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The relationship between organizational learning and SME performance in Poland


Anna Michna
Faculty of Organization and Management, Silesian University of Technology, Roosevelta, Poland
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to identify and dene dimensions of organizational learning and the way it affects small- or medium-size enterprise (SME) performance. Design/methodology/approach The empirical research is carried out in Polish SMEs (the sample size is 211 enterprises). In order to test the constructed hypotheses we use factor analysis with varimax rotation, correlation analysis and cluster analysis. The sales and employment growth gures and synthetic McKenzie index are used to evaluate SME performance. Findings In the empirical study, 11 empirical dimensions of organizational learning are identied and dened. The empirical research shows that sales and employment growth is most dependent on the following dimensions: dialogue and empowerment of the employees, collaboration, team learning, leaders attitudes. In this research, it is suggested that there is an empirical relationship between organizational learning and organizational performance. In practice it means that organizations reaching a higher level of organizational learning probably achieve higher performance. Research limitations/implications This research uses a single-respondent questionnaire. Further research could include analysis of other SME members and take into consideration subjective measures of SME development. Practical implications The research results in some important recommendations for SME leaders, who should make every effort to inspire the employees condence in each other and create an atmosphere of honest and frank exchange of information and ideas. Originality/value The results of the research ll a gap in the current knowledge of strategic management and can be used by managers, specialists, independent experts. Keywords Learning organizations, Small to medium-sized enterprises, Business performance, Leaders, Poland Paper type Research paper

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Received 27 July 2008 Revised 18 January 2009 Accepted 20 February 2009

Journal of European Industrial Training Vol. 33 No. 4, 2009 pp. 356-370 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0309-0590 DOI 10.1108/03090590910959308

1. Introduction Since organizational learning will be a crucial factor in the future for corporate survival, organizations will have to manage this process more proactively, in an intensive and coordinated way. That is why the subject concerning the inuence of organizational learning on business performance is now an important topic. Surprisingly, very few authors approach this issue and there is no theory of organizational learning which would take into account the specicity of small- or medium-size enterprise (SME) management in connection with the corporate performance. Because not enough attention has been given to the specic character of these processes in SMEs and the relationship between the processes and SMEs performance so far, the question how organizational learning proceeds in SMEs and how it affects their performance is

relevant and very important. Authors researching these issues present a number of denitions of organizational learning (Maier et al., 2001; Garvin, 1993; Senge, 1990; McElroy, 2003; Gardiner and Whiting, 1997; Steward, 2003; DiBella et al., 1996; Bukowitz and Williams, 1999; Pak Tee, 2004). Huber (2004, p. 118) says that organizational learning occurs when the organizations members revise their beliefs in ways that, when beliefs are acted upon, improve the organizations performance. It is interesting that in the presented denition the author refers to the organizations performance. Other authors also emphasize that judging organizational learning (Miner and Mezias, 1996) with reference to the organizations performance is very important (Lahteenmaki et al., 2001). The knowledge of organizational processes is also essential when it comes to management innovation (Stata, 1989). 2. Organizational learning The literature on the subject does not develop specic problems of organizational learning in SMEs. We can only nd single publications which reveal a low level of formalization (Tsang, 1997) of these processes in SMEs in contrast with large organizations. Although Sadler-Smith et al. (2001) focused on the analysis of organizational learning styles and their correlation with the entrepreneurial style and job complexity as well as SME performance. Analyzing the styles of organizational learning the researchers started by dividing them into two basic categories: passive orientation: lower level, single loop (cf. Argyris and Schon, 1978), adaptive, and incremental (cf. Senge, 1990); and active orientation: higher level, double loop, generative, and transformational (cf. DiBella et al., 1996). Cross-sector research (Sadler-Smith et al., 2001) did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship between the style of organizational learning and the performance. Other research (Chaston et al., 2001) analyzed the relationship between the learning style, competence and learning system. Sadler-Smith et al. (2000) developed and implemented a model of collaborative learning in small rms. With regard to performance the inuence of the managers behavior and the inuence of the entrepreneurial style on small business performance were also studied (Sadler-Smith et al., 2003) but this research did not cover learning. Other research was conducted in Denmark (Lund, 2004) and involved ve manufacturing rms. The analysis covered the correlation between innovation and organizational learning. Wiklund and Shepherd (2005) studied the relationship between entrepreneurial orientation and small business performance. The research did not include organizational learning but the variables that were selected for small business analysis are relevant. The behavioral dimension of organizational learning and its relationship with the effectiveness of human resource practices were the subject of research carried out by Perez Lopez et al. (2005), who studied Spanish companies with more than 200 employees. Their key ndings show that high performance human resource practices have a positive effect on organizational learning (which in turn has a positive inuence on business performance). Some research concerning organizational learning in the structural context can be found in the studies by Kim (1993) and by Berthoin et al. (1999). The subject of cross-sectional research (Berthoin et al., 1999) was long-term effectiveness of organizational learning processes in both centralized, hierarchical, and decentralized structures. The research was conducted in three countries (China, Israel, and Germany)

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and did not prove the hypothesis that hierarchical structures posed a threat to organizational learning. Marsick and Watkins (2003) proposed the dimensions of the learning organization questionnaire, which portrays the strategic dimension of the studied phenomenon. The authors identied seven separate but correlated dimensions of a learning organization. This tool was later applied by a number of researchers, for example to analyze non-prot organizations (McHargue, 2003). It was also used to study the impact of organizational learning on corporate performance, the research being done by Davis and Daley (2006) in 2000 American companies whose revenues were no less than 100 million US dollars. Birdthistle (2006) studied family SMEs in Ireland as learning organisations. The results of this research indicate that these rms have the potential to be learning organisations. The development of research in this eld makes it worth giving some thought to the present state of knowledge about organizational learning and trying to critically integrate achievements to date. Although the amount of research on organizational learning is signicant, there is no theory of organizational learning which also takes the management specicity of SMEs in connection with their performance into consideration. Since not enough attention has been paid to the specicity of these processes in SMEs in connection with their performance, the question how organizational learning takes place in SMEs and how it affects their performance is both highly topical and very important. The study had the following objectives, which also reect the research procedure: . The identication of the dimensions of organizational learning in SMEs. . The understanding of the nature of organizational learning and the way it affects SME performance. . The creation of a tool to diagnose organizational learning with regard to SME performance. The research makes an original contribution to strategic management science in two aspects. First, the literature on the subject made it possible to determine the dimensions of organizational learning but this was contrasted with the opinions of practitioners; it might have resulted in standardization, in the sense of adequacy check in Polish conditions. Second, the arguments which resulted from the empirical research led to a change in the list of the organizational learning dimensions, which makes the picture of the studied phenomenon more complete. The conducted analysis of the literature on the subject had led to putting forward the following research hypotheses: H1. Organizational learning in SMEs is a multidimensional construct. H2. There is a relationship between organizational learning and SME business performance. The research hypotheses were veried by statistical analysis of the empirical data obtained through direct study the research technique was a survey conducted with the use of a questionnaire, which was the research tool. To specify the dynamics and multidimensionality of organizational learning a versatile perspective was used describing organizational learning in the following basic dimensions: structural, strategic, and behavioral. After creating the questionnaire the tools applied in the empirical research conducted in the years 2001-2006 were analyzed. The following three scales used in the empirical research deserve special attention:

(1) The learning orientation questionnaire (Sadler-Smith et al., 2001) the strategic dimension. (2) The dimensions of the learning organization questionnaire (Marsick and Watkins, 2003) the structural dimension. (3) The scale of organizational learning (Perez Lopez et al., 2005) the behavioral dimension. The scales mentioned above complement each other, so it was assumed that there was additive synthesis between them. 3. Research design and sample In the study a deliberate selection was made (Freedman et al., 1978, pp. 302-307) the research involved companies that were members of the Regional Chamber of Commerce in Katowice (RIG). RIG is one of the biggest economic organizations in the local government in Poland and gathers about 400 member enterprises. The research covered the small and medium enterprises. The denition of SMEs was adopted in accordance with the guidelines of the Commission of the European Communities concerning micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (Ofcial Journal of the European Union, 2003). The research did not cover the micro-enterprises, companies employing 1-9 people are the subject of separate research (Van Gelderen et al., 2005). The sample size was 211 enterprises. The target group was the top managers of these companies. At the beginning an attempt was made to carry out the research by e-mail, circulating the survey questionnaire in this form. Regrettably, the total feedback (after the third reminder) was about 1 percent (only three survey questionnaires) so this method was abandoned. Eventually, a decision was made to do the research at the companies premises or in the RIG headquarters the forms were delivered and collected personally. The proper research was preceded by a pilot study. In the course of the proper research, 107 completed survey questionnaires were received (the valid response rate was 50.71 percent). This sample was divided into certain categories according to the number of employees, the length of time the company had been in the market, the companys line of business. To divide the sample according to the number of employees, the criterion introduced by Weir et al. (2000) was applied and the following sample structure was obtained: companies employing 10-50 people, 39.25 percent; 51-100 people, 28.04 percent; 101-250 people, 32.71 percent. The majority of those companies were in the rst category of enterprises, with up to 50 employees. To divide the sample according to the length of time the rm had been in the market, the criterion introduced by Bantel (1998) was applied and the following sample structure was obtained: companies operating in the market for up to ve years 15.89 percent, companies operating in the market for 6-13 years 46.73 percent, companies operating in the market for 14-21 years 25.23 percent, companies operating in the market for 22 or more years 12.15 percent. The most companies were in the second category of enterprises, with the length of time in the market of 6-13 years this group constituted almost 50 percent of all the rms. The sample was also divided according to the rms line of business. Manufacturing companies accounted for the majority of respondents and constituted almost one-third of the respondents. Next were the sales companies 16.82 percent; other service companies 12.15 percent; construction companies 11.21 percent; real estate companies 9.35 percent; transport companies 7.48 percent; nancial brokerage companies 6.54 percent; and the other companies not more than 5 percent.

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4. The relationship between organizational learning and organizational performance of SMEs At the rst stage of the research a factor analysis was carried out; to classify the factors a taxonomic method was applied, namely the Ward method (1963). The cluster analysis of 105 items (all items were measured using a seven-point Likert scale) allowed to identify the following eleven dimensions of organizational learning: (1) D1 strategy stability. (2) D2 approach to risk and experimentation. (3) D3 creating individual learning opportunities for the employees. (4) D4 dialogue and empowerment of the employees. (5) D5 collaboration and team learning. (6) D6 leaders attitudes. (7) D7 connecting the organization to its environment. (8) D8 knowledge acquisition. (9) D9 organizational memory. (10) D10 hiring and compensation. (11) D11 key results. The identied and dened dimensions did not coincide with the original dimensions (Sadler-Smith et al., 2001; Marsick and Watkins, 2003; Perez Lopez et al., 2005) which had been assumed on the basis of relevant literature. A reliability coefcient was established for the scales measuring separate dimensions for each scale this coefcient was higher than 0.7 which conrmed their high reliability. Then the relationships were studied between the identied and dened dimensions of organizational learning in SMEs. The analysis showed no relationship between dimension D1 and the majority of other dimensions, except for dimensions D2, D4, and D8, which were correlated negatively with D1 (at a low but statistically relevant level). The strongest relationship existed between dimension D11 and the following dimensions: D6, D4, D3, and D5 (Table I). It was also analyzed whether the differences between the dimensions of organizational learning, depending on the control variables such as the number of employees, the length of time the rm had been in the market, the rms line of business, were statistically relevant. In the subsequent research, nonparametric analysis of variance for independent samples was applied: the Kruskal-Wallis test (Ferguson and Takane, 1989, pp. 463-465). The Kruskal-Wallis ANOVA on ranks showed that there were statistically relevant differences ( p , 0.05), depending on the number of employees, between the following dimensions of organizational learning: D3, D4, D5, and D6 (Table II). It was shown that there were statistically relevant differences, depending on the length of time the rm had been in the market, between the studied categories of enterprises, for dimension D4. It was also shown that there were statistically relevant differences between the lines of business, for dimension D1. In the conducted empirical research the dependent variable was organizational performance. To assess the performance of the studied SMEs, the protability index, also called the McKenzie index (McKenzie, 1996), was applied, and calculated as the quotient of two variables: gross prot and net sales revenue.

D1 20.06 0.54 * * * 1.00 0.79 * * * 0.77 * * * 0.84 * * * 0.77 * * * 0.76 * * * 0.73 * * * 0.67 * * * 0.74 * * * 1.00 0.89 * * * 0.87 * * * 0.78 * * * 0.63 * * * 0.70 * * * 0.67 * * * 0.75 * * * 1.00 0.72 * * * 0.57 * * * 0.63 * * * 20.20 * 0.68 * * * 0.79 * * * 2 0.09 0.53 * * * 0.77 * * * 0.89 * * * 1.00 0.85 * * * 0.80 * * * 0.58 * * * 0.67 * * * 0.64 * * * 0.71 * * * 20.16 0.57 * * * 0.84 * * * 0.87 * * * 0.85 * * * 1.00 0.78 * * * 0.77 * * * 0.82 * * * 0.68 * * * 0.79 * * * 20.14 0.57 * * * 0.77 * * * 0.78 * * * 0.80 * * * 0.78 * * * 1.00 0.61 * * * 0.66 * * * 0.60 * * * 0.66 * * * 20.11 0.56 * * * 0.73 * * * 0.70 * * * 0.67 * * * 0.82 * * * 0.66 * * * 0.72 * * * 1.00 0.61 * * * 0.70 * * * 2 0.29 * * 0.51 * * * 0.76 * * * 0.63 * * * 0.58 * * * 0.77 * * * 0.61 * * *

D2

D3

D4

D5

D6

D7

D8

D9

D10 20.14 0.50 * * * 0.67 * * * 0.67 * * * 0.64 * * * 0.68 * * * 0.60 * * * 0.57 * * * 0.61 * * * 1.00 0.66

D11 2 0.13 0.53 * * * 0.74 * * * 0.75 * * * 0.71 * * * 0.79 * * * 0.66 * * * 0.63 * * * 0.70 * * * 0.66 1.00

D1 D2 D3 D4 D5 D6 D7 D8 D9 D10 D11

2 0.26 * *

1.00 20.26 * * 20.06 20.20 * 20.09 20.16 20.14 20.29 * * 20.11 20.14 20.13

1.00 0.54 * * * 0.68 * * * 0.53 * * * 0.57 * * * 0.57 * * * 0.51 * * * 0.56 * * * 0.50 * * * 0.53 * * *

Notes: *p , 0.05; * *p , 0.01; * * *p , 0.001

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Table I. Correlations between the dimensions of organizational learning

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ANOVA enterprises categorized by the number of employees p D1 D2 D3 D4 D5 D6 D7 D8 D9 D10 D11 0.247 0.193 0.036 * 0.001 * * 0.005 * * 0.044 * 0.427 0.067 0.092 0.052 0.058

ANOVA enterprises categorized by the length of time they had been in the market p 0.204 0.067 0.331 0.019 * 0.252 0.071 0.361 0.593 0.667 0.589 0.429

ANOVA enterprises categorized by the line of business p 0.038 * 0.423 0.954 0.895 0.667 0.900 0.677 0.438 0.938 0.538 0.900

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Table II. ANOVA analysis of variance

Notes: *p , 0.05; * *p , 0.01

It was also decided to use the sales growth index as the key index of performance considered a category of organizational activity assessment (Zahra et al., 2000), particularly new activity assessment. Furthermore, to assess the performance of the studied SMEs, the income growth rate (Wolff and Pett, 2005; Sadler-Smith et al., 2001; Wiklund and Shepherd, 2005) was employed. The analysis was commenced with statistical variable analysis the rms above the 95th percentile and below the fth percentile were removed as they were atypical observations. The Pearson correlation was calculated between the income growth rate and the dimensions of organizational learning, from D1 to D11 (Table III). It was demonstrated that there were very clear and strong positive correlations between the

D1 D10 of organizational learning D1 strategy stability D2 approach to risk and experimentation D3 creating individual learning opportunities for the employees D4 dialogue and empowerment of the employees D5 collaboration and team learning D6 leaders attitudes D7 connecting the organization to its environment D8 knowledge acquisition D9 organizational memory D10 hiring and compensation D11 key results Notes: *p , 0.01; * *p , 0.001

Income growth 2 0.020 0.556 * * 0.533 * * 0.649 * * 0.559 * * 0.631 * * 0.499 * * 0.519 * * 0.554 * * 0.542 * * 0.678 * *

McKenzie index growth 20.143 0.122 0.056 0.123 0.128 0.161 0.066 0.070 0.044 0.107 0.136

Employment growth 20.130 0.444 * * 0.468 * * 0.609 * * 0.553 * * 0.539 * * 0.440 * * 0.331 * 0.360 * * 0.337 * * 0.473 * *

Table III. Results of the analysis of the correlation between dimensions D1 to D11 of organizational learning and the income, McKenzie index and employment growths

income growth and dimensions D2-D10. Dimension D1 (strategy stability) was negatively correlated with the dependent variable but it was a statistically irrelevant relationship; it is also visible in the scatter graph, where the observations form a chaotic cloud. With regards to the performance measured by income growth the most important factors of organizational learning were the following dimensions: D4 dialogue and empowerment of the employees, D6 leaders attitudes, D5 collaboration and team learning. Dimension D11 (key results), out of all the dimensions of organizational learning, had the strongest correlation with the income growth. 5. Discussion, implications, limitations A broad study of the literature on the subject was conducted; which aim was conceptualization of the idea of organizational learning. Various approaches to organizational learning, their elaboration and modication were presented and an attempt to systematize them was made. Although the discussed perspectives and approaches to organizational learning are different, it does not mean they exclude each other; on the contrary, they are complementary, which show the various aspects of this complex and multifaceted phenomenon. The research tools used in Polish conditions were veried and the dimensions of organizational learning were identied and dened. Generally, the created research tool was appropriate but the dimensions of organizational learning resulting from it did not prove it to be correct because they interpenetrate as the empirical research showed. Eleven empirical dimensions of organizational learning were identied and dened. A reliability analysis of the above mentioned dimensions was conducted, with the use of Cronbachs a coefcient. Thus, high accuracy of the scales serving as tools to assess the dimensions of organizational learning was proved. To sum up, in Polish conditions, in order to assess the dimensions of organizational learning in SMEs, employing the scales created is recommended, as well as the identied dimensions. The research suggested that there were signicant differences in organizational learning depending on the number of employees, the age of the company and the line of business. Special attention should be paid to the differences in organizational learning within manufacturing companies their specicity in this regard can be the subject of further research. The research proved that organizational performance, measured by sales growth and growth in number of employees, depended on all but one (D1 strategy stability) of the dimensions of organizational learning, all the correlations reaching a high level of statistical signicance. The study showed that sales and employment growth were most dependent on the following dimensions (out of the eleven ones): . D4 dialogue and empowerment of the employees. . D5 collaboration and team learning. . D6 leaders attitudes. It is worth mentioning that the research indicated the same dimensions but in a slightly different order. It is also interesting that a stronger relationship existed between the dimensions of organizational learning and sales growth than between the dimensions of organizational learning and growth in number of employees. Dimension D1 showed no relationship to sales growth as well as to growth in number of employees.

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A separate piece of research was conducted for D11 (key results), which showed the highest correlation coefcient (almost 0.7) with sales growth, of all the dimensions of organizational learning. Thus, a very strong relationship was proven between this dimension and the dependent variable. An analysis of the relation between the dimensions D1-D10 and the dimension D11 showed a very strong relationship between the results of organizational learning (D11) and all the other dimensions except for D1. The strongest relationships existed for the same dimensions which affected sales growth and employment growth (in a slightly different order). Additionally, it must be said that a strong relationship was also observed between D3 (creating individual learning opportunities for the employees) and D11 (key results). The question of the effect of the dimension D1 (strategy stability) on protability growth requires further research because the analysis results, before the removing of atypical observations, showed a low, but statistically relevant, negative relationship. However, this relationship did not show in the repeated study, which was conducted after the removing of atypical observations. None of the other dimensions from D2 to D11 showed any relationship with the protability growth of the studied organizations, expressed by the McKenzie index. Further research should also examine other parameters reecting protability of enterprises, e.g. the index showing the protability resulting only from operational activities. Incidentally, it can be assumed that for enterprises outside the SME sector these relations may be different. Central variables were identied for the selected dimensions of organizational learning with the use of center of gravity method. In order to better understand the nature of the studied phenomenon some calculations were performed, which showed the following central features for these, determined in the previous stage of the research, dimensions: . D3 (creating individual learning opportunities for the employees) central feature: my organization monitors the results of devoting time and resources to training. . D4 (dialogue and empowerment of the employees) central feature: my organization encourages the people to contribute to the organizations vision. . D5 (collaboration and team learning) central feature: in my organization the people do not hide their reactions, openly and frankly express their opinions and share their experience. . D6 (leaders attitudes) central feature: in my organization the leaders give advice to their subordinates and train them. . D11 (key results) central feature: the number of new products or services is bigger than in the previous year. A tool was created to diagnose organizational learning with regard to SME performance. The tool can be employed to analyze the level of the dimensions of organizational learning. The determination of the organizational learning components which are characterized by a low level and the ones which are characterized by a high level can certainly be the basis for setting guidelines by the managers. This tool gives SMEs a practical chance to improve their performance.

The research resulted in the following recommendations for SME managing staff: . Managers should be exibly creative, also at the strategic level. It was shown that the more stable the strategy of an organization the lower the level of knowledge acquired by it. On the other hand, the more exible the strategy of a company the larger the extent to which organizational systems and procedures support innovation. Dialogue and empowerment of the employees decrease together with the strategy stability, which may cause difculties in obtaining necessary information and discourage the employees from asking questions people stop asking what the others think and do not want to revise their opinions. Growing strategy stability worsens the approach to risk and experimentation and makes both the employees and the customers lack motivation to inform the organization that there is room for improvement. Generally speaking, these directly proportional relationships are best visible in enterprises employing 10-50 people and in new enterprises operating in the market for less than ve years. Strategy stability is strongly negatively correlated with all the dimensions of organizational learning in the case of manufacturing enterprises. Thus, it can be said that in this case strategy stability blocks organizational learning processes. It is worth underlining here that the research showed that the higher strategy stability of manufacturing enterprises the smaller the number of new products and customer satisfaction. . Managers should be leaders advising their subordinates, since it was shown that the key results of organizational learning process depend on the leaders attitudes in the most crucial way. If the leaders advise their subordinates, train them and inform all the employees about the companys objectives, the organization achieves better results of organizational learning. Leaders themselves should constantly seek opportunities to learn and they should also share the current information about the competitors with the employees as well as information about the trends in the market. Moreover, the better opportunities for individual learning for the employees a company creates the better results of organizational learning are achieved and an increased number of new products and services are launched by the company. It follows from what was said that the leaders role also consists in supporting of requests for training and in creating learning opportunities as well as monitoring the training results. It is also important to keep open discussions about the mistakes so that the people can learn from them and avoid them in the future. . The management of SMEs should be characterized by a will to accept risk and by a positive approach to experimentation, which means for example encouraging people to experiment with innovative methods of work. The research showed that risk acceptance decreases with growth in the number of employees. The level of dialogue and empowerment of the employees decreases with growth in the employment to a signicant extent, two-way communication is also worse. Collaboration is better developed in small companies and teams treat their members as peers regardless of their rank. These companies are also the best ones with regard to the connecting of the organization to its environment owing to, among other things, the fact that the customers views are taken into consideration in decision-making processes. On the other hand, creating learning

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opportunities for the individual employees is a strong point of enterprises employing more than 100 people. The level of organizational memory (D9) is also of signicant importance for SME effectiveness (Table III). Enterprises should have and use constantly updated databases to maintain their knowledge and experience. The management of the enterprises which have been operating in the market for a longer time should develop specic dimensions of organizational learning. Encouraging the employees to contribute to the organizational vision is particularly important as the research showed that the youngest enterprises, operating in the market for less than ve years, achieved the highest level of organizational learning. These enterprises obtained the highest average level in nine out of eleven dimensions of organizational learning. The managers of an organization should create an atmosphere encouraging an open and sincere exchange of opinions and experience since the research proved it was crucial for collaboration. The certainty that the organization will use the teams achievements and the people will be justly rewarded stimulates teamwork. An inherent feature of team learning processes is also the fact that the people treat each other with respect and build mutual condence.

The general rules for organizational learning, allowing managers to guide it efciently, are of particular importance because in the future they will create a way of leading people that will stimulate organizational learning both at the individual level and the team level. The leaders should do their best to make team condence grow, to create an atmosphere of frank and open dialogue and to encourage the employees to contribute to the organizational vision. It is important, as to interpretation of the obtained results, to underline the existence of certain restrictions on the conducted empirical research, the main one being the attribution of its results to the selected sample. So, it is possible that the selection of a different set of organizations and in a different cultural environment could give different results, which could be analyzed further. On the other hand, the analysis showed very high reliability the Cronbachs a coefcients for each dimension were higher than 0.7. Another limitation to the presented research, also opening a eld for further analysis, is its time dimension. The level and intensity of the dimensions of organizational learning was studied as well as their impact on organizational performance at the given moment of time, which makes the research a unique picture of those organizations. In order to analyze the discussed problem more fully the research should be repeated on the same sample in a few years. It would increase our knowledge of what is happening in Polish SMEs with regard to organizational learning. 6. Further research In this research, it was suggested that there was an empirical relationship between organizational learning and organizational performance. In practice it means that organizations reaching a higher level of organizational learning probably achieve higher performance. However, further research is needed to verify the existence of specic congurations of explained variables, which are polarized by control variables. So, it is worth considering whether the amount of earned income causes unique

variance in the dimensions of organizational learning in different types of organizations or not. Some research on organizational learning and performance could also be done at the individual level, not only at the organizational level, as such a presentation may make us fall into the trap of researching what others think of what the organization thinks (Meyer et al., 2002). The control variables at the individual level (age, gender, education, and yearly income) may make the results different, affect each other and then lead to different intensity of particular dimensions. Future research could also take into consideration subjective measures of SME development, as it was shown that subjective measures of development had a great inuence on entrepreneurs decisions and behavior and so on the development of the company. The limitations described above open a eld for future research and indicate a need for further analysis in the area of organizational learning and organizational performance. Future research could also take into consideration subjective measures of SME development (Simpson et al., 2007; Reijonen, 2007). The review of the literature on the subject proves that the dialectical approach to empirical analysis of organizational learning processes has not been applied so far. The contradictions, resulting from the identied dimensions of organizational learning, can be divided into following: . Learning through innovation acting in accordance with set procedures. . Creating new models using the past models. . Empowerment of the employees supervision of work. . Teamwork individual work. . Self-organizing mechanistic structure. . Exploiting emerging opportunities implementing the intended strategy. . External partners participation in problem-solving seeking development potential inside the organization. It should be said that the management ought to concentrate their efforts on continuous, rational reconciling and blending contradictions of organizational learning since according to a dialectical principle, collision of opposites has a creative nature. Limitations of simultaneity of exploration and exploitation (He and Wong, 2004; Ortenblad, 2002; Dixon, 1999) can result from the fact that tensions in the organization may become impossible to control if both exploration and exploitation reach their extreme. All this reveals complexity and difculty in managing balance between exploration and exploitation. Hence this is a very promising direction for further research.
References Argyris, C. and Schon, D.A. (1978), Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA. Bantel, K.A. (1998), Technology-based adolescent rm congurations: strategy identication, context and performance, Journal of Business Venturing, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 205-30. Berthoin, A.A., Dierkes, M. and Marz, L. (1999), Organizational learning in China, Germany and Israel, Journal of General Management, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 63-88.

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