Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness

Annotation for Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness

Argyris C., Schön. D.. 1974. Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness.


This book describes two learning models of organisations, their strategies and their consequences.

Geographic Focus: 


Key Findings: 

Argyris and Schön introduce the notions of theory-in-use (our actual behaviour) and espoused theory (how we think we behave). Reflection on the differences between the two enables learners within organisations to transition to deeper models of learning. Model 1 learning is characterised by goal centred learning, maximising wins and minimizing loses, minimising expression of negative feelings and an emphasis on rationality. They argue that this leads to a unilateral management style and defensive routines, ownership of actions but competitive behaviour (at a cost to interpersonal relationships), self-protection resulting in limited testing of ideas, and little freedom of choice. Instead they argue for Model 2 learning, focussing on an environment promoting linkages between actions and their causes, informed choice whereby tasks are jointly controlled, and commitment to freedom of choice, resulting in testing of ideas. Model 2 learning enables assumptions about how to obtain goals to be surfaced. The transition between Model 1 and Model 2 can be supported by ensuring learners have the freedom of choice to shift to Model 2, and by introducing approaches to management education that expose the inconsistencies between espoused theory and theory-in-use.


This book focusses on the ways in which organisations act to limit the type of learning that occurs within them, asserting that effective learning requires conditions that enable managers to test ideas freely so that assumptions are unearthed. The described characteristics of Model 1 and 2 learning enable managers to identify the cultures that need to be created to facilitate effective learning. The concepts ‘espoused theory’ and ‘theory in use’, and the detailed examples of how these can be identified provide insight into ways that individuals can improve learning, particularly as relates to soft skills / interpersonal processes.