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Stephen Gill on Organizational Learning

My name is Stephen J. Gill. I’m author of Developing a Learning Culture in Nonprofit Organizations (SAGE, 2010)*. This might not sound like a book for evaluators, but it is. The book is about how the process of collecting, reflecting on, and learning from evaluative information can help nonprofits become more successful organizations. Nineteen evaluation tools from the book are available for downloading at http://www.sagepub.com/learnculstudy/chapters.htm.

Rad Resource: One of these tools that you can put to use immediately with any organization is the Organizational Learning Readiness Worksheet. This tool asks your clients to indicate to what extent seven principles are characteristic of their organizations. Do they observe each principle “not at all; never see it,” “occasionally see evidence,” or is “evidence all around us”? Then, most importantly, you should discuss the meaning of the ratings with your clients. Help them decide what they need and want to do to become more ready for organizational learning and change.

The seven statements are:

  1. We integrate and align our organization’s mission, people, processes, resources, structures, and culture.
  2. Each of our organization’s activities is an element of a process that is continuously improved through knowledge enhancement.
  3. We don’t rely on quick fixes to our performance deficits.
  4. Learning is continuous over the long term in order to achieve meaningful results.
  5. Learning is leveraged so that relatively small interventions result in long-term major changes for the organization.
  6. Each of our employees and volunteers is responsible for the system in which he or she works.
  7. The collective learning of all employees and volunteers is an essential aspect of capacity building.

You can download a pre-formatted PDF worksheet with the above seven items here: http://bit.ly/orglearningreadiness

*remember that as an AEA member you would receive 20% off on this title if you order directly from SAGE – sign into the AEA website with your username and password to look up the passcodes.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

4 thoughts on “Stephen Gill on Organizational Learning”

  1. Martz goes on to say in that blog: “The evaluative organization is one that reaches beyond performance measurement and monitoring to embrace the relentless pursuit of quality and value by thinking and acting evaluatively to improve organizational performance.” I think this comment is very important. If an “evaluative organization” is one in which individuals, teams, and the organization as-a-whole are continually learning and learning how to learn from evaluation, then that fits with how I think about a learning culture. The important distinction for me is that it’s not about improving specific programs and activities (although that’s important, too). It’s about the whole organization learning how to be more effective and learning how to learn how to be more effective.

  2. Curious to know your thoughts on the notion of an “evaluative orgnization” as defined by Wes Martz who states:

    the evaluative organization fully integrates the evaluative attitude and culture into its business processes and utilizes information that has been specifically collected to determine the effectiveness of a particular process or activity and its contribution to organizational performance. What’s more, an evaluative organization recognizes that learning enables the organization to adapt to its environment and enhances organizational learning by assessing the merit of initiatives resulting from the learning process and their contributions toward improved organizational performance.

    You can more at http://bit.ly/EmIjn


  3. Marcus, I agree with you completely. I think “learning organization” is a misnomer. What we should be striving for in our organizations is a culture that supports on-going learning. I’m hoping this Organizational Readiness Worksheet (as well as the other tools in the book) will stimulate thinking about what it means to be constantly learning and applying that learning to achieving goals. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Hi Stephen,

    Organizational learning and learning organizations are research interests of mine. I think one of the biggest misconceptions of organizational learning is the fallacy of becoming a learning organization. I’ve heard and read countless cases of organizations striving to become learning organizations, as if it were the ultimate goal. But, many researchers (and I agree) have argued that becoming a learning organization is not an end-goal, but rather a continual process. This is why I think that Q’s 2 and 4 of the org learning readiness worksheet are integral; they emphasize the continuous aspect of learning.

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