Factors in Developing a Learning Organization

Learning organization development through systems theory, leadership and management of human resources, knowledge acquisition and application
A brainstorming process. Leaders and managers can push for the development of a learning organization by considering factors like change, interconnections, human resources, and knowledge development and application. (Photo by Scott Graham; Public Domain)

Systems theory provides a framework for understanding and evaluating the development of organizations. The theory can be applied to make an organization an effective learning organization. Various factors interact to determine how an organization becomes an effective learning organization. For an organization to become one, it is necessary to emphasize the human resources aspect and the needs of the workforce at the individual and group levels. Leaders and managers must address the needs, issues and challenges in becoming a learning organization through support for and from the organization’s human resources.

Organizational Change

Systems theory puts emphasis on the importance of change in the organization as a way to develop it into a learning organization. This change accounts for changes in the internal environment and external environment of the organization. Based on the theory, managers and leaders must give particular attention to the organization’s need for change as a way of adjusting or adapting to the challenges encountered along the course of organizational development.


The interconnectedness of organizational components is another consideration in applying systems theory. The organization’s connections with its external environment also come into play. To establish a learning organization, leaders and managers must understand how the organization functions and develops within the larger context of the external environment. An understanding of connections in and between the internal environment and external environment helps identify opportunities for improvement and the factors that can facilitate transformation into a learning organization.

Human Resources and Knowledge Acquisition

In applying learning organization theory, human resources are a major variable. Learning in the organization involves the actual learning process that occurs among employees. Workers are the ones who identify and gain knowledge that is significant to the operations of the organization. They are the ones who acquire, retain, and apply such knowledge in their performance of their jobs in the organization.

Leaders and managers of an organization need to focus on how human resources collect and utilize valuable knowledge from within the organization and from outside the organization. For example, a manager, in applying systems theory for developing a learning organization, must encourage workers to recognize valuable information from the organizational environment, and collect the information and transform it into knowledge for the benefit of developing new policies, programs, tasks, skills, and abilities for improving the overall performance of the organization as a system.

Applying Knowledge in the Learning Organization

A critical factor in determining the effectiveness of leaders and managers in developing a learning organization is their ability to drive or motivate human resources to apply knowledge that benefits the organization. Leaders and managers must overcome the challenge of operationalizing the theoretical or conceptual variables of systems theory so that these variables can be applied in the current organizational context. The inability to overcome this challenge could lead to the futility of efforts to transform the organization into a learning organization.

While it is important that workers gain valuable knowledge from the internal and external organizational environments, it is even more important that these workers effectively apply their new knowledge. Considering organizational behavior theory, managers and leaders must know how to motivate and direct human resources in learning how to apply their knowledge to their work or job tasks in the organization. Employees need to keep in mind that their efforts in knowledge application are for improving the organization and making it a learning organization in the process.

Some Key Points

An organization can become a learning organization through a shift in management and leadership toward utilizing human resources to acquire and apply valuable knowledge. Human resources are central to the application of systems theory because they are the main actors that determine how the organizational components connect and interact. Thus, proper support for human resource development is needed. This support may come in various forms, including organizational culture, compensation packages, training and development programs, and others. The main objective is to empower the organization to achieve a state of continuous improvement through learning and knowledge application, alongside the improvement of individual performance and the performance of the organization as a whole system.


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