Action Learning and Learning OrganizationLO29280

From: Glebe Stcherbina (
Date: 10/09/02

Replying to LO29274 --

Dear Fellow Organizational Learners,

Thank you Dianne for your post. Like yourself I am also studying in Sydney
but it is not sunny today, thankfully we had some rain today. Sydney and
the rest of our State is in the grip of one of the worst droughts
experienced for over 50 years. Yesterday 11 houses in Sydney were
destroyed by bush (scrub/brush) fires and we are still in the middle of
Spring! My work colleague lives only 2 streets away from where most of the
damage was done.

Also I note that our dear friend At de Lange mentioned Pretoria has
experienced some unusual weather patterns and our friends from Alaska have
provided an insight into the climatic changes occurring there. Last week I
saw the movie "Signs" starring Mel Gibson, the American born actor who
grew up in Australia. Mel actually completed a degree in Drama where
Dianne is currently completing her PhD. It was good movie which had a
strong message.

Most of the posts written by our dear friend At De contain "signs", (I am
not suggesting that we about to be invaded by UFO's). At nearly always
provides an information road map, which I greatly appreciate. This "road
map" is central to what Action Learning is all about. Whilst we are
experiencing a severe drought, we have to learn to adapt to the prevailing
conditions. We learn by our actions whilst understanding our changing

Anne has touched on organizational transformations and in particular Bill
Torbert. May I suggest the following references:

(1) Allee, V. (1997). The Knowledge Evolution: Expanding Organizational
Intelligence. (1st ed.) Newton, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

(2) Melles, G (1998). Action Research:Boundaries, Tensions, Directions.
The Australian Educational Researcher. 25(2), 113-123.

(3) West, D., & Stansfield, M.H. (2001). Structuring Action and Reflection
in Information Systems Action Research Studies Using Checkland's FMA
Model. Systemic Practice and Action Research. 14(3), 251-281

(4) Whyte, W.F., Greenwood, D.J., & Lazes, P. (1991). Participatory Action
Research. Through Practice to Science in Social Research. In W.F. Whyte
(ed.) Participatory Action Research. (pp.19-55) Newbury Park: SAGE
Publications, Inc.

(5) Zuber-Skerritt, O. (1992). Action Research in Higher Education. (1st
ed.). London:Kogan Page Limited.

Through my research I have found that action research study outcomes are
expected to provide operational solutions for the organization being
studied. Hence, there is a perception of stakeholders that the researcher
will achieve the 'desired research outcomes'. Zuber-Skerritt (1992 p.12)
illustrated Carr's and Kemmis', 1986 study of Action Research by way of a
table which may be found at page 12.

Furthermore, Zuber-Skerritt (1992 p.80) had conducted a "case study of
reflections on action research by the action researchers themselves and
was based on a repertory grid and a group discussion of the grid results,
as well as on general problems and the limitations of professional
development". The study found that a supportive organizational environment
raised motivational levels of individual academics to raise their teaching
standards. Thus if an organization provided its employees with a framework
where knowledge is freely shared by all in a co-operative manner then the
organization has a stronger base in which organizational learning occurs.

Overall, I believe that action research methodology is gaining popularity
among researchers to explore issues and provide solutions to
organizations. However, there are limitations as noted by Silva (2001, p
5) who stated, "I nevertheless come to think there are many limits in the
Action Research practiced in the Universities".

(Ref: Silva, A.F. (2001). Organizational Learning Network of e-mail
contributions. Retrieved 19th July, 2001 from the World Wide Web:

Given the above, careful consideration is required before deciding upon
the final research strategy/(ies). Especially, in the case of action
research, where research participants may expect some form of
participation and ownership in the research project. This could reduce the
independence of the researcher and thus lead to bias as the participants
may feel that the research results should favour a preconceived
organizational viewpoint in dealing with the stated research problem.

Thankfully I am progressing with my Doctorate and hope to finish with 12
months. My research degree is part-time and I have just taken up a new job
as a General Manager for an Investment Bank. I have already experienced
the benefits of Action Research as this type of research helps to move
projects along at a faster rate than other types of research.

Trusting that I have been able to throw some light on the subject.

May the Force be with you.

Sydney Australia

"Acosta, Anne" wrote:

> From one Ph.D. student to another (tho I'm still far from being
> almost-completed), I highly recommend anything by Bill Torbert and
> particularly the book he has co-authored, PERSONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL
> TRANSFORMATIONS (you can see several reviews of the book at
> I like many things about the way Torbert thinks, beginning with the fact
> that he is 100% a scholar-practitioner -- his fascination with connecting
> action learning with leadership development and organizational learning
> was triggered by his own struggles with trying to weave these together in
> his early career, and he has continued to experiment with this ever since
> (for more than 20 years) in academic (e.g., the design of MBA programs)
> and organizational settings. He digs into the challenges of personal and
> organizational transformation in a much more rigorous and profound way
> than, for example, Senge, who also tries to link these two dimensions.
> He also looks at learning in a holistic way -- not just as a
> cognitive/instrumental process, but one which involves affective and power
> aspects. He posits parallel developmental processes for individuals and
> organizations (drawing on the work of Robert Kegan and others), whereby
> each successive stage enables more sophisticated approaches to handling
> paradox and complexity. And he argues (convincingly, I think) that action
> learning (to get back to your original question) is the central process
> through which individuals and organizations come face to face with the
> limitations of operating at their current stage, and can work through the
> challenges to move towards higher level of thinking, working and relating.
> It's a very thick analysis, and the way he weaves it all together strikes
> me as a vivid example of high-level systems thinking.
> Get the book, read it, and let's continue the conversation about this!
> (Talking with you about it will no doubt help me understand it better as
> well...)
> Anne Starks Acosta


Glebe Stcherbina <>

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