EDST5126 Week 3 – Learning organisations and academic leadership 

Well this is another huge topic and I have procrastinated blogging about it because there was a great deal of material to ponder and digest.

This week was quite content and concept dense with several new frameworks, concepts and matrices introduced which are useful tools that can be used to evaluate organisations, change processes and leaders within the context of exploration of issues and means of addressing them, in other words introducing strategies to deal with these issues, including in the higher education context.

In this blog, I will summarise the various frameworks explored, looking at overlaps and inter-relationships between them and apply them to the context of a post graduate speciality training program currently in a phase of flux and renewal and potential change. Having the change to ‘play with’ these models here will be invaluable when it comes to the second assessment, and more importantly as I grapple with and am involved with changes in higher education in the future.

Learning Organisations (LO)

I learning organisation is not, as one might expect, an organisation whose core business is learning, but it is in fact an organisation which learns, and is defined using principles pertinent to learning in the context of education, but applied to organisations.

Three quotes from Senge, Cambron-McCabe, Lucas, Smith, & Dutton (2012) resonated really strongly with me as I was grappling to understand the concept of the LO:

  1. “Learning is at once deeply personal and inherently social” (p. 4) (importance of focusing on the individual, the groups and the organisation, flattening of hierarchies)
  2. “If we are ready for them, living and learning are inseparable” (p. 4) (importance of continual growth, reflection and change and aspirations)
  3. “Schools don’t exist in isolation, instead they have the potential to be fulcrum points for learning in the communities areound them” (p.7) (complexity of systems) 

My understanding was further enhanced through a quote in an OECD guide for educators on LOs, where it is described as a: “multi-level concept involving individual behaviour, team work, and organisation-wide practices and cultures” and as a “place where the beliefs, values and norms of employees are brought to bear in support of sustained learning; where a “learning atmosphere”, “learning culture” or “learning climate” is nurtured; and where “learning to learn” is essential for everyone involved” (OECD, p. 2

Learning organisations

Considering the five disciplines inherent to LOs further:

It seems to me that there are some potential challenges with a blanket acceptance of LO concepts:

  • It reflects a cultural shift and shouldn’t be universally applied or the whole idea will backfire without discussion.
  • Structures of existing organisations may not be conducive to implementing change (ie their structure is too pyramidal)
  • The bigger the organisation the harder it would be to implement – it would be too unwieldy
  • Requires a long term view, which needs to be balanced against the short term needs for productivity and maintaining financial viability etc which naturally must take front seat at times.
  • Cost if implementing them in a structured manner

With reference to Senge’s 5 disciplines – to what extent is your organisation a learning organisation? 

I will briefly consider the faculty which coordinates the post graduate vocational training program with which I am primarily involved from the perspective of Senge’s disciplines.

By means of background when describing the extent to which the faculty is a LO, it is worthwhile to understand recent changes and challenges which have faced the faculty.

The faculty is under the auspices of a larger organisation (‘the college’) and until about 2007, the faculty maintained independence in its policies, procedures, finances and culture. Due to changes in management at the college level, this position was largely reversed and is now subject to the college’s policies, procedures, management structure, has lost independent management of its money and the culture has been eroded and replaced by one of cynicism and frustration. This occurred against a backdrop of an in-depth review of the particular speciality’s training program (Parker, 2015) with view to a potential significant change of the training program to be in alignment with other college training programs in response to recent changes to the practice of the speciality itself. Members of the faculty found it difficult to separate this question from the other issues facing the faculty and it also occurred against other controversial issues facing the management of the college as a whole, including a high profile lawsuit brought about by the college’s fellows (Komesaroff, Kerridge, Isaacs, & Brooks, 2015).

About three years ago, a new breakaway “society” was formed in an effort to claw back the culture and representation of the interests of the speciality, which perceived to be the greatest lost was with the changes that had occurred. Specialist training remains situated under the auspices of the college. This has increased the number of fellows occupying leadership positions (now spread across two organisations).

Senge’s disciplines will be considered from perspective of:

  1. Fellows and trainees of the faculty
  2. Committees of teh faculty
  3. The Faculty / college staff: as part of the bigger college
  4. The “Trainee of the Future workshop”

I feel I can make informed comments, being a past trainee, a current fellow, a member of organisational committees, and as a past employee of the college.

Much of my commentary will related to my observations in relation to the review of our training program that I undertook and follow up activities related to that. In response to my review of training, a workshop was held in September 2016, to which all fellows / trainees of the faculty were invited. It was facilitated by an external facilitator. Of the approaximately 600 fellows and trainees, about 25 were in attendance. I found this workshop a very enlightening and satisfying day, having been deeply involved with the review from the get-go, and felt quite satisfied with how it was run and the outcomes, which felt in alignment with, and true to the original project. Many of my comments will pertain to this workshop as it reflects the underlying philosophy and direction of our current faculty president, whose report from that workshop can be found here.

Change management and how it relates to Senge’s Discplines

Villa and Thousand (1995), as detailed further in Shortland-Jones, Anderson, Baker (2001) describe six ingredients for successful change, the absence of each one of which leads to a predictable issue. Shortland-Jones et al (2001) use this very useful framework to examine changes introduced in their educational academic setting at an instution in WA where a philosophical shift in education was being introduced. This simple framework was a useful approach for evaluating the change which had occurred, which what was observed occurred and a direction forward.

Three quotes from their article particularly resonated with me because they summarise the use of the matrix and the complexity of change and how intimately it is related to subtle shifts in culture:

  • “By listening and responding to the teachers and students as the program is implemented, flexibility is maintained, adaptability encouraged, and ownership achieved.” Pg 1.
  • “This matrix….has been used as a means of analysing, and in some respects evaluating change”  (final page)
  • “Change is as complex as culture itself” (final page)

In the table below, I have looked at the change components on which Shortland’s article is based and have tried to correlate them corresponding disciplines using Senge’s framework.

At times, I feel quite overwhelmed by the multitudes of models and frameworks that exist, each of which has some degree of overlap with others about which I have read. Examining commonalities between different models is one way of  to drawing out the common elements in order to understand the core concepts being identified, using different languages and terminlogies. Having looked at two frameworks this week (Senge and Villa and Thousand), it strikes me that while Senge’s disciplines relate to a learning organisation, they are also directly related to effective change management because learning (and therefore LOs) is virtually synonymous with change – change in perspective, knowledge, practice. To stop learning is to stop changing (is to stop living in many ways!) Below, I compare these two frameworks.

More change models than you can poke a stick at 

Incidentally, in Subject EDST5124, one of the assessments related to examining change in our educational contexts. In that essay, I enjoyed comparing and contrasting changes afoot at both UNSW and the postgraduate college I am involved with (Parker, 2016). In that essay, I briefly summarised four frameworks which I found particularly useful and informative and an image from that essay is reproduced below.


Leadership frameworks 

I wonder what teh collective noun for a group of frameworks is…perhaps it is a structure of frameworks. Nevertheless, in exploring Fullan and Ballew’s framework introduced in this week’s lecture, I cam across several others in a blog written by Webster (n.d.) including:

  1. Leadership that gets results (also known as Daniel Goleman’s golf clubs): uses concepts of emotional intelligence and identifies six leadership styles which should be used at the right time and in the right place to achieve good outcomes: affiliation, authoritative, coaching, democratic, pace-setting and coercive
  2. Situational leadership (Hershey and Blanchard): leadership styles are defined as one of four based on high and low scores on directive and supportive behaviours: directing, supporting, supporting and delegating
  3. Framework for leadership (Fullan and Ballew): described three personality characteristics (energy, enthusiasm and hope) along with five core leadership components: moral purpose, understanding change, relationship building, knowledge creation and sharing and coherence making.
  4. Agreement and certainty matrix (Stacey): examines proximity to certainty and agreement and looks at four states of change: simple, complicated, complex and chaos, and requires higher levels of interaction with those bringing about change and those affected by change (See below)
  5. Transformational leadership (Burns, Bass, and Kotter’s 8 step change model)

Agreement and certainty matrix (Stacy) – image from Webster (n.d.):


From these five models of change leadership, Webster neatly summarises the four features of successful change leadership as:

  1. Self awareness
  2. Self mabatement
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship management

Phew….I am just about structurally frameworked out now. So let’s look at the one which was actually discussed in this week’s lecture, and try to relate it to Chang matrix and Senge’s disciplining and apply it to the faculty conundrum previously discussed.

What can we learn from Fullan  and Ballew’s 5 part Framework for leadership? What are the implications for your workplace? 


Using Fallow and Ballew’s change leadership model, I will briefly consider how it relates to the change matrix and Senge’s discplines previously explored and will also examine features of leadership evident in the faculty and the changes it is currently facing as previously described in this blog:


Much food for thought here.

There are a lot of frameworks and matrices to evaluate organisations and change and leadership. I wonder how their relative value can be assessed and evaluated and how and if their core commonalities can be drawn out.



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