Luis Fernando Sánchez

 

Better people, better teams,

better results

 

Organization Development Consulting

Costa Rica

www.CDOcr.com     www.HuellaDO.com

luisfernandosanchez@huellado.com

+506 8313-1000



 

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LEARNING ORGANIZATIONS

Learning organizations are companies that utilize resources that allow them to “learn how to learn.” 

In other words, they have the climate, the spaces and the mechanisms that enable seeing the strategic and tactic topics with openness and a new vision.  This vision widens their perspective to develop different possibilities and generate collective learning.  The ability for continuous learning is, without a doubt, a capacity that becomes a competitive advantage for those companies that develop it.

Systems Thinking

Companies tend to focus their attention in the day-to-day or symptomatic events, loosing sight of the structural aspects and causal connections to those events.  Systems thinking refers to the capacity to see beyond the events and understand the patterns and the structure of interrelations behind those events.  As a result, the causal connections and tendencies that happen at a non-obvious level are discovered, providing the capacity for better and more solid decisions.  These decisions will address the root or structural problems that need attention and improvement.

The development of systems thinking capacities is very useful for companies, especially for managerial teams.  As a matter of fact, many recurrent problems can be eliminated the first time they appear if systems thinking tools are utilized.  This capacity provides a more real vision of the company context, enables truthful strategic decisions, and solves problems from their root.

In order to develop systems thinking the following process should be followed:

  • Training with the different levels of organizational systems

  • Learning about tools such as cause-effect and tendency graphs, and organizational archetypes.

  • Application of concepts to common situations in the company.

  • Training on the different levels of the system

  • Incorporation of systems thinking to the day-to-day work in the company.

Paradigms and Mental Models

One of the fundamental capabilities of learning organizations is the discovery of the paradigms and mental models constantly utilized at work.  Paradigms are beliefs that operate at a level of semi-awareness and that are taken as true or correct simply because things have always been done that way.  Each time we face a situation, we use a “mental map” about the “right” way to transit through that situation.  These models or paradigms are common in all organizations, and as a result, the type of responses and solutions that they stimulate are not creative; they can exclude innovative possibilities for business practices, products and services.

 

The study of paradigms and mental models provides competitive advantages to companies.  It leads to questioning and improving the way in which things are done, decisions are made, production organized, and how work is structured.  The most important contribution is the growing development of an ability to identify the most intelligent options to exercise all enterprise processes. 

 

To develop this skill we use the following process:

  • Knowledge of the concepts of paradigm and mental model

  • Application of concepts to known situations and company processes

  • Utilization of tools to sharpen the ability to identify mental models and question them

The capability to understand mental models  is particularly powerful when it is combined with team learning.

Shared Vision

Shared vision refers to a company’s ability to collectively generate a common desired future and transmit it to all members in the organization.  As a result, every day’s work makes increasing sense for every employee since it is related to a vision or a conception of a commonly desired future.

 

A shared vision generates vital mechanisms of intrinsic motivation that get an organization moving.  It transmits shared meanings and a “raison d’etre” to all company activities.  Individuals learn to link their efforts to the attainment of the vision, and they develop the capacity to make intelligent work decisions on a daily basis.  In addition, a “North” is established for strategic planning and all organizational efforts.  Finally, competencies are generated for self-direction of the different components in the company.

 

In order to develop a shared vision we follow this process:

  • Visualization of the desired future through creative and participative methodologies

  • Organizational dialogue to refine the vision elements, in order to include personal aspirations of all participants

  • Identification of mechanisms for the shared vision to become the guide or backbone of all company movement

 

Personal Mastery and Emotional Intelligence

 

Personal mastery refers to an individual’s capacity to know him/herself, plan his/her future and ideal image based on his/her values, and choose personal and professional activities that take him/her to turn the desired future into reality.  Within this context, emotional intelligence is the capability to manage oneself and one’s personal relationships effectively, including four fundamental skills: personal awareness, personal mastery, social conscience, and social skills.  Unlike intellectual intelligence, emotional intelligence can be developed.

 

Learning organizations seek to have individuals with personal mastery, whose vision and life project are synchronized with the company vision.  In that way, individuals can take advantage of the company as their platform for personal actualization.  As a consequence, they will be more committed to the company and will have intrinsic motivators to meet its objectives.  Emotional intelligence leads individuals to better manage their job and their labor relations.  It also allows them to take important challenges.  This area of learning organizations links and involves individuals in the organizational project.

 

In order to develop the skills  described above the following process should be followed:

  • Exploration of personal values and development of a personal vision

  • Practice of the concept of creative tension to  help individuals start marching towards their vision

  • Linkage of the personal vision to the company vision

  • Personal evaluation based on the emotional intelligence components

  • Knowledge of associated concepts

  • Make an action plan  to improve the capabilities to be developed

Team Learning

Team learning is a fundamental capacity in learning organizations.  Its exercise includes the recognition of mental models behind the individual viewpoints, the judgeless exploration of those models, the capacity for dialogue as a way of learning, and the study of collective processes to discover new ways of facing business situations.

 

Companies that master team learning bring the concept of synergy to reality, whereby the results of teamwork are greater than the sum of the individual contributions.  Team learning allows the display of human potential and talent in all dimensions as individuals discover a source of knowledge different to their own from each other.  Team learning adds value and improves problem analysis processes and opportunity discovery.   Managerial teams that develop these skills acquire an immeasurable competitive advantage.

 

To develop team learning the following actions should be taken:

  • Exploration of different types of conversations

  • Training on the technology and practice of dialogue, learning to use new forms of language, and exercising personal dispositions to learn from each other in order to attain common wisdom

  • Revision of team norms to enable team learning in the everyday operation, and identification of spaces to use the learning on a routine basis.