I didn’t ever think that I would hear the words “guns” and “learning” in the same sentence but I did this week! In a TV report there was talk that if people would have some kind of classes on the safe use of a gun then the incidents of terror that we’ve seen these last few weeks might stop. While I understand the value of learning about anything, and while I understand the reaching for any kind of solution in these times of terror I wonder if learning in these situations would be preventative for those who do these deeds. Perhaps it is enough to suggest learning more about who does these acts and why is in itself a social antidote. The CLT recognizes communities that have used learning to meet a challenge. Are there communities out there that should be recognized for the learning they have done when it comes to terrorism and guns? See www.canlearntrust.org
There are lots of definitions of an LO (a Learning Organization). Simply, an LO values and approaches learning purposefully to make the organization better. For instance, what we say and don’t say about how things happen in our organization is the culture of the organization. When we’re new at our job we pick up all kinds of information very quickly such as who to trust, what not to say to the boss, and when to ask certain kinds of questions. When an organization doesn’t leave the learning about the culture to this kind of chance learning and when it makes learning purposeful, it becomes an LO. Organizations that value learning exhibit three features. The first is that the organization’s cultural norms, expectations and roles are articulated. The second is that organizational learning follows the principles of lifelong learning. The third is that learning is customized to the needs of the learners in the organization.
It takes a concerted effort on behalf of the organization to write the important elements of the organization’s culture into the bylaws, the policies and the procedures of an organization. The good news is that this only has to be done once and then fine tuned after that first writing. The more that organizational roles, rules and expectations are specified, the less the chance there is for misinterpretation of expectations of the people in the organization – and the more opportunity there is to be a LO.
When the principles of lifelong learning are accepted and used in an organization, the more likely the organization will be a LO. These principles include specifying learning to the learners, setting learning objectives and financially supporting learning. Good learning is learner-driven, whatever the age, stage of learning or learning needs of the learner. This means that determining the needs of the learners is the first step before a learning program is planned. Each learner, or learner group, in an organization should have their learning needs identified. This includes the senior staff, the volunteers, the front line staff, and even the volunteer leaders – the Board of Directors. Learners who are Directors on a Board are also including in the learning offered by an organization. Finding their needs in both the content specific to the organization as well as the process of being a Director is important.
Setting clear objectives for learning, then evaluating the outcomes against these objectives is another principle of lifelong learning. If you don’t set the objectives prior to beginning a program you may be accidentally successful or not successful at all. Practically, setting an amount of the organizational budget devoted to learning for staff and volunteers, including the Board of Directors, means that your learning programs are valued. The Canadian Learning Trust believes that at least 1% of the organization’s gross annual revenue should be designated to learning. The amount spent on staff, volunteers, members and the Board will need to be balanced according to each need and usually year by year. With this amount set aside, learning takes the same priority placement in the organization’s plan and budget as any other part.
For organizations such as professional associations, for which learning is a mandatory part of the requirements for continuing education and therefore work in the profession, learning is more easily defined through the competencies in standards of practise. For organizations which are not regulated, learning for members is more difficult to determine. However, when the learning needs have been identified, the same process is followed that professional associations use. Organizations such as general associations, societies, foundations and for-profits should first identify the learning needs prior to planning a learning program. Whatever the type of organization you have, the learning should be at an appropriate level for learners, as well as include the appropriate delivery technology.
There are two factors that will reliably predict excellence in organizational learning. They are having a culture of learning that includes financial support for learning, and having clear objectives that link learning to the needs of learners.
When these factors are leveraged, the organization will be a leader in their approach to organizational change and challenge. There will be staff and Directors who demonstrate an understanding of their roles, rules and relationships with respect to governing and managing the organization. There will also be members and clients who meet the organization’s requirements for successful learning.
You might be interested in how Ideal Consulting can help. We have a convenient online learning assessment tool that will show where you are as an LO. We can also guide the development of a learning plan for your teams.
If you are looking for a tool to help your learners plan and track their learning, you can download a copy of the CLT’s GoldEye at www.canlearntrust.ca. Your organization might want to apply to be recognized as an LO. See this same site for an application form.
If you are interested in discussing this further, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.