The ladder of inference forms an important model for reasoning in every organization as a situation is evaluated and a conclusion made on the action to be taken. Basically, the entry illustrates the features of a ladder and how it can be utilized to help people reflect on their individual behavior and the reasoning aligned to it. The principle of Action Science is that sound reasoning must inform actions with intended consequences. The effectiveness of these actions, therefore, depends on the quality of reasoning applied. The main challenge of improving reasoning is that it is often invisible. Often times individual rise the ladder quicker and are not aware of their interpretations and inferences. At the end of the day, their conclusions feel obvious and see no need of checking the validity of their conclusions (Hawkins, 1997). Their individual inferences are influenced by previous experiences, emotional state, values, and assumptions while cultural values determine others. In some cultures, for example, arriving for a meeting after the scheduled time is late and can be reprimanded while in other cultures it goes unnoticed.
According to Senge (2006), the acceptance of learning organization and its acceptance to business operation from the assessment to the corporate bottom line is a powerful testament. In the book, Senge closely examined the main disciples that seek to define various similar individual and organization tenets incorporated into the art and practice of the learning organization. It is essential to understand the organizations competitive advantage which can be used to provide guidance on ways of implementing strategies for successful learning organizations. A range of insights are highlighted from different corporate leaders in the chapters. The use of ladder of inference is efficient and enables organization leaders to act quickly and in a more effective manner. In routine situations, the tool reflects the reasoning concept and the underlying beliefs and assumptions. For crisis, it can be impractical. However, in complex situations, the speed in which conclusions are drawn, assumptions made can be a problem.
The main idea of the chapters is that human organizations are dynamic and have non-linear attitudes in response to existing events and changes including various properties that make leadership a challenging task. Most of the incentive systems seek to improve on performance on a short-term basis but fail in the long term. On the same note, many feedback systems incorporated in organization management are extremely long and extremely far above the human skills. In other words, who the organization hires and fires or promotes has a significant impact on the organization performance in many years making it extremely hard to get feedback within a short time. Many long term solutions applied and the system approach to various problems are counter-intuitive and difficult to promote to the short term business oriented cultures. Ladder of Inference ensures that very similar results are achieved despite having to explain the rules. The rule states that given even a poorly structured system and organization, it does not matter who plays the game. When each step is followed, success is inevitable.
Learning organizations often focus on five activities: systematic problem solving, conducting an experiment with a new approach, learning from previous experience and past organization history, learning from individual experiences and best practices and trough the transfer of knowledge faster and efficiently throughout the organization. Every activity is often accompanied by a distinctive mindset, pattern, and behavior. Various organizations have incorporated these activities with the aim of achieving a learning organization, but only a few have realized success since they rely more on isolated examples. In this case, therefore, it is essential to building systems and processes that support various activities and incorporates into the daily operations to manage to learn more effectively (Senge et al., 1994).
Systematic Problem Solving: this is the first activity towards building a learning organization and is largely based on the philosophy and methods of quality movement. Many training programs focus on problem-solving techniques only using exercises and practical examples. The tools can easily be set, but the mindset necessary for the activity is an issue. At the same time, accuracy and precision are essential, and the employees must become more disciplined in their thinking and attentive to details. There is a need to push beyond the obvious symptoms and assess the underlying causes and collect evidence when the necessity arises.
Experimentation: The activity includes a systematic search for new knowledge using scientific methods. Unlike problem-solving, the activity is motivated by opportunity and expanding horizons and takes two main forms: ongoing programs and demonstration projects.
The ongoing program focuses on a continuous series of small experiments that are designed to increase knowledge. They are the backbone of most continuous improvement programs and are common on the shop floor. Ongoing programs share some common attributes. First, the program helps ensure a steady flow of new ideas even if imported from the external environment. Additionally, it requires an incentive system that favors risk-taking. In this case, the employees need to feel the benefits of the experiment. Finally, the successful ongoing project requires a type of management that train employees in skills necessary to perform and evaluate all the experiments.
Demonstration projects are more complex as compared to the ongoing experiments since they involve a holistic approach to change the system and are often undertaken with the aim of developing new organization capabilities.
Learning from experience: Organizations need to continuously review their success and failure, assessing them systematically and recording them in a form that the employees can access. IBM 360 computers series achieved significant success after the failed Stretch computer that preceded it. Boeing also achieved significant success after numerous difficulties with their 737 and 747 plane programs which were introduced with much fanfare and a series of problems. Senior management commissioned a group that compared the development process of the two plane programs thereby initiative corrective measures to ensure smooth operation.
Learning from others: Benchmarking is continuous and ensures best industry practices are uncovered, adopted, analyzed and finally implemented. Furthermore, it helps an organization gain an outside perspective of the business, an equally good source of consumer ideas. Continuous conversations with the consumers often stir new ideas and stimulate learning. At the same time, the clients provide up-to-date information, competitive comparison and immediate feedback regarding the services and patterns used.
Transferring knowledge: For organization learning to be effective, there is a need to transfer knowledge throughout the organization. This is because ideas often carry optimum impact when broadly shared rather than when held in few hands.
Application of Ladder of Inference
The ladder describes the thinking process that individuals undergo without realizing it, to move from the reality facts to the actions.
The ladder creates a vicious circle whereby our personal beliefs affect how we select from the reality and can lead to us ignoring the facts. In this case, conclusions are made, and the essential facts skipped in the reasoning process. Using the ladder can, therefore, help an individual learn to acquire facts and use their individual beliefs and experiences to achieve a positive effect rather than using a narrow field of judgment. Ladder of inference can, therefore, lead to better results based on real facts and avoid unnecessary mistakes. Ladder of Inference help organization management draws significant conclusion and challenges which are based on the reality and facts (Tompkins & Rhodes, 2012). This helps in the analysis of hard data like sales figures. At the same time, it can be used to validate other peoples conclusions in the organization. This step by step procedure helps leaders remain objective when challenging others to reach a common conclusion without conflict. The first step is for the leaders to identify their position on the ladder then analyze the reasoning by working down the ladder of inference. When this is done, it will be easier to trace facts and reality working with (Davidson et al., 2013). At every stage, it is important for organization leaders to ask WHAT they are thinking and WHY as each step is critically analyzed. For instance, the need may arise to change certain assumptions or even extend the field of selected data.
In conclusion, the entire process happens instantaneously thousands of times a day, inside the minds. The process is normal and natural and shows how the brain is wired. The only problem is that we often act if other people see the world the same as we do such that when we disagree, we disagree with conclusions.
Davidson, A., McKinney, S., Schwarz, R., & Carlson, P. (2013). The skilled facilitator fieldbook: Tips, tools, and tested methods for consultants, facilitators, managers, trainers, and coaches. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.
Hawkins, T. R. (1997). The learning congregation: A new vision of leadership. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.
Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, N.Y: Currency Doubleday.
Senge, P., Kleiner, A., Roberts, C., Ross, R., & Smith, B. (1994). The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization. London: Nicholas Brealey Pub.
Tompkins, T. C., & Rhodes, K. (2012). Groupthink and the Ladder of Inference: Increasing Effective Decision Making. The Journal of Human Resource and Adult Learning, 8(2), 84.
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