Organisational learning - a critical systems thinking discipline

Panagiotidis, P. and Edwards, J.S. (2001). Organisational learning - a critical systems thinking discipline. European Journal of Information Systems, 10 (3), pp. 135-146.

Abstract

Original Paper European Journal of Information Systems (2001) 10, 135–146; doi:10.1057/palgrave.ejis.3000394 Organisational learning—a critical systems thinking discipline P Panagiotidis1,3 and J S Edwards2,4 1Deloitte and Touche, Athens, Greece 2Aston Business School, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham, B4 7ET, UK Correspondence: Dr J S Edwards, Aston Business School, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham, B4 7ET, UK. E-mail: j.s.edwards@aston.ac.uk 3Petros Panagiotidis is Manager responsible for the Process and Systems Integrity Services of Deloitte and Touche in Athens, Greece. He has a BSc in Business Administration and an MSc in Management Information Systems from Western International University, Phoenix, Arizona, USA; an MSc in Business Systems Analysis and Design from City University, London, UK; and a PhD degree from Aston University, Birmingham, UK. His doctorate was in Business Systems Analysis and Design. His principal interests now are in the ERP/DSS field, where he serves as project leader and project risk managment leader in the implementation of SAP and JD Edwards/Cognos in various major clients in the telecommunications and manufacturing sectors. In addition, he is responsible for the development and application of knowledge management systems and activity-based costing systems. 4John S Edwards is Senior Lecturer in Operational Research and Systems at Aston Business School, Birmingham, UK. He holds MA and PhD degrees (in mathematics and operational research respectively) from Cambridge University. His principal research interests are in knowledge management and decision support, especially methods and processes for system development. He has written more than 30 research papers on these topics, and two books, Building Knowledge-based Systems and Decision Making with Computers, both published by Pitman. Current research work includes the effect of scale of operations on knowledge management, interfacing expert systems with simulation models, process modelling in law and legal services, and a study of the use of artifical intelligence techniques in management accounting. Top of pageAbstract This paper deals with the application of critical systems thinking in the domain of organisational learning and knowledge management. Its viewpoint is that deep organisational learning only takes place when the business systems' stakeholders reflect on their actions and thus inquire about their purpose(s) in relation to the business system and the other stakeholders they perceive to exist. This is done by reflecting both on the sources of motivation and/or deception that are contained in their purpose, and also on the sources of collective motivation and/or deception that are contained in the business system's purpose. The development of an organisational information system that captures, manages and institutionalises meaningful information—a knowledge management system—cannot be separated from organisational learning practices, since it should be the result of these very practices. Although Senge's five disciplines provide a useful starting-point in looking at organisational learning, we argue for a critical systems approach, instead of an uncritical Systems Dynamics one that concentrates only on the organisational learning practices. We proceed to outline a methodology called Business Systems Purpose Analysis (BSPA) that offers a participatory structure for team and organisational learning, upon which the stakeholders can take legitimate action that is based on the force of the better argument. In addition, the organisational learning process in BSPA leads to the development of an intrinsically motivated information organisational system that allows for the institutionalisation of the learning process itself in the form of an organisational knowledge management system. This could be a specific application, or something as wide-ranging as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation. Examples of the use of BSPA in two ERP implementations are presented.

Publication DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.ejis.3000394
Divisions: Aston Business School > Operations & information management
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Additional Information: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in European Journal of Information Systems. The definitive publisher-authenticated version 2. Panagiotidis, Petros and Edwards, John S. (2001). Organisational learning - a critical systems thinking discipline. European Journal of Information Systems, 10 (3), pp. 135-146 is available online at: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/ejis/journal/v10/n3/abs/3000394a.html
Uncontrolled Keywords: critical systems thinking,organisational learning,knowledge management,business system,stakeholders,motivation,deception,collective motivation,business system's purpose,systems dynamics,businesssystems purpose Analysis,BSPA,participatory structure,team learning,enterprise resource planning,ERP,Information Systems
Published Date: 2001-12

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