Single-Loop Learning

Business.com / Managing / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Single-loop learning theory and single-loop organizational management theory go hand in hand. Single-loop learning is the process by ...

Single-loop learning theory and single-loop organizational management theory go hand in hand. Single-loop learning is the process by which one learns, through trial and error, to make incremental adjustments to one's actions, continually bringing them back into conformity with a certain norm. In single-loop organizational learning, management measures performance against a specific set of pre-approved standards, which are never in question. As members monitor their own behavior, they detect and correct any deviations from accepted standards. When necessary, management steps in to help facilitate such detection and correction. Throughout the entire process, single-loop learning requires the acceptance of established norms and provides no framework for challenging, rethinking or in any way altering previously determined standards. Single-loop organizational management theory, then, espouses a "top-down" management model.

While single-loop learning theory may not be the optimal organizational philosophy throughout the life of a business, it serves its purpose in certain circumstances. Here are some times when single-loop learning development can help your business:

1. In the early days of a new business, when getting the company up and running is more important than innovation;

2. With new and inexperienced employees who lack the background to challenge current company norms;

3. In the middle of a critical project with a strict deadline and rigid completion requirements;

4. In the regulatory compliance arena, where regulations must be understood and followed to the letter;

5. During a crisis, when it's critical for everyone to pull together and follow a single leader; and

6. In any other structured situation where certain specific requirements must be met.

Understand single-loop organizational theory and know when it can be helpful to your company

Gathering information about single-loop learning and developing an understanding of single-loop organizational theory can help you use both when needed to benefit your company, while preparing you for advancing beyond the one-dimensional aspect of this very basic type of learning.

Get guidance from an expert who can show you when to use single-loop learning and when to move on

Many management consultants and coaches understand the role of single-loop learning in organizational development. These experts can guide you in advancing your company beyond simple single-loop learning theory when the time is right.

Plan to move beyond single-loop organizational learning as soon as it's feasible to do so

The theory of single-loop learning has its place in helping a business stay on track and assuring that important objectives are met. Yet, as soon as practical, the forward-looking entrepreneur will want to move beyond this very basic learning and operational method.

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