MANAGING ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING AND TECHNOLOGY
The Role of Line Management IN CHAPTER 1, THE RESULTS OF THE RAVELL case study demonstrated the importance of the role that line managers have for the success of implementing organizational learning, particularly in the objective of integrating the IT department. There has been much debate relating to the use of event-driven learning. In particular, there is Senge’s work from his book, The Fifth Discipline. While I am overall consistent with his theories, I believe there is a need to critique some of his core concepts and beliefs. That is, Senge tends to make very broad generalizations about the limits of event-driven education and learning in organizations. He believes that there is a limitation of learning from experience because it can create limitations to learning based on actions-as he asks: “What happens when we can no longer observe the consequences of our actions?” (Senge, 1990, p. 23). My research has found that event-driven learning is essential to most workers who have yet to learn through other means. I agree with Senge that not all learning can be obtained through event-oriented thinking, but I feel that much of what occurs at this horizon pertains more to the senior levels than to what many line managers have to deal with as part of their functions in business. Senge’s concern with learning methods that focus too much on the individual perhaps is more powerful if we see the learning organization as starting at the top and then working its way down. The position, however, particularly with respect to the integration of technology, is that too much dependence on executive-driven programs to establish and sustain organizational learning is dangerous. Rather, it is the line management-or middle
managers who fundamentally run the business-who are best positioned to make the difference. My hypothesis here is that both top-down and bottom-up approaches to organizational learning are riddled with problems, especially in their ability to sustaining outcomes. We cannot be naïve-even our senior executives must drive results in order to maintain their positions. As such, middle managers, as the key business drivers, must operate in an event-and results-driven world-let’s not underestimate the value of producing measurable outcomes as part of the ongoing growth of the organizational learning practicum.