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Organizational learning through development projects

Erik Laursen (Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 16 August 2011




The main purpose of this paper is to investigate organizational development projects considered as ways of implementing new methods – technologies and ways of organizing work in organizations.


The empirical study presents four organizational development projects (covering the organizations as a whole) run by four Danish upper secondary schools (“gymnasium”). The study included questionnaires as well as interviews with the management and staff, as well as a survey of selected written materials and documents.


The empirical study offers a description of the activities actually organized by the projects, as well as the various ways in which different groupings among the staff and the management are relating to the project. A special focus is directed towards the different perspectives on the projects established by the staff and the management and what consequences these different perspectives have on what is actually learned. Another finding is the weak links that exist between what is known by the staff as “ordinary problems” of the organizations and the objectives and goals of the development projects.

Practical implications

The possible transformation of management emerging through the development projects, should be outlined and discussed in an open and explicit manner instead of constituting a hidden – and often highly controversial – agenda for the projects.


A typology of development projects is presented and discussed as a tool to describe and understand different ways of framing organizational learning processes. The study also points out a possible relation between loosely coupled organizations (Weick, 1976; Brunsson, 2003) and the learning outcome of organizational development projects.



Laursen, E. (2011), "Organizational learning through development projects", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 32 No. 5/6, pp. 567-580.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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