Running Head: ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING AND HEALTHCARE
A Framework for Organizational Learning in Healthcare:
From Individual Learning to the Organizational Learning Systems Model J. Richard Ray, Jr.
Managing OD Consultant/Adjunct Professor of HRD
Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic/George Washington University/ Presented at
Southern Management Association 2002 Conference
Track 2: Health Care Administration/Hospitality Management
Phone: (301) 520-9184
Key Words: Organizational Learning, Learning, Learning Models, Health Care Learning Revised September 23, 2002 (Reprint October 1, 2006)
Many researchers and practitioners have developed models to discuss how organizations learn using concepts of learning, social theory, sensemaking and information transfer. The Organization Learning Systems Model (OLSM) provides a comprehensive framework for discussing how organizations interact with their environments, reflect on information collected, disseminate knowledge to stakeholders and “make sense” with their culture through learning subsystems. After reviewing individual and organizational learning literature, I will reflect on a recent consultation at a major healthcare firm using this frame. This paper suggests that practitioners and managers can leverage this model to better manage learning, change, effectiveness and strategic planning.
A Framework for Organizational Learning in Healthcare:
From Individual Learning to the Organizational Learning Systems Model In recent years the topic of organizational learning has been discussed in academia and the workplace with great interest. In organizations, these discussions usually begin as the result of some cataclysmic event, strategic planning announcement, market change or dialogue on performance. Some see this subject as the integration or theft of many theories from sociology, psychology, management science and anthropology (Argyris & Schon, 1978; Davis, 2001; Jankowicz, 2000; Schwandt & Marquardt, 2000; Senge, 1990). There are even some who claim that organizational learning can be discussed using “adaptation” language from sciences such as biology, physics and chemistry (Gleick, 1987; Holland, 1996; Marion, 1999; Youngblood, 1997). Regardless of the discipline, how individuals learn and the way this impacts the process by which organizations “learn” will continue to charge academic debates and consume practitioner resources. Linking theoretical constructs of organizational learning to the “real world” is a difficult challenge. In healthcare, researchers and practitioners have attempted to make this linkage by identifying learning conditions that must exist in order to generate, disseminate and use knowledge. These include: 1) a shared vision of organizational goals and how learning can contribute to success; 2) leaders who ensure that opportunities, resources, incentives and rewards are provided to support learning; and 3) an organic structure with diverse communication channels that efficiently transfers information across organizational boundaries (Barnsley, Lemieux-Charles, & McKinney, 1998). Others also suggest that understanding the environment, information processing functions and cognitive learning frameworks in health care organizations can boost the probability of building and maintaining intellectual capital (Grantham, Nichols, & Schonberner, 1997). One attempt to connect theory and practice is the Organizational Learning Systems Model (OLSM) (Schwandt & Marquardt, 2000). This multi-disciplinary model developed at the Center for the Study of Learning at George Washington University is increasingly impacting the practice of organizational learning. This model is founded upon the writings of Talcott Parsons (Schwandt & Marquardt, 2000) and discussions of his organizational prerequisites of adaptation, goal attainment, integration and pattern maintenance functions in organizations. The structure of action...
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