Amazon, Apple and Google are examples of Fortune 500 companies that are known as learning organizations. They relentlessly pursue knowledge creation and transfer, leading to improvements in products and practices. By actively managing their institutional learning, they serve their customers’ needs — and their bottom lines.
In government, on the other hand, deliberative strategic planning around learning happens far too rarely. Even though the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act requires agencies to develop strategic plans, its implementation has never met the original expectations. There are good reasons why learning approaches differ between the public and private sectors, but every organization can learn and apply that knowledge to improve results.
A few federal agencies are showing that it can be done. The Labor Department, for example, requires its operating agencies to develop learning agendas that identify high-priority research studies that those agencies would like to have done. The U.S. Agency for International Development launched a learning office with agencywide policies that encourage grantees to develop learning plans. And in just the last two years, the Small Business Administration has made notable progress, launching an evaluation office and creating an agency-wide learning agenda.
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