L&D: In a Learning Culture

IMO: A Learning Culture Isn’t the Responsibility of L&D Leadership

It’s the responsibility of all of the executives. And only a small part of that culture has anything to do with Learning/Training Content. It’s a mindset, expectations, inquisitiveness, openness.

Thanks to Trish Uhl for tangentially getting me going on this – from our Twitter exchange on December 2, 2017. Follow her at: @trishuhl


A Learning Culture is What Defines a Learning Organization

But first – before my views – a look at Four Views from others…

View One:

Adapted From Wikipedia

Likert’s management systems are management styles developed by Rensis Likert in the 1960s. He outlined four systems of management to describe the relationship, involvement, and roles of managers and subordinates in industrial settings.

Exploitative Authoritative System (I)

In this style, the leader has a low concern for people and uses such methods as threats and other fear-based methods to achieve conformance. Communication is almost entirely downwards and the psychologically distant concerns of people are ignored. People are supposed to work more than specified work hours. The top management forced to carryout extra work load, but the wages, monetary benefits and work satisfaction would be lost. people found highly demotivated due to exploited by owner/ management.

Benevolent Authoritative System (II)

Less controlling than the exploitative authoritative system, under this system motivation is based on the potential for punishment and partially on rewards. The decision making area is expanded by allowing lower-level employees to be involved in policy-making but is limited by the framework given to them from upper-level management. Major policy decisions are still left to those at the top, who have some awareness of the problems that occur at lower levels. This creates mainly downward communication from supervisors to employees with little upward communication, causing subordinates to be somewhat suspicious of communication coming from the top. The managers at the top feel more responsibility towards organizational goals than those employees at the bottom, who feel very little responsibility. This contrast in feelings toward responsibility can result in a conflict and negative attitudes with the organization’s goals. Subordinates in this system can become hostile towards each other because of the competition that is created between them. Satisfaction among workers is low to moderately-low and productivity is measured at fair to good.

Consultative System (III)

This theory is very closely related to the human-relations theory. Motivation of workers is gained through rewards, occasional punishments, and very little involvement in making decisions and goals. Lower-level employees, in this system, have the freedom to make specific decisions that will affect their work. Upper-management still has control over policies and general decisions that affect an organization. Managers will talk to their subordinates about problems and action plans before they set organizational goals. Communication in this system flows both downward and upward, though upward is more limited. This promotes a more positive effect on employee relationships and allows them to be more cooperative. Lower-level employees are seen as consultants to decisions that were made and are more willing to accept them because of their involvement. Satisfaction in this system improves from benevolent authoritative as does productivity.

Participative System (IV)

Likert argued that the participative system was the most effective form of management. This system coincides with human-resources theory. This system promotes genuine participation in making decisions and setting goals through free-flowing horizontal communication and tapping into the creativity and skills of workers. Managers are fully aware of the problems that go on in the lower-levels of the organization. All organizational goals are accepted by everyone because they were set through group participation. There is a high level of responsibility and accountability of the organizational goals in all of the employees. Managers motivate employees through a system that produces monetary awards and participation in goal setting. Satisfaction among employees is the highest out of the four systems as is production.

View Two:

Adapted From Wikipedia

The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organizatio(Senge 1990) 

The five disciplines of what the book refers to as a “learning organization” discussed in the book are:

  1. “Personal mastery is a discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively.”
  2. “Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures of images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action.”
  3. “Building shared vision – a practice of unearthing shared pictures of the future that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance.”
  4. “Team learning starts with dialogue, the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into genuine thinking together.”
  5. “Systems Thinking – The Fifth Discipline that integrates the other four.”

View Three:

The late W. Edwards Deming said: “I should estimate that in my experience most troubles and most possibilities for improvement add up to the proportions something like this: 94% belongs to the system (responsibility of management) with 6% special.”

He also said: “Money and time spent for training will be ineffective unless inhibitors to good work are removed.”

Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge – 14 Point:

  1. Create constancy of purpose for improving products and services.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy.
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.
  4. End the practice of awarding business on price alone; instead, minimize total cost by working with a single supplier.
  5. Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production and service.
  6. Institute training on the job.
  7. Adopt and institute leadership.
  8. Drive out fear.
  9. Break down barriers between staff areas.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations and targets for the workforce.
  11. Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce and numerical goals for management.
  12. Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship, and eliminate the annual rating or merit system.
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.
  14. Put everybody in the company to work accomplishing the transformation.


View Four:

The late Geary A. Rummler said (long before the Rummler-Brache Improving Performance book came out in 1990 BTW):

Put a good performer in a bad system and the system wins every time.


And in 1967 Rummler wrote:


See my Post and a PDF about this 1967 Rummler “We can’t Get There From Here” viewpoint – here.

With those 4 View in mind… 

Back to Us – We in the L&D/T&D and Knowledge Management Professions…

L&D: In a Learning Culture

A Learning Culture isn’t about the Enterprise consuming more of your Learning Products/Services. Nor are you responsible for creating and sustaining the Learning Culture. It is hardly about you – L&D. A Learning Culture is created by the overt expectations of and consequences provided by the top management, middle management, supervisors and peers of every individual and team.

In a Learning Culture individuals and teams work hard and smart to advance the Enterprise’s strategic and tactical goals – openly learning and sharing, effectively and efficiently – what works and what doesn’t – and reaching out for support when needed without fear. Contentious Debate is replaced by Curious Dialogue.

In a Learning Culture top management communicates enough and often enough, without violating their fiduciary responsibility, the strategic and tactical goals to all, and steps up to proving the support resources necessary to each team. And bottom up communications are valued and rewarded – especially those communications.

In a Learning Culture measurement data, reflective of the past and present and predictive of the future, is the lifeblood of sound planning and plan adaptation – and is never used to punish others. It is used to learn from and to improve with.

In a Learning Culture all Enterprise processes are as rigid as required and as flexible as feasible, and are resourced and measured appropriately, and are continuously improved, consistent with the strategic plans of the Enterprise.

In a Learning Culture the learning needs of Novice Performers are fully met in a just in time manner, without overkill, or invalid content, with adequate practice and feedback and reinforcement as needed. Incumbent Performers are given the time and resources to pursue extended learning, consistent with their current assignments and the future possibilities of where their products/services – internally and/or externally consumed – might go – for R&D purposes.

We Have Been Given Our Guidance

Our challenges are seemingly not so new – but our response are seemingly too often so old.

We have failed all too often in learning from the past, and the experiences and lessons learned from our professional predecessors. That just makes it harder to move forward.


Yet we carry on.

But being better informed or not while moving forward is your choice. Dropping the baton and not going back for it is also your choice.

Are you a Learning Individual?

Who Else From Our Profession’s Past Do You Take Counsel From?

And who from outside the Profession?

Many – not all – of the people who influenced me – can be found in my First Friday Favorite Guru Series (42 of them) – here. The monthly Blog Post Series ran from July 2012 until December 2015.

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