When your name is Plato Learning (NASDAQ:TUTR) and you're coming off a dreadful July quarter, you might just be expected to wax philosophical on the fiscal shortcoming. Toiling in computer-based education -- such a promising niche in theory -- the e-learning specialist should at least have a solid reason to explain why the quarter resulted in a small deficit and a horrific 23% decline in revenues. Right?

Well, here's how CEO Mike Morache was quoted in last night's third-quarter earnings release: "We have confirmed our initial thoughts that the decline is primarily due to low sales productivity, caused by changes in sales processes, procedures, and organization implemented earlier this year, and by attrition of sales personnel."

Let's sidestep the obvious here. Of course a slowdown in the company's courseware sales is the root of all its financial woes. However, laying the blame on operational changes that Plato rolled out earlier in the year can't reflect too well on a company trying to sell software that is supposed to enhance the learning experience.

What's worse, the company seems to be acting as if this is a freshly discovered malady. It isn't. Seven months ago, under a different CEO, the company watered down its fiscal first-quarter guidance after it confirmed a difficult transition in its sales and service departments.

"We believe the issues that impacted first-quarter revenues are primarily behind us now," said then-CEO David Smith.

They weren't.

However, go back to last summer and you will see the company had yet another different CEO. For those keeping score at home, that is three CEOs over the past year. If your company's helm is starting to look like Spinal Tap's drum kit, you've got problems.

This isn't to say that Plato is the only one failing in this once-promising niche. Moving from Plato's K-12 stronghold and into the post-secondary market, shares of eCollege (NASDAQ:ECLG) have also failed to live up to the e-learning hype.

However, don't go lumping Blackboard (NASDAQ:BBBB) into that group. Blackboard's stock has risen by 27% since being singled out in the June issue of our Motley Fool Hidden Gems premium research newsletter. This is one educational enabler that has rewarded its investors by growing its client base and retaining a better than 90% renewal rate from its existing customers.

It's not that Plato, eCollege, and Blackboard can even be considered peers, though. Yes, they all deal with the integration of computers into the educational process, but Plato is a more rudimentary courseware provider. For now, at least, it's just not working for Plato.

The company can blame -- and, in fact, has blamed -- the hesitant ways of federal funding on its recent woes. That's fair. It just needs to get over this perpetual faulting of the company's dip on organizational changes. The same old story will get even older if, a few months from now, a new CEO will be repeating the same thing.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been an AOL subscriber since 1992. Yes, he really does like it there. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.