September 2016: Developing a Learning Organization

In this Issue

Opening Remarks

It’s not just the kids that are heading back to school in the fall.  Organizations that want to survive in a constantly-changing future need to take steps to become what Peter Senge called a “learning organization.”    

At The Reid Group, we have a passion for helping leaders and organizations transform their challenges into opportunities to create a better world. One of the ways we do that is through this e-letter, Transforming Challenges. Is there someone you know who could benefit from receiving it? Forward this edition to them and encourage them to subscribe for themselves. They’ll thank you—and so do we!

The Reid Group News

  • Tom Reid will attend the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference in San Diego, CA September 18-21. Maureen Gallagher will staff the Reid Group exhibit at the Resource Center for Religious Institutes assembly in Anaheim, CA October 11-14.
  • The Diocese of Trenton’s planning process, Faith in Our Future, is progressing as the cohorts formulate their responses to the Preliminary Recommendations issued in June. The Diocesan Planning Commission will meet in retreat October 18-20 to consider the cohort responses and develop Final Recommendations they will send to Bishop O’Connell. The bishop will issue his final decisions late this year or early in 2017.
  • Maureen Gallagher is working with four parishes in Waukesha, WI, continuing to develop the Collaborative Catholic Community of Waukesha.
  • Lucien Roy presented two workshops on September 8 for St. Louis University employees on “Becoming Champions of a Positive Work Culture.”
  • John Reid and Tom Reid continue to work with Executive Coaching clients, helping them to identify short- and long-term goals and job transitions. These coaching sessions involve a weekly 30-minute call or a bi-weekly 60-minute call. Contact John or Tom if you would like to explore the benefits of a coaching relationship.

So as you look at your individual or organizational future, what are your challenges? Could you benefit from skilled support? Give us a call at 206-432-3565 or send us an e-mail to start transforming those challenges into opportunities.

The Reid Group webinar series

Self-Care of the Leader:  Living a Balanced Life

Are you running from one thing to the next and putting off making time for your own needs?  Do you or your fellow leaders tend to pay more attention to the needs of others than your own?    

You are invited to The Reid Group Webinar on Self-Care of the Leader – Living a Balanced Life

  • Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 4:00 – 5:15 PM ET
  • Host for the Call:  Tom Reid

In this interactive webinar, we will cover the principles and practices for healthy self-care.  Topics will include:

  • Framework of the whole person
  • Role of Self-Knowledge
  • Fresh look at a healthy sense of discipline
  • Cultivating your spiritual garden of practices
  • Personal foundation fundamentals
  • Structures of support

Space is limited, so register today!

Feature Focus

Developing a Learning Organization

Peter Senge defined the concept of the “learning organization” in his signature work, The Fifth Discipline, as characterizing organizations that overcome “inherent obstacles to learning and develop dynamic ways to pinpoint the threats that face them and to recognize new opportunities.” In other words, learning organizations recognize that change is a constant in organizational life and the most sustainable organizations are those that adapt to it.

Is yours a learning organization?

Organizations vary in how well they adapt to change. By embracing the idea of a learning organization, the institution prepares itself well for a future that cannot avoid change. But how ready are you?

  • Is being a self-starter a value of your organization? If “learned helplessness” is tolerated or supported, this needs to be addressed before you begin managing change as a organization of learners.
  • Are mistakes viewed as part of continuous improvement and as a threshold for creativity? If so becoming a learning organization, already has an important foundation.
  • Does the organization support the emotional aspect of learning by dealing with self-esteem issues, by celebrating attempts at trying new things, by acknowledging accomplishments? If so, another pillar has been laid to becoming a successful learning organization.
  • On an organizational change scale-adverse, resistant, managing, friendly, seeking-where do you think your company falls? Knowing that there will always be some resistance to change, try to assess the organization’s leaders as a whole. The ideal is to get the majority of leaders into the “managing” category before beginning to change the culture into a learning organization.
  • Are people encouraged to do regular self-assessments and share these with supervisors or a learning team? Such a process allows for affirming the positive growth they see in individuals as well as correct any misperceptions of expectations. If “self-assessment” is not part of the organization’s culture, it is wise to begin that process as part of performance planning before or as part of moving toward a learning organization.
  • Do you develop the organization’s learning opportunities so that they are easy to assess, logical, immediately applicable and fun? Learning styles differ from person to person, as do aptitudes. However, the belief that all can learn given the right environment-an environment where change is embraced and success is nurtured-is the bedrock of a learning community.

How do you become a learning organization?

Learning communities do not just happen; they are created. They are formed when leaders want to explore their internal resources, reflect on their experiences and integrate the meaning and purpose of their work. Learning organizations develop when leaders become good stewards of their human resources and unleash the power that communities generate when they share and work toward the same vision.

Some essential building steps to developing learning communities:

  • Create a spirit of inquiry. “What would happen if…?” “I wonder if we…?” Use inquiry and careful listening to become grounded in the changing environment. What is changing? What is staying the same? In response to the inquiries, collect internal and external data from employees and those you serve to understand the shifting milieu.
  • Encourage personal relationships within the learning organization. Share information with everyone and invite everyone to discuss the meaning of the information for your organization.
  • Use visual thinking. Envision how your organization can meet the demands of the changing environment. Structure a way for as many people as possible to be part of the visioning exercise. Use metaphors and symbols to envision the future.
  • Discover the strengths you have as an organization to meet the challenges of developing a more creative, productive future as indicated by your vision.
  • Focus on the “learning” needs of your organization which are called for in the new vision. Learning and then sharing those learnings throughout the organization provide deeper and greater long-term advantages to achieving the vision, than short-term “make-it-fit” solutions. Encourage diverse perspectives.
  • Continue to support and reinforce the values of mutual commitment, mutual trust, mutual respect and on-going inquiry. Encourage exploration of new ways to achieve goals.

Taking steps to develop a culture of a learning organization ensure the sustainability of your organization in a future that is constantly changing-a future you can either dread or eagerly anticipate. Which would you prefer?


The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning

Think about what your organization could do if the process of planning met the inevitability of change head-on—and it resulted in significant success.

bookcoverweb2Organizations large and small, religious and secular, for-profit and not-for-profit, successful and unsuccessful, go through change. John Reid and Maureen Gallagher of the Reid Group have been instrumental in helping many groups discover the power of Prophetic Planning. This book presents a complete overview with detailed information that any organization will find useful in understanding how to plan for change.

The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning, and its companion CD are now available from Liguori Publications as well as from

And that’s it for this month. Look for Transforming Challenges next month–and until then, have a good day and a great week.  Kathy Johnson, Editor, Transforming Challenges
The Reid Group E-Letter is © The Reid Group, 12535 15th Ave. NE, Suite 211, Seattle WA 98125; 206-432-3565.
Any part of this newsletter may be reproduced with full attribution.