AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | learning organization

Hi, I’m Joseph E. Bauer, the Strategic Director of Survey Research & Evaluation in the Statistics & Evaluation Center (SEC) for the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Atlanta, Georgia.  I am in my eleventh year as an internal evaluator.  I am the former Chair of the Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity Building (OL-ECB) TIG, and am currently on our Leadership Team.

Recently, Roberto Azevedo, the Director General of the World Trade Association cited studies showing that as much as 90% of U.S. manufacturing jobs recently lost were due to new technologies, innovations, or the result of improvement in efficiencies.  Many jobs world-wide are being eliminated by automation.  In fact, we are living in a time when the world is experiencing a fourth Industrial Revolution (a quick summary and other information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCGV1tNBoeU)

The amount and complexity of knowledge and skills that employees (and the organizations they work for) need – is increasing dramatically every day due to technology and globalization.  Simple repetitive tasks are being automated and online technologies are disrupting traditional business on a global scale (big data, technology, and the world of work are being dramatically transformed by the Internet of Things (IoT) (a brief introduction: https://www.wired.com/insights/2014/07/internet-things-will-disrupt-everything/)

Employees that survive automation and disruption will need to know more and do more.  Employees need to learn quickly.  They need to acquire new information, new skills, and develop new abilities and they need to do this in a way in which that learning will be retained and applied immediately to problem-solving.  Employees and the organizations they work for, must be learning and adapting continuously to survive and be successful.  Most organizations over the last 100 years have had ‘training cultures’- but that methodology does not allow a quick enough adaptation to the disruptions in a changing environment and in changing customer needs.  The work environment needs to support learning all the time and employees need to be learning all the time – hence the need for learning cultures becomes imperative.  Of course, this brave new world needs to evolve a culture of evaluation and build the necessary capacity to design, test, and improve processes and outcomes systematically.  Evaluation and an evaluative mindset will play a critical role in supporting and driving organizational learning, employee attitudes and behavior, and learning cultures.  To that end, the OL-ECB is creating an ECB Commons, mentioned earlier this week.

Rad Resources:  The Masie Center (http://masie.com), in Saratoga Springs, New York is a think tank, and a consultative and research center for organizational and employee learning that is focused on how organizations can support learning and knowledge within the workforce.  They coordinate a Learning Consortium, a coalition of 230 global organizations on the evolution of learning and collaboration strategies.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity Building (OL-ECB) Topical Interest Group Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our OL-ECB TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

I’m Jeff Sheldon, newly minted Ph.D. from the School of Social Science, Policy, and Evaluation at Claremont Graduate University and many of the positions to which I’ve applied have the words “strategic learning” and “evaluation” in the job title for good reason; evaluation is part and parcel of strategic learning and it is the learning organization that uses evaluation strategically to become more efficient, effective or accountable.  Given some confusion about how organizations learn, today I offer the 16 widely agreed upon characteristics of the learning organization that can be used as a checklist to determine whether your organization is a learning organization.  These characteristics are subject to interpretation, but by contextualizing they’ll be relevant to your organization.

  1. Your organization provides continuous learning opportunities;
  1. Your organization uses coordinated efforts and learning to reach its shared goals;
  1. Your organization links individual performance with organizational performance;
  1. Your organization fosters inquiry and dialogue;
  1. Your organization makes it safe for people to openly share and take risks;
  1. Your organization embraces creative tension as a source of energy and renewal, and has a continuous awareness of and interaction with its environment;
  1. Your organization has shared insights or vision;
  1. Your organization has an active commitment to continuous improvement and to the diffusion of best practices throughout the organization;
  1. In your organization learning is based on experience;
  1. In your organization there is a willingness to change mental models;
  1. In your organization there is individual and group motivation;
  1. In your organization learning is done in teams;
  1. In your organization learning is nurtured by new information;
  1. In your organization there is an ability to understand, analyze, and use the dynamic system within which it functions;
  1. In your organization information flows horizontally in networks bringing together expertise as well as external links; and
  1. In your organization there is an ever-increasing learning capacity to reach a state of continuous transformation.

Where does evaluative inquiry fit with these characteristics of the learning organization?  First, it is integrated into an organization’s processes and performed primarily by its own members.  Second, evaluative inquiry and the resultant learning are ongoing rather than episodic because it is embedded in the organization’s naturally occurring processes.  Last, the organization is a community of inquirers who regularly use their own inquiry skills for understanding and improving organizational processes and systems.

Taken together these characteristics foster the development of a learning culture in organizations, one that supports the systematic acquisition, transfer, and ongoing use of knowledge and information for adaptation and improvement to enrich and enhance the organization as a whole.

Rad Resource: LinkedIn members can access the full document (with references): https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/jeff-sheldon-learning-organization-part-i-jeff-sheldon-ph-d-?trk=mp-reader-card

 

 

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity Building (OL-ECB) Topical Interest Group Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our OL-ECB TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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