For people new to the work of Action Design, we recommend the following articles:
- Argyris, Chris. “Teaching Smart People How To Learn.” Harvard Business Review. May-June 1991, pp. 99-109. You can download a pdf of this article at www.harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu for a few dollars.
- Putnam, Robert. “Unlocking Organizational Routines that Prevent Learning.” The Systems Thinker, August 1993, pp. 1-4.
- If you have access to The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Peter Senge et al (1994), see “The Ladder of Inference,” “The Left-Hand Column,” and “Balancing Inquiry and Advocacy,” pages 242-259.
- For a good introduction to the fundamentals, we recommend Bill Noonan’s recent book, Discussing the Undiscussable: A Guide to Overcoming Defensive Routines in the Workplace (Jossey-Bass, 2007). It includes a DVD with a case situation connected to exercises in the book. The book web site is www.discussingtheundiscussable.com
- One of Chris Argyris’ more recent books: Flawed Advice and the Management Trap (Oxford University Press, 2000). It offers a critique of advice about effective leadership and organizational change and gives examples of effective corrective action.
- For an in-depth presentation of the underlying theory, read Organizational Learning II by Chris Argyris and Donald Schön (Addison-Wesley, 1996). It is a revised and expanded version of their 1978 classic, taking the theory of action approach to the organizational level.