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Module 4 - Background

Feedback Loop and Organizational Learning

While most models of organizational diagnosis that we have been exposed to in this class recognize the existence of feedback loops, none of them really offer a thorough discussion of the complexity of feedback or how it can be used to promote organizational improvement and development. To get a better view of this topic, we turn to the work on systems thinking and organizational learning. Much of this literature is based on the work of Peter Senge, whose seminal book  The Fifth Discipline popularized the notion that organizations are capable of learning.

In all of the reading, pay particular attention to the  two types of Feedback Loops: Reinforcing Feedback that causes growth, and Balancing Feedback that provides stabilizing effects.

Required Reading

This first reading is a good overview.

Bellinger, G. (2004).Introduction to systems thinking.Retrieved from http://www.systems-thinking.org/intst/int.htm .

This second reading is quite long and reviews much of the work in the area of learning organizations. Read it all if you like (see menu on left side of the page), but the  most relevant part of the paper for this course is part VI, which covers systems thinking:

Larsen, K., McInerney, C., Nyquist, C., Santos, A., & Silsbee, D. (1996). Learning Organizations (Part VI: Systems Thinking) Retrieved from http://leeds-faculty.colorado.edu/larsenk/learnorg/index.html .

If you are still confused about feedback loops, here is another tutorial on this complex concept: Feedback Loops in System Dynamics .

Optional Reading

Bellinger, G. (2004) theWay of systems. Retrieved from http://www.systems-thinking.org/theWay/theWay.htm

Bellinger, G. (2004) Archetypes.Retrieved from http://www.systems-thinking.org/arch/arch.htm .

This is the home page for the extensive site from which much of the material for this module was taken: http://www.systems-thinking.org/index.htm .

There are no reading assignments for SLP 4.

Module 4 - Case

Feedback Loop and Organizational Learning

Assignment Overview

XCG

THE EXCELLENT CONSULTING GROUP

COMMUNICATION FROM ART:

Let's wrap up this project.

So far, ABC Company and Whole Foods Market like what we've been doing. I have this last project, which involves analyzing Whole Foods Market's feedback loops and organizational learning opportunities.

I want you to take a look at the feedback loops in Whole Foods Market.

REQUIRED READING:

Refer to the background reading on System Feedback Loops.

Case Assignment

Identify one Balancing Loop and one Reinforcing Loop. These feedback loops should be critical to Whole Foods Market's performance and success. You should have a good idea of what these are from your previous analysis.

Explain each one of these loops - what are the causal factors and how do they affect each other. For the Reinforcing Loop, look for an area where there is growth. For the Balancing Loop, look for goal behavior. Once you have identified and explained these critical feedback loops, identify how Whole Foods Market has generated organizational learning, and how they can go further and generate additional organizational learning. What do they need to do to improve their performance further?

Be sure to include references. Turn in the 5- to 6-page paper by the end of the module.

KEYS TO THE ASSIGNMENT:

This is what you need to do:

1.   Determine the two critical feedback loops. Describe each Feedback Loop that you identify in your organization and explain why you selected them.  Make sure you explain the Loop, the cause and effect process within the Loop.  You could also include a  Causal Loop Diagram. If you do, show the arrows and direction of effect (+ or -). Also, determine what the warrant is for your case.

2.   Briefly discuss the theory of organizational learning so that you provide a summary of this information to the executives - establish this as common ground.

3.   Identify the learning activities in each feedback loop that Whole Foods Market has already undertaken.

4.   Identify the opportunities for organizational learning in each Feedback Loop. Make a Case that these are learning opportunities. Logically show how the feedback process provides an opportunity for the organization to learn and improve its performance. Be precise. Depth and breadth in your discussion is always a good thing.

Assignment Expectations

Your paper will be evaluated on the following seven points:

·        Precision - Does the paper address the question(s) or task(s)?

·        Breadth - Is the full breadth of the subject, that is, the Keys to the Assignment, addressed?

·        Depth - Does the paper address the topic in sufficient depth and include the background reading and other background resources as references?

·        Critical thinking - Is the subject thought about critically, that is, accurately, logically, relevantly, and precisely?

·        Clarity - Is the writing clear and are the concepts articulated properly? Are paraphrasing and synthesis of concepts the primary means of responding to the questions or are points conveyed through excessive use of quotations?

·        Organization - Is the paper well written? Are the grammar, spelling, and vocabulary appropriate for graduate-level work? Are headings included in all papers longer than two pages?

·        Referencing (citations and references) - Does the paper include citations and quotation marks where appropriate? Are the references from the background reading and assignment present and properly cited? Are all the references listed in the bibliography present and referred to via citation?

TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS

·        You may use a simple diagram to highlight important factors. However, do not use the diagram in lieu of valuable analysis (or to take up valuable writing space) - it should be in addition to your paper of 5-6 pages of analysis.

·        Just because you have written the minimum five pages does not mean that you have adequately covered the topic. Err on the side of writing more rather than less.

·        Choose the data you use carefully. Is it relevant and important?

·        Include a cover page and reference page, in addition to the 5-6 pages of analysis described above.

·        Include headings within the paper.

·        Cite and reference all sources that you use in your work, including those that you paraphrase. This means include citations and quotation marks for direct quotes of more than five words, and citations for that information which you have "borrowed" or paraphrased from other sources.

 

·        Follow TUI Guidelines for well-written papers .

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