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Organizational learning and change: can they coexist?

Mahmoud Watad (Department of Marketing and Management, William Paterson University of New Jersey, Wayne, New Jersey, USA)

Business Process Management Journal

ISSN: 1463-7154

Article publication date: 12 October 2018

Issue publication date: 19 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the dynamics of IT-enabled change and organizational learning. This research defines organizational learning in general terms as the capacity of acquiring, transferring and creating knowledge within an organization.

Design/methodology/approach

This research design represents a common form of ex-post facto analysis, in which the exploration of relationships between variables is the main focus. The questionnaire used in the first phase was self-administered in a report format, wherein managers were asked to describe the organizational context and problems; the IT intervention or managers’ response to the problems; and the benefits that resulted from the introduction of IT. In the follow-up phase, the interviews used a similar version of the survey, focusing on the same themes.

Findings

This paper contends that IT-enabled change such as process redesign and productivity improvements do not take place simultaneously with an organization’s attempts to increase its knowledge base or its capacity to acquire knowledge. Organizations alter processes and re-engineer their operations to improve productivity, not to enhance their knowledge-acquiring and decision-making capacities. It seems that the attention structure of managers may be limited and, therefore, they cannot focus on improving both ends simultaneously. This may suggest that when an organization alters its processes, it may overlook its ability to acquire knowledge and its learning capacity at least for the short term.

Originality/value

The findings of this study can serve as important insights regarding managers’ work practices. Findings support a pragmatic view where managers are concerned with showing immediate gains through the introduction of IT which implies a lack of long-term planning. The findings also can serve as an important lesson to managers in that when they alter organizational processes, they should not overlook the issues of organizational learning and knowledge creation. The findings highlight the complexity of organizations and the conflicting objectives which organizations may attempt to achieve when engaging in change efforts such as the adoption of new technologies.

Keywords

Citation

Watad, M. (2019), "Organizational learning and change: can they coexist?", Business Process Management Journal, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 1070-1084. https://doi.org/10.1108/BPMJ-12-2016-0240

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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