Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Academic Discipline

Adult and Continuing Education

First Advisor

Thomas Heaney

Second Advisor

Randee Lawrence


Organizational power and politics influence corporate training in ways not often discussed. This study explores the effects of organizational power and politics on program planning and how planning, with its inherent power and politics (see Cervero & Wilson, 1994a), influences the daily practices of corporate trainers.

This study was informed by the literature of systems theory and constructivism. Von Bertalanffy’s (1968) general systems theory, in which the whole of a system is considered to be greater than the sum of its parts, Senge’s (1990) systems view that interrelationships within organizational structures, (not events), underlie complex situations, and Lincoln & Guba’s (1985) constructivist theory were used to explore ways in which trainers construct and modify knowledge and experiences as they plan training programs.

The intent was to examine how multiple influences — which are at the heart of systems thinking and include areas such as internal and external environmental factors and corporate culture — cause trainers to understand, take action, and manage day-to-day training practices.

A single case study design provided intense description and analysis of a specific group of trainers from a Canadian manufacturing company. Nine trainers and eight members of the senior management team were direct sources of the data which were gathered in focus groups, semi-structured interviews, and document reviews of company materials.

A few of the conclusions that emerged from the findings include: (a) multiple influences affecting program planning are not limited to companies practicing Senge’s (1990) systems thinking approach to business; (b) management and staff share an understanding that “training” is primarily a process of facilitation which ignores additional, strategic elements of program planning (such as needs assessment, learning outcomes, program design, and evaluation); (c) perceptions of management and trainers vary on the role of trainers, leading trainers to question how training aligns with strategic goals; and (d) although rapid company growth, corporate culture, and organizational systems present traditional challenges to training, power and political factors are less obvious, influencing program planning and trainers in ways not often discussed.

This study informs adult educators, organizational development practitioners, and human resources development staff about program planning from the perspectives of trainers rather than learners. It informs trainers of how practice fits into a broader organizational context in which power and political influences affect their organizations, program planning, and themselves.