Making growth-focused small service firms in Ireland more viable through strategic learning plans

Monica Murphy

    Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


    Learning in a small firm setting is based around contextualized social experiences; wherein the owner/ manager (OM) is the medium through which much of the learning success relies. While prior studies established a link between learning, performance and growth in small service firms, empirical evidence on the subject is scant and the relationship between small firm growth orientation and learning activity is worthy of exploration. The small service firm sector is the largest in Ireland, accounting for almost 48 per cent of all enterprises and 42 per cent of the labour population employed (CSO, 2011). Small firms are also commonly referred to as an important source of innovation, economic growth and employment streams (Action Plan for Jobs, 2016, Kenny, 2015; CSO, 2011; GEM, 2014; Forfás, 2013), and according to GEM (2014, ‘established businesses are the core of the economic canvas of any country’ (p.46) A review of the extant literature yields limited research that explores the effects of learning on small service firm business growth. While there are conceptual frameworks available that explore learning in an organisation (Crossan et al., 1997; Nonaka, 1994), many assume deployment in a large organisation complete with the necessary resources (human, capital and time) to implement such a framework. This project seeks to investigate the perceived impact of a strategic learning plan intervention on growth-focused small service firms’ viability in the Irish context and present an initial strategic learning plan framework for use in growth-focused small service firms. This research adopts a social learning theory view as the optimum lens through which to understand the dynamism of small firm learning and an adapted strategic learning plan framework that might be used to facilitate owner/manager learning and in turn, facilitate enterprise growth. Applying an action research (AR) methodology, findings present valuable insights into the ways in which small service firms who wish to grow can be facilitated to learn strategically. These findings have implications for future studies of the link between learning and small firm growth.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Kelliher, Felicity, Supervisor
    • Harrington, Denis, Supervisor
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2016


    • Small service firms, growth, strategic learning plans


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