The approach taken is descriptive rather than prescriptive. Indeed, the authors insist that it is neither possible nor desirable to set out a prescriptive approach to build a learning organisation. The book relies heavily on extended case studies and includes substantial biographical detail on the leaders and key facilitators in the selected cases, as well as extended invited contributions by four of them. These case studies are used to illustrate the main shared features that the authors have observed in successful transformation to an organisation that is able to learn as part of its continuing functioning. Key features on which they focus include the use of 'action technologies' (action research, action learning and action science), a systemic view of change and an emphasis on the power of partnership between HR professionals and line managers.
The three 'action technologies' that lie at the heart of their preferred methodologies are jargon terms for: ß a research and design methodology that iterates from diagnosis through vision building and alignment to experiments and reassessment ß action learning using a number of devices to integrate learning and work, and ß the use of the techniques of skilled conversation and group learning to identify and resolve issues - the process of cycling between action and reflection and the principles involved in 'double loop learning' The conclusions are unsurprising, but it is useful to see them reinforced.
The authors do a service in reminding us that, while there are universal underlying principles, the move towards a learning organisation is an exploration and its steps can not be codified. Those who like to learn through case studies will find the book useful and practising facilitators will probably find it useful to 'compare notes' with those quoted in the book. However, it certainly does not replace any of my established favourites in this field.