Proposal for Organizational Learning Issues

Proposal for Organizational Learning Issues

HRM 562

Project Information

The firm will be implementing a new Organizational Learning Management system (OLM) that utilizes On-line/Internal, a basic concept where learning and working are fused together (Mahmood, Qadeer,& Ahmad, 2015). The new learning system will bridge the gap between existing knowledge and new skills that need to be learned to keep staff and attorneys up to date with the newest systems and protocols. The project will be undertaken by the firm managing partner, the Chief Talent Officer, the Director of Human Resources and the Director of Organizational Learning. The timeline is one year from design to full implementation. During the implementation/working phase, there will be quarterly assessments to determine the effectiveness of the program and furthers steps needed.

Project Title: Transition to Organizational Learning

Project Summary:

The firm is moving to an organizational learning management system (OLM) as the learning system that is currently being used is not sufficient. To do this, the firm will need to hire an outside organization to create and initially administer the OLM before handing it off to HR directors. Prior to this implementation, the firm will release a firm wide survey to determine wants. The firm will also do a full scale evaluation of all positions and employees to determine where the most improvement and knowledge is needed.

Prepared by: Tanya Bates

Attached Documentation: NA

Project Contacts:

Firm Managing Partner: Robert Johnson, responsible for signing off on the final project. Contact information: 602.555.4454, rjohnson@law.com

Chief Talent Officer: Sarah Billings, works with staff and attorneys and is aware of their needs. Contact information: 602.555.2334, sbillings@law.com

Director of Human Resources: Jolene Albert, initiated the project and integral in the implementation. Contact information: 602.555.9689, jalbert@law.com

Director of Learning Systems: Tony Swafford, initiated the project and responsible for disseminating to staff and attorneys. Contact information: 602.555.8710, tswafford@law.com

Project Summary

The transition to an OLM is happening in the firm for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason for doing this project is that the firm is outdated and staff are using archaic methods to complete work that should be completed in a much more expeditious manner. To make this transition, the firm will be implementing a new Organizational Learning Management system. This will replace the hodgepodge method of training that has been done up to this point. The most important portion of this implementation is how it will be introduced and shared with staff and attorneys. HR will take the time to fully explain the new OLM and the reasoning behind it. This will be done before the system is implemented so staff are aware of what is happening. It should be noted that the new OLM will be mandatory for all staff and optional for attorneys. All HR staff will go through the system before any support staff so they will be able to answer questions and address concerns competently. The training will take place in the firm’s dedicated training room. Staff will take the training with their peers, meaning paralegals will do the OLM with other paralegals and so on. This will allow a dialogue and give each position a chance to work together and troubleshoot any issues that arise. It would be unfair to expect paralegals and IT to take the training together since their jobs are very different from each other.

Project Background

The firm has been around for over 100 years, and in that time it has proven to be resistant to change. When new staff join the firm, they are not given formal training, instead they are given a general firm overview and meetings with HR to discuss benefits and the like. They are then handed over to their department and each department is in charge of training. This training can be comprehensive or basic, depending on the manager. The problem is that the firm has strict protocols due to attorney-client privilege and state and federal laws regarding privacy. However, not all employees are privy to this information or understand the importance of it. There are also different protocols across each department, but staff is not aware of these discrepancies between departments. Thus, the firm is in desperate need of an organized learning management system that keeps consistency across all departments.

Human Resources has initiated the new OLM as they saw the need and realized that the attorneys would not implement a system without their intervention. They extensively researched outside companies and decided upon one that caters specifically to law firms. They are able to create a curriculum based on program and protocols the firm uses.

Project Goals and Methodology

The overall goal of implementing a new OLM is to bring all staff and attorneys up to speed on any new systems and protocols. Many organizations have decided to move to a system of organizational learning as opposed to individual learning. This can cause many problems, especially in an industry that values their privacy and has different levels of access. A law firm is going through a transition and has changed their learning management system to an organizational learning system. First off, the firm is resistant to change because so much of what the individuals do is confidential, so not all information can be shared. This causes multiple problems.

A large assumption of organizational learning is that the organizational can learn like people learn (Lipshitz, 2007). While there are many issues surrounding this assumption, it is also safe to say that the people within the firm take their cues from the firm itself. For example, the firm has a culture where attorneys are given more consideration than staff, even though it can be argued that staff is just as important. The firm has decided this and all new employees take the same cues. To change this culture, the firm will need to shift their thinking and be an example moving forward so the people can learn.

Another mystification is the dichotomy between visionaries and skeptics (Lipshitz, 2007). The visionary is one that “continually expand their capacity to create the results that they truly desire” while the skeptics view organizational learning as “a nightmare for organizational members” (Lipshitz, 2007, pg. 10). The firm is full of skeptics, mostly because they are set in their ways and have no interest in being part of any change. They resist from the beginning because they do not feel it is in the best interest of the firm. The visionaries are those in HR that can see a better future for the firm.

The firm wants to learn better and faster, therefore they will need to take part in active mystification. This is basically giving the goal, but leaving it as something that can never be achieved (Lipshitz, 2007). The firm wants to change, to do this they need to offer a high level option that will allow them to implement their changes without getting too deep into the weeds and details. By offering a learning system that the user does not quite explain, they will be able to combat the naysayers while pushing their own agenda.

The best corrective action to transition from individual to organization learning will be On-line/Internal. This is basically when learning and working are fused together (Mahmood, Qadeer,& Ahmad, 2015). This consists of two things, online experimentation and online debriefing. The online experimentation is “on-the-spot” experiments to find out if this line of action will work. The online debriefing is similar to online experimentation but does not require any testing (Lipshitz, 2007). The assumption is that people learn while they work, so why not do the organizational learning in a way that allows people to work at their own pace. This is especially true in a firm where there are varying skill sets and job descriptions. There is no one way to do something, but there can be standards. It makes sense to set up these standards as people work, mostly to ensure that they are realistic and can be implemented across the firm.

Project Risk Management

There can be difficulties with OLMs when an organization is resistant to them or is not utilizing them in a way that makes them effective. The biggest issue is when the OLMs result in feedback that generates negative associations (Ellis, Margalit,& Segev, 2012). The firm has used training programs in the past that have had less than stellar results. These training programs ranged from online learning to in-person training with both internal and external advisors. The online learning programs were a failure because too many people did not understand what they had to do and felt as though they missed the interaction and ability to ask questions to a live person. On the other hand, the in-person training was problematic because each person was at a different skill level, resulting in mixed classes. Those with the higher skill set were instantly frustrated because they were being held back and those that were confused were frustrated because they felt as though the class was moving too fast. The result is that no one was learning and everyone was frustrated.

To mitigate this risk, the firm will undertake a firm wide meeting that delineates the program and gives a concise reasoning as to why they are making the switch. Staff and attorneys are more likely to buy in and be supportive of new programs if they are given a voice and a chance to fully understand why this is happening. Another risk the firm will need to be aware of is fear that jobs are being eliminated if this training is not completed. This will be need to be addressed. The new system is not voluntary and all staff must go through it. However, they will not be left to just do the training, there will be an HR representative to help them through it and answer any questions or concerns throughout the system.

Conclusion

One of the biggest hindrances in the firms learning culture is transparency. Keep in mind that most information going in and out of any given office is subject to confidentiality, meaning that there will not always be the chance for transparency. However, with other departments, such as IT and Marketing, there will need to be transparency. At this juncture, the firm is severely lacking this as most departments are completely unaware of what the other is doing. Because of this, learning organization suffers. Another reason the firm suffer is lack of inquiry. So many of the departments feel isolated, that instead of reaching out, they will simply attempt to solve a problem themselves, making it more difficult. Also, the firm is so large that when a new employee starts, they are left to wonder who their point of contact may be for any given issue or request. The firm needs to create a better system for learning because it is not doing a good job of creating a learning environment. People are not encouraged to learn other methods, nor are they encouraged to reach out. A culture of self sufficiency is good to a point, but working and learning together will foster a culture that can sustain.

References

Ellis, S., Margalit, D., & Segev, E. (2012). Effects of Organizational Learning Mechanisms on
Organizational Performance and Shared Mental Models during Planned Change.
Knowledge & Process Management, 19(2), 91-102. doi:10.1002/kpm.1384

Goodman, P. S., & Darr, E. D. (1998). Computer-Aided Systems and Communities: Mechanisms
for Organizational Learning in Distributed Environments. MIS Quarterly, 22(4), 417-440.

Mahmood, S., Qadeer, F., & Ahmad, A. (2015). The Role of Organizational Learning in
Understanding Relationship between Total Quality Management and Organizational
Performance. Pakistan Journal Of Commerce & Social Sciences, 9(1), 282-302.

  • Lipshitz, R., Friedman, V. J., & Popper, M. (2007). Demystifying organizational learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Trigo, A. (2013). Mechanisms of learning and innovation performance: the relevance of
knowledge sharing and creativity for non-technological innovation. International journal
of innovation & technology management, 10(6), -1. Doi:10.1142/s0219877013400282

Voit, J. R., & Drury, C. G. (2013). Factors influencing vicarious learning mechanism
effectiveness within organizations. International journal of innovation & technology
management, 10(6), -1. Doi:10.1142/s0219877013400257

Appendix

Resistance Risk BEFORE Mitigation Intervention: High (H) or Moderate (M)

Resistance Risk AFTER Mitigation Intervention: Change to Moderate (M) or Low (L)

Resistance IssuesResistance Issue DescriptionResistance Risk (Before)Mitigation InterventionResistance Risk (After)Mitigation Intervention Rationale
CultureThe company started as small firm that shared everything with their employees. As the company grew and management changed, this culture shifted as well. Recently, the organization does not have as high a level of transparency as it has in the past.MTo combat this lack of transparency, the company will also need to retrain management and change the culture from there. Change starts with management and trickles down from there.LEmployees take their cues from management, so if they are on board with transparency and shifting the company culture, then the employees will embrace the change.
Psychological Learning ThreatBecause of the change, employees feel that they are losing control over their task environmentMTo combat this, the organization will need to find a way to have employees discard old worldviews and behaviors so there is room for new ones. This means redoing the firm mission statement and strategic goals in a way that emphasizes the new OLMs.MMost people respond to a mission statement, especially if they have a chance to offer their own feedback and be part of the organization.
Organizational StructureThe structure of the organization will need to be adjusted as the company makes changes. People are extremely adverse to change and are worried about their place in the company and if their job is secure.HThe organization will need to do a thorough evaluation of each employee and determine if their position in the company is necessary or redundant. In addition, employees should be evaluated to determine if they are in the right role.MNobody likes to be evaluated, however, it is important that a company runs as efficiently as possible. To do so, they will have to make hard decisions and look at their employees.
Workforce CommitmentThe organization is unique in that many employees have been with the company for a large number of years. Because of this, they are definitely committed to the company, but in turn, they are set in their ways and change is difficult for them.HIt will be an uncomfortable situation, but management will need to sit down with each employee and stress that the company is changing, which means they will need to do so in order to stay with the company. Communication will be the key.MResistance to change is one of the biggest risk factors that any changing business faces. Unfortunately, change happens and people will need to be on board.
Dissemination of KnowledgeMany people in the firm feel as though they have nothing new to learn. They are unmotivated to try new systems or adopt new methods of doing work.HKnowledge will be transferred using the on-line/internal method. This will be used because people learn while they work and learn at their own pace. In addition, employees will have no choice but to embrace the new systems as the old ones will be discontinued.MGiving people the tools they need to learn will be a good step. Empowering is often the best way to get people to change.