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Developing guiding principles: an organizational learning perspective

David Oliver (Department of Management, HEC Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
Claus Jacobs (Research Institute for Organizational Psychology, University of St Gallen, St Gallen, Switzerland)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 23 October 2007




Guiding principles are knowledge structures that call to mind collective narratives with emotional content, and are articulated and used heuristically to guide decision making in organizations. The purpose of this paper is to explore how: guiding principles become integrated in management teams through discursive processes of social learning, and how process techniques from the realm of organizational learning can be used to facilitate the development of guiding principles.


Develops theoretical findings drawing from the organizational learning literature, and explores these findings through use of a two‐part illustrative case study of guiding principles development in a European telecommunications firm.


It was found that guiding principle development may be facilitated using process techniques similar to those proposed for integrating organizational learning, namely, a dialogue‐intensive process involving stages of inquiry, divergence and convergence.

Research limitations/implications

The study focuses on dialogue, while future studies may usefully focus on non‐discursive aspects of the conversational setting and structure in which the empirical case was embedded.


This paper combines both theory development with illustrative empirical data to shed light on the process by which guiding principles may be intentionally developed in an organizational setting.



Oliver, D. and Jacobs, C. (2007), "Developing guiding principles: an organizational learning perspective", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 20 No. 6, pp. 813-828.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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