The organization which we would be discussing about in this paper is Phones4u – it is a UK based organization. It is an independent mobile phone retailer that is in the process of expansion and faces success. It is one of the most successful telecommunications companies in the United Kingdom. The organizational culture of this organization is very much similar to those of others. The author’s role in the organization is that of a manager.
The main duty of this company is actually that when a customer comes to them with a nasty and faulty mobile, they direct them to their customer service centre and get it repaired. The problem is jotted down in the computer systems and then print outs of that data are taken out. The customer is given a copy as well and he signs if all the details are in the correct order.
The major services that this firm offers are all service stuff and it sells and repairs mobile phones for customer. To get an idea of the organizational structure of the firm, we shall look at the supply management side of the firm.
The value chain for Phones4u consists of the following activities:
A customer comes to the store looking to get a new mobile phone.
The sales floor controller who establishes if the customer is looking for a pay as you go mobile phone or a pay monthly mobile phone welcomes him.
The customer is then passed over to the sales consultant by the sales floor controller.
The sales consultant sits down with the customer, ask them a few details about their current phone and current usage so that it can be assessed what kind of phone, which network, and which inclusive minutes package would be the best suitable for that individual customer as per his requirements.
The sales consultant gets a couple of phones and then gives a demonstration of the phone to the customer.
The sales consultant suggests a monthly inclusive minute package/ tariff which best suit the customer’s needs.
If the customer is satisfied with the package and the phone he accepts to go ahead with it.
After filling the forms on the computer system, a credit check is performed to see if the network will accept the credibility of the customer. If the network approves the customer, he signs the contract and walks out of the shop with a new phone. If the network declines the customer, then the sales consultant tries an alternative network that would accept the credibility of the customer. If all fails, then the sales consultant just conveys the message to the customer that all the networks have declined them and to give it another try in 4-6 months time.
The above-mentioned process gives us an idea that the firm is organized around strong lines. The question that we are to address here deals with the concepts of organisational learning and the barriers that are in the way to it.
We first need to get the idea what exactly is organizational learning.
The five basic rules of organizational learning are:
Personal mastery: This theory involves creating a policy of the kind of conclusions and results people want for themselves that is their personal vision and also doing a realistic overview of the actual situation that is the current reality. If they somehow strike a balance between the two, they could get at the results they want and have a better quality of life. (http://www.solonline.org/organizational_overview/)
This particular concept is centred on the reflection and questioning skills of a person.
One has to develop or create a strong sense of attitudes and behaviours and the thoughts that impact the thought process itself.
Through continuous and frequent reflection, discussion and perception, people could actually have more control over their lives.
The ladder of inference tells us that people have an assumption to jump at negative conclusions and such notions.
This theory focuses on joint purpose. People develop a sense of commitment and belonging by having a vision of the future they both seek to attain. This is done through the shared images and symbols and the process and practices by which they intend to reach at that aim.
The group interaction and discussion is a real important focus of this concept. Dialogue and diplomatic discussion are the tools through which the teams form their shared thinking and form visions. “Teams transform their aggregate thinking, learning to enhance their energies and capability greater than the sum of individual members’ talents”. The illustration portrays the thinking of a team that wants to learn and develop. (http://www.solonline.org/organizational_overview/)
The dissent learn to study and analyze change and the way firms and departments rely at each other. Thus, they could effectively deal with the elements that determine those actions and the way they are taken and their results.
This discipline is based and founded upon the theories of feedback and two-way communication. These are the qualities of a system bent on achieving stability and growth over a particular time period.
The tools like the system archetypes and simulations and virtual reality and learning laboratories all enable people to change and alter systems more easily and effectively.
It also helps people to act and behave in accordance with the larger natural and social world. The illustration symbolizes the mainstay of all systems, the feedback circle that is the basis of all expanding and limiting methods and procedures in the nature.
“Longworth and Davies (1996, p.64) took an instrumental view of organisationally promoted learning when they suggested that ‘for the individual, learning is employability and employability is learning. For the organisation, learning is survival and survival is learning. For both lifelong learning is lifelong earning.’ This was supported by Smith and Spurling (2001, p.1) who held that the ‘motivation to learn is an urgent issue politically, economically and socially. Indeed it has been suggested by Training Strategies for Tomorrow (2002, p.19) that organisations like e-learning ‘because it promises to save them money on training.’ ‘Most workplaces can be described as organisations and that the learning activities intended and supported are usually aimed at benefiting the organisation, in the form of improving its functions, process, products or practices,’ Tynjälä and Häkkinen (2005, p.320). Here the model of lifelong e-learning is predominantly one of employers providing themselves with skilled workers whose skills and knowledge will improve the performance of the organisation. This can be reinforced by the use of e-learning technologies and Internet based courses, which can provide quick solutions to specific problems of performance or competence or can be used to facilitate change programmes in the organisation. ‘The key economic advantage of distance learning over traditional on site learning is that it saves students time,’ Becker (2002, p.294), time which can be spent in the workplace”. (http://www.eurodl.org/materials/contrib/2006/Jane_Simmons.htm)
“Waterman et al (1994) summarised this approach to employee education and training in the following way ’employers give individuals the opportunity to develop greatly enhanced employability in exchange for better productivity and some degree of commitment to company purpose…for as long as the employee works there.’ They also discussed the concept of a career resilient workforce which they defined as employees who are not only are dedicated to the idea of continuous learning but who are also ready to reinvent themselves to being persuaded to take responsibility for their own career development and are committed to the company’s success as long as they are employed by it. The perspectives of employees will be considered further in the next section”. (http://www.eurodl.org/materials/contrib/2006/Jane_Simmons.htm)
“Maund (2001) held that employees have a number of motivations for learning. These encompass both models of lifelong e-learning, and include intrinsic pressure, external pressure, the quality of provision available to them, specific drives and personality factors. Employees’ intrinsic motivation, engagement with e-learning opportunities, is relevant to the course to their future career, their personal interests, social needs and domestic circumstances. Whilst extrinsically they are motivated to study they may also be concerned with the value of the underlying qualification, and that it will be recognised by their current, or future, employers. Here the provision of e-learning opportunities are important as the ‘achievement of competence…is an ongoing process…given the constant change that takes place in the workplace,’ Ladyshewsky and Ryan (2006, p. 62). It has been suggested by Training Strategies for Tomorrow (2002, p. 19) that employees like e-learning ‘because it they have greater control over when they do the training.’ Macfarlane and Ottewill (2001, p.16) took the view that the one thing which employees have in common is that ‘whatever their level or background, is that their prime motivation in studying is very probably economic.’ Their underlying motivation is wither to improve their career advancement or their performance in their current role, both of which will have a positive impact on their employability and earnings potential. Their underlying motivation being to improve their career advancement or their performance in their current role. So learning is relevant to the course to their future career, and to other factors, which are personal to each individual learner”. (http://www.eurodl.org/materials/contrib/2006/Jane_Simmons.htm)
“Individual and organisational learning have shown significant and positive effects on organisational performance. Therefore, information technology has a significant impact on outcomes only when in a proper context of learning is in place. Small businesses in sectors with high knowledge-intensity levels are more likely to use more frequently information technology tools and organisational learning practices”. (http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=17476207)
“Whilst Smith and Spurling (2001, p.1) held that ‘the levels of motivation displayed by individuals reflect their social and economic experience in general, and their family experiences in particular.’ The writer would argue that the decision to become an e-student can be influenced by both social and economic factors. For some the thought of entering a formal classroom environment could be threatening, this is especially true for people who were regarded as failures during their school days, or who have no family tradition of further or higher education. Economically it makes sense for many employees to remain in employment whilst studying. All of which highlights the employee model of lifelong e-learning where the employee, takes responsibility for their own learning either in relation to their own employability or their own self development. The process of knowledge construction can be viewed as a social process where communities of practice facilitate learning. Tynjälä and Häkkinen (2005, p.320) held that ‘communities of practice are informally and naturally formed of people working and interacting together.’ ‘On line instruction also allows greater flexibility for students to…’chat’ with other students’, Becker (2002, p.294). E-learning can foster a learning community which enhances the learning experience and increases individual motivation; this may even be across cultures and national boundaries. Whilst students are intrinsically motivated to study they are also concerned with the value of the underlying qualification, whether they obtained it by traditional or e-learning methods, and that it will be recognised by their current, or future, employers. This is a model of lifelong e-learning by employees with them engaging in e-learning or developmental activities, to ensure their continued employability. It may therefore be argued that employees’ intrinsic motivation is relevant to the course to their future career”. (http://www.eurodl.org/materials/contrib/2006/Jane_Simmons.htm)
However important organizational learning is to the success and prosperity of the organization, there are several barriers in the way of their implementation.
Firstly, the main barrier is the reluctance of the aged and senior members of the staff to accept and welcome change with open hands. They want to stick to their own rigid values and customs and are inflexible in terms of their adoption.
The bureaucracy and the older members of the staff are very un-modernized and may feel threatened by the younger members. They are unable to retain their jobs in a scenario where there is new technology and they are unable to learn the new methodologies of change.
Thus, their reluctance is the greatest barrier in this regard.
Secondly, the other problem that would be faced in this regard would be the process by which the change would take place. The adoption and the way it is implemented could be tricky to handle.
Thirdly, the change would come at a particular cost. The organization has to and must pay for the whole process. There would be a cost of adopting new methods like new technologies and new procedures. Machinery and equipment that would be imperative for the change in technology would be priced highly and the firm has to pay for it monetarily.
Secondly, training would be required to teach the new skills and all to the staff and the workers who are not obviously acquainted with the processes and new technologies that require higher and greater skills out of them.
The training whether through workshops or the teachers would cost the company money.
If the company decides to hire some new workforce to handle new technology and methods instead of training and incurring costs on the training of the old ones, that would also prove to be expensive.
Information technology is seen as a key tool in knowledge management processes. Nevertheless, the presence of information technology neither guarantees knowledge creation, knowledge distribution nor knowledge use. In addition to information technology, a job environment and a culture that encourage sharing and continuous learning should also be created and maintained by management. This paper provides empirical evidence of the relationship between information technology and learning in small businesses as well as their impact on organisational performance.
The new workforce, as it would be highly skilled, would perhaps demand higher pays and salaries as the company would have a greater demand for them. They would also be hesitant to understand the culture and policy of the company as they would be the new-comers.
The changed might also come at a social cost to the company. The older and aged employees might think that they were not taken into confidence regarding the whole process and cease to take it as valid. Besides, they might also feel a lesser sense of belonging and loyalty to the firm as they would be against the changes being incorporated.
The other scholars all claim that organizational learning is a useful process that brings with it lots of benefits and make a company far more competitive and in line with the modern times.
This is what Peter Senge, the author of books on organizational learning, thinks about it. He is also an accomplished management consultant as well:
“Like any term that gets used a lot it can quickly lose any meaning whatsoever. All the term was meant to do was point at something that we all experience but we don’t give a lot of thought to: what happens when a group of people really work at their best? Most people, whether on a high school basketball team, a theater ensemble or often times in a work setting have been members of teams that have been exceptional and have accomplished things that were really remarkable maybe something most didn’t even think could be accomplished. So often times people have had this experience of working as part of an extraordinary team the ‘team’ could be any group of people doing something together – not necessarily an official team. When I was in high school a bunch of us got really excited about our principal being named “principal of the year” in the Los Angeles city schools. He was a great guy. We banded together and created a big mail-in-card campaign that went on for about six months. He did win the award, which was neat, but it was the doing of it – the idea, aligning around it and acting – that was really exciting. When you look at any of these kinds of situations where people say, oh yeah, I was a part of a group who did that, and then you ask, was the group that good when they started?” They say, “Oh no, we kind of learned how to do it as we did it. That’s it. How a group of people collectively enhance their capacities to produce the outcome they really wanted to produce. That’s what we want to point to with the term ‘organizational learning”. (http://www.solonline.org/organizational_overview/)
Organisational learning has several advantages and applications and purposes too.
The efficiency of a firm increases and its profits also go higher due to the productivity factor on the rise.
The costs would naturally lower and profits would experience a rise in terms of figures as a consequence.
Secondly, the business culture of the firm shall become far better and disciplined. The work would be efficient and people would get more organised if reforms are implemented properly and efficiently.
In the 1990s, the quality revolution continued to spread from the private to the public sector in the United States (McLaughlin & Kaluzny 1990) and in Canada. Total quality management, and its progeny, continuous quality improvement (CQI), were formalized programs mobilizing entire organisations. Public sector organisations, such as hospitals, were encouraged by government and regulatory agencies to adopt CQI to deliver quality medical services with fewer resources. With long-term funding constraints on the rise in Canadian public hospitals and with increasing patient demands, CQI was considered a promising paradigm that would allow hospitals to meet these goals (Health Canada 1993).
Furthermore, the level of sector knowledge-intensity is taken into consideration. Results show that individual learning along with individual and collaborative information technologies have a positive and significant impact on organisational learning. On the other hand, unlike the individual and collaborative information technologies.
Continuous quality improvement (CQI) goes beyond traditional quality assurance and standards (Donabedian 1988), and cuts across the exclusive domains of control of the professional, physician and administrative groups. CQI aims for continuous improvement through inclusive teamwork and involvement of frontline workers, systematic analysis of problems and data collection, and subsequent modification of hospital structures and processes (Hassen 1993; Health Canada 1993). CQI represents a major change that attempts to transform a hospital into a more adaptive and effective organisation.
CQI has been implemented in many sectors of the economy, including health care, with mixed results (Dean & Bowen 1994; Spencer 1994; Bigelow & Arndt 1995; Reger, Gustafson, Demarie & Mullane 1994). As in other major changes, success in implementing CQI requires effective executive leadership (Bass & Avolio 1993; Nadler & Tushman 1990).
This tells us that wherever have the reforms taken place, it has produced a great result that was positive and always benefited the companies and the sectors where it had been carried out.
The conclusion that we reach here is quite simple and plain. Organizational learning is quite vital and imperative for the success of any organization. If one does not incorporate the principles of organizational learning in the structure of organization, progress shall be greatly hampered.
However, as we have seen there are certain barriers to its implementation generally. The main barriers are the insecurity of the older employees and the costs and the change in structure and all.
However, these barriers could be effectively removed and the way paved for the successful implementation of the organizational culture and all the changes that come in its lieu if certain policies and methodologies are properly followed and certain issues taken care of.
Firstly, the concerns of the older employees need to be addressed properly. Their insecurities need to be properly erased and they should be told that the change would have no effect whatsoever and their jobs. They won’t be forced to leave and relinquish their jobs and nor their benefits or something be erased and all.
Training workshops and counseling should be held frequently to acquaint them with the importance and significance of change and how shall it be carried out. They should also be given different and new incentives to motivate them to learn the new and modern processes.
The incentives could take the form of perks that could include the children fees’ being paid off or utility bills being paid by the company or others such as concessions in hospital bills or admission to local clubs and resorts.
This would enhance the sense of loyalty the employees have towards their firm and would feel enthusiastic enough to learn and grasp the new methods. They should be told that it’s for the good of everybody and they have nothing to fear from it.
Secondly, by motivating existing employees to take action and learn the new methodologies and technologies, the employers would cut down at the costs of employing new ones and thus, their overall costs shall be lowered.
This way they could easily implement the reforms in a proper way without offending any of the parties and/or the stakeholders and the firm would become efficient in its own right too.
The policies of change shall benefit everybody in the long run. The shareholders would benefit as there would be an increase in profits and thus also in share dividends. The management would benefit as higher profits shall mean higher salaries for them.
Same would be the case of the employees and staff. Although they have certain grievances, they do not realize that if there would be higher productivity and lower costs, higher and greater profits shall mean greater salaries for them in the long run.
Besides if the management does an efficient duty, the managers like the author himself would also be rewarded in terms of higher pays and also promotions and chances of growth and personal career advancement.
The mangers shall get higher profits and salaries in this regard too. Higher profits also mean that firm could re-invest and also increase its capital investments in future ventures. This would again benefit and prove fruitions for all the stakeholders in the long run of business.
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