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 5: Intermission: The State of Our Understanding

Paul Coughlan and David Coghlan


INTRODUCTION This chapter provides an opportunity to pause in the development of the proposition of this book and to summarize the theoretical perspectives from three domains before presenting the empirical cases in the next section. Over the past four chapters, we have introduced sustainable strategic improvement as a contemporary business issue which is challenging managers to act, to think and to learn in new and different ways. We have taken three theoretical perspectives on this issue from the domains of operations management, organizational learning, and action learning and have linked them in novel ways. Together, they have the potential to provide new insights on the genuine contribution that is latent in a disciplined extension of action learning into the inter-organizational context of the improvement imperative. CONSOLIDATING THE DOMAINS In Chapters 2, 3 and 4 respectively, we have described three domains which speak to the theme of this book: operations management, organizational learning and action learning. These domains have evolved from different sources and have focused on different aspects of the improvement and learning process. Yet, as we observed previously, they offer complementary and sometimes overlapping insights into how organizations and networks develop, improve and learn. The three research domains are summarized in Table 5.1. Some of the studies detailed in Table 5.1 have been theoretical, such as exploring and linking different domains, and some have been empirical, such as reflecting upon the achievements of networks of firms as they have engaged with each other in the generation and pursuit of...

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