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How to be an effective internal consultant
Improving Reliability and Maintenance from Within
(Introduction to Learning)

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   by Stephen J. Thomas
Published By:
Industrial Press Inc.
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Learning Organizations


If you do the same old thing the same old way

You will always get the same old result

Group learning can correct this problem


6.1 Introduction to Learning


This chapter is about group learning specifically related to organizational change and even more specifically related to plantreliability. Every organization and those within the organization learn continuously. Although you and your organization may not learn the correct things nor apply what you have learned, nevertheless, learning goes on all of the time.


The questions we will address in this chapter are

1. What is group learning?

2. What constitutes a learning organization?

3. How do we acquire knowledge?

4. How does this apply to reliability?

5. How is learning supported or impaired by the organization’s culture?

6. As internal consultants, what we can we do about it?



In our daily lives we learn something new everyday. It is important that we consider each of these new things that we learn and see how they are applied to the world in which we work. If we don’t, there is a significant risk that the world will change and we will be left behind. Just think for a moment of the things you have learned over your career and how they have been applied towards making work easier and making you more productive. A simple example that has affected everyone is the computer. I can still remember doing things long hand and the large amount of time and effort it took. I can also remember the difficult time and extended effort required to justify one PC in our entire organization. Times change and we need to learn and apply what we have learned.  


Although it is important that we learn and apply this learning, it is even more important for the success of our companies that we learn as a group—hence, group learning. The reasoning for this is the simple truth that no one individual can easily make a change for the better. You may have learned something that can vastly improve the reliability of your equipment. However, if that learning is not transferred to the entire group, it will never be implemented. The reasoning behind this is the fact that groups are what make up the organization and, ultimately, the company. If the group learns something new that will support their effectiveness and efficiency, and they are aligned in their approach, the result will be a powerful and successful change.  


Group learning is an important organizational trait that has the potential to make the work of internal consultants far easier than if learning was not a key component of the organization’s make-up. After all, internal consultants are responsible to work with the organization and develop new initiatives that will improve efficiency and effectiveness. If the organization is closed to learning and applying the actions required, that task will become difficult to impossible.  


Years ago I came to understand that reactive maintenance was not nearly as effective as work that was well planned and executed. In one consulting effort in which I was engaged, I suggested that the organization move away from their reactive work processes towards those that had a much higher degree of proactivity. However, there were many in the organization who still embraced the old reactive way of working. Even with significant amounts of evidence they failed to embrace the new concepts. They were unable to learn that, even though they had been reactive for years, it was not an effective way of conducting the work. As a result, the change initiative failed. The ability of an organization to be able to learn and apply the learning to new and better ways of performance is not just critical to the success of change initiatives; it is also critical to organizational survival.

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