Not all teaching organizations are learning organizations

IvoryTowerWhat do you think when a Political Science Department of a major university can’t govern themselves? This one in particular went into receivership because they couldn’t resolve their issues. Kind of scary, isn’t it?

How about a leadership training center or a management seminar company with lousy leadership and management?

One thing is clear – not all teaching organizations are learning organizations. My training buddies and I have direct experience of this phenomenon. We’ve subcontracted to teaching organizations that have a lot to learn. Ironically, the principles and practices they lacked were the same ones their trainers were sharing with clients every day.

Leadership author Peter Senge notes that “to create a competitive advantage, companies need to learn faster than their competitors.” Most of the teaching organizations that my training buddies and I have associated with teach that principle – but many have closed the feedback loops that would put that principle in practice. One friend was told

– “don’t call any of the managers on their stuff if you want to work here.”

Don’t call them on their stuff? That term itself says a lot about how feedback is regarded. Is seeking a better way to operate actually calling someone on their stuff? This kind of personalization effectively squashes the impulse for improvement – and repels talented professionals like my friend, who decided to pass on an opportunity with this company. 

It appears that the university department (in my alma mater) that could teach governance, but not practice it, had ivory tower syndrome. But you don’t have to be a university to experience that. You just need to think that being about teaching isn’t about learning, too. It is. Not that anyone needs to tell the great teachers that. They are so filled with natural curiousity that one of the most inspiring things about them is their love of learning. And why not? There is so much to experience, learn and know.

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