Organizational Learning, Knowledge Management, Expertise, Engineering Firms, Research Methodology, Learning Models


Organizations with multiple operating requirements require support functions to assist in execution of strategic goals. This effort, in turn, requires management of engineering activities in control of projects and in sustaining facilities. High level strategies include employing engineering support that consists of a project management function encompassing technical and managerial disciplines. The architecture/engineering, and construction office (AEC) is the subject of this research. Engineering and construction oriented organizations have experienced challenges to their abilities to learn and grow. This has potential detrimental implications for these organizations if support functions cannot keep pace with changing objectives and strategy. The competitive nature and low industry margins as well as uniqueness of projects as challenges facing engineering and construction. The differentiated nature of projects tasks also creates a need for temporary and dedicated modes of operation and thereby tends to promote highly dispersed management practices that do not dovetail very well with other organizational processes. Organizational learning is a means to enhance and support knowledge management for improving performance. The problem addressed through this research is the gap between desired and achieved individual and group learning by members of the AEC, and the members' abilities to distinguish between the need for adaptive learning or innovation. This research addresses learning by individuals and groups, and the strategies employed through an empirical study (survey). A conceptual model for organizational learning contributions by individuals and groups is presented and tested for confirmation of exploitive or explorative learning strategies for individuals, and directions composed of depth and breadth of learning. Strategies for groups are tested for internal or external search orientations and directions toward the single or multi-discipline unit. The survey is analyzed by method of principal components extraction and further interpreted to reveal factors that are correlated by Pearson product moment coefficients and tested for significance for potential relationships to factors for outcomes. Correlation across dependent variables prevented interpretation of the most significant factors for group learning strategies. However, results provide possible support for direction in supporting processes that promote networking among individuals and group structures that recognize the dual nature of knowledge - that required for technical competency and that required for success in the organization. Recommendations for practitioners include adjustments to knowledge acquisition direction, promoting external collaboration among firms, and provision of dual succession pathways through technical expertise or organizational processes for senior staff.


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Graduation Date



Kotnour, Timothy


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Industrial Engineering and Management Systems

Degree Program

Industrial Engineering








Release Date

September 2009

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)