Re: double-loop learning

Gary F. Blanchard, MPA (
Sat, 02 Nov 1996 00:28:49 -0800 wrote:
> "Gary F. Blanchard, MPA" <> wrote:
> > I would like to benefit from your conversation, but am not sure so far
> > that I have actually seen documented what this 'double-loop' phenomenon
> > is all about, according to its apparent inventor, Argyris.
> >
> > Did I just miss that, or has it in fact not been presented here?
> >
> > If not, could it be, with appropriate reference?
> >
> Here is the reference and the relevant excerpts:
> Argyris, C. (1977). Organizational Learning and Management
> Information Systems. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 2(2),
> 113-123.
> "When a thermostat turns the heat on or off, it is acting in keeping
> with the program of orders given to it to keep the room temperature,
> let us say, at 68 degrees. This is single loop learning, because the
> underlying program is not questioned. The overwhelming amount of
> learning done in an organization is single loop because it is designed
> to identify and correct errors so that the job gets done and the
> action remains within stated policy guidelines. The massive technology
> of management information systems, quality control systems, and audits
> of quality control systems is designed for single loop learning." (p.
> 113)
> "The trouble arises when the technology is not effective and when the
> underlying objectives and policies must be questioned. Let us examine
> the first case. A budgetary control system is designed to increase the
> likelihood that certain objectives will be met. If the objectives are
> not met but the causes can be corrected without questioning the
> original objectives around which it was designed or without
> questioning the competence and loyalty of those using it, then the
> error will, in all likelihood, be corrected. However, if the
> underlying objectives require re-examination or if someone or some
> department is going to get in trouble, it will be much more difficult
> to identify and to correct the errors. The former case is the
> equivalent of the thermostat following its program and orders. The
> latter is the equivalent of the thermostat questioning in order: that
> is what is meant by double loop learning. " (p. 113-114)
> "Most organizations, often without realizing it, create systems of
> learning that suppress double loop inquiry and make it very difficult
> for even a well designed information system to be effective." (p.
> 113).
> "...[O]rganizations manifest learning systems that inhibit the
> detection and correction of errors that involves the questioning of
> the existing learning system." (p. 120)
> "[T]here are inherent contradictions embedded in organizations that
> cannot be eliminated because they are inherent in the use of
> information to manage organizations and in the limited capacities of
> individuals for information processing." (p. 121)
> Cheers,
> Yogesh Malhotra
> -----------------------------------------------------------------
> Yogesh Malhotra E-Mail:
> Editor/Publisher, A Business Researcher's Interests
> University of Pittsburgh +1 (412) 648-1646 (voice)
> Katz School of Business, MRH 251 +1 (412) 648-1693 (fax)
> Pittsburgh, PA 15260 URL:

Dear Yogesh,

Thanks very much for your quick response. I shall take a little time
to read and mull over the statement. As I do, I note that the date of
the item is 1977 - 20 years ago. I imagine some powerful reviews and
insights have been produced by thinkers more knowledgeable than me in
that time.

Does anyone out there have access to Book Reviews/Critiques of the
notion which they could note here, as Yogesh has done with the basic
idea? That might help those of us who are less knowledgeable in this
particular area to identify some general, basic questions and issues we
could focus on, and relate to our shared interest in constructivism.

Thanks...and RSVP.

					Sincerely yours,                                           

Gary F. Blanchard Voice (609) 871-2024 FAX (609) 835-9524