Past organizational change and managerial evaluations of crisis: A case of double-loop learning effects in non-profit organizations

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Purpose: This paper examines the critical effect of learning from past changes on employees' evaluations regarding the extent that a crisis can be controlled and prevented. It is suggested that previous changes incorporate elements of a double-loop learning process that shape managerial perceptions of crisis controllability and crisis prevention. Design/methodology/approach: The present study is based on a field study of 225 NPOs. Using closed-end questionnaires the issues pertaining to crisis and learning are examined. Findings: The results show that the mere experience of previous changes enhances managers' estimations of crisis control, but lowers their estimations of crisis prevention. These results indicate that using the double-loop learning process contributes to a better understanding of organizational competence in non-profit organizations. Research limitations/implications: The present study provides a starting-point for further research, in which crisis is seen as the antecedent of possible learning experiences that could further enhance capabilities of preventing future crises. The sample is restricted to nonprofit settings, using a relatively small sample. Further studies should address this link using for-profit and public organizations, or even conduct comparative studies. Originality/value: No empirical studies are available that assess the line between crisis learning and probable crisis prevention evaluations. The notable and promising side-effect of the study shows how much remains unexplored in regard to both crisis and learning, forming important lessons for managers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-507
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Workplace Learning
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Non-profit organizations
  • Organizational change
  • Risk management
  • Workplace learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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