ECONOMY

Leading consultant: Lifetime learning is also for enterprises

What is a learning organization and how can a modern-day business become one? What role does the human factor play in it and, finally, what does globalization mean for the business world and the economy? These are some of the questions answered by Peter Senge, director of the Organizational Learning Center of the Sloan School of Management at MIT. Senge – «Strategist of the Century,» according to the Journal of Business Strategy, and one of the most coveted consultants for Fortune 500 businesses – was in Athens recently for the Second Learning and Development Forum organized by Boussias Communications. The basic recipe for organizational effectiveness is the focus of Senge’s best seller «The Fifth Discipline,» which outlines a new way of tackling a number of management problems by looking at systems in terms of particular types of cycles and by placing human values at the center of a business’s operations and development. The effect of this theory on market management has been enormous. First, it laid the groundwork for so-called learning organizations and, second, it makes it quite clear that the human factor is crucial to an effective organization. According to Senge, «while all people have the ability to learn throughout their lives, they often find themselves trapped in structures that do not encourage free thought. Furthermore, they are often ill-prepared or ill-equipped to understand or deal with situations they come up against.» This is the point where the learning organization comes in, with the creation of a group that embarks upon the learning process. The process is recommended for «bringing in line and developing the abilities of each individual group in order to achieve the desired goals.» The most important area of Senge’s management model is open dialogue between the members of each group. «When dialogue is crossed with a systematic way of thought,» explains Senge, «you create the right language to deal with modern-day complexities which, in turn, helps us focus on underlying structures and the endogenous strengths of the organization. This way you don’t waste time on questions of leadership.» «In the learning organization, the leader plans, tends and teaches. He is responsible for building an organization in which members can develop their abilities, understand the complexity of the issues involved and comprehend the collective vision – basically, to develop a clear understanding of the difference between the vision and reality,» explains Senge. Senge is the founder of MIT’s Society for Organizational Learning, a non-profit group that serves as a forum for businesses, researchers and consultants who are involved with management theory. His areas of special interest focus on decentralizing the role of leadership in organizations so as to enhance the capacity of all people to work productively toward common goals.