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A critical appraisal of the performance of Royal Dutch Shell as a learning organisation in the 1990s

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Since the late 1980s, learning organisations have been deemed to have a number of advantages over non-learning ones. One organisation that has been identified as "a premiere learning organisation", is Royal Dutch Shell (RDS). Despite this, in 1998 its results were the worst in its history. Seeks to explain how and why this happened. Considers the advantages claimed for learning organisations, the features of them that enhance an organisation's competitive advantage and those that can obstruct their effectiveness. Analyses the performance of RDS over a period of time in the light of the changing conditions in the oil industry. In particular examines a variety of learning methods used by RDS in the critical period prior to and during the 1990s. From this, addresses differences between the characteristics of RDS in the 1990s, compared with previously, on the one hand, and with those identified as significant for ensuring that learning organisations create competitive advantage, on the other hand, in an effort to explain RDS's poor performance at the end of the 1990s.
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Keywords: Bureaucracy; Leadership; Learning organizations; Oil industry; Scenario planning

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2002

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