Argyris and Schon (1996, p.xvii) contend, “it is conventional wisdom that business firms, governments, nongovernmental organizations, schools, health care systems, regions…need to adapt to changing environments, draw lessons from past successes and failures, detect and correct the errors of the past, anticipate and respond to impending threats, conduct experiments, engage in continuing innovation, build and realize images of a desirable future.” Argyris refers to this as “the learning imperative.” All of the organizations and tasks mentioned directly relate to the constant activities of a legislative body. These external actors, as described by Argyris, are engaged but outside the internal process. They seek to influence both process and final product, but now must do so in an environment of constant change due to the imposition of term limits.
The legislative processes in the Florida House of Representatives consistently provide examples of single-loop learning. Errors and problems emerge, legislation is introduced, designed to provide remedy, and the cycle is repeated. But, according to Argyris (2000, p.4), “genuine learning involves an extra step, in which you reflect on your assumptions and test the validity of your hypothesis,” which is characterized as double-loop learning, a critical ingredient for a learning organization.
This paper identifies weaknesses in the learning activities of the Florida House of Representatives as well as impediments to the implementation of improved organizational learning processes. By using interviews with key actors it identifies the various factors that affect the policy consideration process in this setting, including frequent turnover of membership, leadership, staff leadership, and committee staffing and membership.