Collaborative Strategic Improvement through Network Action Learning

Collaborative Strategic Improvement through Network Action Learning

The Path to Sustainability

Paul Coughlan and David Coghlan

Improvement is fundamental to the competitiveness of networks and requires the participating firms to collaborate in identifying and introducing changes. This book presents collaborative strategic improvement as a cycle of activities in which firms in a network can engage together. Drawing on actual cases, authors link this cycle with disciplined action learning as a means of building upon experience generated through collaborative action. They describe how a network can learn from experience and deploy that learning in the marketplace.

Chapter 7: Effecting Collaborative Operational Strategic Improvement through Network Action Learning in a Non-Contractual Setting

Paul Coughlan and David Coghlan

Subjects: business and management, knowledge management, operations management, organisation studies, research methods in business and management, innovation and technology, knowledge management, research methods, research methods in business and management


7. Effecting collaborative operational strategic improvement through network action learning in a noncontractual setting INTRODUCTION This chapter describes an action learning programme, the objective of which was to facilitate strategic improvement of operations practice and performance through network action learning in a small number of firms. When compared with the action learning initiative, to be described in Chapter 8, a distinguishing feature of the relationship between the firms here is that it was non-contractual. The action learning group comprised of individuals (singly, in pairs or triads) from the separate firms, organized as a learning network. As loosely-coupled peer systems, the participating firms were equal, with no superior-subordinate relationships among them. Each group member explored a problem in his/ her firm. So, the setting was inter-organizational and the projects were intra-organizational. To begin the chapter, we describe the action learning programme and summarize some of the key attributes of the approach: the establishment of a learning network, self-assessment, feedback, action planning and evaluation of plans, action learning and reflection cycles, evaluation and distillation of learning. We reflect in some detail on the experience of firms participating in one of the learning networks, which was dealing with adopting ‘world class’ operations practices in firms between which there were no contractual, competitive or buyer-supplier relationships. The chapter focuses on the efforts of the firms to improve the relationship between the structure of their business operations and operational performance, defined in terms of customer service and productivity. 94 M2539 - COUGHLAN PRINT.indd 94 25/02/2011...

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