Collaborative Strategic Improvement through Network Action Learning
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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.
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Chapter 6: Collaborative Strategic Improvement Action Learning Programme Design

Paul Coughlan and David Coghlan


INTRODUCTION This book is both a theoretical exploration and an empirical development. We have presented the theoretical basis in the preceding chapters. It is time now to look to the field and to the case studies from two collaborative strategic improvement action learning programmes which will deepen our understanding of the theory and provide guidance for managers and practitioners. In order to carry out the field research, this chapter introduces the research design framework for the two programmes. The design principles informing this empirical work feature later in Part 3 where we go beyond the confines of the present cases and extend into a broader discussion of the concept of action learning research. TWO INTER-ORGANIZATIONAL ACTION LEARNING RESEARCH PROGRAMMES: NALP AND CO-IMPROVE Our empirical investigation of action learning in inter-organizational settings is based on two EU-funded research programmes (Coughlan and Coghlan, 2004). The first setting is a management development programme – the National Action Learning Programme (NALP) – which ran in Ireland from 1998 to 2000. The second setting, a programme called CO-IMPROVE, ran from 2001 to 2004 and involved EMEs as interorganizational networks in three European countries. These two action learning programmes reflect the two contrasting settings, introduced in Chapter 4: contractual and non-contractual. NALP is illustrative of the non-contractual setting. As a learning network, NALP involved senior representatives from firms participating voluntarily in an interorganizational action learning group in which their firms did not have any direct commercial relationship with one another. Appendix 1 provides more specific details of how...

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