Exploring the role of goal setting and external accountability mechanisms in embedding strategic learning plans in small firms

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Abstract

Purpose: This paper explores the role of goal setting and external accountability mechanisms in embedding strategic learning plans in small firms. The research question asks, does an external learning intervention influence how strategic learning plans are embedded in small firms? Design/methodology/approach: Insights from in-depth action research carried out with three small firm owner-managers (OMs) inform the study. Findings: Findings present valuable insights into how small firms learn strategically, and the link between OM goal setting and external accountability mechanisms in pursuit of embedded learning. A framework for embedding strategic learning plans in small firms is presented. Research limitations/implications: This study offers a contribution to knowledge in the areas of small firm learning, strategic planning and social learning theory. While the sample size is small, data and case protocols are in place which allow for replication of the study. As the research is embedded in social learning theory, alternative theoretical frameworks may shed a different light on the research question. Practical implications: The study will be of interest to practitioners working in the design, development, delivery and evaluation of learning interventions for small service firms. Given the importance of the small firm sector to the global economy, the research may also be of interest to government agencies, who strive to protect the survival and growth of small firms generally and who set aside resource amounts each year to fund training programmes for small firm OMs. Originality/value: The research contributes to the body of existing knowledge in the small firm setting concerning social learning theory and small firm learning strategies. It has identified a link between OM goal setting and external accountability mechanisms in pursuit of sustainable organisational learning in small firms and offers a framework for embedding strategic learning plans in small firms. The study answers calls for a more robust framework to advance understanding of how OMs learn and whether that learning is consequently embedded in the organisation. The proposed framework can be used as a guideline for support organisations in assisting small firms in reaching their learning potential. It can also be used by small firms in the attainment of strategy learning capability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-725
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Small Business and Enterprise Development
Volume27
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2020

Keywords

  • Action research
  • External accountability
  • Goal setting
  • Owner manager
  • Planning
  • Small firm
  • Strategic learning

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