Building an organisational learning architecture for strategic renewal: an autoethnography of action learning


Liu, Lucy

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This thesis analyses how the concept of action learning can be employed to build an organisational learning framework in pursuit of strategic renewal in a complex manufacturing environment. The thesis presents an analytic autoethnographic account of how action learning was used to create an organisational learning framework in the pursuit of strategic renewal at the Toyota Motor Corporation of Australia (TMCA), Melbourne, during the period 2000-2008. The scope of the thesis is restricted to this one company in order to benefit from a detailed analysis of a case study in a large and complex manufacturing environment suddenly faced with the need for an immediate strategic renewal within the company. Analytic autoethnography (Atkinson, 2006) has been chosen as the methodology of choice to take advantage of the researcher's insider status at TMCA. As a complete member- researcher within the social world under study the researcher has enjoyed the most compelling kind of 'being there' for the ethnographer. The fine-grained nature of the data gathered and the informed interpretation of the researcher could probably not have been achieved through the use of any alternative methodology. The analytic autoethnographic analysis is framed around the 4i model of intuition, interpretation, integration, and institutionalisation (Crossan, Lane, and White, 1999). These authors initially presented an embryonic model in the literature and invited other researchers to further develop the framework. This challenge has been taken up in the thesis. The thesis presents a more nuanced analysis of the 4i model by developing an organisational learning architecture across multiple organisational levels (individual, group, and organisation) through the use of action learning in pursuit of strategic renewal at TMCA. A significant contribution is made to the extant theoretical literature through the development of an integrated model combining the 4i model, action learning, and experiential learning. The thesis also analyses some specific implications of the findings for lean manufacturing in general, and Toyota systems in particular, by suggesting how action learning principles can be absorbed into the newly evolving framework of Toyota Global Management Systems and Practices and its four components of Toyota Way, Toyota Business Practices (TBP), on-the job training (OJT), and Hoshin Kanri (business plan for long-term prosperity).

Publication year


Thesis supervisor

Robert Jones

Publication type

Thesis (PhD)


Copyright © 2009 De Min Liu.

Thesis note

A thesis is submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy, Swinburne University of Technology, 2009.