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Sustainability, TQM & Learning Organizations

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Explain and discuss the systems implications of expanding definitions of sustainability to go beyond measurements of environmental impact, and to also include economic and social elements. In order to address this, you might discuss and synthesize the inter-relationships between total quality management, and learning organization approaches to problem solving and action. Think about how systems principles can be implemented in real-world contexts. How might you explain the core, "root cause" assumptions that underlie modern industrial society, and that explain society's potential inability to sustain itself much further into the future?

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Solution Summary

The solution explains and discusses the systems implications of expanding definitions of sustainability to go beyond measurements of environmental impact, economic and social elements. References included.

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Before we expand further on the answers to these questions, let us define first the terms that are going to be used:

Total Quality Management (TQM) is a type of improvement program that is continuous which provides techniques and tools using the facts and analysis available. TQM also focuses on two major characteristics of serving customers and the systemic problem solving teams made up of the workers of the company. TQM has contributed to the success of many organizations and their endeavors because it has focused on customer satisfaction and the participation of the members of the organization contributes to the improvement of the products, process, culture, service of the company. The TQM uses the Plan-do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle as a problem solving tool which is a systematic fact based approach to continuously improving the matter on hand.

Learning Organization is composed of a group of people with the philosophy and capacity to create what they want to create, anticipate, react, and respond to the continuing change, uncertainty, and complexity of the organizational environment. The only sustainable source of competitive advantage is the rate that organizations learn in an environment of a learning organization.

Learning Organization approaches to problem solving and action:
1. Action Learning - a management development tool which believes that people learn best with they focus on a problem as a group together. In the action learning process, the members share prior knowledge and experiences, ask good questions to gain more insights on what they don't know and all of them can solve a problem, learn from each other and from experience.
2. Generative Learning - the continuous analyzing of feedback and experimenting in the way organizations define and solve their problems. Generative learning is a term synonymous to 'creating' and which requires systemic thinking, team learning, shared vision, etc.
In a recent study, it was analyzed that TQM and Learning Organization have mutual dependence on each other. The principles and the concepts of TQM provide the basis of the evolution of the learning organization. Learning organization should not be treated as a new mindset by managers involved in TQM since their continuous improvement activities that have been done as part of the TQM efforts and philosophy have already created their 'learning organization'. However, there has to be a behavioral and cultural shift in the way they think focusing on ...

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