The Learning Organization and Strategic Change

By Rowden, Robert W. | SAM Advanced Management Journal, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

The Learning Organization and Strategic Change


Rowden, Robert W., SAM Advanced Management Journal


Introduction

Imagine that you are taking a journey into the mountains. The nature of the experience will vary considerably from one mountain range to another. There are two kinds of mountain ranges. One type, like the North American Rockies, is dominated by prominent peaks, their majestic summits rising silently and austerely above the landscape. The foothills and smaller mountains, dwarfed in the foreground, dramatize the formidable scale of the highest peaks. On a trip, the summit dominates the horizon, an endpoint against which progress can be easily gauged.

But there is another type of mountain range, such as the Cascades in the Pacific Northwestern United States, composed of gradually rising peaks, the size of one peak not revealing itself until the last one has been conquered, the summit being but one final stage in the gradual ascent.

Aesthetically, each has an elegance and beauty -- the first, awesome and inspiring, the second, mysterious and surprising.

Organizations also take journeys in their attempts to mount significant strategic change. Examples of these journeys include entering international markets, downsizing, forming strategic alliances, improving customer satisfaction, achieving quality improvements, pioneering new technical innovations, and introducing new products. Increasingly, a company's viability is being determined by its ability to make such systemic, organization-wide change happen, and happen fast.

Traditionally, firms have approached these journeys as if the business landscape resembled a mountain range like the Rockies. At the outset of the journey, the organization would scan the horizon and spot the summit. With the presumption of clear vision, it would set a goal and develop a precise roadmap to achieve its end target. Clouds of resistance, fog banks of shortsightedness, or storms of crisis might obscure the final destination now and then. However, the summit would still be reached if only the organization maintained momentum and stayed on course.

In the highly uncertain business conditions emerging in the early 21st century, the topography of the business environment might be more like the mysterious Cascades than the majestic Rockies. Clouds of swirling technological, competitive, marketplace, social, economic, and political changes obscure the final destinations. Until an organization takes some action and mounts the first hill, the size and scope of the next peak cannot be foreseen. Business environments are too chaotic and organizational change too complex to establish firm objectives, fixed plans, and concrete programs of change.

Amid sometimes unpredictable, always uncertain, and highly turbulent business conditions, an organization's capacity to learn as it goes may be the only true source of competitive advantage. No longer able to forecast the future, many leading organizations are constructing arks comprised of their inherent capacity to adapt to unforeseen situations, to learn from their own experiences, to shift their shared mindsets, and to change more quickly, broadly, and deeply than ever before. In other words, to become learning organizations. According to Kiechel, the notion of the learning organization is... a very big conceptual catchall to help us make sense of a set of values and ideas we've been wrestling with, everything from customer service to corporate responsiveness and speed (1990, p. 133).

The idea of the learning organization has been around quite some time. It derives from Argyris' work in organizational learning (Argyris & Scion, 1978) and is indebted to Revans' (1983) studies of action learning. It has roots in organization development (especially action research methodology) and organizational theory (most notably, Burns and Stalker's work on organic organizations). Its conceptual foundations are firmly based on systems theory (Senge, 1990a) and its practical application to managing a business has evolved out of strategic planning and strategic management (Fiol & Lyles, 1985; Hosley, Lau, Levy & Tan, 1994), which have recognized that organizational learning is the underlying source of strategic change (DeGeus, 1988; Jashapara, 1993).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Learning Organization and Strategic Change
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.