The role of human resource development in preventing organisational stagnation

Deborah A. Blackman (School of Business and Governance, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia)
Liz Lee‐Kelley (School of Management, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Publication date: 1 June 2006



The purpose of this paper is to argue that how HRD is undertaken needs careful consideration, since some HRD implementation schemes may actually prevent the acquisition of new knowledge, thereby developing stagnation.


The paper uses qualitative data derived from learning and non‐learning organisations. The data were collected from four companies via open‐ended questionnaires and structured interviews.


The paper demonstrates how strongly shared mental models may affect organisational HRD processes in such a way as to trigger closure to new knowledge and learning. The types of learning and knowledge present in the organisations are found to limit the possibility of radical change.

Research limitations/implications

HRD implementation systems themselves may strengthen mental models, thereby allowing the difficulties to emerge because the learning and knowledge being developed will only support incremental change if any. The potential reversion of the direction of organisational learning is mooted, indicating that new ideas may either not enter the system or be rejected once they are perceived. HRD systems need to be designed to develop and maintain organisational openness.


The danger of HRD exacerbating organisational closure is explained. An alternative role for HRD professionals is outlined, with the new focus being on developing ongoing challenge at all times. The paper concludes that, although properly structured and thoughtfully implemented HRD can be a positive driver for organisational learning, HRD developments need to focus on the type of knowledge being developed as well as the level of learning.



Blackman, D. and Lee‐Kelley, L. (2006), "The role of human resource development in preventing organisational stagnation", Management Decision, Vol. 44 No. 5, pp. 628-643.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.