Adaptation and Context
Edited by Anders Örtenblad
Chapter 7: Developing learning organizations in China
After more than two decades of development since the publication of Senge’s (1990) The Fifth Discipline, the learning organization still remains an elusive concept with diverse interpretations and understandings (Örtenblad 2002, 2004). Attempts to encapsulate the multifaceted natur e of the learning organization into a short definition include casting it as an organization that ‘facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself ’ (Pedler et al. 1991, p. 1), and as one that is ‘skilled at creating, acquiring and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights’ (Garvin 1993, p. 80). While the learning organization may be construed as a set of rhetorical ideals (Symon 2002), emphasizing empowerment, personal development and shared vision, some critics question the integrity of the managerial motives for developing a learning organization (Coopey 1998; Snell & Chak 1998). It is possible for the espoused ideals of the learning organization to be used by managements to justify change initiatives (Snell 2002) that compromise or even sacrifice the vested interests of employee stakeholders, especially those at the front line, who as a result find themselves ‘working in a world with little job security’ (Armstrong 2000, p. 356).
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