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This week we focus on the social and organizational issues that exist with better understanding why changes occurs.? This week discuss the phases of change noted in the Linear Development in Learning Approaches section in the Information Technology and Organizational Learning text.
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Linear Development in Learning Approaches

Focusing only on the role of the individual in the company is an incom- plete approach to formulating an effective learning program. There is another dimension to consider that is based on learning maturation. That is, where in the life cycle of learning are the individuals and the organization? The best explanation of this concept is the learning mat- uration experience at Ravell. During my initial consultation at Ravell, the organization was at a very early stage of organizational learning. This was evidenced by the dependence of the organization on event- driven and individual reflective practice learning. Technology acted as an accelerator of learning?it required IT to design a new network during the relocation of the company. Specifically, the acceleration, operationalized by a physical move, required IT to establish new rela- tionships with line management. The initial case study concluded that there was a cultural change as a result of these new relationships? cultural assimilation started to occur using organizational learning techniques, specifically reflective practices.

After I left Ravell, another phase in the evolution of the company took place. A new IT director was hired in my stead, who attempted to reinstate the old culture: centralized infrastructure, stated opera- tional boundaries, and separations that mandated anti-learning orga- nizational behaviors. After six months, the line managers, faced with having to revert back to a former operating culture, revolted and demanded the removal of the IT director. This outcome, regrettable as it may be, is critical in proving the conclusion of the original study that the culture at Ravell had indeed evolved from its state, at the time of my arrival. The following are two concrete examples that support this notion:

1. The attempt of the new IT director to ?roll back? the process to a former cultural state was unsuccessful, showing that a new evolving culture had indeed occurred.

2. Line managers came together from the established learning organization to deliver a concerted message to the execu- tive team. Much of their learning had now shifted to a social organization level that was based less on events and was more holistic with respect to the goals and objectives of the organization.

Thus, we see a shift from an individual-based learning process to one that is based more on the social and organizational issues to stimulate transformation. This transformation in learning method occurred within the same management team, suggesting that changes in learning do occur over time and from experience. Another way of viewing the phenomenon is to see Ravell as reaching the next level of organizational learning or maturation with learning. Consistent with the conclusion of the original study, technology served to accelerate the process of change or accelerate the maturation process of organi- zational learning.

Another phase (Phase II) of Ravell transpired after I returned to the company. I determined at that time that the IT department needed to be integrated with another technology-based part of the business?the unit responsible for media and engineering services (as opposed to IT). While I had suggested this combination eight months earlier, the organization had not reached the learning matu- ration to understand why such a combination was beneficial. Much of the reason it did not occur earlier, can also be attributed to the organization?s inability to manage ROD, which, if implemented, would have made the integration more obvious. The initial Ravell study served to bring forth the challenges of cultural assimilation, to the extent that the organization needed to reorganize itself and change its behavior. In phase II, the learning process matured by accelerating the need for structural change in the actual reporting processes of IT.

A year later, yet another learning maturation phase (phase III) occurred. In Ravell, Phase III, the next stage of learning matura- tion, allowed the firm to better manage ROD. After completing the merger of the two technically related business units discussed (phase II), it became necessary to move a core database depart- ment completely out of the combined technology department, and to integrate it with a business unit. The reason for this change was compelling and brought to light a shortfall in my conclusions from the initial study. It appears that as organizational learning matures within ROD, there is an increasing need to educate the executive management team of the organization. This was not the case during the early stages of the case study. The limitation of my work, then, was that I predominantly interfaced with line management and neglected to include executives in the learning. During that time, results were encouraging, so there was little reason for me to include executives in event-driven issues, as discussed. Unfortunately, lack- ing their participation fostered a disconnection with the strategic integration component of ROD. Not participating in ROD created executive ignorance of the importance that IT had on the strategy of the business. Their lack of knowledge resulted in chronic problems with understanding the relationship and value of IT on the business units of the organization. This shortcoming resulted in continued conflicts over investments in the IT organization. It ultimately left IT with the inability to defend many of its cost requirements. As stated, during times of economic downturns, firms tend to reduce support organizations. In other words, executive management did not understand the driver component of IT.

After the move of the cohort of database developers to a formal business line unit, the driver components of the group provided the dialogue and support necessary to educate executives. However, this education did not occur based on events, but rather, on using the social and group dynamics of organizational learning. We see here another aspect of how organizational and individual learning methods work together, but evolve in a specific way.

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