Learning Organizations Make Succession Easy

Monday, January 23 2012

Organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs. ~ Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline, 1990: p. 139

In 1990, Peter Senge published The Fifth Discipline, a seminal work that outlined the critical importance of developing learning organizations. Senge maintained that organizations which don’t learn, adapt and grow will fail. This prediction is even more relevant today.

But organizations don’t learn. People do. It is individuals who seek out new ideas, information and insights and apply them to their organizations in order to improve. To create a vibrant learning organization, we must first employ individuals who love to learn.

If you’re thinking of transitioning or selling your business, there are powerful reasons why this would be important to you now:

  • It adds value to your business.
  • It makes it easier to bring about a planned transition.
  • It increases your chance of successfully enabling your employees to take on more responsibility, freeing up your time to do more of the things that you’d rather be doing.


Consider the challenges you would face if you employed:

  • An IT manager who resists learning a new operating system.
  • A marketing manager who isn’t interested in social media.
  • A production manager who doesn’t want to learn better leadership skills and how to deal more effectively with employees from different generations or diverse backgrounds.
  • A vice-president who avoids learning about succession planning, strategic planning, process development, or open book management.
  • An HR manager who refrains from learning about new employment laws, hiring practices or assessment tools that would improve employee retention.
  • Any salesperson who refuses to learn about Customer Relationship Management programs or better ways to prospect.

Would you put such employees on the asset or liability side of the ledger? When employees don’t like to learn, they devalue your business. If they succumb to their fears, they sabotage any attempts at succession planning.

What about you? Have you set an example for your employees? Do you invest in business books, courses, seminars, professional development and coaching? Have you offered your employees learning opportunities?

When you look at the companies on the list of “best employers to work for” you’ll notice that one of the traits that makes them attractive is their support of continuous learning. If your people aren’t learning, you don’t have a learning organization and your attempts to transition are destined to fail.