Systemic Systems and The Learning Organization

By Christina Suter on Jun 06, 2015 at 10:09 AM in Business Issues

Systemic Systems and The Learning Organization

When speaking about systemic systems in his 1990 book The 5th Discipline, author Peter Sange introduced a concept called, the learning organization. According to Sange, learning organizations are organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspirations are set and where people are continually learning to see the whole together as a group. He stresses the importance of organizations tapping into and discovering people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels. He acknowledges that while all people have the capacity to learn, that the structure in which they have to function are often not conducive to reflection and engagement.

The reason it’s important to make sure that our employees have the commitment and capacity to learn on all levels is because we want them engaged in our company. When employees aren’t engaged, they become automatons and when that happens they stop being creative and effective problem solvers. We’ve all seen the people who are unwilling to take a step or to start or complete a project.

Why is it important to have a work environment conducive to reflection and engagement? Employees can begin to feel there’s too much to do, or they get into trouble for the work they actually do, or there isn’t enough praise for work they’ve done. It’s our responsibility to steward this because we’re the ones who hire and train them. We create the culture in which they’re working so we decide the culture, even in small businesses. Also, people may lack the tools and guiding ideas, meaning they’re hard to train.

Run your business versus your business running you.

Sometimes we feel like we’re barely able to keep up with our business instead of working on our business; working in verses working on.

People flourish when they feel they are a part of something larger than themselves; employees get excited when they’re connected to being a generator and creating something. A learning organization enhances the capacity to create.

Systemic systems parallel culture. We create the culture our employees work in and the one we work in ourselves. So when we’re hard on ourselves, stay up late, work overtime, it’s because we’ve created that culture. I encourage you to ask yourself if you’re in survival learning or if you’re into generative learning and when are you doing and what are you doing that creates generative learning? Survival might be always dealing with clients, short on time, more money going out than coming in. Generative is the “I’m excited about” stage, creating new products, new marketing, new employee guidelines, etc. What is pushing you into survivial thinking and what creates generative thinking? How much time are you spending on each?

Systemic thinking is the conceptual cornerstone to the learning organization; it examines the interrelationship between the moving parts of your system. Most times, people don’t see the systems; the interaction between employee and employer is a system. The environment is the system so if an employee is responding to a lack of pay, a lack of resources, etc, those are systems. There are always some systems that are slow to get a response from, such as advertising.

Do a map of the systems in your business; use your P&L statement to identify them and evaluate the effectiveness of each one.