Transforming the Top Management Team Into a Learning Group

Laura Freebairn-Smith

Chapter published in “Managing in Organizations that Learn,” Steven Cavaleri and David Fearon, © Blackwell Publishers, 1996.

An organization’s top management team is critical for its long-term health. This chapter looks at how the management team can increase and sustain its ability to learn, as well as encourage ongoing learning throughout the organization. Today, the primary function of the top management team is to learn, to encourage learning, and to share its learning in a meaningful way. Top management teams can and must break out of the perceptual confines created by their position and power to enhance the entire company’s ability to learn and be more successful on a variety of scales—profitability, employee turnover, customer satisfaction.

  • Today’s Top Management Team
  • Being at the Top is Different (Creating Vision, Utilizing Power)
  • Who is at our Table? (Group Membership and Norms)
    • Overall team design and culture
    • Individual characteristics of team members
    • Top management team checklist
  • The Walls Around Us (Shared Meaning and Systems)
  • How Do You Spell “Bicycle”?
  • Insulation is for Houses, not Management Teams
  • Learning to Learn So Others Can Learn Too
  • Developing a Learning Practice for Your Top Management Team
    • System patterns
    • Clarifying personal vision
    • Getting new “data”
    • Creativity and framebending
  • Conclusions and Questions for the Future

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