This transformation is not achieved through an e-learning initiative, although e-learning is often part of the process. Technology enables us to build learning organizations because it allows employees to benefit from the speed and flexibility of an anytime , anywhere education system. But e-learning is just the vehicle. On its own, it is no better than the videotapes that no one watches or user manuals that no one reads.
Many companies have tried to make the transition to a learning organization, only to invest millions of dollars in failed solutions. They failed because they didn't understand what they were trying to do, assuming that throwing enough money at flashy online-training solutions would mean they were dedicated to learning.
They offer their employees technology tools but ignore the cultural revolution required to make them useful. Becoming a learning organization is far more challenging than just implementing technology. It requires a major shift in cultural attitude toward learning. E-learning is a radically different approach to knowledge transfer. It requires employees to seek out knowledge rather than have it delivered to them. Unless you transform the attitude, support mechanisms, and reward system, you give your employees tools that have no value and no context. The best e-learning system in the world cannot flourish in those circumstances.
If you want to succeed at this transformation process, forget technology for the moment and think about your environment. You have to rethink your culture, your reward and recognition processes, your vision, and your determinants of who succeeds and why. You must give up your knowledge-is-power mentality and create a culture in which information sharing is at the foundation of what makes the company run. A learning organization practices genuine teamwork, in which all members are valued. It has strong leadership to support the learning goals, it has open lines of communication that flow up and across the organization, and the roles and responsibilities of every employee are clearly defined. Only after you've committed yourself to this monumental change effort can you appreciate the role that e-learning will play in supporting the change.
We succeeded in transforming Rockwell Collins, the aerospace giant based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, into a learning organization, because our online-learning initiatives had purpose. They were designed to support the goals of the company and enhance the key skills of the employees. We held their hands, marketed the system, and set the stage for users by showing them the value of our initiative. The transformation initiative removed incentives that supported the old system and put in place new processes for reward. We targeted cultural issues and either eliminated or worked around them. The result was a learning-organization transformation supported by technology-delivered training that has saved the company millions of dollars over three years .