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Strategic Organizational Learning, Second Edition Hardcover – July 15, 2010
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About the Author
Dr. Michael Beitler (pronounced Bite-ler) began his 30-year career as a management consultant with one of the world's largest consulting firms. He has earned acclaim as a keynote speaker, consultant, and author. His 2010 run for U.S Senate has extended his influence from business into the world of politics. Michael's clients include Fortune 100 companies and mid-sized companies in manufacturing, distribution, retailing, banking, publishing, and professional services. Dr. Beitler's teaching experience includes the MBA program of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Mannheim (Germany's #1 ranked business school).
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He has carefully organized his material within two parts: Foundations of Organizational Learning (Chapters 1 and 2) and Organizational Learning in the 21st Century (Chapters 3-10). In 2004, the estimated direct costs of training in North American companies (alone) exceeded $60-million and continue to increase substantially each year. When factoring in all costs (including waste), the adjusted total is probably incalculable. Re waste, I am again reminded of what Peter Drucker said in an article which appeared in the Harvard Business Review in 1963: "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all." One of Beitler's most important points is that before formulating and then implementing a strategic organizational learning program, it is first necessary to decide (a) what needs to be learned, (b) why it needs to be learned, and (c) which specific objectives such learning will achieve. Otherwise, worth repeating, "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all."
As Beitler clearly indicates, learning without then taking appropriate action demonstrates what Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton characterize as the "Knowing-Doing Gap"; similarly, action without learning demonstrates what they characterize as the "Doing-Knowing Gap." Many senior-level executives make bad decisions because they do not know what they need to know, or because they are convinced that they know what they need to know...but don't.
Some of the most valuable material in this book is provided in Chapter 6, "Management & Professional Development," as Beitler explains how to use a variety of valuable tools for assessment, development, and performance management. They include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI); FIRO Element B which reveals an individual's preferences for inclusion, control, and openness in human interaction; the Kirton Adapter/Innovator Instrument (KAI) which reveals potential problems between extreme adapters and extreme innovators; the Self-Directed Learning readiness Scale (SLDRS) which helps in designing a customized learning and development plan for an individual; and the Cross-Cultural Adaptability Index (CCAI) which helps to prepare and support expatriate managers and professionals for foreign assignments.
It remains for each reader to determine which of these and other "tools" are most appropriate to her or his own organization's needs in terms of strategic organizational learning. Most organizations probably need more than one of various tools now available. Beitler can help decision-makers to determine which to select, how to use each, and how to coordinate use of them. In this context, I presume to offer two caveats: For those whose only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail; conversely, if every available tool is used indiscriminately, the results are certain to be unsatisfactory.
Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out Beitler's Strategic Organizational Change as well as Pfeiffer and Sutton's The Knowing-Doing Gap and their more recently published Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense, Carla O'Dell and C. Jackson Grayson's If Only We Knew What We Know, Thomas Davenport's What's the Big Idea? and his more recently published Thinking for a Living, and other sources provided by Beitler in his Annotated Bibliography, especially Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline which I think should be read in combination with his later work, The Dance of Change.
The book reads like an academic treatise. The pages are filled with annotations and references so the reader can find additional references for further learning...or at least know the author's sources. For the specialist in the field who wants all that, it's there. I found the heavy use of references and abbreviations to be distracting, taking away from the flow of my reading. That's why I use the word "confusing" in my title for this review.
Perhaps the best use of this publication is as a text and reference book. The student entering the field-through a university setting or coming from a specialty area in the corporate environment-will gain a thorough understanding of the what and the how of organizational learning. The doors to further learning will be opened, with abundant connection to opportunities to gain depth in any of the topic areas.
General readers of business books seeking to expand their knowledge and acquire new ideas probably won't be happy with this book. It's designed more for people who are already in the field and want to become more conversant, as well as for those who seek to be practitioners but need to enrich their understanding of how organizational learning supports corporate strategy.
The reviewer is a Certified Management Consultant.