Learning organization

During the 1940s and after World War II, systems concepts and quantitative approaches from other related fields emerged in management studies of problem solving. Managers now find better solutions to management problems by using analysis that has a systematic approach to management. In the mid-1960s, the contingency view of management or situational approach began to emerge.

It emphasizes the relations between organization processes and the situations. The contingency approach provides a platform for the knowledge management, as we know it today.New Concepts in Microsoft’s Organization Design that differs from Classical Management By now, it should be clear that there is no one right organization. Organization is only a tool in working together14.

Now that we understand the structural changes in the industries as explained earlier, we appreciate that the changes will affect the key elements of Learning Organization as opposed to Classical Management school. Microsoft concept in its design is influenced by the learning organization characteristics15.Since Steve Ballmer has taken over as the CEO of Microsoft, he has outlined some new approaches to meet Microsoft’s goals. The approaches are very relevant to Microsoft’s organization concept and what have been discussed earlier in Learning Organization characteristics. Microsoft creates new business processes by having new management processes from coordinating product strategies to customer feedbacks. To enable this, Microsoft allowed teamwork and team learning, vertical and horizontal flow of information and a delayered structure.

Communication channels ensure a dynamic and fluid approach in control and structure of the organization. It basically allow Microsoft’s specialist to do what they do best. But according to Drucker (1999), this not any different from Classical management, especially Taylor’s Scientific Management Theory. In fact Taylor’s theory also touched on work enrichment and job rotation. What differs is the approach taken. Classical Management workers were programmed by the work and are concerned with how the work should be done.

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But Learning Organization workers ask what is supposed to be done.The question is directed to himself and his employer i. e. the workers program the work. The outcome of this new concept is thinking knowledge-workers that can allocate contingency expertise where it’s needed most.

As a result, coordination of tasks in Microsoft improved whilst cooperation between teams gets better and enable information processing capability, as Microsoft develops and creates better products. Microsoft has applied decentralisation principles to align its flatter and scattered self-managed team concept even in areas of feedback and inputs.This has given autonomy to the individuals on how to manage themselves which is different from Classical Management. They are now able to contribute and participate in policy making. The result is flexible and responsive workforces of specialists who drive themselves and rely on the core group for direction and leadership only. To complement the structure and control, Microsoft further develops its concept by empowerment and delegation which basically allow its specialist to be in charge of what they do, have ownership and decision-making.

This approach produces quality outputs.This shared vision and collaboration is not practiced in classical management where productivity is measured by quantity outputs. To my opinion, the new concept allows the continuous learning and teaching in Learning Organization as opposed to Classical Management. Innovation and experimenting with new products become a symbol of the Microsoft’s character.

Every employee adopts a learning approach strategy and to this effect, Microsoft has created knowledge-workers and self-development opportunities for all its employees, creating needs and reinventing to responses of the changing needs of customers.In Classical Management school, employees are cost. And the struggle was how to cut cost. Even economic theory itself regards workers as cost that needs to be controlled and reduced. Indirectly, this has created high turnover.

Drucker (1999) reported that Ford hires sixty thousand people to keep a ten thousand job structure. But on the contrary, knowledge-workers become their own master as the means to productivity is between their ears. Learning Organization treats knowledge-workers as capital asset.This changes the way organizations attract these talents, as capital assets need to be grown for better profits.

The above approaches revolve around power sharing, knowledge and culture that differ very much with the concept of Classical Management. However, I also believe that an overdose of power and control sharing may cause innovation to suffer i. e. quality may deteriorate as individualism starts to take priority over organization needs. There must always be a balance between both issues.

Part C – Must all types of organization adopt the Microsoft models?As discussed above, Microsoft16 matrix models employed a different model in organizational structures, decision-making, cultures and approaches. There are still a lot of retail organizations that are usually owner-manager styled. Very often the workers are mostly family members and run by one person. The strength of the simple structure lies on its simplicity, cheap and flexible. Such organization cannot employ the Microsoft structure model as it cannot contributes to the organization’s objective.Beside the simple structure, there are other organizations that focus a lot on processes e. g.

government department; manufacturers and firearm producers where standardization is the key process in ensuring that standard routine operating tasks are achieved. Such organization may or may not be labor intensive but it is process intensive and relies a lot on efficiency. These types of organizations are suited for the bureaucracy style (Max Weber). Some organizations are not exposed to the “open concept” or “no hierarchy” models.For these organization end of hierarchy17 structure cannot be an ideal organization as ultimately there must a “boss” who will make a final decision e. g.

in a crisis where no argument, participation or discussion is tolerated. Microsoft’s strategy is to assist its workers to achieve their objectives and Microsoft’s too. Since objectives determine strategy, changes in objectives will affect strategy and will change the structure. Microsoft’s strategy is innovation, which reflects its pursuit to be the leader in its field.To do this, Microsoft allows flexibility and free flow of information in its organic structure.

However, not ALL organization can have this as a platform. HSBC, for example, practiced the cost minimization and imitation strategic models where efficiency, stability and tight controls are important to support the service nature of the industry. It is also due to the heavy competition faced in the financial industry. Structure of an organization is also affected by environment. Since environment is uncertain, not all organization can employ the same approach as Microsoft.In “laidback” culture such as Pacific regions and Southern Europe, success is the ability to relax and enjoy life i.

e. having siesta, long holidays, work security etc. However, North American view success as money and winning, and these factors affect the culture of organizations located in these various places.

Microsoft models may not be accepted here, now, as it may be too competitive. However, I believe as the world becomes a global village, the barriers to this culture may change in the near future.The other differentiator in organization in not using Microsoft’s model is the product. Microsoft deals in software and technology. To a certain extend the success of marketing and selling these products relies a lot on the creativity of the designers. To facilitate this Microsoft has enabled a culture to support and enhance this particular culture.

However, in a very process oriented organization such as food processing plant or ammunition manufacturing factory where, efficiency is the key in meeting customers’ expectation, a more ” toe the line” kind of culture style is acceptable.As can be seen from the recent years, more and more organizations have adopted the learning organization concept, however the drive has been always top-down. And this has not always shown evidence of success. Why? Traditionally, workers follow instructions mechanically. Due to this mechanistic nature, most of the people in the organization can’t make deep changes towards a making a learning organization. This is because they’re operating out of compliance in their daily job and tasks rather than out of commitment. Commitment comes about only when people perceived what they are doing are something that they really care about.

For that reason, if an organization created a compliance-oriented change, it will get change, but it will miss out the deeper process that leads to commitment, and this will prevent the emergence of self-generated change, which is key in the learning organization. In one of Senge’s interview18, he commented that by focusing on performing for someone else’s approval, organizations create the very conditions that predestine them to mediocre performance. Since Microsoft nature of business values technical competences and creativity rather than compliance, it has the platform to initiate the essence of Learning Organization.Conversely, an organization may inadvertently create an addiction i. e. getting people to change as long as they’re being commanded to change, or as long as they can be forced to change. But, as a result, they become even more dependent on the change process that’s driving them.

In conclusion, the Learning Organization is the best model for most commercial organization; however, due to the structure, strategy, culture and environment not ALL organization will suit such model. ConclusionMicrosoft sees its people as the most important asset and its corporate culture nurtures an atmosphere in which knowledge workers and creative thinking thrives. Employees are encouraged to develop to their fullest potential and are seen as capital assets.

Microsoft also has a strong belief that if people are provided with the resources they need, they can accomplish great things. That philosophy is the foundation of Microsoft’s business and has vaulted it as a learning organization.

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