Learning in engineering consultancy practice:a rapprochement between cognitive learning and knowing in practice in international consultancy alliances at NESPAK Pakistan

Aslam, Shakeel (2019) Learning in engineering consultancy practice:a rapprochement between cognitive learning and knowing in practice in international consultancy alliances at NESPAK Pakistan. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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Abstract

The current research examines engineers’ learning in the practice of engineering consultancy in the context of international consultancy alliances. Though practice-based approaches to learning have been well established since the early 1990s, the area is still relatively under-studied as only relatively few notable empirical studies have been conducted so far. And there is no empirical study that has used this concept to examine learning across the boundaries of an organization, such as in the context of international alliances wherein the practice is constituent of local and foreign practices, activities and ways of working. Further, practice-based approaches to learning are especially dismissive of cognitive learning and do not give much importance to explicit knowledge. On the other hand, there are research calls for using a knowing in practice perspective in different organizational contexts, as well as for developing the rapprochement between cognitive learning and knowing in practice and acknowledging the role of explicit knowledge in knowing in practice. To address these research calls, the current research examines learning in doing the practice of engineering consultancy, which is a rapprochement between cognitive learning and knowing in practice. This rapprochement is informed by the concepts of distributed cognition and the collective mind. Thus, engineers’ learning is studied in this research, which takes place through cognitive learning and learning in the practice of engineering consultancy in an integrated manner. Further, this research also studies the role of explicit knowledge, in addition to tacit knowledge, in learning in doing consultancy practice. Further, the practice of engineering consultancy emerges through the integration of local and foreign working practices shared by the partners in an international consultancy alliance. Thus, in addition to engineers’ learning, I also study cross-border sharing of working practices and knowledge in consultancy alliances to complete Pakistan-based infrastructure projects. In the domain of cross-border sharing of practices, the existing literature is extremely deficient as I could find only one study exploring the cross-border transfer of Japanese practices to China-based foreign subsidiaries. On the other hand, there is voluminous literature available on the factors influencing cross-border sharing of knowledge in strategic alliances. However, most of these studies are quantitative in nature and measure the effects of different factors on knowledge-sharing in strategic alliances. There is a deficiency of qualitative research on this phenomenon that explores how different factors influence such cross-border sharing of knowledge. The current research addresses these literature gaps and contributes to the existing body of knowledge by empirically studying cross-border sharing of consultancy practices and related knowledge in international consultancy alliances. The research is conducted at NESPAK, Pakistan, an engineering consultancy company following a critical realist philosophy of social science, a qualitative research approach and a single case study design based on systematic combining. Participants of the research are NESPAK’s engineers who have been involved in developing and performing engineering consultancy practices for local projects through collective working with foreign consultants. I assembled a sample of 30 engineers through purposive and snowball sampling and collected data using semi-structured interviews, observation, field notes and documentary analysis. The data is analyzed using grounded theory. Following systematic combining, data collection and analysis were done simultaneously in order to consider emerging themes relevant to the phenomenon being studied. The findings of the research are presented in the form of two core categories. The first core category is labelled as Learning in Engineering Consultancy Practice, which offers three accounts of engineers’ learning (categories): Self-directed Learning, Managerially Influenced Learning and Partner-influenced Learning. The second core category is labelled ‘Symbiotic Learning Alliance’ and identifies different factors (categories) influencing the cross-border sharing of consultancy practices and knowledge and their ways to have influence. These factors are: Symbiotic Alliance Relationship, Developing Cultural Harmony, Intention to Learn and Willingness to Share Knowledge, and Constructive Disagreements. Each category of both core categories is presented and analyzed. Findings are further discussed theoretically in relation to relevant existing literature, theories and models. This research makes a substantial contribution to the existing body of knowledge by empirically substantiating the rapprochement between two perspectives of learning which were previously seen as being in contrast to each other. Rapprochement is developed through theories of distributed cognition and the collective mind. Further, this research also identifies new aspects, such as disagreements and cultural differences, that influence the cross-border sharing of working practices and knowledge and how these aspects influence this sharing process, and how impeding aspects are variously addressed. A learning model in place at NESPAK that reflects a comprehensive learning process is presented, which is another significant contribution to the existing body of knowledge. The findings of the study also present significant insights not only for NESPAK, but for other organizations as well, where employees are learning in practice in the context of international alliances.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
ID Code:
134161
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
21 Jun 2019 23:20
Refereed?:
No
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
30 Mar 2020 09:50