درک یادگیری سازمانی با تمرکز بر روی "سیستم های فعالیت"
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|3831||2000||29 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting, Management and Information Technologies, Volume 10, Issue 4, October 2000, Pages 291–319
This paper suggests that in order to understand relations between different aspects of organizational learning, an appropriate unit of analysis and a concrete, historical approach is needed. The units of analysis used in representative theories of organizational learning are first reviewed and evaluated. “Activity system”, a concept that is based on Cultural Historical Activity Theory, is then introduced as a potential candidate for a unit of analysis that makes it possible to analyze the specific historical, local challenges and problems of organizational learning and to direct a collective learning process. A case of organizational learning is then presented by using a model of the activity system and Activity Theory-based intervention methodology. Theoretical implications of the case are pointed out in discussion.
In the end of his broad review on the research on organizational learning, Huber (1991) concludes that research has not been able to create any guidelines to increase the effectiveness of organizational learning. After Huber, many other researchers have expressed their frustration on the fragmented state of the theory and the lack of practical value of the results of research on organizational learning (Pentland, 1995, Jones, 1995, Hendry, 1996 and Tsang, 1997). The inadequate state of research is not a problem for academic researchers alone. Practicing managers, consultants and members of organizations increasingly face problems in mastering organizational learning and transformations with the traditional conceptual tools of management (Robey, Wishart & Rodriguez-Diaz, 1995). Stewart (1993) estimated a few years back the failure rate of business process re-engineering efforts to be as high as 70%. Beer, Eisenstat and Spector (1990) found in their study that organizational change programs fail astonishingly often. The fragmented state of theory carries over to prescriptions and intervention practices. Instead of analyzing the specific demands of the situation, “most practitioners carry a hammer and assume the presence of nails” (Edmondson, 1996). Many attempts have been made to identify the root causes of the problems and to show a way forward. The vagueness of the key concept “organization” seems to be a major hindrance to progress (Schmidt, 1994). Researchers have tried to cope with this problem in different ways. Some base their argument on mentalistic analogies of individual learning (see Huber, 1991, Dodgson, 1993 and Jones, 1995). Others, although speaking about “organizational learning”, focus on a more limited unit of analysis within an organization such as a management team or an organizational routine or then concentrate only on a specific aspect of the organization for instance its corporate culture. Some writers propose that other concepts, such as “knowledge system” (Pentland, 1995), “community of practice” (Brown & Duguid, 1991 and Hendry, 1996) or “activity system” (Blackler, 1993 and Løwendahl & Haanes, 1997) should be used in analyzing organizational learning. In this article, we shall line up with those writers who are trying to find a more fruitful unit of analysis for studying organizational learning. Because of the inadequacy of the basic concept, the research has produced insights about different mechanisms and obstacles of organizational learning, but not much knowledge about the relationships between the identified mechanisms and obstacles. We find, however, that there is another, even more fundamental cause for the lack of progress in the research on organizational learning: the tendency to analyze the problem in universalistic, ahistorical terms.1 We maintain that organizational learning is a cultural process which changes in the course of history. The activities in organizations, the problems in realizing these activities, the possible means of solving the problems, as well as the obstacles of learning, are historically specific. They are determined by the local and historical form of the activity and the available cultural means of solving the problems. We cannot proceed in understanding organizational learning without analyzing concretely the historical development of both the problems to be mastered, and the possible mechanisms of learning. Even the fact that organizational learning has become a central problem in management and organization research is best understood from a historical perspective. In the first half of this century, the development of organizations was realized largely by applying the novel ideas of rational scientific analysis and planning, “scientific management”. This approach to developing activities stood in sharp contradiction to the historically preceding craft type of experiential learning. In the literature of organizational learning, we do not, however, find analyses of the remarkable triumphs of organizational learning that was realized by applying the principles of rational management. Organizational learning became a problem only when the limits of the rational management approach began to emerge and managers and organizations failed when applying those principles. The objective of this paper is to show how the concrete historical analysis can help us understand the learning problems and effectively intervene in the learning process. We shall make the following two claims: 1. Organizational learning is a multifaceted and multiphased phenomenon, a complex interplay between different elements of a system. It cannot be studied by reducing the scope to one or another element, but a minimal meaningful system as a whole should be taken as the unit of analysis and intervention. 2. Organizational learning is always local and situational: structures, practices, habits and ways of thinking in an organization are all shaped and produced in the historical development of that particular organization. Transformation from the current situation to a new one cannot be done without a historical perspective.2 We shall first analyze some prominent examples of the approaches used in studying organizational learning and their underlying theoretical assumptions. We shall then present a conceptualization based on the cultural historical theory of activity and finally show, in a case example, how this theory can be used to explain and direct a special kind of organizational learning called “expansive learning” (Engeström, 1987 and Cole & Engeström, 1993).
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Organizational learning is local and situational, and thus it has to be analyzed in a historical framework. What is needed is not general laws of organizational learning to be applied in a concrete situation but conceptual tools to help in the historical analysis of the development problems of local activities. General, abstract models — like those described above — can be used as tools for reconstructing a concrete situation on an activity and in identifying and describing historically evolved problems and development possibilities. 2. Organizational learning is a complex interplay between individual and collective learning; actors, intentional actions and given structures and processes; radical and incremental changes; cognitive development and development of new tools and structures. To analyze and influence collective learning, we have to use a unit where all these aspects can be studied together. 3. The unit of analysis we need has to be systemic, that is, it has to help us to analyze the interrelations of different aspects of an activity. In this respect, there is a clear difference between a theoretically systemic such as an “activity system” and descriptive ones such as “routine”, “community of practice” or “knowledge production”. We believe that the study of organizational learning can gain much by applying the principles of cultural mediation, object-orientedness and, the hierarchical character of human activity — that is the idea that the collective activity cannot be reduced into individual actions or understood as an aggregation of them — and historical analysis. These principles form the central content of the concept of activity system. They give an integrating framework that has enough structure to raise essential questions and guide the analysis to construct a systemic picture of the local activity and its historical development. On the other hand, the framework is general and does not prescribe any solutions. It is valuable as a tool for analysis and planning only when people involved start to analyze their work practices by using it, relate the abstract model to concrete facts about their everyday activity, give meanings to the elements and their relations, and change their work themselves.