Date of Award

Spring 5-3-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)



First Advisor

Richard Baskerville

Second Advisor

Lars Mathiassen

Third Advisor

Alana Nicastro



Reinvigorating Maneuver Warfare: An Organizational Learning Analysis of a Failed Strategic Initiative.


BP McCoy

March 2020

Chair: Richard Baskerville

Major Academic Unit: Executive Doctorate in Business

The world is a dynamic and turbulent place. Organizations of all types regularly face the dual challenge of learning from the emerging realities of their environment and using that knowledge to accurately adapt to remain competitive. Often, the changes required to remain competitive demand a significant and irretrievable strategic investment of resources and changes in the status quo of how the organization will function going forward. Such strategic changes are often communicated in the form of mission or vision statements, campaign plans, or philosophies.

Considering the resources committed and the opportunity costs involved, strategic initiatives must be implemented with care and precision to succeed, as a failed implementation could pose an existential threat to the organization. This case study examines one organization's attempt and failure to sufficiently implement a strategic initiative. This study may be tailored and applied to any organization seeking the adaptive change necessary to succeed in the dynamic and contested environments of business or conflict. The study format is a cross-sectional single case study informed by the Theory of Action. The results of this study revealed five explanatory frames which serve to describe and explain the dynamics of the organization, and they illuminate the influence Model I single-loop and Model II double-loop organizational learning systems have on the implementation of a strategic initiative. Captured within the explanatory frames was the discovery of a surprising anomaly, namely the presence of a sub rosa clan. The sub rosa clan’s Model I behavioral control produced a bête noires[1] effect that countered the senior management’s Model II learning efforts, sustained the status quo, and sunk the strategic initiative. This study contributes to the organizational learning, maneuver warfare, and control theory literature streams and offers managers potential corrective interventions that may be applied proactively and preemptively to enable the successful implementation of a strategic initiative.

Keywords: Organizational Learning, Theory of Action, Single-loop learning, Double-loop learning, Clans, Maneuver Warfare, Mission Command.

[1] French; the literal translation is “black beast.” A bête noires is avoided by others. It may be a thing that is particularly dreadful.


File Upload Confirmation