The purpose of this article is to present the results of a study of an industrial company's top management team (TMT) that fought to survive an economic crisis. Specifically, the article seeks to focus on describing the TMT's composition, group processes, and work during a period of high external pressure; analysing the TMT's work in terms of an organisational learning process; and discussing factors that may have enabled the TMT to make appropriate strategic decisions during the crisis.
The empirical foundation of this article is a longitudinal case study of a Swedish industrial company during the economic recession of the late 2000s. Data were collected through observations of meetings involving the TMT from 2009 to 2011 and through semi‐structured interviews with TMT managers.
Two empirical themes – “accelerating” and “braking” – illustrate actions taken by the TMT during the crisis. Accelerating involves activities aimed at accelerating the company out of the downturn, whereas braking involves activities aimed at reducing costs. The findings suggest that the TMT exhibited the ability to handle processes of exploration and exploitation during the crisis and that learning occurred at the individual, group, and organisational levels.
A practical implication of this study is the importance for TMTs to work simultaneously with processes of exploration and exploitation when fighting to survive an economic crisis and to designate time for learning processes in daily work.
The study contributes to the field by empirically showing the processes of organisational learning in practice and by highlighting the relevance of organisational learning research to understanding the performance and work of top management teams in organisations.
Wallo, A., Kock, H. and Nilsson, P. (2012), "Accelerating and braking in times of economic crisis: Organisational learning in a top management team", European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 36 No. 9, pp. 930-944. https://doi.org/10.1108/03090591211280973Download as .RIS
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