Creating learning organisations : practitioner perspectives.

Lennon, Alexia. (2003). Creating learning organisations : practitioner perspectives. PhD Thesis, School of Business, The University of Queensland.

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Author Lennon, Alexia.
Thesis Title Creating learning organisations : practitioner perspectives.
School, Centre or Institute School of Business
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2003
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Jorgen Sandberg
Drew Wollin
Anne Pisarski
Total pages 265
Language eng
Subjects 1503 Business and Management
1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Abstract/Summary The increasing rate of change in business environments has generated an imperative for managers to create learning organisations. However, there is evidence to suggest that organisations have not taken up the challenge as widely as might be expected. One reason for this may be that managers understand learning organisations very differently from those who write about them. Given the key role that managers are assumed to take in the creation of learning organisations, greater knowledge of managerial understandings is critical to furthering our insight into learning organisations. This study aimed to bridge this gap in our knowledge. Thus the central research question explored in this thesis is how do managers understand the learning organisation? A subsequent research question is what are managers doing to try to create learning organisations? This research adopted an interpretative approach, with the practitioner perspective as the point of departure for investigating the research questions. A multiple, case study-based method, with in-depth, unstructured interviewing as the primary means of gathering the empirical material, was used. Four organizational-level cases were sought on the basis of purposeful sampling along the dimensions of size and profit orientation. Each organization also self-identified as a learning organization. Thus, the first case, Skillup, is a small, not-for-profit organisation; the second case. Ambrosia, is a small profit orientated organisation; the third case. Affiliate, is a large, profit orientated organisation, while the last case. Vital Health, is a large, not-for-profit organisation. Within each organisation, the key managers associated with the learning organisation initiatives were interviewed. A cross-section of employees at other levels of the organisation was also interviewed. The interviews were audio-taped, transcribed and theme analysed. Thematic analysis revealed that managers were employing some of the strategies recommended in the management literature to create effective organisational change. However, they also understood the learning organisation somewhat differently from the theorists who write about it. Though managers across the different cases can be broadly described as adopting similar strategies to create learning organisations, there were differences in understanding amongst managers. These differences were critical since they affected how managers went about enacting their strategies. Hence, though each organisation adopted strategies of reorientating the organisational vision, empowering employees and developing staff, the way that these strategies were carried out, and the resulting impact on the employees' experience of becoming a learning organisation differed for each organisation. An unexpected theme emerged during the analysis. In each organisation, managers were using a metaphor of family to describe their attempts to create a learning organisation. In keeping with the interpretative approach of the research, managers' understandings of this metaphor were also explored. The analysis revealed that managers were appealing to family as an archetypal, basic metaphor that brings with it attributes similar to those of the learning organisation. In this way, managers were using family as a metaphor in order to render the learning organisation more apprehensible to themselves and their employees. Managers expected that using the family metaphor for the learning organisation would also create a greater sense of meaningfulness for employees in their work. They saw this creation of meaningfulness as the central purpose in creating learning organisations. The findings from this thesis add to our understanding in several ways. Firstly, they demonstrate that the way that managers understand the learning organisation is different from that of writers and researchers in the area. Secondly, they highlight that these managerial understandings are critical since they shaped subsequent organisational action. Finally, the findings suggest that managers are greatly concerned with creating meaningfulness of work and that they use the learning organisation, and the metaphor of family, as ways of doing this. Implications for theory and practice, as well as future directions for research, are described.
Keyword Organizational learning.
Organization change -- Management.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses (RHD) - UQ staff and students only
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Created: Thu, 16 Dec 2010, 11:21:56 EST by Mrs Jennifer Creese on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service