By Paul Schuette
DEGW recently hosted a government roundtable in Washington D.C. It focused on Re-thinking Learning Environments: The Evolution of Education and Training in Government. It brought together federal government professionals to share and discuss innovations around where and how the federal workforce is learning and training today, and trends for tomorrow.

Roundtable presenter, Gus Crosetto, the Chief Learning Officer at the Government Accountability Office discussed Ed Schein’s model of the Three Tiers of Organizational Culture. Schein, a professor emeritus at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, describes the three basic levels of organizational culture to be artifacts, values, and assumptions.

  • Artifacts are visible structures and processes of an organization and include all aspects of the physical workspace.
  • Values are the espoused policies and procedures that impact to the workplace environment.
  • Assumptions are deep-rooted feelings and attitudes within an organization that are taken for granted.

As a result, assumptions may or may not strongly correlate to the values of an organization.  While these three levels are often depicted as being distinct strata, Schein’s model is based on how these three strata align, influence and ultimately affect one another. Feedback is a crucial element to the dynamic aspects of the model.

Following Gus Crosetto’s presentation, Dr. Alenka Brown led a presentation on “human interoperability networks” within an organization that facilitate knowledge sharing.  A crucial aspect of her presentation was the concept of feedback, the ability for systems to adjust based on the behavior of users.  Dr. Brown described social knowledge interoperability as the ability for “participants to collaborate and manage a community through continuous feedback that is used to shape and extend features of a social knowledge network.”

The final presentations of at the Roundtable by Kevin Kelly and Michael Bloom of the GSA tie into the theme of feedback.  Both presentations shed some light on how distributed tools have the potential to influence the three tiers of Ed Schein’s model of organizational culture. In describing the Workplace Solutions Library  (a tool developed in conjunction with DEGW), Kelly highlighted the tool’s features enabling users to understand their own works patterns and how this could be optimized with a better alignment between mobility, interaction, and the physical environment.  As a result, the tool has the potential at a minimum to influence and better align the Values (overtly stated policies and procedures) and Artifacts (the design of the workspace) tiers of the model.

Michael Bloom’s presentation on the Sustainable Facilities Tool (SFT), a tool developed to provide sustainable building and workplace design guidance, built off of the ideas of social knowledge interoperability. In describing the future development of SFT, Bloom described how it could serve as a platform for knowledge sharing as well as the fact that the tool itself could eventually be continually improved via user feedback. In this instance, different Federal agencies and subject matter experts could use a social media platform to begin to gain a greater awareness of aspects of their own values and assumptions, at least in the realm of sustainability.

Ultimately, all of these presentations lead me to wonder how social media and distributed tools via Internet are allowing for Schein’s model to become even more dynamic. How do social media platforms used by subject matter experts allow information to be shared across organizations and thus facilitate continuous learning and adaptation? How do online tools that respond to user feedback help organizations create better alignments between cultural artifacts and values? Can these tools more easily highlight gaps between cultural assumptions and values?

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