While projects can generate highly relevant knowledge to inform operations and improve performance, organizations face the difficulty of retaining knowledge once a project ceases to exist. This study aims to examine how project work can lead to organizational learning and, in particular, how knowledge transfer and social learning practices shape project-to-organization learning in a setting where projects complement a traditional functional form of organization.
This case study examined a project for inclusive teacher training at a German university. Data were collected and analyzed following an ethnographic approach, including participatory observation, a focus group discussion and 14 interviews with project participants.
The findings support the idea that much of the learning that occurs within projects is tacit. In this study, tacit knowledge from the project was shared with the organization through social learning practices. These social learning practices had a larger impact on project-to-organization learning than knowledge transfer practices such as codification. Additionally, the findings suggest that when knowledge transfer and social learning practices are in conflict, project-to-organization learning will likely suffer.
This study contributes to existing literature by examining the relative importance of technical and social dimensions of project-to-organization learning and by focusing on universities as an example of organizations where projects operate alongside a traditional functional form. Practical implications suggest that to facilitate project-to-organization learning, universities may need to enact a combination of new practices, some designed to codify and transfer knowledge and others created to generate new interpretations and build common knowledge across organizational boundaries.
Rose, A., Dee, J. and Leisyte, L. (2020), "Organizational learning through projects: a case of a German university", The Learning Organization, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/TLO-11-2018-0200Download as .RIS
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