Supporting Document 1: Memorandum to the CEO




Identifying Organizational Learning Issues

HRM 562: Developing a Learning Organization

Dr. Allan Beck

Penny Williams

July 21, 2019

Identifying Organizational Learning Issues

The concept of organizational learning is complex as it lacks a universal definition. In as much as various scholars define the organizational learning differently, there is no denying that a firm must understand the concept’s key aspects. An understanding of the concept is essential for effective transitioning of a firm from individual learning to organizational learning. Some of the key aspects worth understanding include, an organizations culture regarding knowledge sharing, organizational learning mechanisms, and the norms relating to organizational learning. Moreover, it is important to understand disconnect between organizational learning and culture based on mystifications of organizational learning.

Organizational Culture and Learning

ABC Company’s (my employer) culture mirrors teamwork and passion. Employers can freely share their opinion, ideas and views to support the organization and inspire growth. Management encourages generation of innovative ideas that can propel the organization to greater heights and enhance its competitiveness in the market. Moreover, the company’s culture embraces formation of healthy relationships among employees for the establishment of a knowledge sharing environment. At ABC Company, inclusivity and respect for diversity is of absolute importance. There is a policy that prohibits discrimination of employees on the basis of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, and disability. Hence, all employees can freely share their ideas without fear of victimization. Nonetheless, departments fear sharing knowledge with one another which hinders the company’s culture of teamwork. The disconnection is due to three mystifications organizational learning, namely-anthropomorphism, multiple parochial disciplines, and double loop learning concept.

According to Lipshitz, Friedman and Popper (2007), anthropomorphism is the act of treating firms like human beings by attributing human capacity of learning to an organization. But whereas people have the ability to share knowledge as well as learn from experiences, organizations cannot. At ABC Company, the organization’s culture is grounded on the assumption that organizational learning happens through employee training. But this leads to disconnection between organizational learning and organizational culture because learning of individual employees does not imply organizational learning.

Mystification of organizational learning is also attributed to multiplicity of viewpoints regarding the concept. Studies on organizational learning reflect lack of cumulative work, and little consensus on the meaning of organizational learning. Despite growing number of literatures, the concept of organizational learning lacks a theoretical integration on the meaning of the term (Antal, Meusburger & Suarsana, 2013). In essence, the more researches about organizational learning, the more obscure the term has become. For instance, ABC Company’s culture considers organizational learning as a community. In other words, the organization is a collection of individuals who cannot only learn, but develop as well. Hence, the organization’s culture relating to organizational learning is anchored on one of the various definitions of the term.

The organizational learning field has also introduced new terminologies such as system’s thinking, organizational memory, double loop learning, competency trap, tacit knowledge, mental models, and defensive routines (Lipshitz, Friedman & Popper, 2007). The jargons are appealing as well as easy to adopt but difficult to understand and apply in appropriate ways. The double loop learning concept, for instance, describes a rare type of learning founded on a specific theoretical framework (Kantamara & Ractham, 2014). ABC Company has adopted the double loop learning concept to refer to all types of organizational changes within the organization despite the fact that it is only applicable to specific types of learning in specific contexts.

Organizational Learning Mechanisms

The concept of organizational learning mechanisms highlights the similarities plus differences between individual and organizational learning. The other contribution of organizational learning mechanisms is that they provide non-metaphorical means of showing how firms learn thereby demystify organizational learning (Cirella, Canterino, Guerci & Shani, 2016). Nonetheless, organizational learning mechanisms such as organizational culture, organizational system and structure, as well as leadership can also hinder organizational learning. Cook and Yanow (2011) posit that culture involves shared knowledge, values, plus assumptions about organizational learning. However, ABC Company lacks a uniform culture since each department has its own culture which hampers organizational learning. In addition, the organization’s leaders do not motivate and encourage sharing of knowledge between departments. An employee training program introduced by the company to educate workers on importance of communication has been ineffective because majority of employees lack effective communication skills. This can be attributed to poor leadership and non-collaboration between departments.


The off-line/external organizational learning mechanism is the most appropriate organizational learning mechanism to solve the problems hindering organizational learning at ABC Company. According to Lipshitz, Friedman and Popper (2007) learning is performed by experts in off-line/external organizational learning mechanism. Normally, experts are assigned the task on full time basic because they possess specialized analytical skills. The experts operate from centralized units that act as companywide repositories of knowledge as well as knowledge dissemination centers. The three best practice organizational learning mechanisms that fall under off-line/ external include U.S. Army Center for Army Lessons Learned, British Petroleum’s Post-Project Assessment Unit, and Shell’s Strategic Scenario Planning Unit. Hiring experts to handle ABC Company’s organization learning process on full time would enable the company handle all aspects relating to the concept.

Norms in ABC Company’s Organizational Learning

Organizational learning is grounded on norms, shared experiences, as well as understanding, which foster appropriate behavior and learning techniques. Norms of an organization’s learning culture can affect productive learning when they are not in congruence with the concept of organizational learning (Lipshitz, Friedman & Popper, 2007). ABC Company must re-evaluate its inquiry and transparency norms. Currently, the company lacks an inquiry norm, which explain the decision making and innovation problems experienced at ABC. Lipshitz, Friedman and Popper (2007) indicate that a firm can foster its inquiry norm by adopting an inquisitive culture which can enhance learning and knowledge sharing processes. Apart from inquiry norm, ABC Company lacks an effective transparency norm. For instance, various departments are willing to share their knowledge among one another. As a result, ABC Company is lagging behind the industry in as far as creativity and innovation is concerned. The organization must foster a companywide norm of transparency to enhance organizational learning.


Antal, A. B., Meusburger, P., & Suarsana, L. (Eds.). (2013). Learning organizations: Extending the field (Vol. 6).  ‎Berlin‎/‎Heidelberg, Germany: Springer Science & Business Media.

Cirella, S., Canterino, F., Guerci, M., & Shani, A. B. (2016). Organizational learning mechanisms and creative climate: Insights from an Italian fashion design company. Creativity and Innovation Management25(2), 211-222.

Cook, S. N., & Yanow, D. (2011). Culture and organizational learning. Journal of Management Inquiry20(4), 362-379.

Kantamara, P., & Ractham, V. (2014). Single-loop vs. double-loop learning: An obstacle or a success factor for organizational learning. International Journal of Education and Research2(7), 55-62.

Lipshitz, R., Friedman, V. J., Popper, M. (2007). Demystifying organizational learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.