The concept of the ‘learning organisation’ is a managerial one which, unusually, is as well known within HE as it is beyond. Even so, universities have traditionally been tardy about showing a genuine commitment to the idea of staff development.
Housed with experts, universities are more ‘knowing organisations’ than they are ‘learning organisations’ – a reflection, in itself, of Chris Agyris’s contention that ‘Why Smart People Have So Much Difficulty Learning’ is because they think they know it all already, and of the very narrow way staff development has often been conceived (as remedial training).
This chapter maintains that while few organisations have transformed themselves into ‘learning organisations’ the concept has value as an aspiration, or guide, to what individual managers and universities can do to optimise the contribution of their staff – for the benefit of the individual and the university.
In doing so it explains what staff development entails in its fullest sense, the various approaches universities can choose with regard to staff development and how heads can establish a ‘learning climate’ within their department, including through coaching and delegating on their part, and the recruitment, selection and induction of new staff.