Date of Award

Winter 1996

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Laurence D. Richards

Committee Member

Barry A. Clemson

Committee Member

William Jones

Committee Member

Billie Reed


This research was conducted to observe the self-reflections of an organizational participant group to further understand the organizational learning phenomenon. The participant group consisted of the 15 managers, spanning three levels of management, of a large engineering group in the southeastern United States.

The intent of the research was to generate theory, rather than to test theory. To accomplish this objective, a qualitative research methodology in a participatory action framework was modeled from Keating's (1993) Organizational Learning Process (OLP) to co-construct participants' organizational reflections. The methodology included individual interviews designed to elicit spontaneity that co-generated organizational perspectives. These perspectives were then combined and anonymously assessed by the participants as to their personal beliefs, and their perceptions of the organization's rhetoric and actions. The assessed perspectives were finally used to facilitate group dialogues. The assessed perspectives revealed what the participant group believed, and what they perceived themselves to say and do. It was discovered that there were many perspectives that revealed large incongruities between the participant group's beliefs, rhetoric, and actions. Analysis of these incongruities and the group dialogues: (1) demonstrated Argyris and Schon's (1978) theoretical constructs for barriers to organizational learning; (2) indicated that the expectations generated by their "quality" program were incongruent with more traditional expectations that pre-dated their "quality" program; and (3) suggested the existence of a body of largely tacit and experiential organizational perspectives that established a strong context for decision and action. The existence of these influential, yet tacit, perspectives implied a new essential process for the development of an advanced organizational learning system (Argyris and Schon, 1978), i.e., the co-construction of tacit knowledge. The processes through which such co-constructions appeared to occur naturally within the participant group were detailed as a proposed explanatory model for organizational learning. Implications of the research for the management of organizations, for organizational learning theory, and for future research were also developed.