Building up learning organization to meet current public administration reform requirements

       Learning is the key to success, in many cases, it can be said to be a vital element of any organizations, especially in the context of many changes and complexities today. Through learning, the working capacity of each individual in the organization will be improved. The knowledge and skills that are constantly being supplemented and equipped from the learning process both inside and outside the organization will help individuals work better. Learning also helps each individual have more motivation to work, be able to adapt to changes … All these factors make it easier for the organization to achieve its goals. Therefore, building and developing learning organizations in recent years are considered an important strategy to develop organizations in both the public and private sectors. Through an analysis of the characteristics and benefits of the learning organization, the context and requirements which are currently set for state administrative organizations, the article affirms this need and raises some issues that should be focused on to build state administrative organizations into learning organizations.

  1. Learning organization and benefits of learning organizations

Learning organizations in recent years are considered an important strategy to develop organizations in both the public and private sectors. Therefore, this is a topic that attracts the attention of many researchers and practical activities. There are many ways to understand learning organization as follows:

- Learning organization is an organization where people continually strive with their abilities to achieve the desired results, where new ideas are formed, where collective spirit is promoted, where people continually keep learning and learning together (1)..

- Learning organization is not simply individual training, it can take place at the organization level as a result of the learning process. A learning organization is an organization that supports the learning process of all members of the organization and continually makes the organization transform (2).

- Learning organization is a strategic change model, where everyone is involved in identifying and solving problems to keep changing, experiencing and progressing, thereby increasing the ability of the organization and developing to achieve the set objectives (3).

Although there are many different interpretations of a learning organization, some common characteristics of a learning organization can be agreed as follows:

- In the organization, learning is considered the central factor, the most important one to develop the organization.

- Learning organization promotes creativity, spirit and opportunity to work collectively.

- Learning organization supports the learning process of all members within the organization.
– Learning organization, besides formal learning, attaches importance to informal learning forms.

- Learning is considered the basis for creating changes in the organization. Workers in the organization are constantly looking for new and better ways to be able to change and increase work performance results.

The benefits from building learning organizations are:

- Improving the knowledge and skills of each individual to perform better work. Learning organizations encourage members to improve their individual skills, through which learning and development can be achieved. They have the opportunity to develop based on the experiences of their colleagues or themselves, whether it is experience of success or failure. The knowledge sharing among the members of the organization will help each person have better knowledge and skills to complete their work, thereby helping the organization achieve its goals more easily.

- Increasing motivation to work in organizations. Learning organizations help individuals in the organization have better motivation to work. Through the learning organization, members are recognized the efforts, skills and values they have shared in the organization. All of their opinions are respected. Being more aware of the role and importance of themselves in the organization, each individual will be more motivated to work. This creates an opportunity for creative thinking to be developed in the organization, thereby helping to set up many effective solutions to solve problems that arise in practice of the organization.

- Increasing the flexibility and the adaptation of employees in the organization, helping organizations better deal with factors that the environment brings about. Learning organizations create opportunities for workers to study and gain the knowledge and skills beyond the specific requirements of a job. They not only learn the knowledge and skills associated with the job positions they undertake but also learn and receive the knowledge and skills associated with other types of work in the organization. This allows them to perform their jobs better, to adapt to a variety of jobs, which gives the personnel a higher level of adaptability and better responses to today’s complex and changing environments.

- Inspiring creativity and development of new ideas. In learning organizations, there are many opportunities to create and implement such creative ideas. Innovative contributions of employees are recognized and supported.

- Improving the relationship between members of the organization, creating mutual trust. Learning requires communication and interpersonal skills. A learning organization will facilitate members to acquire these skills, so that group or team activities will be more effective. In addition, it also creates trust among the members of the organization, creating a premise for cooperation and efforts to achieve common goals.

- Overcoming the hierarchical barriers between managers and employees in the organization. In a learning organization, managers play a role as trainers, orienting, guiding and sharing experiences with employees. This allows to remove the hierarchical gap, creating opportunities for managers and employees to understand each other better; the communication process between superiors and subordinates is more comfortable, more open, so more information is exchanged. This brings a better connection between departments, units and individuals within the organization. Each member of the organization sees himself/herself more clearly as an important part of the organization, thereby working better for that organization.

- Helping organizations better serve the needs of citizens and customers. In learning organizations, employees not only have the knowledge and skills to serve customers, but they also have the knowledge and ability to effectively use allocated resources to better meet the needs of the citizens, customers.

- Improving the image and the reputation of the organization. When employees in the organization get the knowledge and skills to implement the job, not only the work efficiency of the organization is raised but the image and the reputation of the organization are also changed in a positive direction. Learning organizations create opportunities to change not only the quality of work but also the attitude, service spirit, professionalism at work, through which the image and reputation of the organization will be higher.

  1. Requirements for improving the performance of state administrative organizations in the administrative reform process and the need to build state administrative organizations into “learning organizations”

Improving the performance of state administrative organizations is the goal that needs to be achieved in any countries in the process of national construction and development. In Vietnam, the development process of the country in general and the state administrative reform over the past 20 years have always demanded to improve the operational efficiency of state administrative organizations to better serve the people and to increase the people’s trust in the State.

The performance of state administrative organizations depends very much on the capacity and work experience of each individual in the organizations, which, in many cases, are due to the learning process and experience. A person may have few skills and work experience but if they are actively learning and being guided, trained, and shared experiences, they will be able to proactively overcome the limitations and achieve the desired results.

In the current period, administrative reform is set as an objective requirement to improve the operational efficiency of state administrative organizations to create a premise and to promote economic reform and to establish necessary conditions to be able to take advantage of all opportunities of integration and globalization for the development of a socialist-oriented market economy and to truly build a state “of the people, by the people, for the people ”. Administrative reforms along with the integration trend set requirements on the capacity and moral qualities for the contingent of cadres and civil servants, on the other hand, to successfully reform, the cadres and civil servants themselves must be motivated and able to create change and adapt to those changes.

In order to have cadres and civil servants who have qualified capabilities and virtues and can meet the requirements and effectively perform public duties, it is necessary to create conditions for cadres and civil servants to participate in the learning process. In fact, in recent years, the training and retraining of cadres and civil servants through formal training and retraining have received special attention. However, training and retraining have not been as effective as expected. On the other hand, training and retraining need to be reformed so that cadres and civil servants develop necessary capabilities to meet their work requirements rather than simply to “increase the number of degrees, certificates”, which has always been a big challenge for competent state administrative agencies. In that context, building a learning organization and facilitating the development of a learning environment within organizations are essential.

  1. Some issues that need attention in order to build and develop a learning organization in the public sector

Firstly, strengthening the role and commitment of leaders and administrators in building and developing learning organizations.

Learning organizations have an important role in achieving organizational performance. The purpose and learning process will support individuals in the organization in achieving the set objectives. Therefore, the leaders and the administrators of the organization must be well aware and make it clear to the members of the organization how learning plays an important role in the success of the organization.
Leaders, administrators are motivators who provide facilities and learning opportunities for members of the organization. They play an important role in building the organizational structure in line with the development goals of the organization and the learning environment, minimizing unnecessary steps.

In a learning organization, the resources allocated to learning such as time, space and the support of training experts, funding, academic and career development programs need to be guaranteed. To do so, it is necessary to promote the role of managers and administrators, especially the leaders of the organization. In addition, managers and administrators must promote an important role in creating and maintaining a positive learning culture in the organization.

Secondly, paying attention to creating a favorable environment to share knowledge and experiences in the organization.

A favorable environment for the development for a learning organization is an environment that provides opportunities for easily sharing of knowledge and work experience; facilitating team work to promote the individual and collective creativity. In addition, it is also a working environment with effective performance feedback mechanisms.

Learning organizations require people who are passionate about the work they are doing, proactively bringing experiences, changes and being willing to share with colleagues, promoting their understanding to contribute into knowledge development. Learning organizations can only be built between people who mutually understand and share, individuals feel psychologically safe. Therefore, teamwork is a fundamental element of a learning organization. In the process of working, the group of individuals can express disagreement (even contradictions), debates … but if that happens in an environment of mutual understanding and trust, then it is a positive factor to promote the learning process in the organization. Therefore, it is necessary to build mutual trust relationships, creating conditions for sharing and learning knowledge and experiences in the organization.

Having a full, accurate and timely feedback mechanism is a necessary condition for building and developing a learning organization. Feedback is a process of communicating information to improve work performance results. Thanks to the feedback, each individual in the organization has more bases to adjust behavior and to draw many useful lessons (both lessons of success or failure) through which each individual not only improves work performance but also has more motivation to continue studying. Therefore, to build a learning organization successfully, it is necessary to develop feedback mechanisms in individual work in the organization.

Thirdly, there must be recognition for efforts in learning or developing knowledge.
Recognition for efforts in the learning process or knowledge development is important for motivating learning. Therefore, to build a learning organization, it must be ensured that the time and effort invested in the process of learning and developing knowledge must be officially recognized. Forms of reward and recognition for contributions to the learning process and development of knowledge system must be taken into consideration. Accreditation can be achieved through career development opportunities, increased income … or other factors such as time allocation for learning.

Fourth, paying attention to developing not only formal programs and learning, but also informal programs and learning.

Learning organizations regularly provide learning and development opportunities for individuals as well as working groups. Therefore, learning and development programs must be made available to individuals and groups to develop their capabilities. The learning organization not only pays attention to the benefits of formal learning programs but also benefits from learning opportunities such as sharing daily work experiences, teamwork, group meetings, and being members of the working groups… Therefore, to build and develop learning organizations, it is necessary to pay attention to both planned learning (preset up) and learning opportunities (not set up in advance). The study plan is based on goals, organizational structure, procedures and plans. Learning opportunities depend a lot on encouraging the passion for learning, sharing knowledge among members of the organization, developing learning capacity, creating informal opportunities to share knowledge and distribute cultural learning.

Fifth, promoting the role of administrators, experts and colleagues with experience in training and consultancy in job performance.

One of the important elements of personal learning and development is the training and counseling sessions from experienced administrators, experts and colleagues. Therefore, in order to build a learning organization, coaching or consulting skills need to be continuously developed in the organization. It has been practically proven that not just good administrators or technical experts will be good trainers or consultants, so experienced administrators, experts and colleagues need to train their coaching and counseling skills to effectively guide, counsel and train for others in the organization.

Sixth, there must be a means to store knowledge, to create conditions for all members of the organization to access and exchange information and knowledge easily.

Knowledge is a very important asset for every learning organization. Knowledge is the individual and collective product. Although knowledge is created in the minds of individuals, the learning organization provides the opportunities for this knowledge to grow and be shared among individuals, groups and organizations through interpersonal relationships and access to documents. Therefore, data and information need to be saved and communicated through effective tools and means such as document systems, libraries … In today’s era, information technology is considered an important tool to promote the process of learning, managing and developing knowledge in any learning organization. Without technology, the process of learning and managing knowledge will be difficult. Information technology is used to strengthen the organization, build and maintain a learning community, to connect communication among members of the organization and with people outside the organization to access their knowledge and ideas; to encourage innovation and creativity; to share and to learn from good lessons in practice, to strengthen relationships. The creative use of information technology, for example sharing documents, through the community and online networks, through forums … is a fundamental element of learning organizations. Therefore, it is necessary to create an opportunity for all members of the organization to know how to use available information and apply information technology to manage knowledge and learning process in the organization.

Nguyen Thi Hong Hai

(1) Senge P. (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Century Business / Doubleday.

(2) Pedler et. Al. (1991). The Learning Company: a strategy for sustainable development. McGraw-Hill.

(3) Rowden R.W. (2001), The Learning Organization & Strategic Change, S.A.M. Advanced Management Journal, Summer 2001, Vol. 66, Issue 3 pg 117p.

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