What an amazing article! “Some of our best conversations happen in the hallways.” (Dixon, 1997). While this article is twenty years old, it is still relevant today. How many times have you noticed employees clustering in the corridors (hallways) after a meeting, no matter the nature of the gathering. It is generally a post mortem where persons discuss what occurred in the ‘formal’ meeting. Individuals cluster in a specific spot and share their views about what occurred. There may be a core group that stays behind but persons have the freedom to walk away if they deem the level of discourse as uninteresting. It is in these informal sessions that persons learn and provide feedback about events that may be unfolding within the organization. Leaders must be mindful of the three levels of meaning that occur in these sessions, that affects the organization’s overall learning.
Private Office. This type of meaning focuses on the individual who forms their own learning, based on experience with co-workers, customers, knowledge accumulation or conversing with experts. The drawback, is that for some reason the individual chooses to keep the knowledge to themselves or ‘private’. Think about the individual in a department meeting, who choses to sit in the back and does not contribute. Further investigation reveals that the individual is a supervisor with over twenty years of experience. The meeting is being hosted by the manager, who has little experience compared to the supervisors. The employee chooses to withhold information from the manager because they have a tenuous working relationship, which limits the department from learning.
Accessible Meaning occurs when members of the organization share knowledge and experiences with one another. During the encounter, persons share and provide clarification, therefore contributing to organization learning. Dixon attributes this to being synonymous with hallways of learning. The challenge with this type of meaning is that individuals can still opt to remain private, instead of being open.
The Store Room. As the term implies, it is a space where persons can access information about how things are done in an organization. These are usually found in policies and procedures, company values, mission and vision. Leaders must ensure that persons are keenly aware of same. The challenge with the storeroom is the ability for staff to accept the policies to be the status quo rather than being revised. Organization history forms part of the store room and sometime makes it difficult for the introduction of new ideas.
Developing Hallways for Organizational Learning
Developing Hallways involves creating an environment where individuals from all levels of the organization can contribute to the level of discussion. For this to occur, there are certain characteristic that must be included:
- Discussion, not Speeches. There is nothing that discourages individuals from sharing than feeling as though the presenter is giving a speech, rather than generating discussion for contribution by all.
- Egalitarian Participation. This implies that all points of view are equally considered. Some organization structures may not allow this e.g. financials institutions. Leaders therefore, need to crate the space where titles are left at the door, so everyone is on equal footing.
- Multiple Perspectives. Encourage differing views since this can address tacit beliefs and provide clarification.
- Non-Expert Based Dialogue. There is never one solution to a problem. The managerial team may look at a solution from one perspective but the employee on the floor can probably determine a more effective way to deal with a problem.
- Participant-Generated Database. Once there is agreement on a subject matter, the suggestions or decisions can be published for access by all. This can be done using the company’s intranet or department blog.
- Shared Experience. Think about how powerful and meaningful this is for the non-managerial staff who has been afforded the opportunity to work on the solution to a problem with persons who represent all levels of the organization. Meeting in such a manner on a continuous basis is a great way in which team building occurs.