymous, 2010). It has approximately five million clients. In the course of the 1980s, there was so much concern in regard to standards as well as the level at which the services were delivered to customers by the organizations in the public sector. As a result of this Anglian Water, in the year 1989, was privatized (Abell, and Oxbrow, 2001).
After privatization took place, the Anglian water Company engaged in a major reorganization of the business it carried out. The reorganization involved rationalizing the structures that had been put in place as well as diversifying its operations in to the markets that were new and among these new markets, most of them involved overseas operations.
Before privatization, the culture of the Anglian Water Company was one that could be termed as “Militaristic” and this culture had some justifications. Following this culture, the level of risks was very high. Any error that could result in the course of water delivery to the clients could turn out to bring in disaster. The solution that was offered by the management was to bring in rules and regulations that could be abided by with no any person raising questions. What resulted from this was a culture in which following rules and going by them, having obedience for the orders, acceptance, and raising no questions was the norm.
Since the company was operating in a market in which there is stiff competition, in order for it to remain competitive in the market, it had to carry out some adjustments. The culture of command-and-control which the company had put in place had to be replaced with a culture that was entrepreneurial, that would ensure there was outward looking, put focus on a culture that would ensure innovative approach to carry out business operations.
To achieve this, the company had to come up with an approach that would ensure there was preparation and orientation of the employees so they could be able to carry out operations effectively in an environment that was continuously changing radically. The company realized that, to carry out this, it had to come up with a learning culture which would play a major role in making the employees to be more flexible and empowered.
Anglia Water Company as a learning organization would be able to go by the procedure mentality in the direction of the environment within which there would be encouraging and valuing of creativity by the employees, innovation as well as challenge. The employees would get involved, as individuals as well as teams, engage in nonstop improvement in the area of technological development as well as in the area of offering services to the customers in order to be able to meet the needs of these customers that are ever changing (Case Study: Transforming Anglian Water, N.d ).
The Extend to Which Anglian Water was a Learning Organization
According to Paton (2005), after 1989 when the Anglian water Company had been privatized, there was need for this company to change, experience growth and at the same time realize improvements in order for it to remain competitive. There was a realization within the company that in order for this company to realize this, it had to put much focus on the idea that those employees who have happiness, commitment, and are learned are much more flexible as compared to those who lack happiness, lack commitment and are ignorant. Therefore, the best way out was seen to be learning.
The Anglian Water Company adopted the European’s Foundation principles for quality management or what is referred to as EFQM (Cortada and Woods, 1999). Following this, the company turned out to be a learning organization that was registered towards the end of the year 1994.
The initial introduction of the leadership to programs of “executive stretch” had a very significant driving force in the process. This brought about a learning loop that was very much interesting since this program brought about the idea of a Corporate University which was later named as Aqua Universitas, and within the organization it was referred to as the University of Water. The initial demonstration of this was to come up with what was referred to as the Transformation Journey, a version of executive stretch for all employees (Peter, 1997).
While those executives who had come before at the Anglian Water Company had a commitment to offer training to craft employees as well as professional employees, there was no much that was available for the employees who carried out the frontline operations. Possibly the initial contribution made by the Corporate University (CU) was to widen the idea of offering training to learning.
Business activities were distinguished from learning and cultural activities. The learning and cultural activities were often characterized as “soft” issues and the business activities as “hard” issues. Therefore there was no specific targeting of the Corporate University at management. Rather, the CU was targeted at all employees as a component of a broader change programme.
Later, there was launching by the Anglian water Company of the concept of a federal “learning organization” which was of an adequately all-encompassing and one of its own kind nature to offer substance to Aqua Universitas. The intention of setting up the University of Water was to serve as a means to help the company to be able to trace the people who were best as well as the best teams and organization in order to realize the services that were the best (Skyrme and Amidon, 2008).
This could be carried out through knowledge and wisdom, creativity as well as exploitation. Right from the start, there was a recognition that the university had to basically remain in the employees’ minds as well as in their hearts, but there was also recognition for a need to have assets that were tangible in order to offer satisfaction to the need of touch and feel the university. Employees’ having a sense of ownership was a very crucial issue (Brockbank, McGill, and Beech, 2002).
In Anglian Water Services Company, the learning organization was divided in business unit processes. Each and every business unit had a learning champion. This allowed for the satisfaction of those needs that were unique. More so, there was encouraging of experimentation. There was also encouragement of the local ownership as promotion of teamwork. The outcomes of each individual experiment had to be moved to the rest of the business units in the best practices that were shared.
By the year 1999, the Anglian Water Services Company was in the process of setting up company colleges to a substantial level. These were to serve as the knowledge networks. Three colleges had been set up in the year 1996. These colleges were based on three subjects which included; international learning as well as open learning and also on the subject of creativity. These had to serve two purposes: promotion of organizational learning; and permitting individual participation to improve personal portfolio knowledge. These colleges set up offered a common point on to which focus had to be made for those activities that are cross-company.
For instance, individuals from all over the world who worked for the Anglian Water Company could take part in the networks of technology. This was for the reason that the goal of the College of “International Learning” was to facilitate the taking part of the University of Water in the “Worldwide web” of learning. It had to serve as a point of focus for a scholarship programme (International programme) and make sure operational visitors were handled on a basis that was structured.
According to Paton (2005), Water utilities still stand in better positions to serve as laboratories for innovation, creation of knowledge and creativity. These elements (cultural) are still vital for the success of a business organization. The progress experienced by the Anglian Water Company which was marked by success as well as failure as an experience of learning, gave a clear demonstration of what achievement would be in the case where we had positive leadership.
The company’s learning management system made recognition of the significance of the groups and teams that carried out self-management. There was encouragement for people to open up their mind and endow skills. The potentials that are long-term on a person or individual and a business organization or a company are supposed to be found together. By people being committed and at the same time feeling happy is a long term bet that far is much better than in the case where people have ignorance, lack happiness and at the same time are not committed.
The Anglian Water learning organization, the University of Water, was not wrong in coming up with changes it came up with in the course of the 1990s. This company made efforts to be the culture as well as course by which there was bringing in to realty the learning organization. Major strength lay in the federal concept that permitted various initiatives of learning to exist alongside each other within the same vision with various needs being represented.
The university connected to the company that was operating, Anglian Water, through each and every individual , existing in two forms; tangible form which refers to the assets of learning given out by the company, and the other one is the virtual form which refers to the individuals’ attitudes (cultural, intellectual and behavioral). This made stronger the character of the initiative that was one of its own kinds and this was for the reason that it was formed by the employees’ aspirations and their genuine contribution. There existed a vital learning quality through “teaching and learning and in turn, teaching through learning” (Paton 2005: Pg 63). The employees turned out to be flexible and they were able to learn to put up with unfamiliar conditions.
Tensions and Balances and the Factors That Undermined the Concept of the “Learning organization”
However, there were several tensions as well as balances. For instance, those people who were involved in the university had to struggle with;
- making the delivery of the present against future conceptual promise.
- Expectation and interest stimulation against managing expectation and disappointment avoidance.
- Focused against chaotic change.
- Retaining employees against encouraging employment of new ones.
- Added value of a Corporate University versus conventional training.
- Deal with the day job and at the same time learning.
- Social issues against commercial issues.
- Mingling together employees who are established and the new ones’ overload against invisibility.
Out of these issues, measurement was possibly the thorniest. The company was aware that it needed to be better at whatever activity it carried out, and at the same time to realize growth, change and improvement. In actual sense, needs like these that are specific were primarily expressions of the similar basic needs to turn out to be smarter. The solution to this somehow complicated issue was nearly a truth that was self-evident. The answer could lie in the idea that people who are knowledgeable, have commitment and are happy acquire much success than those people who do not have knowledge, lack commitment and are not happy. Many people in the company as well as those outside the company raised questions as to how measurement could be carried out on this and thus how there could be planning of change.
Carrying out success measurement can well be observed in the level of outputs. Having commitment to learning calls for having faith as well as commitment at the top in a similar manner parents carry out the commitment of faith acts at the time they offering support to their children in their area of specialization.
In addition to measurement, another feature of the tension is the division between disorder and order. Disorder refers to disorganized opportunistic process of the entrepreneur and order refers the demand that comes from within the business organization for objective setting, and having business plans among other issues that portray proper organization.
Taking the case of the Anglian Water having commitment of the order which the public service requires, there was always need for having consolidation prevailing for most of the time as compared to entrepreneurial disorder. The clients will demand to be reassured about stability that is long-term in regard to operational contracts. May be it could have been of much help to have a thought about the organization possessing stability of clear or comprehensive recorded information, which is suggested by Paton (2005) as “tacit recorded information expressed as best practice and quality assurance manuals, alongside the energy of tacit experimentation Tacit learning and knowledge could thus be viewed as a living envelope that changes shape and size with time” (Paton, Pg 64).
Towards the end of 1998, the Anglian Water Company made a decision to embark on what was referred to as a “Giant leap”. Resulting from this, the managers in the senior management positions’ that had had involvement mostly in the launching of the University of Water quit as part of restructuring that took place in the year 1999. Shortly afterwards, this new group made acquisition of big contactor having interests in management of facilities. Still at this time, there was imposition of a very much demanding regime for that phase that started from the year 2000 up to the year 2005 by the regulatory settlement for services as well as charges. This was done for the Anglian Water Services as well as of other U.K water companies in the market.
In turn the company engaged in a sequence of carrying out reorganizations and restructuring in the financial sector to carry out the integration of the contractor as well as delivering regulatory settlement with the main objective of putting much focus on the AWG group that had been newly formed on the management of the facilities and carrying out what is referred to as “ring-fencing the old core”. There was appointing of new people having different backgrounds as well as having non-utilities background in to the senior positions of management. These changes brought in challenges that are still being dealt with to date.
In other words, after carrying out these changes in the management, no person was left in the senior management position to engage in championing the University of Water. At this time focus was now diverted to what was seen to be the immediate business problems and there was no longer much commitment to the university. At this point training continued but this time round, it was outsourced. Commitment to a Corporate University was now taken to be luxurious and an overhead that was so much costly.
It was hard to give prove that the University of Water had had assisted in changing the Anglian Water Company in the course of the 1990s. But what is true and much clear is the idea that the company flourished at a point when there was great need for change as well as efficiency and the company managers had commitment to the approach Success was achieved by the university as well as well as the company at the same time (Blass E., 2005). The new managers who came in were able to inherit the benefits of the initial change programme. Unfortunately, these new managers had no faith in the university to deal with new challenges.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The concepts carried in the idea of the university offered the driving consistency for building up a learning business and by this learning business there was keeping in balance of employee activities, day-to-day organization, and applications of technologies in order for the customer to as well be kept in balance.
There was much aspiration by the Anglian Water Company to be a learning business having focus on people as well as profits that were value-added instead of just being a learning organization that is connected in a manner that is not defined to profitability. There was offering by the University of learning that was integrated and not fragmented for all people. It enabled the company to be built up as a separate entity capitalizing on the transient individuals’ strengths. The organization as well as the individuals got increasingly smarter.
However, when it came to the year 1999 at a time a new management team came in, the idea of the University of Water was not given considerable attention it turned to be viewed as a luxury that was expensive. The benefits derived from it could no longer serve as a basis of its further existence. What is learned fro this is that, in the absence of a belief as well as commitment that has to come from the top management of the organization, a Corporate University can not succeed and may not even exist.
In most cases, business organizations engage in cutting overheads when things turn out to be hard among terse overheads are training, research, and learning programmes. Since the CU is among these and viewed to be an expensive luxury, the likelihood of it being the first one to go when the going gets tough in the organization is very high. From this, we get a lesson that business models that standard of success possess a utilization with the Corporate University management, so as this university not be seen as an issue of personal leadership, to done away with the new management that comes in. Therefore, the Corporate Universities have to rise above the individuals who found them.
Abell, A., and Oxbrow, N., 2001. Competing with knowledge: the information professional in the knowledge management age. Library Association Pub. ISBN: 1856043398, 9781856043397.
Anonymous, 2010. Anglian Water. Web.
Blass, E. 2005. The rise and rise of the corporate university. Emerald Group Publishing Ltd. Journal of European Industrial Training. Vol. 29, Issue 1, Pg 58 – 74.
Brockbank A., McGill I., and Beech N., 2002. Reflective learning in practice. Gower Publishing, Ltd. ISBN: 0566083779, 9780566083778.
Case Study: Transforming Anglian Water.
Cortada J.W. and Woods J. A, 1999. The Knowledge Management Yearbook 1999-2000. Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN: 075067122X, 9780750671224.
Paton R., 2005. Handbook of corporate university development: managing strategic learning initiatives in public and private domains. Gower Publishing, Ltd. ISBN: 0566085836, 9780566085833.
Peter M., 1997. Aqua Universitas, Journal of knowledge management. Emerald Group Publishing Ltd. Skyrme J. D., and Amidon M. D., Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 105 – 112.
Skyrme J. D., and Amidon M. D., 2008. Creating the knowledge-based business. Web.