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Characteristics of a Learning Organization


A learning organization is a term used about a company that can transform its activities and mindsets as a result of experience. This enables them to retain the competitive advantage previously enjoyed. Organizational learning does not just entail individual learning; learning mainly occurs through the interaction of staff in groups or teams of varied sizes. A learning organization has five main characteristics; self-mastery, systems judgment, team learning, shared vision and mental models (Smith, 2001, para. 4). The paper aims to investigate learning organizations can implement the mentioned characteristics.

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Shared vision

One of the characteristics of a learning organization that I have observed in our organization is shared vision; this is the ability of a group of co-workers to hold a common picture of a mutually attractive future of the firm. This shared vision inspires the staff to learn as it generates a common identity that provides focus and the will to learn. Besides, it gets the staff to work together towards the realization of their shared vision which acts as a focal point to the diverse activities which they undertake.

A shared vision promotes participative openness among co-workers as they work towards a common destination with a common picture in their minds. They are able to work together, supporting and pushing each other on with no rivalry amongst them. Workers do not blame each other for failures, neither do they hide nor ignore the failures, rather, they learn from each other. A failure is viewed as an opportunity to learn and probably change the strategies earlier employed (Streetdirectory, 2010).

The shared vision also promotes co-operation and trust among the staff; as they work towards a common goal, the workers engage more often and share ideas and learn from each other. This creates an environment of trust among them leading to more effective communication channels among them (Smith, M. K., 2001).

A learning organization can fail to achieve its objectives or retreat in its endeavors to achieve the objectives. Most of these failures are a result of an organization failing to embrace all the features associated with a learning organization.

Organizations find it hard to adopt personal mastery since the idea is not tangible and the end results cannot be measured. A shared vision can also be hindered especially in a company that is not aligned; this leads to individuals applying their mastery to forward their personal goals. Elimination of conventional hierarchical structures can enhance the embrace of a learning organization’s characteristics.

Failure of displaying some of these characteristics may also be a result of resistance by the staff especially in instances where adoption of such characteristics threatens a staff’s position in the company. This mainly affects the senior management who fail to implement learning in an organization since they feel that they may be replaced by their juniors.

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Key Performance Indicator

Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a method used to evaluate an organization’s performance. The performance indicators provide staff with clear goals and objectives on how to achieve overall success in an organization (Visitask 2010). Learning organizations are unique in the application of the KPIs in that they mainly check on the implementation or likelihood of achieving the five core features of a learning organization earlier listed. While other organizations have to identify performance indicators based on their nature or strategy, learning organizations use the characteristics as benchmarks on which to base the KPIs.


The achievement of the targets of a learning organization requires that the management be committed and encourage communication and openness among the team members or co-workers. Besides, there must be well-structured processes that promote communication flows in an organization.

Reference List

Smith, M. K. (2001). Peter Senge and the learning organization.

Streetdirectory. (2010). What is a Shared Vision? 

Visitask. (2010). Using key performance indicators (KPI) for effective project management.

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