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Critical incident technique and action learning to enable organizational learning

Finnestrand, Hanne, Vie, Ola Edvin and Boak, George ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4489-3096 (2023) Critical incident technique and action learning to enable organizational learning. Action Learning: Research and Practice, 20 (3).

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This paper focuses on a two-year program with a Norwegian public sector project-based construction company, where action learning groups and critical incident technique were combined to enhance organizational learning. Project-based organizations typically face difficulties of ‘project amnesia’, as they fail to integrate learning from experience into organizational memory. In drawing lessons from experience, employees often focus on solving short-term problems with individual projects rather than contributing to medium- and longer-term organizational learning. The program that is the focus of this paper engaged newly-appointed engineers in action learning groups and trained them to use critical incident technique to gather and analyse information about recent projects undertaken by the company. The groups reported back their findings to colleagues in the program and to managers and senior executives in the company. Originally designed as an alternative to the traditional induction training for new employees, the program generated useful practical learning across the whole organization about project success factors. This paper explains how action learning and critical incident technique combined in this program to enhance individual, team and organizational learning, and argues that the synergies between these three processes should be explored in other contexts.

Keywords: Action learning; Critical Incident Technique; Organizational learning; Action research; Project based organization

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
School/Department: York Business School
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/8531

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