Go to Amazon.com, search on "learning organization," and you will
get nearly 2,000 hits. There's no shortage of books on how to
achieve organizational learning. Each author espouses his or her
view, and students of organizational learning must put the various,
and often-dissimilar pieces, together into a coherent unit.
Michael Marquardt's unique contribution to this body of knowledge
is his overview of the five subsystems that you must incorporate
into any comprehensive, successful effort to achieve a learning
organization. Finally! Someone has connected the dots to make a
complete picture. The five subsystems are:
- Learning skills.
- Vision, culture, and strategy.
- Structure - the leaders, managers, employees, customers,
suppliers, and partners.
- Knowledge management.
- Technology - integrated networks and tools that manage
knowledge and enhance learning.
Included in these subsystems are many familiar elements, such as
systems thinking (a way to see the whole), mental models (our
internal images of how the world works), dialog (a way to think and
reflect in a group), and some less familiar elements, such as
accelerated learning. Unlike most organizational learning books,
this one focuses on training and formal learning experiences - in
addition to learning in the process of work.
Each chapter contains best practices and uses action learning -
learning in the context of work - as the framework for the five
subsystems. Marquardt concludes each subsystem chapter with 10
strategies to achieve that element. What's more, the appendix
includes a profile that helps you assess the strengths of your own
organization in each of the five subsystems. These help the reader
focus on the critical activities.
This book achieves breadth at the expense of depth. It helps map
other organizational learning books to the bigger picture, but it
doesn't replace them. However, Marquardt quotes generously from
other works, creating an extensive bibliography for more in-depth
I would not recommend this book as an introduction to
organizational learning - the novice can easily become lost in the
broad, but comprehensive treatment - but rather as an integrator
once the reader has sampled other writings in the field and feels
grounded in the basic concepts.