Integrative Improvement Blog

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Why CI leaders must embrace new learning organisation thinking

Why CI leaders must embrace new learning organisation thinking

In the world of business, learning is a conscious attempt to continuously improve productivity, effectiveness and innovation in uncertain economic market conditions. But the drive to work smarter, not harder, is not a new one. In 1990, Peter Senge introduced the concept of the learning organisation in The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation. Now, almost 30 years later, a new learning organisation theory is gaining traction.

While much of the early thinking is still relevant, there have since been key advances in thinking and practice in terms of:

  • moving from an exclusive focus on employee learning to developing teaching and coaching roles for all employees (peer-to-peer coaching)
  • applying new technologies to the process of learning and knowledge management

Peer-to-peer coaching

Coaching capability is critical to leadership, and a foundation of the modern learning organisation. Because every team member is a potential coach for every other team member, developing that capability through appropriate training is important.

These organisations also recognise the importance of contextual learning, and value face-to-face knowledge sharing (known as social learning). In fact, world class operations are more likely to support social learning than other organisations. Social learning makes up a large proportion of workplace learning, and coaching between peers as a way to supplement and reinforce formal training programmes must be encouraged.

New learning technologies

Millennials are expected to make up approximately 75% of the workforce by 2025. This generation was born into a digital world, which means they learn and play differently to older generations. They’re totally comfortable with technology, and research has shown that they crave variety in media. They’re also born multitaskers, so they can’t just sit and listen to a talking head the way earlier generations used to.

Some of the technologies that are gradually finding their way into manufacturing operations include:

  • Gamification – capitalises on the symmetry between games and work to get employees to engage in a way that increases intrinsic motivation and creates flow (it should be directed at KPI achievement, recognise competency acquisition and promote healthy competition between teams)
  • Virtual reality and simulation – involves a physically or electronically generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person
  • Augmented reality (AR) – a digitally generated enhancement to a physical, real-world environment or object (in contrast to virtual reality where the real-world environment is replaced with a virtual one)
  • Geo-learning – based on an event that is triggered by a geographical location and takes the learning to the real place (or gemba) where the learning is required (powerful when coupled with AR)

The new learning organisation is knowledge acquisitive, continually endeavours to do things better, and creates environments and systems that both support and tap into the creative talents and potential of all its employees. But these organisations aren’t built overnight.

Most successful examples are the products of carefully cultivated attitudes, commitments, and management processes that have accrued slowly and steadily over time. But, by combining the strengths of organisational learning and knowledge management, smart organisations will create cultures, structures and leadership styles that enable them to anticipate and cope with complex threats and opportunities.

Knowing when to implement a knowledge management system could mean the difference between the success and failure of your lean initiative. Click here to find out more.


The TRACC framework helps organisations build standardised and integrated good practice and performance capacity across their Plan, Source, Make and Deliver functions. Simultaneously it accelerates their collaboration and alignment capacity to build world class end-to-end value chains, enabling the organisation itself to become the ultimate source of sustainable competitive advantage.


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