In contrast to a traditional organisation that is designed to improve efficiency, a learning organisation is a philosophy whereby every one on a personal level is involved on a continuous basis in problem solving and creativity to change and improve the organisation and lead it towards growth and prosperity (Daft 751). The challenging and fast growing modern business environment calls for a “learning organisation culture” to lead the business to achieve its goals and remain profitable. This concept on its own can not be developed. It requires strong involvement on part of the employees. Thus, personal learning is crucial for developing a learning organisation. Personal learning takes place with experiences that shape our thinking and problem solving skills. We come across various experiences in our lives and when we get through them, we end up with life lessons that enable us to accomplish practical tasks in our late life. I believe, there have been a few learning experiences in my life, that have shaped up skills in me that can enable me to practice effective management traits and be involved in a learning organisation. I have been involved in many group works throughout my schooling and college life, and each time I have been a part of a group, there has been something to experience and learn from with much practical importance. Thus, I will be focusing on group work as a source of my personal learning as a manager. The experiences that I will be sharing in the paper involve the managerial implications of leadership, empowerment and communication/information sharing in decision making.
Most of us in one way or another have been part of a situation where we had to present strong leadership skills. Without our realization, we have practiced being a manager in our real lives. Of course, being a manager does not necessarily imply that you have to be present in a business organisation. We all are involved in various organisations in our lives that somehow induce us to be a manager at some point. For instance, our family is one type of organisation, where taking care of younger siblings when parents are not home is one type of leadership and empowerment example. Another example is our schools, where we learn the most about practical experiences. There have been various experiences that have taught me lessons with practical importance and managerial implications. The experience however, that is more appropriate to discuss is related to my business school, where being part of group projects, I have displayed leadership qualities.
During my first year of studies, I was assigned to a group of five to conduct a research survey about a human behavior topic. It involved group thinking and analyzing at each and every step. At first, we worked as a self managing team, which was more or less leaderless. But soon there was a need for a leader, as most of the members began to fall short of expectations. We were approaching the deadline and the survey was no where near finished. One of the members was pushed to be the leader and design a schedule. Our work was simple enough but we needed a plan of action to carry out the necessary activities, such as selecting a suitable topic, preparing a questionnaire, carrying out the survey and data collection, data organisation and analysis, interpretation of results and finally preparing the final report. It looked simple enough. The leader prepared a simple plan of action where the activities were put in the same order but were separately assigned to each individual. We were five members, each of us got one activity to do, and all were to be involved in preparing the report that is preparing the portion assigned to us. At first, it seemed like the perfect solution but when we started working on it, it made us realize that the allocation was not justifiable. While some members had easy tasks, some had difficult and the nature of the work was not simultaneous, every activity depended on the one preceding it. Thus, it was clear that the leader was at mistake. I suggested that the tasks of each activity should be divided equally to all members, so all would be involved in the entire process and no one would feel having to do the most difficult part. My idea was selected and so was I for the position of the new leader. The operation started smoothly and it was surprising how a little organisation decision made our work so easy and we saw progress. It was now possible to do the work on time. But that was not the end of it. Every one approached me for every query believing I had the solution for everything. Let it be coordination with the other members, places to go for the survey, the tools to be used for the analysis and presentation of data in the report, I was supposed to make the final decision. I enjoyed it. But I was not authoritative. Since I was a student just like my team members, I practiced a leadership style whereby every decision was taken after consensus and everybody was listened to and heard for views. Soon I realised, how important my role was. I just did not have to allocate tasks and organise the work but my role had greater implication. I was like an elder brother to the rest. I had to believe in them to do the right work, I had to motivate them to keep moving forward and put in their best and I had to make sure that everything was going as planned. I was working hard the most to put forward an example or a model for them to follow: thus I was a leader!
Before this experience I did not believe I was cut out to be a leader, because I believed I was not authoritative and demanding enough. But my observation was wrong. When I actually practiced leadership it was really about how well I make my members work at their best. Being authoritative was not a trait that would have led to the desired outcome, which was in our case, an excellent survey report that earned us great marks in that course. The important thing for me to learn was that leadership is a big responsibility and the role of the leader is not simply to allocate the work and continuously demand the subordinates to work at their hardest, but to influence them to work with extreme motivation. For this the leader himself has to present an example and be as much patient as possible. According to Richard Daft, a charismatic leader is one that has the ability to motivate subordinates to transcend their expected performance (Daft 514). Thus, having been done the work is not important, because you can not if the employees did so with indulgence or with force? And also, it is to be considered whether they can be expected to produce the same high results the next time in future. It is the duty of the leader to influence them in such a way to make sure they work up to the standard and put in their best each time. The leader produces a culture through his unique tactics which on its own involves the employees in such a way that they continuously produce work that meets the standards. It is then the achievement of the leader who proves his worthiness through the efforts of the subordinates under him.
Another worthwhile experienced that I believe adds greatly to my learning as a manager is when I was part of a group work in high school relating to community work. Our project was to find out areas of improvement in our community and find ways of resolving them and add something of our own for the betterment of the community. We were a group of ten people from our class, where one of us who had a prior practical experience of community work was selected as the group leader. It was a very vague project and most of us had no idea how to go about it. But much of our surprise our leader made it all seem easy and smooth, once he started to guide us. He did a very simple yet very important thing: he made each of us responsible for a single improvement in the community. Each of us was to roam about individually, find out what lacks improvement, and then in the next meetings, discuss its relevance and our decision to improve it. This worked amazingly for us. We were made responsible entirely for our own portions, and were able to take decisions regarding it, despite of being part of a group as a whole which was going to produce the overall report of our work. Discussing our findings and decisions was highly effective in two ways, first it was motivating for us to receive acceptance and recognition from the rest of the group once we delivered our ideas, and second, the others who had difficulty in formulating and going about an idea were guided and assisted directly through others’ ideas. One by one each of us came up with excellent strategies for improvement and when the implementation period came, we were allowed to request any of the other members to assist us if we required any help. Thus, our overall report, contained contributions from each of the members, having the deficiencies removed of the weak members, and ideas clearly elaborated and presented, we received excellent remarks from the teacher eventually. That project was worth twenty percent of our overall grade, but to me it was worth more. It taught an important lesson about ‘empowerment’. I know how I felt being empowered for the work. The freedom I was given was self-motivating and it encouraged me to prove how worthy I am and how right to have been made independent. It was like the success of the entire group had fallen on me, and I was to produce a far reaching result. Although others may or may not have felt the same, but I for one, was convinced that it was because of the empowerment that I was able to produce my best. If I had been a follower, and simply was to do the allocated task, I may have fallen slack. But because of the fact that I was empowered with decision making and problem solving authority, I had an urge to come up to the expectations that were associated with me. I knew then that empowerment can do wonders for managers.
Empowerment means giving employees the power, freedom, knowledge, and skills to make decisions, and perform effectively. Traditional management tries to limit employees, while empowerment expands their behavior. Empowerment may be reflected in self-managing work teams, quality circles, job enrichment, and employee participation groups as well through decision making authority, training and information so that people can perform jobs without close supervision (Daft 756). As I understood from the other end the impact of empowerment, being a manager, I realised the strong and effective implications it can have for the overall benefit for the organisation. I captured the idea that the leader through empowerment work with people rather than replace them or limit their scope of activities. Firms that adopt this perspective often employ the following practices: provide a sense of employee ownership by sharing gains in productivity and profits; commit to education for all members’ growth and development; help employees become world-renowned experts; gross-train to help people acquire multiple skills; and promote from within (Daft 756). Empowerment starts with decentralization of decision making and broader worker participation, where the leaders set the standards to be achieved and the workers follow their decisions to achieve those standards.
I have taken part in various extra curricular activities apart from my normal academic projects and assignments. I have been an active member of organising groups of seminars and other events in my university, school or residential area. One such event that I would like to mention, is when I was part of the head coordinators of a group that organised a seminar on “Managing Brands”. I was part of information management team. Our task was to coordinate the information collected from the entire teams’ operations and then supply this information to all the members individually through bulletin boards, emails and the likes constantly. Also, producing and keeping record of all correspondence with sponsors, speakers and people of authority were also our immanent tasks. Basically, the task was to keep everybody involved what everybody else was doing. I was late in joining the team that is why I felt I got stuck with this task. I felt it was a worthless position and did not give it any importance. I believed the main job was of marketing and event management teams who were basically doing the main jobs. Any how, at first, it was just producing simple letters and waiting for their replies and emailing all the members regarding the minutes of the meetings. But later on the work load surprisingly increased. And as more days passed, we felt that we needed more people to manage the work load. There were tones of letters to be kept, and the information flow between the members, and the other people involved was immense. If we slacked, even for an hour, many suffered because of lack of information. It was a big event and it constituted a large team for its organisation. Much to my surprise, the information management team was playing an important part, and it was one of the teams that were assembled foremost by the leader, the reason of which I understood later on. Our task was very important. We were a channel through which the leader, that is the head organiser, was able to keep constant and open communication with all the other members. Every new activity was communicated to every body so that they all would know of the progress of the event and see how each of their individual efforts is bringing about a big change in the overall procedure, and making the event more and more filled with chances of success. Later, when weekly meetings were held, all members were encouraged to present their ideas for improvement on any level which they felt after getting all information was important. This was highly motivating for all, because just as we would deliver the information, we would receive positive response from the members, who would see themselves as important contributors for the overall event and put more and more efforts as a result. At meetings, they would feel important as their minds were open to discuss ideas and they felt listened to. Through the bulletin board, emails, and letter system, the leader was able to tell all their tasks, and deliver progress reports without having to conduct meetings each day, which seemed impossible as the event approached nearer. This was one of the most important lessons. Before this experience, I did not believe how important keeping information flow between the subordinates and the leader is for the overall success of the work.
It is a cultural trait of a learning organisation that keeps an open flow of information. Leaders in successful organisations know that too much information is better than too little. Employees can select whatever they need for their tasks (Daft 757). It is a highly effective and motivating idea on part of a manager to utilize open communication and electronic communication, such as E-mail. Open communication means getting people talking face-to-face, with emphasis on listening. It means people taking across departmental lines and talking about company’s vision and values (Daft 757). The move to open communication and information sharing involves training. People have to be brought up to speed on computers, and they are given training to interpret profit statements, and balance sheets. When people are given information regarding the many areas of the organisation, they feel how they contribution is affecting the overall progress of the organisation and how well others are doing. Their ideas may contribute further in open flow of information. Thus practicing information sharing is highly effective and I lived through a small yet significant practical example to understand its immense implication.
Being part of group work at three different areas, I learned the successful traits of a leader, in terms of getting work done effectively from people to meet the deadline. The leaders’ job is not just to get the work done but to inspire the subordinates to do a work that is worth appreciating. Also, I learned through group work the importance of empowerment, and how well workers can work under decision making power vested on their hands and how well it eventually works out for the leader himself in the end. And finally, I learned that keeping a direct flow of information with the subordinates is essential to ensure that everybody knows exactly what’s going on and feel a part of the bigger picture. With these experiences, I was able to evaluate myself as a manager. Working on the leader’s part and on the subordinate’s part, I believe I have seen two sides of the picture, and implementing various decisions and management styles would be a lot easier for me, because I have seen how on an individual level they influence a worker to perform better. I know I an apt for allocating tasks and getting work done effectively and efficiently from people. Also, I know very well that empowerment is the key to building strong relationships with the employees and also, making them stronger and more reliant. While doing all that, keeping a flow of information with the subordinates, would be an added advantage and how to maintain the flow, I have already practiced first hand.
For building up a strong organisation, the managerial implications of leadership, decentralization and empowerment, and open communication with subordinates are highly important. Also, there is work oriented culture building for the organisation and also employee involvement in strategy building, that ensure on other grounds effective work from the employees. But all of these tactics are difficult to implement by those who do not realize how important an asset employee is and how each individual employee’s contribution adds to the profitability of the organisation. when a manager realizes this, notices where the potential each employee lies and has an urge to inspire the employees to achieve their best in work, then he has become a leader, otherwise he is just a conventional authoritative manager who is only concerned with his monthly pay check and does not see himself as part of the organisation for the longer run.