Organisational learning and information systems : an exploration from a sensemaking perspective.

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Copyright: Jap, Tji-Beng
This thesis explores the relationship between information systems (IS) and organisational learning. The literature suggests that IS implementation and use can affect and stimulate organisational learning, including higher order learning. However, it is not well understood when and how IS enable and support and when they disable and prevent organisational learning. Furthennore, studies of the relationship between IS and organisational learning tend to reflect theoretical fragmentation of organisational learning literature - focusing either on the individual or on the organisation as a learning entity. The objective of this thesis is to explore the relationship between IS and organisational learning beyond these limitations, including different learning views from the individual up to the organizational. This is achieved by drawing from a Sensemaking perspective of organizations (Weick, 1995) that fills an important gap in linking infonnation systems, organizing, and learning. The Sensemaking perspective offers an understanding of human sensemaking and sense-'unmaking' as an essential individual, collective and organisational ingredient of organising and learning. By integrating Argyris and SchÖn' s (1978) theory of organisational learning with the sensemaking model of organizations this thesis suggests a more comprehensive view to explore the relationship between IS and organisational learning. Specifically this thesis examines the following research question: What are the ways and mechanisms by which information systems' implementation and use engage sensemaking in organisations, and how does such engagement engender or prevent organisational learning? This research question is investigated through an interpretive, longitudinal case study of the implementation and use of a loan approval information system in a large South-East Asian Bank. The study involved an extensive collection of data from the Bank headquarters and its branches, including 43 interviews, strategic and operational documents, IS project documents and informal discussions. The thesis makes two important contributions to knowledge. Grounded in empirical data, it first argues that the emergence of organizational learning when instigated by an IS implementation is likely to follow the pattern from 'not learning', to 'single-loop' to 'double-loop' learning. Secondly, it also proposes that an IS's likelihood to instigate organizational learning depends on the nature of sensemaking involved: a) if an IS implementation engages only individual, intra-subjective sensemaking organizational learning is not likely to occur and system is at risk of being rejected; b) for single-loop learning to emerge the engagement of intra- and inter-subjective sensemaking, mutually intertwined during an IS implementation, is required, and c)the change of mindset and double-loop learning can be achieved through the interplay of all sensemaking processes (intra, inter, generic-subjective and extra-subjective) in an IS implementation. This thesis puts to the test and demonstrates the value of the Sensemaking approach to the understanding of the relationship between IS implementation and organisational learning.
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Jap, Tji-Beng
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PhD Doctorate
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