Achieving professional and organisational development through the promotion of learning in the workplace is a popular strategy evident in the international literature. Educational theory has informed this literature by emphasising the important role that context plays in what is learned in organisations and how learning occurs. Organisational culture has also emerged as one of the most important contextual factors influencing formal and informal learning workplace learning. Yet the various contexts within which organisational learning occurs are not sharply differentiated within the literature.
This thesis is a study of the influence of a particular organisational context, a lean production context, on organisational learning. It studies the reaction of the context to a twelve-month personal, professional and organisational development intervention designed to help organisational members become more effective systems thinkers.
This program utilised action-reflection-learning as its core construct. Action-reflection- learning has a long history internationally as a strategy for generating organisational learning.
It incorporates a social constructivist epistemology which is widely argued in the educational theory as central to effective adult learning. Philosophical Hermeneutics was the theoretical framework adopted and Grounded Theory was the research method used. Action Science was employed to theorise some of the findings further. Together a hermeneutic, grounded account was generated of how action-reflection-learning was understood, responded to and implemented within a lean production context. It examined what was learned and how that related to members' personal and cultural priorities, in particular, to the meanings of performance and learning.
The thesis generated six key findings. First, that a gap between the 'espoused theory' of learning in this lean
production context, and the 'theory-in-use' of learning in this context, generated the unintended consequence of recurring systems problems. Second, that the cultural artifacts of lean production were not only representative of the theory-in-use but they reinforced these by emphasising action and urgency. Third, that action-reflection-learning is possible within a lean production environment through the creation of a new community-of-practice in the form of learning sets as a parallel system during times of organisational stability. Fourth, the contextual influences of the Production Discourse were relative to the pressures participants perceived as being placed on them from the production line. Fifth, that the fundamental impact of the Program on members was a shift from a transmissionist epistemology to a social constructivist epistemology generated through a deeper understanding of self and others. Sixth, that double-loop learning was the result of understanding, respecting and
valuing others and generating responsible learning relationships. From these findings a grounded theory was generated of how action-reflection- learning can live within a lean production context. It argues that recognising the existing meaning of performance in any organisation is vital for successful organisational learning initiatives.