Legitimating of Learning in Organizational Change

Introduction

Organizational change entails the development of new strategies that seek to positively alter the way a particular business performs. The goal is to move towards a desired future position. However, the adoption of new ways of operating or executing organizational business plans requires interested stakeholders to be well equipped with information regarding change and its management. Having this expertise implies that a company can sense changes in its external or internal environments and, consequently, adapt to meet the anticipated goals. Although several models of organizational learning have been established, the goal of this paper is to analyze Rhodes’ article with the view of critically assessing the extent to which he presents his problem statement, thesis, methodology, and findings in relation to what other authors have said concerning this particular subject.

Summary of the Article

Authored by Carl Rhodes and published in the Journal of Organizational Change Management, the article The Legitimating of Learning in Organizational Change does not establish a clear problem to help the reader in understanding what it seeks to address. However, one can argue that the author wishes to develop approaches to interpreting the notion of organizational learning. Indeed, the article adopts the interpretive spirit conceptual framework in its discussion of institutional scholarship. This approach avoids the construal of organizational learning as an attempt to support, impose, or artificially develop some form of consensus in the scholarly field. Rather, Rhodes presents this idea as a metaphor that demonstrates various traits of a standard organizational environment. The article deploys the method of storytelling to help readers in understanding what organizational learning entails. This method includes cross-examining various organizational events. In particular, Rhodes uses the narrative approach as his research methodology where he presents three accounts of organizational learning before discussing the application of legitimization and all emerging issues in the subject of organizational learning.

The article’s thesis entails describing institutional learning from the perspective of prevailing events and discussions. In advancing this thesis, Rhodes tries to investigate different studies that have examined the current subject from diverse points of view. According to the article’s findings, power and knowledge constitute two key forces that operate simultaneously. Learning in organizations is interpreted as a legitimization process. In this case, powerful people label some business situations as lesson-driven if they suit their interests. Hence, from these findings, learning entails a controlled process whereby employees can only acquire knowledge that the management deems necessary to advance organizational interests, as opposed to those of employees.

Critical Evaluation

Although the author does not introduce a literature review as a separate section, he mentions various studies to substantiate his claims regarding organizational learning. The level of knowledge possessed by one employee in an organization is tested through legitimization by virtue of its consistency with organizational culture and behaviors. The article criticizes the way institutions approach the subject of organizational learning. In particular, according to Rhodes’ analysis of various literature materials, despite the importance of learning in shaping decision-making processes, businesses fail to address employees’ desires and curiosity regarding knowledge.

Instead, they focus on learning to improve performance and productivity. The author’s literature materials do not offer substantive findings. In particular, the claim that organizations, which embrace learning respond to environmental changes more proactively to the extent of acquiring a competitive advantage compared to others, is not well supported. Rhodes does not deploy enough studies to explain why this claim holds. However, despite efforts to implement learning, the literature review reveals that indeed some organizations create inappropriate systems that do not support such knowledge-seeking cultures. For example, failing to allow employees to participate in changing organizational policies and culture, including developing long-term objectives, interferes with the idea of organizational learning.

The article does not ask well-formulated questions that can demonstrate the purpose of the current research. Instead, Rhodes’ arguments focus on discussing various interpretations of organizational learning. In particular, any initiative such as learning requires some means of determining outcome levels, which indicate organizational failure or success. It is crucial to realize that learning is said to occur when an organization, which has implemented it, records improved performance. Such an outcome implies that it has acquired new mechanisms for enhancing efficiency or adapting to change. In this sense, learning organizations make it possible for all members to develop and transform continuously. In developing his study questions, Rhodes acknowledges that environmental pressures make organizations embrace change through learning alternative ways of getting things done in the most effective and efficient manner. Organizational learning encourages employees to perform their tasks collaboratively in response to the need for embracing change. Hence, in line with its title, the article’s questions fairly indicate the author’s aim of examining the extent to which learning requires legitimization.

Although the author does not address critical prerogatives of learning, the article fits into other studies on the same topic. For example, Rhodes supports previous articles’ position that learning occurs when companies realize higher performance levels following their implementation of change management strategies that enhance efficiency. In particular, he presents his problem through three organizational stories. In line with observations from previous literature materials, the desire to increase performance constitutes the main motivation behind organizational learning. Rhodes asserts that organizations exercise competition based on values, as opposed to uniform or homogeneous corporate cultures.

Nevertheless, in supporting its positions, the article fails to consider other important studies such as those that examine the issue of shared vision. Past studies have emphasized the need for creating collective goals among various subgroups and individuals to pave the way for power to be viewed as necessary in enhancing the coexistence of people who embrace diverse value systems. Studies on the idea of shared vision present it as a prerequisite for organizational learning and development. This concept aids in the identification and measurement of common identities, which help an organization to focus its attention and energy on learning. By incorporating these crucial studies, the author would have offered deeper research and, consequently, convincing findings.

The problem stated does not match the methods deployed. For example, the author presents scholars such as Senge who have viewed learning in organizations as not only desirable but also a natural phenomenon. Rhodes states his purpose of conducting a discursive understanding of the interpretive spirit discourse in organizational learning. After investigating various approaches to understanding institutional knowledge, he ends up failing to state the research problem and question. However, from the discussion given through storytelling, the article suggests that its aim of studying the application of storytelling in organizational learning. The author could have stated his research problem explicitly, for instance, determining the validity of storytelling as a tool for assessing organizational learning. This way, his research method and findings drawn from the given accounts of storytelling indicating people’s diverse experiences in organizational learning would have helped to link the problem to various methods used in the article.

Findings in the article are presented in a clear and consistent format. The author reports his findings through stories told by Linda, Peter, and Alistair. Each of the accounts demonstrates unique experiences of people working in companies that embrace organizational learning. By presenting every narrative exclusively, the author ensures clarity and consistency in reporting the article’s findings. While one may claim that the researcher overlooks some data, Rhodes refutes such a claim by arguing, “Organizational learning is not an observable phenomenon determined by external models” (p. 19). This position suggests the author’s acknowledgment of limitations in his study, although he does not explain any suggestions for future studies.

However, it is indeed apparent that the data presented has problems because Rhodes overlooks some crucial reporting and presentation tools. For example, for ease of understanding, the author does not tabulate or graphically represent his data. The theoretical concept of organizational learning applied in various models, including Senge’s framework, suggests that people analyze an organization with the view of understanding it better. They scrutinize its constituent elements whose simultaneous operation results in a poor or successful institution. Hence, the author’s findings with the help of this tool are consistent. He confirms that indeed a learning organization deploys systems thinking as a primary strategy for assessing its performance followed by the initiation of company-based information structures, which help in measuring not only its profitability as a whole but also that of its distinctive components.

In addition to the logic being clear, claims made are properly supported with convincing data. For instance, the author argues that reading the given stories leads to his interpretation of organizational change as consisting of multiple themes. While some of the subjects have learning perspectives, Rhodes appreciates that others do not have them. As such, the article suggests that change cannot be explained only by learning. No fallacies are spotted. The author logically explains, “To use learning as an interpretive lens or metaphor in reading stories is useful and permits an entertainment of the notion of improvement” (p. 19). The author’s stories are chosen in a manner that they support this claim while avoiding any possibility of fallacious arguments.

Personal Opinion

I agree with Rhodes’ research findings. In my opinion, organizational learning should not be interpreted as just a power-focused process but a phenomenon that benefits the management and subordinates. This perception ensures that employees do not view it as a fulfillment of the administration’s need for power. This approach to organizational operations can hinder employees’ active participation in learning. Indeed, individuals within an organization should be committed to learning. Such dedication is crucial because companies whose people gain continuous knowledge end up possessing better competitive advantages. Any learning program aims at creating additional information regarding a company or new ways of accomplishing various organizational tasks.

Considering that all issues are raised in a logical, clear, and well-ordered manner, I am not skeptical regarding this study and its findings. Indeed, in my opinion, where people are not motivated to conduct some tasks because of inadequate knowledge about new changes introduced into an organization, the primary focus of learning should aim at altering employees’ attitudes toward learning. From this basis, a learning organization is best described by a combination of individual knowledge bases. All institutions value the role of human resource in creating a powerful labor force. Hence, there is a need for establishing an enabling environment whereby employees can take part in the formation of an organization’s shared vision. This goal can only be attained in organizations that embrace learning. Employees increase their effectiveness in handling various tasks. Consequently, heightened knowledge increases the ability of organizations to serve not only various interests of those in power but also workers themselves since efficiency is an important precedent that indicates a company’s capability to meet its financial obligations, including satisfying employees’ demands. From the above expositions, I am not aware of any counter-evidence not considered by the author that can raise any skepticism.

Article’s Contribution to Knowledge and its Implications or Applications to Our World

Rhodes builds on Senge’s theoretical reasoning regarding the purpose and contribution of learning to organizational success. Such performance has a bearing on global matters because competent employees can come up with innovative ideas that can address prevailing problems in business, health, economics, or even education. Through Peter’s story, the author demonstrates how human resources can initiate change with full support from managers in residential care settings. Peter’s narrative supports the available literature on organizational learning. The continuous acquiring of knowledge leads to the need for altering organizational policies, culture, and behaviors to attain some desired outcomes. For example, according to Rhodes, for Peter to implement change, he adjusted the prevailing institutional culture.

The previous counterproductive situation was not only a barrier to success but had also led to Peter’s lack of support from his organization. The existing literature argues that institutional change involves the interplay of organizational politics and legitimization. Consequently, the article is fruitful to the present-day world because it prepares people to anticipate challenges when developing and implementing change in their workplaces. Additionally, based on Senge’s model, organizational learning is found to be an important mechanism for enhancing institutional performance. In particular, it increases employees’ abilities to respond to emerging environmental changes.

Suggestions for Improving Rhodes’ Research

Among the three stories, Peter’s story is aligned well with notions of organizational learning. As a result, the author relies on it in his discussion of the concept of institutional scholarship. Consequently, he deploys it as a case study where a change representative is used to initiate and/or attain progress. Similarly, Linda’s story of change and growth in a computer industry and that of Alistair involving a telephone-manufacturing firm constitute illustrations that help to compare and contrast notions of organizational learning. Consequently, the article’s methodology involves case studies developed from accounts told by individuals who have experienced learning that led to change. However, the case study method is linked to various validity and reliability issues. These challenges could have been addressed by including more experiences of organizational learning, for instance, by considering additional cases or using research tools that provide both qualitative and quantitative data. Through this improvement, the consistency of Rhodes’ findings would have been easier to ascertain.

Conclusion

Based on Carl Rhodes’ article discussed above, learning encompasses the transfer of knowledge to individuals or work teams. Therefore, its evaluation entails determining the threshold to which workers utilize the knowledge attained in enhancing their organizations’ performance through the delivery of quality results. Hence, changes in performance may be used as indicators of the extent to which organizational learning is being manifested.