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Learning in disrupted projects: on the nature of corporate and personal learning

Howick, S.M. and Eden, C. (2007) Learning in disrupted projects: on the nature of corporate and personal learning. International Journal of Production Research, 45 (12). pp. 2775-2797. ISSN 0020-7543

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The majority of large, complex projects suffer disruptions. These can have unexpected and significant impacts on a project, resulting in excessive time and cost overruns. Disrupted projects therefore require careful management in order to minimize the impact of a disruption. One element of a project for which disruptions will have a particular impact is on any anticipated learning gains. Loss of learning from disruptions can often be very significant. This lost learning may be from individual workers (personal) or by the organization (corporate). An understanding of the impact of a particular disruption on learning is required to enable effective management of that disruption. This paper argues that improved management of learning in disrupted projects may come from the disaggregation of personal and corporate learning from the typically used aggregated learning curve presumptions. The literature is reviewed to explore whether a method of disaggregation can be determined from existing propositions about the behaviour of learning curves. The explorations demonstrate that the disaggregation of a learning curve is complex. The contribution of this paper derives from developing an understanding of the role of asymptotes in constructing learning curves, and the nature of the interaction between personal and corporate learning. These two aspects are argued to be crucial aspects in managing the impact of disruptions on learning. The main motivation for this work is to provide managers with an understanding of the disaggregation process, in order that they can think through the impact of a disruption on learning in their own projects.