Advisor

Maria Talbott

Date of Award

Fall 12-12-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research

Department

Social Work

Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 323 pages)

Subjects

Organizational learning -- Pacific Northwest -- Case studies, Social work administration -- Pacific Northwest -- Case studies, Organizational change, Organizational behavior

DOI

10.15760/etd.2093

Abstract

Although learning organization theory evolved in corporate settings, literature suggests that the theory has much to offer human service organizations. This dissertation examines the implementation of a modified learning organization model in three small field offices of a publicly-funded vocational rehabilitation organization in the Pacific Northwest, at a time when the organization was negotiating financial cutbacks and organizational changes. The model - known as Strengths in Action - was based on Senge's five learning organization disciplines, and informed by organizational culture theory. In each participating office, all staff worked together to set a goal, make a plan, and achieve the goal.

This dissertation covers the implementation of the modified learning organization model; the factors that facilitated and impeded the model's implementation; the model's impact on participating offices' climate and culture; and the similarities and differences among participating offices. This primarily qualitative study utilized mixed methods: observations, interviews, and an online survey.

Implementation of the model resulted in individual and team learning, better staff communication, more productive teamwork, stronger staff relationships, stronger office/community partner relationships, and improved office morale. This study shows that such a model can be effective in a human service setting, moving workgroups away from a mode of individual workers reactively handling individual cases, and toward a mode of proactive collective problem-solving. It also provides strong evidence that a learning organization model, implemented during a period of resource retrenchment, can produce substantial benefits for small workgroups within human service organizations, even when the model is not disseminated organization-wide.

Persistent Identifier

http://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/13203

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