Case Studies of the Learning Organisation


Motorola Univ. Logo

Motorola continues to grow at a significant rate, with 20000 associates hired each year. With this growth, Motorola has the need to train people for their own hiring. Jeff Oberlin, director of Motorola University's Department of Emerging Technologies and Human Resource Trends explained:

"We can't keep using traditional classroom methods of instruction to spread the message for Motorola. Our reach isn't far enough to get to everybody. We must find creative ways to help new associates, world-wide, become productive members of a team and receive consistent messages about how we do business; the core values of Motorola, and the tools and techniques we use."

Jeff's charter is to closely re-examine MU's methods of spreading information, delivering training, and determining new and better ways of providing Motorolans with the knowledge and skills required to meet the ever-changing demands of the industry.

He went on to say, "The use of CD-ROM, Internet applications, wireless data, and a host of other emerging technologies must be fully explored. Our intent is to find those situations where alternative training delivery is the best way to transfer information."

Multimedia training would allow Motorola to:

  • Get training to all Motorolans world-wide, including emerging markets
  • Reduce training times and costs
  • Increase knowledge of the firm
  • The first step is to build a department of technology to research, develop, and eventually teach the how-to aspects of multimedia based learning.

    "Once we determine how to use the various technologies available to us, we want to share that knowledge with the business." Motorola is looking for associates with expertise in a number of areas:

  • Computer based training
  • The Internet
  • Satellite and business television
  • Wireless communication
  • Corporate education departments
  • Software
  • Video
  • The Conception

    Motorola University was started in 1981 as the Motorola Training and Education Centre. It was created to provide training needs and established itself as a corporate department.

    During the 1980s, Motorola University's original aim was to help its company build a quality culture which would then develop an internal training system. In addition, they set up corporate-wide training plans and training investment policies.

    By 1990, Motorola University had expanded its operations in the United States, Eastern Europe, South America and the Asia-Pacific region. The Galvin Centre for Continuing Education was opened in 1986 while the Singapore Training Design Centre was opened in 1989.

    Today, many mangers, supervisors and employees from all parts of Motorola have attended diversity training. This training helps participants to have more opportunities to develop and achieve their full potential

    Apple Japan

    Apple Japan Logo

    Until 1989, Apple Japan, the Japanese arm of the multinational Apple Computing corporation, held only 1 percent of the country's personal computer market. The appointment of a new company president marked the beginning of an era -- he started the drive to increase Apple's presence in the market and accelerated change. The company was to achieve annual sales of $1 billion by the end of 1995.

    To meet this challenge the corporation approached the management consultant firm, Arthur D. Little, who have built up a wealth of experience in information technology and company restructuring. Apple Japan requested a sweeping plan to penetrate the market and increase efficiency within the company. In order to do this, they planned to reposition the brand, expand the range of distributors, improve customer management, and introduce the concept of the Learning Organisation into the workplace.


    In order to implement Learning Organisation techniques, Apple was advised to tackle the Five Disciplines which are essential to a learning organisation: Team Learning, Shared Visions, Mental Models, Personal Mastery and Systems Thinking.

    Although group meetings were a regular part of company practice, more time was allowed for group discussions and team education. This kept the work teams well informed and increased every individual's input to their project. With the increased emphasis on team learning, a shared vision was naturally introduced, allowing each member to work towards the same goal irrespective of their position.

    Each employee of the company had their own mental model of how the organisation, their managers and team colleagues operate. By trying to bring each person's mental model into line with the rest of the team, the learning process was made more efficient and teams acted more coherently. Personal Mastery was also addressed by encouraging managers to set their staff challenging but reasonable goals, and introducing training programmes.

    The crucial discipline was Systems Thinking, which brought all the other factors together. This enabled each employee to make decisions, taking the whole system into account, instead of focusing specifically on their own problems.

    These disciplines were implemented by moderate restructuring and a program of education that was applied to everyone in the organisation.


    The re-organisation resulted in a marked improvement in the company's sales, with growth exceeding the most optimistic projections:
  • Market Share grew to 15% in 1995 from 1% in 1989.
  • Annual sales soared to $1.3 billion in 1994, with the sale of 520 000 computers
  • Although not all of the success can be attributed to the introduction of the Learning Organisation concept, the results indicate an unprecedented improvement. The learning organisation was a major player in instituting this growth.

    Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales (YPF)

    YPF, the largest company in Argentina, is today a focused, highly productive oil and gas company involved in the exploration and production of oil and natural gas. It also refines, markets and distributes oil and petroleum products.

    In 1989, the company employed 52 000 permanent and temporary staff, and included holdings in fields as far away from its main business as hospitals and cinemas. The challenge facing the company was to transform itself from an inefficient state-owned bureaucratic centre into an efficient private company that could attract international investment.

    In order to facilitate this change, the company went about re-designing its organisational structure and culture. They turned to the American management consultant firm, Arthur D Little.


    From the outset, the Arthur D Little team worked with the YPF management in re-organising their business. It was felt important that this re-design be only the first step in a long term aim of becoming a dynamic and modern organisation. The concept of the Learning Organisation was introduced.

    The establishment of a measurement system was perhaps the biggest step -- this enabled the employees to evaluate and review what was going on in the company, thus learning about current processes and seeing what worked well. The introduction of working groups also benefited the business, as ideas could be discussed, and perceptions aired. Everyone in the business became more aware of the company's purpose and the collective effort reaped dramatic results.


  • Losses of almost $579 million in 1990 were transformed into profits of $256 million in 1992 and $706 million in 1993
  • The number of staff was reduced from 52000 to around 6000
  • In July 1993, 44% of YPF was offered on the New York and Beunos Aires stock exchanges, raising $3 billion for the Argentine government. $1 billion has since been raised with the sale of further 13 %
  • This entire restructuring was completed in just two years, leaving the company with a strong framework and tools for continuous learning and improvement.

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