Understanding Change in the Deutsche Telekom Group: The Problem of Organisational Learning at Top Management Level

Bungartz, Beate (2009). Understanding Change in the Deutsche Telekom Group: The Problem of Organisational Learning at Top Management Level. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000eb20


Performance and sustainability of a company are often viewed as being strongly influenced by its top management. And yet, despite a rich literature in the field of organisational learning, little is known about how the top management of a company acquires and maintains the knowledge of "how to run the business", especially in fast-changing environments. This study focuses on Deutsche Telekom as it sought to transform itself during a turbulent period from a traditional operator into an international, diverse business player.

This work seeks to extend the theory and understanding of organisational learning to this particular group of people at the apex of the organisation and contributes to the debate of top-level organisational learning (TLOL) as a dynamic capability. The study, which is based upon longitudinal, qualitative research, featuring separate cases embedded within a single, large organisation, explores the methods and outcomes of TLOL. Comparative cases in different organisational settings and business contexts, at corporate and at divisional level, were used in this diversified organisation to empirically investigate the deployed initiatives and methods as well as drivers of and barriers to TLOL.

The research contributes to and expands upon current theory by providing empirical evidence that the interplay between exogenous factors, strategy, the characteristics of the organisation and of the top management group shapes the methods used for TLOL. It provides evidence of the link between learning method and organisational outcomes. The study finds that in the turbulent environment described, the deployed methods for TLOL in the mature part of the organization differed substantially from the learning methods used in the young, fast-growing divisions. The learning methods used did, however, not produce exclusively positive results. Finally, by developing a new conceptual framework, the study allows researchers and management to systematically examine and shape top-level organisational learning within their own organisations.

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