Learning and Unlearning in Accordance with Organizational Change

Article excerpt


Organizational change is a learning process. Changing oneself can occur after learning new things and unlearning others. Individual learning must then be converted into collective learning, leading ultimately to organizational change. This article introduces a new change management model and checklists that facilitate this learning process and benefit the durability of organizational changes. It is based on Total Performance Scorecard; Redefining Management to Achieve Performance with Integrity, Butterworth-Heinemann Business Books, 2003.

Knowledge and Learning

Knowledge is a function of information, culture, and skills (Rampersad, 2003):

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The function specifies the relationship between knowledge on the one side and information, culture, and skills on the other. In this context, information comprises the meaning given to data or information obtained according to certain conventions; this is also known as explicit knowledge (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). On the one hand, culture is the total amount of standards, values, views, principles and attitudes of people that underscore their behavior and functioning. On the other hand, skills are related to the capability, ability, and personal experience of people; the term relates to what people can do, know, and understand. The knowledge components, culture, and skills represent implicit knowledge, which depends on the individual and is stored in the minds of people. This concept is difficult to describe, is based on experience, is practical in nature, and finds its source, among other things, in associations, intuitions, and fantasies. Explicit knowledge, on the contrary, is not dependent on the individual, is theoretical in nature and is specified as procedures, theories, equations, manuals, drawings etc. This knowledge is stored mainly in management information and technical systems, and organizational routines. The central question here is, how can knowledge be transformed into new behavior? Thus, how can people learn effectively so that they can function better? If knowledge is to lead to competent action, then learning should receive special attention, and the organizational culture and structure should stimulate and support it.

Knowledge ages rapidly and is liable to wear. That is why one should constantly learn. Learning is a continuous personal transformation. It is a cyclic and cumulative process of the continuous actualization of knowledge (adding new things to knowledge repertory), in order to change behavior to function and act better. It is a permanent change in knowledge and behavior partly due to repeated experiences. Here the intention is improving the quality of thinking and acting. In view of the increasing shift from lifetime employment to lifetime employability, people must make sure that their knowledge is up to date. An organization is indeed more successful if its employees learn more quickly and implement and commercialize knowledge faster than do competing workers. An organization that does not learn continuously and is not able to continuously list, develop, share, mobilize, cultivate, put into practice, review, and spread knowledge will not be able to compete effectively. That is why the ability of an organization to improve existing skills and acquire new ones forms its most tenable competitive advantage.

It is, therefore, imperative to constantly know which knowledge is essential, where it is available in the organization, which associate possesses this skill, how this knowledge can be adequately utilized, how it can be shared, how this provides added value, and how it can be maintained. The knowledge infrastructure within the organization must be organized in such a way that effective team work, creativity, positive thinking, self-confidence and a good learning environment are stimulated by, for example, the use of computers, Internet and intranet, design of a knowledge-bank, presence of a library, continuous training, an auditorium, organization of brainstorming sessions, and review meetings. …