Thursday, January 31, 2008

Encouraging a Learning Culture

Last week one of the posts I made addressed how important the culture of an organization is in relation to performance improvement and change. The article titled, A Model Linking the Learning Organization and Performance Job Satisfaction examines two survey tools that have proved to be valid in measuring job satisfaction; Dimensions of Learning Organization Questionnaire (DLOQ) and Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ).

The DLOQ is based on the seven dimensions of the learning organization



Create continuous learning opportunities

Learning is designed into work so that people can learn on the job; opportunities are provided for ongoing education and growth

Promote inquiry and dialogue

People gain productive reasoning skills to express their views and the capacity to listen and inquire in to the views of others; the culture is changed to support questioning, feedback, and experimentation.

Encourage collaboration and team learning

Work is designed to use groups to access different

modes of thinking; groups are expected to learn together and work together; collaboration is valued by the culture and rewarded.

Create systems to capture and share learning

Both high-and low- technology systems to share learning are created and integrated with work; access is provided; systems are maintained.

Empower people toward a collective vision

People are involved in setting, owning, and implementing a joint vision; responsibility is distributed close to decision making so that people are motivated to learn toward what they are held accountable to do.

Connect the organization to its environment

People are helped to see the effect of their work on the entire enterprise; people scan the environment and use information to adjust work practices; the organization is linked to its communities.

Provide strategic leadership for learning

Leaders model, champion, and support learning;
leadership uses learning strategically for business

Job satisfaction has been one of the factors that research shows correlates with performance. It is not easy to measure as several factors influence one’s satisfaction with a job.

The article divides satisfaction into two domains, the affective, which deals with positive emotional appraisal of the job, and the cognitive satisfaction which deals with the logical evaluation of hob conditions. In addition, job satisfaction may occur on three levels.

  • Individual: behavior due to interaction between employee and environmental situation. “As a result, job satisfaction is most likely influenced by both the psychological and personality characterizations of employees as well as by their definition of and interaction with the overall work setting.” Pg. 4

  • Group: “the work group is part of a larger psychological climate that includes an atmosphere of cooperation and friendliness among work group members and that resulted in more satisfaction among employees. At the same time, job satisfied workers at the group level produced work of higher quality and quantity than other groups in the organization” pg.5

  • Organizational: “At the organizational level, research had shown that environmental antecedents of job satisfaction were linked to extrinsic rewards such as promotional opportunities and pay.” Pg 5

The author argues that in order for an organization to be successful a learning culture must be fostered; where everyone becomes interested in learning and improving their work knowledge.

I agree that a learning culture is the way to go, as things are currently changing. Innovations are being developed rapidly and the only way to survive is to continuously be learning. Once it’s apart of the culture it becomes natural and effortless. I especially like the fact that the article recommended two instruments I have not seen them yet but it should help in our quest to allow research to inform our practice and decisions.

Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice

The divide between theory and practice seems to be a pervading issue with most new disciplines. Last semester one of my courses examined the foundation principles and theories of instructional technology, and the need for practice to be influenced by research was a recurring issue.

Where is all this coming from? You bet right!!!… I read the article by Harold Stolovitch: Human Performance Technology Research and Theory to practice.

This led me to go in search of some theories that were related to Human Performance. The link below is for an article titled, A Control Theory view of Human Performance, by Fred Nickols. The second link examines Nickols’ model and discusses how it may be applied. (towards the bottom of the page.)

Nickols breaks down control theory for us in simple terms and discusses how it can be used to improve performance.

  • Control Theory states that human beings are living control systems and we try to control our environment and vary our behavior to meet our goals.
  • They propose that we have two conditions a reference condition, which is our goal and a perceived condition, which relates to the things to which our goals apply. Perceived condition examines our perceptions of the target we need to control to meet our goal.
  • Control theory states that when there is a difference/discrepancy between these two conditions action occurs. However, when we try to control a target, for example cost, to bridge the gap/discrepancy we have to deal with external factors that affect the same target. For example, suppliers raising their price.

There is a very Good diagram in the article (see below and the explanation was taken from the second link).

In the GAP-ACT Model, the current state of the target variable is defined by the performer’s perceptions of that target. Desired performance is reached because the performer:

  • Has a goal for the target that defines the conditions the goal must satisfy
  • Compares his or her perceptions of the target with the goal to identify any discrepancies
  • Adjusts his or her actions to align the target with the goal, offsetting the impact of other conditions on the target
  • Determines an intervention to eliminate the discrepancy between perception and goal (closes the gap)

In addition:

  • The dotted line stands for feedback from perception to target.
  • The circles help define the separate and overlapping nature of the person and the environment.

Nickols’ makes a distinction between human behavior and human performance; behavior refers to the activity of the performer and performance refers to the effects or outcomes of that activity. He believes that the key to improving performance is by influencing behavior. The focus should not be on controlling behavior; instead effort should be placed on attaining the desirable outcomes. The essence of Nickols’ argument is that in trying to improve performance we have to bear the following in mind:

  • Goals must be communicated clearly and supported
  • Effort should be made to ensure that the performer’s/ employee’s perception of the current condition is timely and accurate.
  • Distinguish between tasks where the results are direct and immediate and tasks where results are indirect and delayed. Example between assembling a product as oppose to enhancing return on equity of a department.
  • Support performers don’t try to control their behavior
  • Think in terms of interventions
  • Manage those “other influences”
  • Support performance instead of controlling behavior


My father has a small business and each time he changes an office assistant (The person who handles the calls and paper work) he focuses on telling them exactly what to do to achieve his goals. However, in a lot of cases they failed to follow his instructions.

Based on this model, I think my father is trying to control the behavior of his workers instead of supporting them in achieving the target. Maybe if he had told them what his aims were and allowed them to decide how best to meet the goals maybe it would have been accomplished. However, he choose to give them a prescription

I see where some of the recommendations here would be helpful, especially the one that says we should get performers to commit to organizational goals (the article goes into details about how to do this). The perception issue is also important as our actions are based on our perceptions; so managers have to ensure that the performer’s perception actually reflects the current situation. I guess this would prevent the response that usually occurs after something goes wrong “but I thought this was the case……and that’s why I did that.”

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Transition Process

This is another link from I guess I got hyper carried a way (if I may coin my own term for moving from one hyperlink to the next :) ). This deals with the phases that people go through with regards to change. The link discusses two theories, which I outline below, and the second link is a PDF file illustrating the transition curve. The site elaborates on the first model but the second one makes better sense to me as some resolution seems to take place; the first one is just a bit confusing to me. What are your views?

John Fisher's personal transition curve: 8 stages

  1. Anxiety: unsure of what the future looks like with the change
  2. Happiness: expect the best, some even have unrealistic expectations
  3. Fear: behavioral change occurs others notice but not the individual
  4. Threat: the individual becomes aware of behavioral changes
  5. Guilt: recognizes that old behavior was inappropriate
  6. Depression: confusion and de-motivation
  7. Disillusionment: goals differ from organizational goals
  8. Hostility: the change process is ignored or undermined
  9. Denial: the individual acts like the change has not occurred.

The Lewis-Parker 'Transition Curve' seven stages are summarized as follows:

  1. Immobilisation - Shock. Overwhelmed mismatch: expectations v reality.
  2. Denial of Change - Temporary retreat. False competence.
  3. Incompetence - Awareness and frustration.
  4. Acceptance of Reality - 'Letting go'.
  5. Testing - New ways to deal with new reality.
  6. Search for Meaning - Internalisation and seeking to understand.
  7. Integration - Incorporation of meanings within behaviours.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Change Management: The people aspect

I started my search this week with change management as from experience this aspect is critical when implementing any new system or process. From my search I found two links very useful in giving an overview of change management and the issues related to change. I will gradually add more on change management but I decided to chunk and limit information to prevent brain overload :) .

Fortunately or unfortunately depending on which position you are in, human beings are complex beings with our own thought processes and value systems which guide our actions. Therefore, suggesting a change or ordering that change occurs does not in anyway determine that it will occur successful. One has to consider the people aspect.

The first link gives some very interesting stories to illustrate how people have reacted to change. The article emphasizes the need to pay attention to the culture of an organization when making changes. The author describes culture as, “that invisible and often complex system of beliefs and practices that determines how people act in organizations.” One of the recommendations that she made was to ensure that old standard operating procedures are replaced with new ones if the change is procedural.

The second link addresses the people aspect of change as well, in addition to giving an overview of change management. This website provides resources that may be helpful such as a decision making template. A salient point that was brought out was that change must not be imposed upon the people but rather they should be involved. The people who are involved should agree with the change or understand the change clearly. Below are some more pointers about the people aspect of change management:

  • It is recommended that managers take the time to understand the people involved and try and understand why they feel the way they do before action is taken.
  • Emails are quite convenient, but for communicating major changes it is not recommended; the face to face approach is best. Emails and written notices are said to be weak in conveying and developing understanding. In the age of technology this would include live meetings using video conferencing software.

Monday, January 21, 2008


My name is Julaine Fowlin and I am from Jamaica. This blog was created in order to share my findings on advancements/ topics/ issues related to performance technology.