Jack Gordon’s article in the October issue of Training Magazine, describes an excellent example of whole-organization learning at MasterCard Worldwide. The company needed to prepare its 4600 employees for “a new way of life” following its change from a private association of member banks to a public corporation.  Employees needed to understand the strategic direction of the company and the implications for them of this new direction. Using a train-the-trainer approach, 60 HR leaders from MasterCard offices all over the world were trained in how to facilitate a workshop that would teach everyone about the strategic direction of the company. These facilitators then trained over 140 other facilitators who then held 110 workshops in 36 cities during a three-week period in June 2006. Each of these half-day workshops focused on three “learning maps” designed by Root Learning Inc. Since that initial worldwide event, Webinars by the CEO and CFO have continued to inform employees about the progress of the company, participants have been given mini learning maps for their offices that remind them about the goals of the organization, managers worldwide are using the learning maps to have conversations with their teams regarding improving the numbers, and a new seminar that is about execution will be offered in the next few months.

This approach by MasterCard Worldwide and Root Learning appears to be a successful cascade of information and facilitated input from employees. Positive feedback from participants seems to indicate this. The next step MasterCard should take is to find out who is using this knowledge, how they are applying it, and what additional help employees need to feel integrated and productive in the new company structure. MasterCard Worldwide is indeed learning as a whole organization but to sustain this learning and integrate this way of learning into the culture of the organization, the company should be sure that it understands what drives and what inhibits application of this new knowledge and what will sustain this learning over the long term. It would be a mistake to assume that acquiring new knowledge about the strategic direction of the company is sufficient to cause behavioral change. We know from years of research that this is rarely the case.