Like most learning histories, the OilCo story was originally written for people at the organization being described. Learning history documents are generally commissioned to help the participants, observers, and other interested parties (inside and outside the organization) make sense of and learn from some significant organizational experience -- an experience of organizational change, success, failure, or, more likely, all three. The form of the learning history document -- narratives "spoken" directly by participants to the reader, with commentary and context alongside them -- was invented in response to the shortcomings of the traditional ways in which organizational experiences are communicated. Only limited numbers of people can participate in company visits, oral presentations, and discussions with participants, while "business school" cases, best practices, benchmarking, and lessons learned often don't provide the depth or rich context that people need to make sense of events. The learning history provides depth and breadth in the form of direct data: the story in the words of its participants. This data not only gives readers an account of what happened, but also multiple perspectives from which to understand why things turned out the way that they did, and a basis for theorizing about how they might turn out in similar situations elsewhere.
The direct data of the "major column" transcript is augmented by several forms of perspective: in the "minor" column, in the introductions, and in commentaries written by noteworthy observers of management issues. The multiplicity of perspective is deliberate. If managers, and students of management, are to learn from OilCo's transformation through this learning history, then they must make up their own minds on what was important, and what they would do if they were faced with similar circumstances. In writing and editing the learning history, and designing methods for using the document in group discussions, we hope to provide