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 12: Finale

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


In this book, we have focused on the operational need for sustainable strategic improvement and the related ability to create a sustainable learning environment. We have spanned and synthesized the three domains of operations management, organizational learning and action learning. While intuitively they seemed to have been related, and practically the linkage seemed to be relevant, we have developed and made these links explicit. In the process, we have undertaken a rich intellectual journey with both theoretical and practical outcomes. We posed the question, how can a strategic network, established to engage in improvement of operational practice and performance, come to act both as a learning network and as a transformational network? We answered that question from both theoretical and practical perspectives. Based upon our reflection both on the literatures in the three domains and also on our empirical investigations, we present theoretically the achievement of sustainable strategic improvement in terms of both the constituent elements (collaborative strategic improvement and network action learning) and also the process of transition from firm and strategic network to learning and transformational networks. The core of our argument is that this transition is enabled through the disciplined adoption of an action learning approach as a learning mechanism, with cognitive, structural and procedural dimensions. We present that achievement practically as a set of empirically-derived implementation guidelines for stakeholders with responsibility for managing or facilitating the co-directing, co-developing and co-deploying of a sustainable strategic improvement initiative in practice. Finally, we look to the future and to...

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