But what does “being a learning organization” really mean?
– It means we embrace the necessity of change and are committed to proactively changing before market forces thrust change on us willy-nilly.
– It means we understand the risk that comes with experimenting, trying new things.
– It means we expend significant resources on training, on educating Team Members, on expanding horizons.
– It means we accept “intelligent failure”; when someone undertakes a well thought out initiative and it does not work, we do not brand him or punish her.
Being a learning organization does not mean that we
– eliminate consequences, or
– accept flagrant disobedience of policies and procedures, or
– tolerate a failure to properly execute the basic fundamentals.
To some, a commitment to being a learning organization means primarily an understanding that mistakes are part of the learning process and, to a degree, that is certainly a part of being a learning organization. Unfortunately, that tolerance for the learning curve can evolve, standards loosening one at a time, to the point that there are virtually no consequences for failure, no matter how severe or preventable and no consequences for mistakes, no matter how intentional or basic.
Being a learning organization is a commitment to a HIGHER standard of excellence, a continuous lowering of error rates. While a learning organization certainly has a tolerance for the “intelligent mistakes” that are a natural part of breaking new ground, a learning organization is committed to training and designing out “old” mistakes, and to that extent has a LOWER tolerance than normal for basic blocking and tackling errors.