Learning organization offers all the employees a chance to expand and develop their intellectual and physical ability in the realization of the overall organizational objectives. The institution therefore provides excellent environment for innovation and creative thinking amongst its members. This organization further nurtures and inspires the willing members in order to develop and ensure competency in their operations. In such an organization, the vision and mission of the firm is mutually attained by all the members from all the respective departments regardless of the power and authority bestowed on them. Moreover, the mutual collaboration and coordination of all members, together with unified direction and accountability, ensures efficiency in the learning organization. This paper seeks to analyze the characteristics of an ideal learning organization with reference to the State farm insurance company.
Characteristics of an ideal learning organization
The first characteristic is that it encourages innovativeness and creative thinking. It however understands that such advancement can only be gradually acquired through spontaneous experiences in the current operation. All what the organization does in this case is to clearly define the vision, missions and values of the organization which acts as guidelines towards goals attainment. In order to encourage this characteristic within the organization, its future must be well integrated to enable the members understand the environment in which they are operating on. There should be a free flow and exchange of information within the organization in order to enhance dissemination of knowledge and expertise. Such organization encourages personal commitment and mastery. This character follows the normal trend that change cannot be forced into a person, but only the willing counterparts can benefit from it. In such organizations the environment encourages personal growth through regular trainings programs. Some motivational talks are also scheduled in the firms schedule in order to boost the morale and the productivity of the members (Wilson, 2005, p.101).
The second characteristic is that a learning organization allows self-organization amongst the institutional members. This formal and informal grouping enables the transfer of ideas and knowledge among the group members. As a result people get to explore new ideas and values which they would have not imagined on their own (Gould & Dr. Baldwin, 2004, p.77). There is a very strong network of relationships and peer support in the learning organizations. To them such events are not assumed to be time wasters but instead as platforms which builds team work and exchange of ideas.
The third is that such learning organization encourages dynamic and flexibility in its operations. This is because learning is emergent and thus unpredictable. It also provides best environment to ensure that the firm thrives and succeeds in its operations. However, the firm offers a great reflection of the past which assist it to improve on its mistakes. Such organizations therefore do not shift blames to one another but they instead work together to ensure efficiency. To them failures are not mistakes but instead they are legitimate exploration of skills and knowledge. It is through past failures that the organization comes up with new and innovative products and working procedures.
The fourth characteristic is that those institutions evenly distribute its authority and power to the various firms departments. Such administrative move I usually meant to improve accountability in the task implementations. The true distribution of leadership enhances improved production as everyone acts responsibly towards the shared vision. All the stakeholders in this case act collectively for the betterment of the overall strategic direction of the firm (McLean, 2005, p.255).
The fifth characteristic is the proper coordination between the internal and the external stakeholders. Since the business owners usually delegate the management role to the internal stakeholders, proper coordination should be ensured at all times in order to ensure growth and development. The internal stakeholders are in this case required to fully play their roles as agents who are supposed to maximize the overall wealth of the firm.
The observable behaviors for each characteristic
For the innovative and creative firm, the firm usually support and nurture its employee’s ideas. Such organizations heavily invest on the research and development program as that is the major way of encouraging innovativeness. The member shares the relentless growth attitude which assists to actualize their ideas into reality. Such companies continuously re-invent new products and services and markets. This character therefore assure them growth and continuity of their operations.
The institution which encourages self-organization acknowledges the functions of both the formal and informal groups. They also take into account all the ideas generated from those groups. In this case all the observations are noted including those from the informal groups. The members and employees of such organizations are set free to join any formal organizations that they feel will improve their welfare. The institutions therefore encourage this by setting some recreational sessions such as sport day, which are meant to ensure that the members interact with each other. Supportive teams are reinforced in order to encourage exchange of ideas and knowledge between people (Daft & Marcic, 2008, p.26).
A dynamic organization fully adapts to the changing environment in order to retain its viability in the market. In this case re-branding of the products and services is encouraged in order to revitalize them in the market. The managers and other senior officials are also encouraged to some time be flexible and accommodative to the new and key ideas which might end up affecting the organizational operations.
Organization should at least empower every member in order to ensure accountability in their task implementations. To some extent the organization incorporate some of member’s ideas in its decision making process a move which greatly encourages and motivate them. Leaders are friendly and cautions in handling the organizational issues. This is because they act as mentors, coaches and role models to their subordinate staffs. The organization also ensures a workable relationship between the seniors and juniors (Cummings & Worley, 2008, p.542). Proper and excellent structures are put in place in order to facilitate smooth operations in the organization. Accountability of all the members is also vividly observed in the organizations which offers favorable learning environment.
The result of these behaviors
The organizations are marked with a lot of efficiency as members are obligated to their duties and roles in the firm. Brainstorming and associating ideas dominates the overall activities of the firm as members are motivated to learn new skills. There is also proper use of information which improves the decision making process. A pro-active course of actions is made to overcome the organizational obstacles and challenges. There is a proper recording of observations and transactions which enhances accountability amongst the members. The output and productivity of a learning organization keeps on growing with time. This is mainly because the process is gradual thus offering a room for improvement for the members. The members within the firm also feel proud to be associated with the organization as their collective role and responsibilities are always appreciated. The pride not only motivates them to work harder but also assist them to remain focused to the overall firm’s objectives.
The obstacles to becoming a learning organization
Among the commonly know inhibitors includes the pre-occupational operations within the firm. This mostly occurs if the firm presumes to be busy such that no time can be offered to think strategically. The senior management within the organization does not meet regularly to discuss the past, the current progress and the future of the firm. This therefore deny them chance of amending the past mistakes and maximizing of the firm’s strengths and opportunities.
The organization which have strong bureaucracy emphasize on strict focus on the organizational systems and processes among the members thus restricting their operations. Such system greatly hinders the creative thinking as the members are afraid of acting ultra-vies. The procedural protocols therefore need to be a bit relaxed in order to encourage new changes and innovations that may be of great help to the firm.
Knowledge is power and organizations should always uphold it in order to ensure progress and continuity in its operations. But there are some organizations which are more relaxed when it comes to investing on trainings. Such organizations limit their people’s potentials by denying them knowledge. It should be understood that knowledge inadequacy or limitations may greatly hinders the firm’s production capacity as the members are just contented with what they have and know. Regular trainings and motivational talks therefore act as a challenge to the employees who consequently improve their way of thinking, decision making and productivity (Chawla & Renesch, 2006, p.46).
A top-bottom leadership style also hinders the organization in its efforts towards becoming a learning institution. This is because in such a system there is no real empowerment of the members as the seniors mainly dictate most of the operations. The strict supervision advocated by the top-bottom leadership style denies the subordinates chance to fully exploit their abilities and potentials.
How to identify if the organization is making any progress towards becoming a learning organization
Such organizations have compelling measures to their employees to simultaneously work together in ensuring that the organizational vision is met. The transfer of knowledge and enquiry is therefore encouraged in such institutions. They also offer a supportive learning environment to their workers. This is mostly done through the provision of psychological safety which allows the workers to feel comfortable while expressing their thoughts.
The characteristics which are more compelling to the State farm organization
Considering the fact that State farm is a service provider firm, creativity and innovativeness should be highly valued. The State farm offers mostly offers the auto mobile insurance policies to its clients, but it has recently extended its operation to the provision of financial services within the US and Canada market. Considering the innovations in the motor industry, the firm also needs to similarly respond by creating or re-branding some of its products in order to suit the market. Additionally, the emerging competition in the industry, pressures the firm to use creativity and innovativeness as a key strategy of realizing their objectives (Roberts & Pruitt, 2003, p.8). The firm needs to come up with more attractive products. The products also need to suit the diverse needs of the consumers in the market. The firm should therefore seek to modify some of its current products in order to suit the current market.
In order to effectively cater the needs of its clients, the firm should aim at distributing power and authority to the various branches across the US and Canada market. The leadership distribution will certainly empower the various branches thus upgrading their services. It will also improve accountability of the members in the various as the members actively participate in realizing the firm’s objectives.
The firm is also known for its effort to empower both the internal and external stake holders. Throughout its operations, State farm insurance company has greatly increased its wealth thus attaining their agency role. Its consistent expansion and growth in the US market greatly displays the effective role that the firm’s management has continued to depict in the industry.
Mostly the firm’s future is greatly determined by its clients. We can therefore acknowledge that the firm has been positively adopting it’s the many market changes. This operational flexibility has enhanced competitiveness in the industry thus boosting its product marketability.
How the State farm organization can achieve the above characteristics
The above characteristics can only be attained from the proper and effective coordination between the internal and external stakeholders. The firm should therefore ensure that qualified and competent employees are recruited into the firm at all times. The workforce should also be provided with excellent environment which enhances personal growth and development. More resources should be allocated to the marketing department in order to facilitate regular training to the team. Products publicity and public education will also assist the firm to increase its customer base within the respective market.
The expected barriers
Since learning is an own initiative agenda, problem may arise if the employees are unwilling to learn and appreciate changes as they come. The lengthy and prolonged bureaucracy in the company may also greatly affect the operations within the firm. Conservative leaders may also limits authority delegation which cultivate nurtures and motivates the organizational members throughout their operations. The increasing competition in the industry may also greatly influence the firm’s operations. This is because more product changes as the firm tries to suit the market will be required. These changes may eventually be extremely expensive to the state farm company since they reduce the overall profitability.
How to overcome these barriers
The firm should replace its top-bottom leadership style with a bottom-up style as the later empowers all the staffs motivating them even to work harder. It should also purpose to include the employees ideas in during its decision making process. This should be so especially from the marketing department as they practically deal with the real issues in the market. By so doing viable services and financial products will always be guaranteed by the firm. The firm should raise its budget allocation towards staff training in order to effectively equip them with the vital information (Martin, 2005, p.187). The marketing department should schedule regular trainings to its team so as to fully equip them to face the market.
All organizations should seek to transform their management and operations systems so as to effectively suit the market. Such advancement will not only assure their current efficiency but will also guarantee their continuity and competitiveness in the market. Transforming into a learning organization will also reduce the administrative costs such as supervisory cost since the employees will be accountable and responsible while offering their services.
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