I recently ran into someone I’ve known for years. She is the director of Human Resources of an important company that is engaged in manufacturing and marketing of machine tools and learning at international level.
As on all previous occasions, we talked about our work, the markets, the difficulties, and like always we came to that point when we both agree on the importance of people for organizations.
So far, so good. Where the conversation ends and the discussion begins is when this recurrent lapidary phrase is dropped: «in my company we only hire engineers…» – «Well, was good to see you», I said goodbye…
This ‘functional inbreeding’ is no mere anecdote. In many organizations around us it is a fact and does not describe a problem per se, but a symptom of a mediocre organization.
What is a High Performing Organization?
In order not to argue with the person of the initial story, I figured that I could help her by writing this article and hope that it would reach her in some way.
If not, I hope to at least help those who are reading it.
What distinguishes a Learning Organization?
Among the category of Learning Organizations, we find the elite group of HPOs (High Performance Organizations).
This group includes companies like Toyota, Google, Spotify, Twitter, Procter & Gamble, LinkedIn or Amazon, among others.
We could discuss their great results, the great amount of money they invest in technology, or how they internally design their organizational systems to become more agile every day.
But one of the least known characteristics of these organizations is their ability to obtain maximum learning from everything they do.
Rapid capitalization and transfer of that learning throughout the organization is what distinguishes these organizations. Due to this characteristic, they are referred to as ‘Learning Organizations’.
What constitues a Learning Organization?
In addition to the design of their organizational systems, Learning Organizations have implemented five key elements:
Openness to Diversity
Which eliminates cultural, religious, racial, and gender barriers. It does not matter where you come from, what you are, or where you studied before. This is the environment for talent to flourish. I guess this contrasts a bit with my counterpart’s view in the initial story.
Where cultural, religious, racial, and sexual barriers are removed, and where it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you are, or where you studied before. It is in these kinds of settings that talent is spread.
It´s a characteristic feature of High Performance Organizations to design internal processes superior to those of the competitors to develop within the organization a great number of leaders, who will shape the future growth of the company.
All activities performed in the organization are recorded, in order to relate their results to the indicators and the long-term strategy. Here are two of the tools used by these Learning Organizations: Hoshin Kanri and OKR (Objectives & Key Results), not to be confused with KPI (Key Performance Indicators).
Necessary to manage all the previous data (Big Data), and to provide the organization with the artificial intelligence that serves as support and allows people to make the right decisions, in order to initiate another new learning cycle.
When the learning has been capitalized in the company, thanks to the technology, it is transferred to all the people concerned with the purpose of increasing their capacities. These people incorporate this new learning in their activities to later obtain new data that will feed the system once again.
I hope that this article will be inspiring for the reader, and that he or she will be curious to discover more about Learning Organizations.