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Organizational Learning A Key to Organizational Change SuccessEffective Learning Through Effective Education

Effective organizational learning and education is a key influence for successful ERP organizational change. When discussing education in general, Dr. Richard E. Snow states in his article “Aptitude Development and Education” (1996, p. 537) that “learning to learn, learning to reason, learning to find and solve problems, learning to be interested and industrious, to persevere, to achieve in the face of novelty, complexity, adversity, and change—in short, to develop readiness, that is, aptitude, for new learning—increasingly becomes the principal goal of education“.

Frankly, this statement applies to ERP organizational change specifically in a very real and significant way. Organizational learning comes in different forms which include reflection, sharing experiences, and formal training. Moreover, organizational learning is encouraged, supported, taught, and endorsed through effective education that is based on principle. As Dr. Snow states, the principal goal of education is to develop readiness and an aptitude for continuous and effective learning. And, “readiness” and “learning” are two significant influences upon ERP organizational change success.

Effective Learning Through Scaffolding

“Although education is a corner-stone of ERP implementation, the user training is usually only emphasized and the courses are centered on computer/system operation rather than on understanding the ERP concept and spirit.” (Yu, C. S.,2013, Causes influencing the effectiveness of the post‐implementation ERP system).

ERP organizational change success requires organizational learning not just in terms of functional knowledge but also in terms of concept and spirit as noted by Yu (2013). This organizational learning process requires a tactical and deliberate approach to ERP organizational change education and training. Organizational ERP learning comes in many forms best supported through scaffolding. This scaffolding process moves employees to a progressively better understanding of ERP organizational change in general and of the conceptual, functional, and process support value of ERP systems specifically. A learning process in which employees move from the general to the more detailed understanding of the ERP organizational change process and the ERP platform is critical. This learning should progress from organizational readiness and preparation understanding, ERP conceptual and general understanding, specific ERP functional training, “fingers to keyboard” labs and homework, conference room piloting (CRP), and user acceptance testing (UATs).

Effective Learning Through Deliberate, Structured, and Formal Organizational Training

The ERP implementation process is as much about end-user education and training as anything else. Some great resources demonstrate that proper training is a key success factor (and often a stumbling block) for organizations; including (Vincent, Soni, & Venkat, 2018), (Noudoostbeni, Ismail, Jenatabadi, & Yasin,2018),  and (Momoh, Roy, & Shehab, 2013) to name just a few. Successful ERP implementations require a deliberate, structured, and disciplined focus on organizational training and education. All too often organizations focus on the technology stack, business processes, and functional requirements (which are also important) but fail to give sufficient attention to functional and conceptual end-user training.  Even when they do give it consideration, organizations often don’t allow enough time for proper training.  Organizations can expect too much too fast from the end-users’ as implementing a new ERP solution often involves a significant learning curve. As a part of formal training, ERP users also need to acquire an understanding of the “upstream” and “downstream” consequences of the business process. That is to say, they need to understand where their data comes from and where it ends up and the impact of their process execution on the rest of the organization. Employees also need to be able to understand issues and how to resolve them. What happens when you get an error, a transaction will not go through, or you are missing key data? As much as possible, ERP functional training needs to be built into muscle memory as much as possible so that it is second nature by the time of go-live.

Effective Learning Through Transfer of Training Knowledge

It is one thing to participate in formal training, conference room pilots (CRPs), and User Acceptance Testing (UAT’s) in a formal setting in a training room. It is quite another thing when the organization pushes the “go-live button” and employees now have to utilize their new ERP solution in the “real-world”. The more comfortable the end-users are with the new ERP, the smoother the go-live event and post-go-live transition. However, it is not good enough for users to simply be able to execute functional work instructions in a classroom setting. Effective learning and continuous improvement must persist well after go-live. Organizationally supported opportunities for learning in the form of continuous training as well as opportunities to discuss the transfer of knowledge from the classroom to operations is critical. What is going well? What needs work? Where are the issues? As the knowledge transfers from the classroom to the “real-world”, the opportunities for learning are significant. Organizational learning is not just a classroom event. The organization must ensure proper resources that support and advocate that the transfer of knowledge from the classroom to operations is effective, efficient, and supporting the desired business outcomes (i.e. successful ERP organizational change).

Effective Learning Through Evaluation and Measurement

Training is a tangible ERP organizational change influence that can be measured. ERP organizational change practitioners understand, agree, approve, and/or assume the value of organizational learning in concept. But, your ERP organizational change plan should include concrete and measurable actions that support, promote, and improve organizational learning. One objective of any ERP organizational change plan therefore should include a comprehensive plan to implement, manage, and monitor for these desired performance outcomes. For instance, one such framework used to design an integrated training implementation and evaluation plan is the New World Kirkpatrick Model (Kirkpatrick & Kirkpatrick, 2016). The model consists of four levels of monitoring and evaluation; Level 1-Reaction, Level 2-Learning, Level 3-Behavior, and Level 4-results. Level 1 determines the degree to which stakeholders find training engaging and relevant. Level 2 is the degree to which stakeholders acquire the appropriate level of knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence, and commitment. Level 3 is the degree to which stakeholders apply and transfer what they’ve learned to their practice. And Level 4 is the degree on which organizational goals and desired outcomes are met. The effective implementation of the New World Kirkpatrick model needs to meet two criteria. First, it needs to be implemented in a way that promotes training and evaluation that the organization cares about and is useful to make decisions (Kirkpatrick & Kirkpatrick, 2016). Second, it must be credible, believable, and based in reality (Kirkpatrick & Kirkpatrick, 2016). With the utilization of the New World Kirkpatrick Model, the implementation and evaluation plan will allow for organizational alignment from the higher-level organizational goals to the very onset of a training and implementation program which begins with commitment, engagement, and buy-in from the organizational stakeholders.

Effective Learning Endorsed Through Organizational Culture

There is often a significant learning curve for organizations during ERP implementation. However, a  culture of organizational learning helps organizations to capitalize on this known learning curve by taking advantage of errors, mistakes, and lessons learned. ERP implementation can be a time of significant organizational changes in terms of process, people, and technology. But none-the-less, the value of organizational learning has to be endorsed and maintained. Organizational learning is not only a significant ERP success factor but also a tool for ERP continuous improvement. Ke and Wei (2008) note that ERP organizational change is highly dependent upon learning, support, and collaboration. Scott and Vessey (2018) discussed the role of learning from failure during ERP organizational change and states that organizational learning is positively associated with organizational improvement, development, and therefore success. Shao, Feng, and Hu  (2017) further discuss the value of an organizational learning culture directly impacts ERP organizational change success.  Park, Suh, and Yang (2007) suggest how a major influence in ERP success is understanding, assimilating, and applying ERP knowledge that comes with knowledge sharing and organizational learning. Since ERP organizational change risks and challenges are 1) at some level to be expected even in the best of ERP organizational change efforts and 2) an honest reality even in the best of ERP organizational change efforts, why not intentionally learn from the challenges?  Intentionally implementing mechanisms to ensure that learning takes place starts with an organizational culture that values and endorses learning.

Effective Learning Through Effective Practice

Scott and Vessey (2018) suggest that organizational learning (and learning from failure) is key for ERP organizational change success. Scott and Vessey (p. 230) provided several “insights that could be useful to practitioners who will be faced with implementing an ERP system in the future, as well as for those who may be undertaking any kind of far-reaching, integrated system implementation such as those that will be necessary to conduct meaningful e-business”. Below are some of their key points for practice that endorses organizational learning:

  • “Take a realistic view of the role technology can play in supporting your firm’s strategy; engage in a strategy of “small wins” or “small failures” to leverage knowledge gained.”
  • “Plan and manage the project; employ a strong project leader and a well-defined methodology so that changes during the project are addressed appropriately; even if there is insufficient knowledge to manage at the tactical level, ensure the effectiveness of high-level planning and management of the project.”
  • “Learn from unforeseen circumstances; be flexible in adapting to changes in the business environment by adjusting at the project level; defer the Go Live date, reduce the project scope, change the number/ composition of teams, organize training, think tanks, etc.”
  • “Recognize the importance of organizational culture; foster an open culture and encourage open communications to facilitate organizational learning.”
  • “Consider using a phased or roll-out strategy to facilitate organizational learning and provide the opportunity for learning from (small) failures.”
Effective #ERPOrganizationalChange Through #ResearchBasedERPpractice

The above article discussed and shared some of the great work and some great points of insight that only skims the surface of organizational learning principles, concepts, and facts. A general but primary point of the work in the ERP and organizational change field should be well taken as ERP practitioners: your ERP organizational change plan should include concrete, tangible, and measurable actions that support, promote, and improve organizational learning that is based on sound principles.

Learn More:

The New World Kirkpatrick Model:

Scott & Vessey, “Implementing Enterprise Resource Planning Systems: The Role of Learning From Failure”, 2018:

About Nestell & Associates:


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