Bank advisors working with contradiction : meeting the demands of control through reflective learning
Abstract This study of a Norwegian bank’s strategic learning initiatives is based on theory about reflective learning and external constraints on learning. Its main aim is to investigate how the practice of reflective learning among advisors who provide customer service is influenced by new institutional demands, strategic learning initiatives and senior management in an organisation using the Balanced Scorecard. The empirical data were derived from 40 qualitative interviews, eight two-day focus groups and observation of 35 learning activities. Grounded theory was used to analyse the consistency or contradictions between organisational strategy and the understanding of employees about learning activities at work. In addition 2284 registered learning activities recorded by Bank employees on a Balanced Scorecard were analysed. Empirical findings indicate that the management’s new top-down strategy for learning in the organisation – ‘Best Customer Practice’ (recording information about and accounting for learning) when combined with a new institutional demand for authorization and training – has a controlling function that contradicts the organisation’s own rhetoric about promoting reflective learning among the employees. Employees value reflective learning arising from customer relations as it improves motivation and customer service in general. The broader may promote top-management control that constrains the contribution by employees of new ideas, based on reflection about their work, for improving the quality of the services that they provide.
CitationReflective Practice 12(2011) nr. 5 s. 629-644
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