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Knowledge is the focal point of modern day businesses and organizations as a driver in decision making processes and general performance through information sharing. An organization’s capabilities and competitive advantage are to a large extent determined by the knowledge they have, how it is utilized and what is the rate of learning new things. Learning organizations are well equipped with knowledge that enables them to cope with changes in the business environment (Senge, 1992). Learning organizations employ a number of options to enhance knowledge and creativity, while, at the same time, maintaining control over the organization. A business is a learning organization at the extent to which it has tenaciously constructed its ability to learn entirely as a system and intertwined that capability into every organizational aspect: vision and strategy, culture, leadership and management, structure, systems, as well as processes (Larri & Khanzadeh, 2012). Learning organizations tend to be more flexible and malleable, lack self-satisfaction, try out with and generate new knowledge, reorganize means and ends, in addition to tapping people’s potential used for learning as a tactical competitive advantage.
Learning organizations are organizations that are experienced in generating, obtaining and transferring knowledge amongst members, and at transforming its behavior to mirror newly acquired knowledge as well as insights. Creation of new knowledge can emanate from insight or motivation inside the organization, and it can also be evoked by external influences by expanding or/and relaxing organizational boundaries. Whatever the source of ideas, such new ideas are at the center of organizational learning and development. However, new ideas on their own cannot generate a learning organization unless there are corresponding behavioral changes by the organization and its members (Senge, 1992). Whereas organizations build up skills in obtaining and generating knowledge, not many are effective in utilizing that knowledge to organizational behavior and activities. There should be simultaneous changes to systems, behavior, and structures for learning to have any relevance to the organization (Larri & Khanzadeh, 2012).
Case Analysis of BMW and the Volvo Group
The Volvo Group
The Volvo group implements learning through teamwork and storytelling either in the form of narratives and metaphors. Since the beginning of the 1970s, Volvo developed a unique strategy to work organization built on team-base and learning. Various other companies, like rover group and GKN, have also developed their approaches in the past to enhance amid volatile, dynamic and highly innovative industry. However, most of them have not achieved success as Volvo has done. Over the 40 years, Volvo has continued to believe in commitment to enhance the quality of workplace environment through investing in plurality of manufacturing concepts and attempt to enhance personal learning and teamwork in spite of internal and external factors (Redding, 1997).
Volvo has established and integrated the learning process strategically into its organizational systems, culture, and individual working environment that encourages learning as well as acquisition of knowledge and skills and their application. Volvo’s organizational learning spans beyond its boundaries to other stakeholders, such as suppliers or dealers, that enable the company to influence and control is learning process. In spite of the fact that Volvo uses an egalitarian approach that promotes employee relations in the learning process, the management has motivated the change and still exert adequate control over team-work activities to ensure there is adequate exploration and adoption of improvements and innovations within techniques (Redding, 1997). The company has invested millions of shillings to enable employees across all its global operations to tell their stories, their learning experience, and communicate organizational culture and change through these stories at Volvo.
The management of BMW upholds its control over its workers by means of various communication and socialization channels, and attitude development programs. It openhandedly employs metaphors, such as family and team, to win over employees to agree to organization policies and procedures as justifiable. An impression produced by the management is that the whole organization is a big happy family without conflicts (West& Burnes, 2000). BMW takes part in a number of activities in a bid to remain a learning organization by ensuring total incorporation of training and development in line with recognized objectives; ensuring managers possess requisite tools and incentives to dynamically develop staff and ensuring that everyone has admittance to development. BMW encourages co-responsibility in favor of development, an empowering collaboration ingrained in its values system in form of “We at BMW” (West& Burnes, 2000). This culture has seen BMW teach its people to tailor the vehicle needs to customer’s specifications. In addition, it aims to have all its training initiatives certified as externally documented qualifications.