Learning Organisation

In addition to other initiatives, each employee was given ‘100 towards any (approved) learning of their own choice – inside or outside the organization. Such learning could incorporate ballroom dancing, driving lessons, flower arranging or whatever. This was viewed as being proof of commitment but also as a means of generating "the learning habit". All learning is registered (on a central database) and rewarded (not in financial terms). Employees are given some time within working time to use the open learning centres – but more learning occurs in the employees’ own time.
Employees are reinvigorated both in terms of evaluating their own learning and in terms of their work -employees on the production line have a "right" to stop the line – at large cost – if they feel something is wrong. Evidence suggests that whenever, as in this case, employees feel cherished they respond accordingly. There is no headstrong stopping of the line.
Clearly, this all sounds very simple and naive. Change is never easy – and cultural and attitudinal change is the toughest of all. In the Rover case, the main people were a small number of "change agents" -people with the skills of interviewing, counselling, coaching and convincing – whose role was not to establish the nature of change but to make it happen. They are required at various levels to act as catalysts, sounding boards, motivators, and sources of feedback, monitoring and control. If you can recognize suitable change agents, you are half way to success. They don’t have to be people in the line structure – it is possible to ascertain practises which allow them to work outside of the line structure using the "authority" of an overall, senior co-ordinator.
Critiques of the Learning Organisation Concept
In spite of the extensive interest in the notion of the "learning organisation" as is shown by the proliferation of research literature as well as popular books, it is a difficult concept and, indeed, a contested one (see, in particular, the critiques of Brown and Keep (2003) and Fischer (2003), who provided source material for the Cedra learning organisation project).
There is censure among many sociologists and researchers in adult and community education but also in the occupational education and training (VET) community, for example in Germany (Fischer, 2003). They see the idea of the learning organisation as being seated in a normative or prescriptive business-school management concept that is founded on pitiless American/Anglo-Saxon economic principles of organisational effectiveness. They disapprove of the use of sophisticated cultural and psychological theories by modern management to maximise benefits for the company without paying a big deal of attention to ensuring personal learning benefits for employees or workers.
This analysis is reinvigorated by a feeling of being disappointed by the non-fulfilment of the hopeful forecasts in the 1980s regarding the emergence of more human-centred workplaces in the post-Tayloristic period that would improve the quality of working life for everybody (see