Action learning enabled strategy making

Authors: Oliver, J.

Journal: Action Learning: research and practice

Volume: 5

Issue: 2

Pages: 149-158

Publisher: Taylor & Francis

ISSN: 1476-7333

DOI: 10.1080/14767330802185715


Action learning encourages individual reflection, insightful questioning and assumption breaking that result in changes in attitude and behaviour. This learning process provides the potential to explore and solve complex organizational problems, such as, the question of how to develop a future business strategy.

Existing literature on the process of strategy making presents a multi-faceted debate, with the ‘Learning School’ of strategic management being one of the main approaches to conceptualise strategy formation. This school of thought suggests that strategy making is a process of emergent learning over time, where strategy makers critically reflect on past experience and adapt their strategies accordingly. Learning from action, change and reflection, is therefore, considered to be more useful in strategy making than formal analysis and subsequent strategy formulation. The premises of the Learning School of strategy making are similar to the premises of action learning, and yet, the action learning paradigm has made little or no impact in strategic management literature. This is particularly surprising since the fundamental tenets of action learning could enable it to make an important contribution to strategy makers and business strategy development.

This paper makes the case for action learning to feature more prominently in strategic management literature, and particularly, in the Learning School. It proposes that using an action learning methodology can effectively contribute to the development of business strategy, particularly for those organizations operating in competitive environments that are complex and unpredictable. In this type of environment, strategic responses tend to evolve from a process of experimentation, trial and error. Action learning is advocated as a suitable framework to encapsulate this emergent and experimental process and provide a platform for the development of effective strategy making.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: John Oliver