Gabazira's blog

The Effectiveness-Lab

Is the modern company a school? Series 2

Building on last week’s conclusion, blog Series 1, we have to ask if companies can sustain effectiveness and value-creation if they are both ‘company’ and ‘school.’

Blog Series 1 articulated well the fact that while it is ideal for the modern company to hire accomplished professionals that can add value to its bottom line from day one, labour-market dynamics simply cannot allow that to happen. Therefore, to mitigate the negative effects of such labour-market disequilibrium, the modern company is forced to design into its company architecture, a school model.

Modern company is a school!

I got some interesting comments on Series 1 of this blog. A colleague in Rwanda intimated that learning should be allowed to the modern company, but only for junior level positions. He used the example of an accounts-assistant role, as one that has to be accorded time and space, to learn. In response to the latter proposition, I wondered whether it is fair not to allow seniors at companies, space and time at company school. Also, a junior role is not always equaled to a novice. I may be junior, an accounts-assistant at that, but very experienced and in need of no training.

Well, It is clear that allowing internal schooling, brings to the table of the modern company, some questions and I am not sure the modern company has answered them all:

  1. Is everyone at the modern company allowed to go to company school? For example, would you hire a CEO for their potential and not experience?
  2. Is learning only allowed for lower tier cadres and no more?
  3. Who does the teaching at the company school? Should one assume it is the line manager?
  4. Following on three above, are line managers ‘skilled’ teachers’?
  5. If we followed GTD task management principles, shall the modern company allow the manager/teacher to take time out for teaching?
  6. Is the assumption that teaching will happen 8/8 from the employees work desk? And that In the circumstances, there would be no need for a separate company school?
  7. Is their structure to the learning at company school? Syllabus; evaluation; and graduation?

If you run a company that has asked the above questions as well as others and answered all of them, then I would like to hear from you

In many cases, the truth is that companies have made the decision to recruit and select novices, posture as so-called learning-companies, yet without recognition that learning cannot happen without the right organisational strategy and architecture.

Beyond the faddishness that accompanies learning by the modern company, few companies have articulated viable and sustainable strategies for ‘learning’ within their value chains. Sadly, assumptions have been made and considered as learning-strategy substitutes. For example, that senior managers shall do their day job, teach the novice at the same time, and still contribute significantly to the company’s bottom-line

The effectiveness lab answers to the seven questions above:

  • It is our view at the effectiveness lab that CEO’s may be hired for their potential and allowed to learn their trade at the company.
  • Space and time to learn should be guaranteed for all, novice and accomplished, at the modern company
  • The line manager should help define learning needs but may not always be the teacher. Should they be asked to teach the novice, special time should be created for such stretch assignments
  • Line managers need specialist teaching and coaching skills. The modern company should not simply assume that they know what they are doing. ‘Teaching-skills’ programmes should be considered
  • Managers should be allowed to take out special time to teach, especially the novice. If not, companies are creating unmanageable work-load for their managers
  • Teaching will not happen 8/8 on employee work desks. Space and time should be created for learning to happen. So, the modern company needs a company school, be it virtual
  • Learning for both the novice and the accomplished cannot be forever. There is need to structure learning via: syllabi, evaluation of learning outcomes, and graduation

The modern company both as a school and business:

The road to becoming a true learning-company calls for three critical decisions:

  1. Defining the company’s identity and choosing to be a learning-company or not
  2. If the choice were to become learning-company, designing a strategy for learning and the organisation architecture to deliver learning.

For example, a company may choose to run a much more structured learning system via online, virtual course modules. The power of digital is available to those defining learning-company architecture

3. Choosing modalities for integrating learning, performance evaluation, promotion, and reward.

Effective learning shall not come from generic, boxed, classroom-like teaching that we have come to know. Effective learning is deliberate about: identifying individual employee potential, linking that individual potential to teaching methods and learning outcomes, as well as promotion, growth, and reward.

Therefore, it is vital to note that the make or break of becoming a successful learning-company depends on how effectively, learning modalities are integrated with the orthodox value chain. When it comes to effective learning, the modern company can learn a lot from the differentiated approach to the education industry

My takeaway: While companies can choose whether to become learning-companies or not, sustainable company eco-systems and value-creation, are guaranteed when companies address the labour-market disequilibrium and the resulting value loss. It is a learning-company that will best address labour market disequilibrium. The choice is for the company to make!


One response to “Is the modern company a school? Series 2”

  1. […] of you in management may call it learning-agility for the individual or if it were a company, a learning-organisation. Since we are talking education today, I want to stick to the term […]


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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