Learning organisation (2) - Single and double-loop learning

In an earlier blogpost, we saw that a learning organization is an organization that is able to respond quickly to changes. Employees sharing knowledge is one characteristic that contributes to a learning organizations. It is one of the principles underlying KCS.

Double-loop learning is another characteristic of a learning organization that we see back in KCS. It is a concept firstly described by Chris Argyris in 1977. Single-loop learning means we respond to the issue, change what is necessary (often by trial and error) to solve the issue. This is a quite effective method in many situations. This method however only provides short-term solutions, because we didn’t look beyond the issue itself. Double-loop learning takes a broader perspective. Here we reflect on our goals and evaluate the full situation. Therefore, we make decisions that could involve the whole organization, not just the issue. Argyris describes the case of a Product X that knew so many problems, the company was constantly trying to solve issues. This is single-loop learning. The decision to completely stop producing Product X, because benefits of Product X sales couldn’t justify the continuous work it needed, is double-loop learning. Although most companies are good in the single-loop process, they usually are not in the double-loop process.

In KCS we also see the two loops in the Solve and Evolve loop. The Solve Loop is aimed at efficiently solving incidents. Speed and accuracy are key. Is the customer, who has the issue, helped? Has the problem been solved? The Evolve Loop goes one step further. This loop helps determine the Solve Loop by setting standards. Next to that, trends are analyzed from issues in the Solve Loop. Options for improvement are identified. Both loops are necessary and contribute to a learning organization.
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