organizations have formal programs to develop their current and future
executives/leaders. There are
many different approaches to accomplishing this.
Some simply have employees use a 360-feedback tool to receive
feedback on their performance for their development.
Typically, this is followed with a development plan and often with
coaching. Other tools used to
develop executives are having multiple mentors and by rotational job
of the more sophisticated organizations have their own universities to
develop executives. Albert A.
Vicere (1998), Professor of Business Administration at Penn State
University, developed an innovative program that blended real life
business issues in real-time, training, and education.
This program also focused on continuous learning and developing
networks in the company. One
of the key learning assignments of this program is having the executives
work in a group as internal consultants.
Their client is an
unrelated department within the same company.
The culmination of the assignment is a presentation of the
group’s recommendations to their employees.
The plan is usually implemented.
This gives the employees a real time business opportunity to apply
their skills. It also helps them learn more about their own company.
In addition, it helps the company solve important problems while
saving them money because they do not have to hire an outside consultant.
Further, it helps develop many relationships within the company.
To enhance these relationships the education center has reunions to
help people keep in touch with their colleagues (Vicere, 1998).
Community of Practices
community of practice is a network of employees across an organization
that shares knowledge in order to better serve the customer.
This is a successful way to create an environment of learning while
working because employees are transferring their knowledge to others on
the job. Since the term has
been coined, OD practitioners have been trying to leverage the concept to
enhance learning. This can be
done in a number of ways. One
is strategically creating networking opportunities so people can learn who
knows what and start to build relationships with each other.
of practices is often used when creating knowledge management systems.
It is best to match the purpose of the knowledge management system
with the right type of community of practices.
There are four types of community of practices:
one of the more popular types of communities of practices is the knowledge
community. A knowledge
community is a group of people who share a similar interest, but are not
directly competing. For
example Mitchell and Company, a management-consulting firm, has founded
knowledge community called Share Price Growth 100.
The group’s purpose is to swap knowledge on how to improve stock
price. Companies in the group
are all from different industries. They
meet a couple of times during the year to swap their best practices and
discuss ideas and problems with each other.
Boston University runs similar groups: the Executive Development
Roundtable and the Human Resource Policy Institute.
application of community of practices involves mapping the relationships
in a community of practice in order to locate key people, the pattern of
information flow, the bottlenecks, and discover how are people are
perceived. A computer
software program called social networking analysis can do this mapping
(interview, May 16, 1999).
Improving an Employee’s Ability to Learn
are several ways to improve employee’s ability to learn.
One is by helping people see how their defensive routines prevent
them from learning. Chris
Argyris (1991), a Harvard professor, has done a lot of work in this area.
He feels the most important type of learning a person can do is to
ask himself what he did to contribute to the situation.
His research indicated that most people are trained by society to
avoid this type of self-examination during difficult situations because
they feel embarrassed and find it threatening.
Instead they become defensive and blame others (Argyris, 1991).
(1991) believes that when exploring the reasons for failure, the universal
human tendency is to use four basic values.
These are to retain unilateral control, to maximize winning and
minimize losing, to suppress negative feelings, and to be as rational as
possible. The use of these values leads to the defensive reasoning that
encourages individuals to keep private the premises, inferences, and
conclusions that shape their behavior and to avoid testing them in a truly
independent, objective fashion.
people be less defensive involves showing them the patterns of their
behavior that are preventing them from learning and challenging them to
make their reasoning explicit and to look at their reasoning objectively. It is important to make sure people understand that
challenging one’s reasoning is not a sign of mistrust, but a valuable
learning opportunity. As
Argyris (1991) says, “Learning to reason productively can be emotional
– even painful, but the payoff is great” (p.107).
way one can enhance his/her learning is to improve what Dan Goleman (1995)
coined “Emotional Intelligence."
Emotional Intelligence is set of competencies that help one master
themselves (Personal Competence) and their interactions with people
(Social Competence) (Goleman book, 1998).
It would be helpful for companies to learn these emotional
intelligences on an organizational and individual level as they can lead
to enhanced productivity. I
believe enhancing emotional intelligence on an individual level enhances
one’s ability to learn. For
example, a person with improved self-confidence would likely take more
risks, which would help him/her learn.
It would also help him/her present him/herself with more
“presence”, which will make others more confident in them and give
them more opportunities to try new things. These new experiences will help the person learn.
Improved self confidence will also allow the person voice unpopular
points of view, which challenge others.
These challenges will often lead to deeper conversations that both
parties can learn from.
Another example of an emotional intelligence is improved conflict management skills. Good conflict management helps one maintain relationships during tense moments. The more relationships one has the more people he/she has to learn from. People with this skill also encourage debate and open discussion. This form of interpersonal interaction is often one of the best ways to learn (Goleman book, 1998).