Organisational learning in UK construction companies
- Publisher: Northumbria University
This thesis advances the proposition that all organisations learn and that learning profiles vary across organisations of different types. However, successful organisations are those that have developed their organisational learning systems in accordance with their competitive strategies. It is the central objective of this thesis to test this proposition in UK construction companies that engage with the North East Constructing Excellence initiative. The research was organised through stages involving a business environment audit survey to establish the context of the sample population and a learning competence test for sample validation. Through a series of investigations using structured interviews into 12 selected companies that represented the higher and the lower learning companies, data was obtained that allowed the practices of various learning mechanisms to be examined, analysed, compared, pattern-matched and modelled. The findings revealed a pattern of commonality in learning profiles of construction companies, which can be represented in terms of a two-category typology, namely the externally-focused and the internally-focused learning companies. More successful companies tend to retain one learning mode, related to their competitive strategy and choice of economic model. These successful companies also direct themselves to one or two portfolios of sharing/retention mechanisms to suit their specific needs related to size and geographical spread, as well as their category of contracting activity. One significant outcome is that companies adopting a balanced learning strategy, that includes both internal and external learning sources, tend towards longevity although they may not be the most profitable. Companies that favour internal learning generally specialise in a particular aspect of construction, can be very profitable, but are susceptible to any change in the market. It may be that the managers recognise this situation and have a strategy for a series of highly profitable short-term companies. Overall, these results reflect the contribution of this thesis to the existing knowledge. In addition, the study also contributes in establishing a framework for mapping the practice of organisational learning that can illustrate to management where their learning efforts have been focused. A further discovery was that over 60% of the sample companies did not realise that they are operating a particular learning strategy. Using this framework, other UK construction companies can enter their own data onto the model to discover where they are positioned. This will be useful information for companies developing and/or reviewing their business strategies.
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