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Learning conditions for continuous improvement in a public service organization
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education and Sociology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1922-3218
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education and Sociology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, HELIX Competence Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2486-2663
2018 (English)In: Journal of Workplace Learning, ISSN 1366-5626, E-ISSN 1758-7859Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Purpose – This study focuses on a transformation effort in a social welfare department of a Swedish municipality where continuous improvement, which is a Lean principle, was introduced in employees’everyday work via a workplace development programme (WPDP). The aim of this paper is to explore the conditions (internal and external) that enabled or constrained employee learning during the introduction of continuous improvement into employees’ everyday work in a WPDP-supported social welfare department.

Design/methodology/approach – This case study is based mainly on 22 semi-structured interviews with individuals holding different positions in the department and overarching municipality.

Findings – The findings show that multiple and emerging conditions, both internal and external, shaped a predominantly restrictive learning environment during the introduction of continuous improvement into the social welfare department. The major conditions identified were related to the initial implementation and top management’s steering and monitoring of the “Lean investment”, activities and support provided by the WPDP, activities and support provided by the internal Lean support team and first-line managers’ abilities to facilitate employee learning.

Originality/value – Apart from unique empirical material depicting an effort towards change under conditions far from favourable for employee learning, the value of this study lies in the attention given to the external dynamics that drive change in line with the concept of new public management in public service organizations, including a WPDP that supported the social welfare department.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2018.
Keywords [en]
Organizational change, learning environment, public service organization, workplace development programmes
National Category
Learning
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-152661DOI: 10.1108/JWL-03-2018-0049OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-152661DiVA, id: diva2:1262447
Available from: 2018-11-12 Created: 2018-11-12 Last updated: 2019-03-21Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Learning Dynamics of Workplace Development Programmes: Studies in Swedish national programmes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Learning Dynamics of Workplace Development Programmes: Studies in Swedish national programmes
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Lärandets dynamik i arbetsplatsutvecklingsprogram : Studier i svenska nationella program
Abstract [en]

The thesis focuses on workplace development programmes (WPDPs) that operationalize national policies on workplace development. WPDPs are time-limited and they provide support to organizations that aim to improve their operational performance or employees’ work conditions. The support that such programmes provide to organizations consists of competence-development activities provided through networks, courses or hands-on coaching. The supported organizations aimed at changing work practices to increase their operational performance.

Departing from a workplace-learning perspective, the overall aim of the thesis was to contribute to knowledge about learning in workplace development programmes and the supported organizations when realizing policies on workplace development. A qualitative multiple-case study design was used and a total of 115 interviews and notes from meetings are included in the data material. Four substudies made up the empirical base.

The findings revealed that realizing policies on workplace development required continuous learning among stakeholders at different levels of the WPDPs. Thus, conditions that enabled learning were important throughout the whole WPDP, which was seen as a large, complex social learning system. Learning between different levels of the WPDP was especially important, which required stakeholder representatives with the appropriate qualifications or characteristics that enabled them to take on roles as brokers between the stakeholders involved in realizing the policy. The overall conclusion pointed towards the dynamics of realizing policies of workplace learning, which cannot be achieved by a one-size-fitsall model for learning.

The findings imply that funders and other authorities that make policies on workplace development through WPDPs should scrutinize how learning among stakeholders that enter into partnership to operate WPDPs is to be facilitated. Linear plans that are not complemented with careful explanations of how such learning is to be facilitated may constitute warning signs. Furthermore, the findings imply that organizations looking for external support to develop the innovative capabilities of employees must be careful in choosing their support. A WPDP may consume the resources of an organization without providing any benefit, if it does not provide the appropriate support. On the other hand, a WPDP may be a great source for learning, particularly if it includes support in designing the change effort, and help in developing an internal support infrastructure that will continue supporting workplace development after the programme ends.

Abstract [sv]

I denna avhandling ligger fokus på tre nationella utvecklingsprogram vars avsikt är att stödja arbetsplatser och organisationer för att realisera beslutsfattares policyer. Med utgångspunkt från ett arbetsplatslärandeperspektiv är syftet med avhandlingen att bidra med kunskap om lärande i arbetsplatsutvecklingsprogram och organisationer som dessa stödjer för att realisera policyer för utveckling av arbetsplatser. Studien har en multipel fallstudiedesign och totalt 115 intervjuer och anteckningar från möten ingår i datamaterialet. Resultaten visar att kontinuerligt lärande mellan intressenter på olika nivåer i programmen var en nödvändig förutsättning när en policy skulle realiseras. Särskilt viktigt var att de som representerade intressenterna tog rollen som mäklare vilket krävde rätt kvalifikationer och karaktärer för att kunna knyta samman de olika intressenterna som realiserade policyn. Den övergripande slutsatsen är att dynamiken i realiserande av policyer av detta slag visar på orimligheten i att hitta en modell för lärande som passar alla arbetsplatsutvecklingsprogram. Vidare kan ett utvecklingsprogram skapa goda förutsättningar för lärande i deltagande organisationer om programmet ger stöd vid utformning av förändringsinsatsen och vid utveckling av en intern infrastruktur som fortsätter att stödja utveckling av arbetsplatsen efter det att programmet avslutas.  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2019. p. 78
Series
Linköping Studies in Arts and Sciences, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 761Linköping Studies in Behavioural Science, ISSN 1654-2029 ; 215
Keywords
Workplace development programme, workplace learning, social learning system, Arbetsplatslärande, nationella program, sociala lärandesystem
National Category
Learning
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-154443 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-154443 (DOI)9789176851241 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-03-01, I:101, Hus I, Campus Valla, Linköping, 13:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-02-13 Created: 2019-02-13 Last updated: 2019-03-08Bibliographically approved

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Halvarsson Lundkvist, AgnetaGustavsson, Maria

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