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Operationalising “Double-Loop” Learning in Service Organisations: A Systems Approach for Creating Knowledge


Learning organisation literature has widely discussed the connections between “double-loop” learning and its significance to organisational performance, but paying little attention to tools and systems that can operationalise “double-loop” learning in organisations. This paper investigates the impact of applying a systems approach for service operations design, expressed as the Vanguard Method (Seddon, Freedom from command and control: a better way to make the work work, 2003), in order to activate “double-loop” learning in service organisations. Two case studies were conducted in the banking mortgage operations and adults’ social care services in the UK, using the dimensions of the learning organisation questionnaire (DLOQ), semi-structured interviews, observations, and documents. The findings of the cross-case analysis support the link of applying the Vanguard Method with operationalising “double-loop” learning through three main factors, namely systematic-operations improvement, organisational capacity development, and outside-in mode of work; that are all embedded into the seven dimensions of the DLOQ. The value of this paper is the introduction of a service operations design tool that can activate “double-loop” learning performance in the fast changing knowledge era. It also provides an impetus for service organisations to creatively influence employees’ competencies to effectively improve internal systems.

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Correspondence to Ayham A. M. Jaaron.

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Jaaron, A.A.M., Backhouse, C.J. Operationalising “Double-Loop” Learning in Service Organisations: A Systems Approach for Creating Knowledge. Syst Pract Action Res 30, 317–337 (2017).

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  • “Double-loop” learning
  • Learning organisation
  • The Vanguard method
  • Systems thinking
  • Service operations
  • Operations management