Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What happened to the LO-lads?

.... I think there was another factor: the presence and then sudden absence of a dominant presence on the list. AT (pronounced "A T") de Lange out of South Africa had developed and often led discussions there about a systemic approach he called the Seven Essentialities (7Es). In its later years, I think it's safe to say that more than half of the discussions revolved around the 7Es.

At some point, AT retired and then became ill, as I understand it. When his participation dropped off, so did the list's activity. I tried to follow up with him afterwards, but his email no longer worked.

While AT wrote long posts, he did hold discussions, not monologs; there were quite a number of active participants. Jan, I think you were a key discussant regarding the 7Es.

I think there are two lessons for facilitation. First, if you have the chance to study the 7Es, I think you'll find them beneficial. Even though I don't know them well, I find them helpful.

Second, when we're running a discussion list such as this, I do think we need to pay attention to the diversity of ideas and the ongoing sustainability of the list. If it gets too one-dimensional (even on as rich a dimension as the 7Es), it risks a sudden demise if a key player goes away.

To tie this back to Jan's idea, I think Rick Karash, the LO host, might have worked to facilitate renewed discussion if there hadn't been the vendor and SPAM issues. Rick spent significant time almost every day manually editing and moderating a huge volume of posts (GRP-FACL list volume is, IIRC, a mere tiny fraction of the LO volume in its heyday), and, after nine years or so, I'm sure it got to be a burden.

Rick and AT both deserve a lot of credit. Rick started one of the first major, successful, non-techie mailing lists (1994?), and that work was written up in Fortune or Forbes or some such magazine. AT developed a powerful and comprehensive theory, and he seemed to apply it throughout his life's work. I suspect a number of people here were at least lurkers on the LO list, for it had broad participation.

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Bill Harris
Facilitated Systems Everett, WA 98208 USA phone: +1 425 337-5541

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

What is a "Learning Organization"?

From the 1st- Learning-Org Dialog:

A "Learning Organization" is one in which people at all levels, individually and collectively, are continually increasing their capacity to produce results they really care about.

Why should organizations care? Because, the level of performance and improvement needed today requires learning, lots of learning. In most industries, in health care, and in most areas of government, there is no clear path to success, no clear path to follow.

What's in it for the people? Learning to do is enormously rewarding and personally satisfying. For those of us working in the field, the possibility of a win-win is part of the attraction. That is, the possibility of achieving extraordinary performance together with satisfaction and fulfillment for the individuals involved.

Are there any examples of Learning Organizations? Yes, but the Learning Organization is an ideal, a vision. Various organizations or parts of organizations achieve this in varying degree.

The Society for Organizational Learning (formerly the Organizational Learning Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)), is a major locus of research and application. Several large corporations are attracted to this concept and are investing to support organizational learning.

The Learning-Org Dialog was an initiative by Rick Karash. The archive is located at: this LO-cation