Organization learning plays an important role in organizational survival, growth, and developing in the increasingly changing environment. (Popper; Lipshitz, 2000) Expect responding to the changing environment (Dodgson, 1993), organizational learning also contributes to the participant of employees’ thinking and their commitments (Senge, 1990), with a consequential result of a long-term development of the organization. (Kloot, 1996) Nowadays, more and more researchers have exploited a number of issues on transforming corporations into learning organizations which embrace learning at all levels.(Stewart, 2001; Pedler, Burgoyne ; Boydell, 1991) According to Senge (1996, p. 35), learning organization is defined as “in which learning becomes institutionalized as an inescapable way of life for managers and worker alike”. As one of the biggest organizations in the world, British Petroleum (BP) has regarded itself as a learning organization that tried to be adapted and responsive to the changing environment through learning.
(Prokesch, 1997)It is the purpose of this report to critically examine BP’s learning effectiveness through our learning mode.Firstly, after a brief explanation of our learning mode and the background of BP, the evaluation of BP will be provided in depth by six elements, which are respectively teamwork, communication, leadership, knowledge management, motivation and culture. Then the evaluation of our learning model through the case of BP will be discussed. Apart from these, a learning diagnosis of BP will be offered, which focus on the assessment of teamwork. Before the conclusion, the major learning barriers of BP will be provided as well as the recommendation to overcome it.Inside our organizational learning model (See Appendix 1), there are three levels, which are respectively individual level, team level and organizational level, embracing the process of planning, action, monitoring and evaluation.
All these three levels interact with the external environment which results in an open system with double-loop learning process. The model comprises six key elements, which include knowledge management, culture, leadership, teamwork, communication and motivation.As learning is an ongoing process, our model exists through both an internal running cycle and an external continuous interaction. (Chen, Luo, Lin, Pakapan, Chun, ; Piyaporn, 2004) As one of the world’s biggest oil and petrochemical companies, British Petroleum (BP) has international operations in over 70 countries with 233billion revenues, and 103700 employees.
It focuses on oil and gas exploration and production, the supplying of petroleum products, and the manufacturing and marketing of chemicals. Currently BP owns five recognized brands worldwide which include BP, am/pm, ARCO, Aral and Castrol.(BP home, 2004) With the rapid change of the external environment, BP has regarded itself as a modern, global, decentralized and learning corporation that must learn to be adapted and responsive accordingly. (Prokesch, 1997)The leaders of BP knew that to maintain BP’s competitive advantages and its leader position, it is no more relies on their experiences but the technical skills, political and operational knowledge because oil may be found in more challenging environment and even will be replaced by alternatives, such as hydrogen and solar, in the future.(Robert Paterson’s Radio Weblog, 2003) John Brown, BP’s CEO, has claimed that learning is the foundation stone of BP to adapt to change.
To identify the opportunities that their competitors may not see, BP has to create and distribute knowledge throughout the organization, thus learn faster and exploit faster than their competitors. (Prokesch, 1997, cited in Popper, 2000) Similarly, Mr Ashton, head of BP’s information technology architecture and strategy, claimed “BP needs to know what it knows, learn what it needs to learn and apply that knowledge as quickly as possible for sustainable competitive advantage,” (Newing , 1998, p.11)Thus, the vision of BP is to be “an integrated world-class, agile learning organization” (Newing, 1998, p. 11) According to our model, there are six major elements that embracing the learning process, which are teamwork, communication, leadership, knowledge management, motivation and culture. (Chen, et al. , 2004) In the following part, these six elements will respectively be evaluated within BP’s operation to identify its learning effectiveness.
Teamwork is viewed as an effective implement to share learning.This is reflected by its definition that “a small group of people with complementary skills, who work together as a unit to achieve a common purpose for which they hold themselves collectively accountable”. (Wood, Chapman, Fromholtz, Morrison, Wallace, Zeffane, Schermerhorn, Hunt and Osborn, 2004) In BP, virtual teamwork, which restructured employees into small units, has been long adopted in the organization from 1994 and has generated much effectiveness. For instance, when attempting to develop Andrew oil field in the North Sea in 1995, a drilling ship ground to a halt because of some equipment failures.It was virtual teamwork that contributed to solve this problem by working with the onshore experts through a video satellite link-up when the people on the ship could not identify the problems. Hence, virtual teamwork helps people work in a far distance, such as employees in the Gulf of Mexico can even work with workers in the Eastern Atlantic. (Anonymous, 2002) Furthermore, BP also use virtual team network outside of the organization, working with their contractors and suppliers in order to reduce both the cost and time of the project.
As according to Prokesch (1997), the benefits of teamwork in BP were the decrease of helicopter trips, avoidance of refinery shut down, interaction improvement, and more significantly effective collaboration. Accordingly, the adoption of teamwork is more likely a tool of dissemination of information, facilitating knowledge sharing, and innovating than just a troubleshooting implement. (Anonymous, 2002) That is, teamwork helps BP to work more effectively and sharing learn more broadly.