Self-assessment of administrations on "Learning Organization" indicators

Effective learning is defined by many specialists as the main factor whereof the companies’ survival and success depend on in the extremely dynamic modern world of digital technologies and the rapid development of science (Garvin, 199315; Senge, 1990). As a main reason for the organizations’ rise or vice versa - a reduction of their productivity and life, analysts specifically point out their ability of learning (Bersin, 2013). In fact, the idea of learning organizations is not new. In the early 1990s, Fortune magazine proclaimed: "Forget about the old leadership, today's most successful corporations are the so-called learning organizations', and Shell's Ari de Geus added: "companies' ability to learn faster than their competitors is their only sustainable competitive advantage." An ideologist of the new views was Peter Senge, whose work "The Fifth Discipline" has become a table book of modern business leaders (Senge, 199020). For Senge, learning organizations are not simply those that strive to develop their people by constantly sending them to trainings, but those that develop an organizational culture that stimulates thinking and learning.

People like to learn and are motivated by nature to do so, but there are also a lot of barriers to these processes. According to Harvard professor David Garvin and his colleagues (Garvin, Edmonson, & Gino, 2008), the main reason for the failure of many organizations to become learning ones lies in the fact that managers simply do not know how to achieve such a goal. Garvin believes that management needs a clear guide, specific goals, well-defined steps, and a tool for feedback, measurement, and progress evaluation. Guided by this understanding, he and his colleagues created the “Is Yours a Learning Organization” questionnaire – a tool to assist leaders in the process of transforming traditional organizations into learning ones. The methodology of Garvin, Edmondson, and Gino appeared in 2008 and is used by all types of organizations worldwide.

In accordance with the written above, in 2016, as a part of the project "Alternatives of Formal Training in the Public Administration", IPA approved the self-assessment “Is Yours a Learning Organization” questionnaire of Garvin, Edmondson and Gino. In total 900 employees from 63 central and territorial administrations in Bulgaria participated in the self-assessment, and each one of them received a report with feedback and recommendations. Based on the results, at a specially organized ceremony, IPA announced the Learning Administrations’ Rating for 2016.

Institute of Public Administration’s initiative and “Is Yours a Learning Organization” questionnaire were extremely well welcomed by the Bulgarian administrations which motivate us to continue providing the opportunity for self-assessment and to support the administrations in their efforts for organizational excellence and quality management in the future.

The table below contains the initiative’s development from 2016 to 2021:

2016

2017

2018

2021

63 administrations

70 administrations

49 administrations

81 administrations

900 employees

1291 employees

1045 employees

2954 employees

Results from 2021 year show that the culture of learning in the Bulgarian administration continues to lag behind. The only area where she has an edge is “Time to Think”. This was also the case in previous studies (2018,2017,2016). Compared to foreign organizations, the Bulgarian administration is less pressured to act and has the opportunity to spend more time thinking about its decisions and evaluating their effect.

The overall assessment of the learning culture of the Bulgarian administration (the global indicator from the questionnaire) is 65 points, while the reference benchmarking value of Garvin et al. is 74 points. This means that about 65% of foreign organizations have a better learning culture compared to the Bulgarian administration. However, this result is not as weak as it seems at first glance, since, as we have already pointed out, administrations generally show a slightly weaker learning culture compared to business organizations.

Scores on two of the questionnaire's three main domains - Leadership and Learning Environment - are also below the median. According to "Environment stimulating learning", the assessment of the Bulgarian administration is 65 points, while the reference value is 71 points. According to "Leadership", the result of the Bulgarian administration is 69 points, while the reference value is 76 points. On both dimensions, the difference is 6-7 points in favor of foreign organizations, which means that approximately 60% of them have a better organizational environment, as well as better leadership that stimulates learning and development in organizations.

The performance of the Bulgarian administration in the domain of "Processes" is the weakest. Her score was 63 points against a reference value of 74 points, or 11 points below the median of Garvin et al. This score corresponds to the 25th percentile, which means that only 25% of foreign organizations have weaker processes related to learning compared to the Bulgarian administration. Learning processes in Bulgarian administrations are definitely an area that requires change and development.