Learning Organisations and Organisational Learning: What Have We Learned ?

By Simon Smith, Steve Buxton and Joseph Murray Marshall.

Published by The Organization Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Organisational learning has been the subject of attention and research for a number of years with a plethora of advice on how to become a ‘learning organisation’, adapt and survive and improve organisational performance. This paper sets out to examine the assumptions behind such advice by investigating a number of influences that may affect organisational learning at two Strategic Business Units(SBU;operating in the UK) of two global companies, one American, one French Two in-depth studies were undertaken to identify the learning climate & capability (Pedler 1999, O’Keeffe 2002, Chen 2005); the effects of different sub-cultures or communities in the same firm on learning (Schein 1996); and the impact if any of learning on organisational performance (Tsang 1997, Murray 2002). The implications for global firms on learning and sharing knowledge across national, cultural and business boundaries were also investigated. The research indicated that while learning practices and opportunities existed at both SBU, a number of inhibiting factors were identified including; a mixed understanding of the drivers for improvement and learning; different and opposing perceptions of the current learning climate and capability; and the dysfunctional interactions of misaligned sub-cultures or communities. The study also found any link between learning and organisational performance unclear and identified some of the difficulties of learning and knowledge-sharing across SBU and the parent organisation. The study suggests that collective learning in organisations is problematic and that the prescriptive literature on organisational learning and the learning organisation ( i.e. that learning is: organised, aggregated, controlled and apolitical) is an idealisation of real organisational life.

Keywords: Learning Climate and Capability, Sub-cultures

International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp.61-72. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 773.840KB).

Simon Smith

Lecturer, Faculty of Business, University of Derby, Derbyshire, UK

Simon was a manager for a number of years at Rockwood Wafer Reclaim. He is now in ‘Business Partnerships’ at the University of Derby.’

Steve Buxton

Aberthaw Works, Lafarge Cement, UK

‘Steve is an engineering manager at Lafarge Cement UK’.

Joseph Murray Marshall

Principal Lecturer, Derbyshire Business School, Faculty of Business, Computing and Law, University of Derby, Derby, Derbyshire, UK

‘Joe’s teaching and research has focussed on organisational change for a number of years and until 2007 he was the leader of the MBA programme at Derbyshire Business School. His current research is ‘Systems Thinking in the Service Sector’.


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