Strategic Learning LO19793

Fred Nickols (
Tue, 10 Nov 1998 18:04:27 -0500

Replying to Mark Feenstra in LO19777 --

Mark presents what I consider to be an action or experiential learning
model--as he writes "a la Kolb"--which I assume refers to a model these
elements: abstract conceptualization (AC), concrete experience (CE),
reflective observation (RO), and, if memory serves, active experimentation
(AE). On this basis, he argues that learning can't occur in the course of
planning unless implementation is included (otherwise there are no
outcomes of concrete experience on which to reflect and base active
experiments that will shape and inform abstract concepts). This model is
reflected in his conceptualization and articulation of the strategic
learning cycle (reproduced below):

>- - review performance
>- - raise strategic questions
>- - strategy development
>- - strategy selection
>- - strategy communication
>- - operational planning
>- - implementation
>- - performance measurement

That view of matters looks pretty useful to me. Indeed, it has much in
common with lots of similar, closed-loop control models. So I have little
doubt that Mark has good results in applying it and I wish him continued
good fortune.

That said, although I understand Mark's logic and I appreciate his
viewpoint, I simply don't agree with it. We learn lots of things in lots
of ways, some directly through experience and some indirectly or vicarious
through the experiences of others (e.g., as written down). The
experiential learning model of Dave Kolb, Irv Rubin & Jim McIntyre (at
least those were the fellows from whose work I learned it back in the
early 1970s) is a useful model but it is only one model. Moreover, it is
predicated on learning from personal experience. Thus, when Mark writes,
"On this basis no matter how clever our planning processes become they
cannot produce learning - with the exception of learning about planning
itself," what he says is true in light of his view and the
Kolb-Rubin-McIntyre model, but not in light of other models.

The conversations that define strategic planning--and strategic
thinking--and strategic learning--in my world--produce learning about
customers, processes, prices, competitors, quality, and a host of other
factors. You see, one of my models of learning defines learning as the
acquisition of knowledge about one's environment. Conversations are a
great way not just of sharing knowledge but of developing it as well.
Another of my many, many models of learning is of learning as the
development of insight into causal relationships. This, too, is (or at
least can be) stimulated and fostered through conversation. On and on my
models go (including causal loops, stocks and flows, and closed-loop
control systems a.k.a. "living control systems" and their main
manifestation, "the autonomous performer"). To me, one model is
unacceptably confining--but that's a different conversation.

In conclusion, I guess what I'm saying is this: If you accept Mark's
premises, his conclusions follow. I don't accept his premises as
all-encompassing, therefore, for me, his conclusions do not follow in
blanket fashion.

Now...all be warned. I have no intention of debating this issue. I am
not trying to persuade anyone to adopt my point of view nor am I
challenging or attacking anyone else's. I am simply expressing mine. I
will happily answer questions of clarification and discuss methods,
techniques, tools, and just about anything else about strategic planning
as a set of patterned, recurring conversation, but I will not argue.

Fair enough?



Fred Nickols Distance Consulting (609) 490-0095

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