Academic journal article Trames

Patterns of Learning Organisation in Estonian Companies

Academic journal article Trames

Patterns of Learning Organisation in Estonian Companies

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

During the last 15-17 years the Estonian economy and Estonian companies have suffered a tremendous change of paradigm, starting from a directly planned economy, ruled by the occupying Soviet government, and becoming a market economy in an independent country. As in other Central and Eastern European countries which have been studied (Merkens et al. 2001, Uhlenbruck et al. 2003), many earlier businesses closed and new companies were established in Estonia during this period. Although the transition to a market system took about five-seven years, the convergence process within the framework of the EU is still continuing. This means transition not only in the economic system generally, but also in social values, culture, and other human aspects.

Rapid changes in the social paradigm and adaptation to a new environment in a very liberal economy, sometimes called "shock therapy" (Giannaros 2000), have toughened the capacity for change of the Estonian people. Capacity for change, i.e. capacity for learning, is characteristic of Estonian employees and managers at both individual and organisational level. The learning capacities of Estonian companies have been studied mainly in organisational culture and organisational change context (Alas 2004, Alas and Vadi 2003, Alas and Sharifi 2002), mostly only during the period of economic transition.

Organisational learning is not a goal in itself, it is related to individuals' behaviour in an organisation, and, as a result, to the organisation's ability to respond more effectively to its environment (Murray and Donegan 2003). Researchers have identified distinct systematic levels of organisational learning (OL) beyond simple feedback and (non)reaction to environmental changes (e.g., Argyris 1977, Georges, Romme and Witteloostuijn 1999). Organisations possessing learning capabilities and not just reactive behaviour are considered to be learning organisations (ibid), whose specific features have been described by several researchers (Senge 1990, 2003, Pedler et al. 1991). Moilanen (2001, 2005) has found variation of strength of learning characteristics in different business sectors. Previous studies have shown that there is a wide range of states between non-learning and (excellent) learning in the companies even from the same industry. These organisational learning characteristics fit into different combinations with different strength of OL features. That means--OL features appear in some kind of patterns (clusters) describing the organisation's conformity to learning organisation (LO).

The paper's aim is to identify the features of learning organisations and to evaluate the state of organisational learning in Estonian production companies. This also signifies the need to study how completely the patterns of organisational learning are appearing in organisations.

Production companies were selected for the better homogeneity of the sample of empirical research at first stage, in the future the authors propose to expand the study also on service industry. For the main theoretical basis of the studies, Senge's five disciplines of a learning organisation (1990) are used, which characterise mainly the organisational features without the need to measure and compare indicators of (economic) performance of the companies from different economic sectors. As is supposed above, we can meet not complete 'OL pattern' that raises the question about the prerequisites enabling the process of learning in the organisation. The enabling environment of learning in the organisation is covered using the three-dimension organisational learning framework (OLF) designed by Mets (2002). Therefore, to fulfil the main goal of our study we are mapping the learning features as well as identifying the framework of the learning process in the organisation.

In the theoretical overview we shall study the features and aspects of the LO in companies of different type and size, including the framework of OL. …

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