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The Dynamic, Learning Organization

In their book, Dynamic Manufacturing, Hayes, Wheel­wright and Clark observe, "Unfortunately during the past two decades relatively few companies in the United States have sought to build a competitive advantage around their manufacturing ability.... (Many companies) have discov­ered that the "secret weapon" of their fiercest competitors is often based not on better product design, greater market­ing ingenuity or superior financial strength but on the ability to make relatively standard products more efficiently, more reliably, and with higher precision As they seek to marshal their own organizations to respond to this new threat, many of them have been forced to confront the fact that they have systematically neglected their manu­facturing function over a rather long period of time. Like an unused muscle, their manufacturing capabilities have been allowed to atrophy." The role of physical therapist is the topic of this column. "The dynamic organization makes a series of coordinated decisions of both structural and an infrastructural nature. The former refers to such "brick and mortar" decisions as total production capacity, facili­ties planning and location, kinds of production equipment, and systems, sources for materials and services. By infrastructure, on the other hand, we refer to the manage­ment policies and systems that determine how the bricks and mortar are managed, such as Human Resource policies and practices, Quality Assurance systems, Production Planning and Inventory Control systems, new product development processes, performance measurement and reward systems, organizational structure and design. Because of this influence on an organization's behavior and effectiveness, such policies are analogous to the "software" that guides a computer system...."

World class organizational behavior does not just happen by itself. In fact, in many ways it is very unnatural behavior in companies whose organizational structures, staffing policies and performance measurement and control sys­tems are predicated on the assumption that an organiza­tion should be composed of a collection of specialists who operate within fairly narrow job descriptions. Such compa­nies typically operate under a command and control men­tality. World class companies "want to grow their own people, equipment and systems, but they also respect the capabilities of others.... They continually push at the margins of their expertise, trying on every front to be a bit better than before.... They strive to be dynamic, learning companies."44 In his book, The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge calls for a "shift of mind" to combat the learning disabilities of organizations, such as believing "I am my position." In fact, organization learning disabilities are patterns of faulty thinking. Edward DeBono reminds us that we are "prisoners of our own thinking. The shift of minds is to Systems Thinking, "a discipline of seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots, for seeing relationships rather than things."

All employees are challenged. Dare to think, reflect on decisions, actions, results and events. Learning takes time. Teach not by edict but by example. Incisive actions must replace incessant activity. Reflection and inquiry skills are another example of soft skills. Time must be taken (and given) for reflection, conceptualization and examination of complex issues, thereby reducing them to simple and manageable issues. Through use of these "thinking tools" the learning organization continually ex­pands its capacity to create its future.

Conclusion

It is leadership's responsibility to create and nurture the culture of the organization. Culture is the medium or structure, including infrastructure, in an organization which allows and encourages its members to grow essential skills relevant to their position and to develop their individual potential to contribute to the healthy function­ing of the organization. The quality of life at work is a function of the interactions which define the relationship between members of the organization whether vertically or horizontally connected. In summary, the role of leader­ship in the Integrated Enterprise is to encourage, plan and facilitate the organization to 1) provide jobs by growing the business, strategic planning, putting capitalism in action; 2) maintain jobs through improved productivity and per­formance; 3) meet the needs of its members through reward systems, people development and a balance between the needs of the people with the goals of the organization; and 4) help the community provide qualified applicants by sponsoring programs in partnership. "Organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs." "Tapping the potential of people, Inamori believes, will require new understand­ing of the "subconscious mind," "will power," and "action of the heart... sincere desire to serve the world." This paper is meant to stimulate thought and discussion. Such thinking and discussion cannot but expand your contribution to your organization.


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