MANAGEMENT QUALITY AND LEARNING ORGANIZATIONS
By Härje Franzén
”Management Quality” or Quality of Management is a concept that describes an organization’s capacity to exercise high management quality. A more frequently used, and often misused, term is ”leadership”. Unfortunately this word has many interpretations, some of which are contradictory. It is typically used to describe individuals and their real or desirable strengths. But it takes more than competent managers, for an organization to demonstrate high management quality.
Management policy, management systems, management processes and programs, are sometimes collectively described as part of the culture of the organization. All these components must be implemented, be of high quality and consistent with each other, as a prerequisite for high management quality.
An increasing number of organizations today deserve to be called ”knowledge organizations”. They are extremely vulnerable if the total knowledge of the organizations does not exceed the sum of individual knowledge. Alas, there are many striking examples where enterprises have lost key personnel and their knowledge, and have suddenly found themselves in great difficulties to meet customer expectations, and even to survive.
There are many parallels between management quality and the expression ”learning organizations”. This fashionable term is often used in a too simplified and superficial manner. ”We are certainly a learning organization. Just take a look at our education budget.” ”Our consultants have to be leading edge, so we compete for the most advanced projects. This is our method to remain a learning organization”.
Going to an expensive course is hardly a proof of being a learning individual. A learning individual is characterized by the will to improve knowledge and skills, the capacity to learn by different methods and in various contexts, and the result: to be able to demonstrate that the acquired knowledge and skills produce better results than before. Real learning is also an irreversible process, i.e. this increased ability does not fade or disappear.
In analogy the learning organization is one with the will
and capacity to develop the behavior of the organization, and with methods to
prove that progress has been made and that this progress is permanent.
The progress of a learning organization becomes visible in its policy, systems, programs and processes, parts of the structural capital of the organization. The implementation is measured and tracked continuously. The quality level is maintained even after changes in ownership or executive management.
Take a look at management literature 10 years 20 years old and you will find that though some fads have come and gone, the key messages have not changed significantly. Why? Part of the answer is that as long as management development does not go beyond developing individuals, it becomes a never-ending task just to bring newly appointed managers to the same level as those who just left. Learning individuals, yes, but hardly a learning organization.
When organizational management quality (policy, systems, processes and programs) are being developed in an ambitious, structured, consistent and persistent manner, the result is an organization capable of meeting new and greater challenges with increasing efficiency. Management quality becomes the backbone of a true learning organization.
Ó Inutsikt AB 2004, Härje Franzén, Inutsikt AB
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