Rethinking Strategic Learning

Rethinking Strategic Learning

Rethinking Strategic Learning

Rethinking Strategic Learning


A critical perspective on HRD, Russ Vince's key argument is that staff responsible for learning and change in organizations have put too much effort into the development of individuals and not enough into understanding and engaging with organizational dynamics that limit abilities and opportunities to learn and change.



This book is a collection of ideas and interests that have developed over the past five years. The process of researching and writing it started when, in 1998, I took up the Chair in Organizational Learning at the University of Glamorgan. The post was sponsored for three years by Hyder plc, which was at that time the largest private company in Wales, in the United Kingdom. Hyder, which was taken over and ceased to exist in the autumn of 2000, and Hyder managers, figure to a significant extent in this book. The reason why Hyder people wanted to sponsor a Chair at the university was because they thought that a senior academic linked into the organization would be able to provide in-depth and continuous consultancy and inquiry connected to their efforts to promote learning and to manage change. I am not sure that they got exactly what they wanted. As managers and practitioners they had an idea that I would advise and consult on how approaches to learning, managing and organizing could be best applied within the organization 'to add value'. I would help them to further conceptualize learning within the company, and especially help to devise learning strategies for the senior managers.

From my point of view as an academic, I wanted continuous and open access to the company in order to research and to write about the emotional and political dynamics of learning and organizing within Hyder. As I began to develop an action-research approach within the company I realized that here was an organization with a considerable commitment to an idea of organizational learning. Hyder had highly developed internal processes for individual and group learning. The take-up on these processes was mixed, of course, but where individuals wanted to learn they were given the opportunity - whether this was short courses, exchanges, mentoring, or qualification processes. The only explicit proviso or expectation was that such learning would inform practice, helping to create knowledge that could be applied to the benefit of the company. The Human Resource (HR) group in Hyder, alongside colleagues at the University of Glamorgan, had invented 'the learning journey', a flexible structure of learning for Hyder staff.

From the outset, what the HR managers in Hyder wanted me to do was to help them to develop the learning journey for the senior management within the company. They called this the 'strategic level' of learning (set alongside the operational and business levels of learning that were already connected to the

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