The industrialization era brought forth the extensive focus on organization management and development. Questions on organizations and how it differs from individual was a serious point of debate. With thrust to improve performance, question on how can organizations learn was even more interesting for scholars and managers of the organizations. Organizational learning was then studied organization using the perspectives of psychology or behavioral science, or using the various lenses of political, economic and social. This paper will provide a summary and critique of the four leading theories on organization.
Argyris and Schon’s Organizational Learning II
Chris Argyris was a business theorist with background on psychology and economics.
His research on individual behavior and research provided foundation for future studies on learning organizations. One of his more influential works was his collaboration with
Daniel Schon in 1996 on Organizational Learning II. Schon was influential in developing the theory and practice of reflective professional learning in 20th century.
In Chapter 3 of the said book, Argyris and Schon’s main question was the title of the chapter itself:”what is an organization that it may learn?” (p. 3). To answer this, they first established how organizational learning differs from individual learning. They supported this by defining learning, stating how it can both be a product and a process.
They used the context of collectivities, action, inquiry and knowledge to illustrate how an organization may learn.
One important point they claimed is that an organization must first be recognized as political, to have a legal entity to produce any action which includes the learning
process. They argued, however, that it is not safe to assume that all the learnings of the individual members of a certain organization will constitute as organizational learning. In fact, certain criteria should be met for the learning to be considered organizational. They said that a company may have a documented vision, mission or strategies which are not implemented or differ entirely from the reality of the company operations. Argyris and
Schon refer to the former as the espoused theory or theory in action and the latter, the theory-in-use or theory in practice. In the example provided by Argyris and Schon, even if the company changed the documented vision, but the practice or the theory in use remains the same, the change may not still constitute as organization learning. In the same way, they further explained that a change in theory-in-use, if not communicated and used to influence policy or system change in the organization, will not also constitute learning.
Finally, Argyris and Schon presented two processes on how an organization learns: the single loop learning and double loop learning. The latter refers to a somewhat sequential process of learning, which affects only the immediate environment and not the whole organization. The latter has a forward feedback mechanism, which enables learning to occur at different points and circumstances, forcing a somewhat reflective learning within the organization and therefore, influencing the theory in use. Argyris and
Schon seemed to imply that double-loop learning is the more desirable type of learning hinting that in second part of the book, the changes brought about by double-loop learning is ‘closely linked to an organization’s learning system.’
I believe that Argyris and Schon made their most important point by recognizing the organization can learn as an entity apart from the collective learning individual. They were able to present their thesis successfully with intricate distinctions and definition of terms. They dissected organization and learning in different contexts and provided elaborate explanations and examples to illustrate the theories. The limitations were also discussed in terms of gray areas…