Application of Action Learning
As our workplaces become sensitised to the human dimension of management, it is important that the foundational building blocks that define the culture of our workplace also aligns to the new reality. Organisation development and design, performance management, rewards and recognition, learning & development and other culture building aspects need to wake up to the reality of the human dimension to be effective.
It is worthwhile to discuss how action learning differs on traditional learning programs. If we double click on our traditional learning approach it is very evident that for far too long now, learning has focused on bridging the “gaps”. While filling this gap is important, this approach puts an in-ordinate focus on content or knowledge-based learning. Further in a bid to become relevant and provide “custom training solutions” it is common practice to segment people in groups based on their job role or hierarchy. This does address the need to provide role specific knowledge to the team members however it does little to promote free flow of information and creative exchange among the people. In addition, this is far removed from the real world of cross- functional teams that have become a reality today.
Another aspect is that the design of such learning programs primarily allows for the facilitator and learning group interaction in one – direction. There is limited opportunity of cross- group exchange of ideas.
Reg Ravens, original management thinker and academic professor, pioneered in the use of Action Learning, based on 30 years of work and observation. In the book that he published “ABC of Action Learning” he emphasised that learning involves doing and proposed that any challenge could be solved by a group of people, working together.
Action Learning is a process that involves a small group working on real, complex challenges taking action, and learning as individuals, as a team, and as an organization. It provides a framework and a way of questioning, thinking and interacting that helps organizations develop creative, flexible and successful strategies to pressing problems.
Action learning can be used by everyone - individuals, teams, and organizations and can be great for personal development of individuals to building a successful team and a cohesive work organization. Anyone can access action learning as no training, education or technique is required. It can be used for solving personal, business or organisational challenges.
Action learning process has six components and two ground rules.
- Problem: The process requires a problem that needs to be solved. It is important that the challenge be real, urgent and important that the presenter or the group can influence.
- Group: The action learning group needs to be group of 4 – 8 people, ideally with diverse back ground and experiences .
- Questioning & reflection is at the heart of action learning process. Questioning helps to unpack new avenues and explore different dimensions of the issue
- Learning; the group members deliberately practice leadership skills
- Action: This is the result of the session and is a non- negotiable outcome of the process
- Action learning coach. The Action learning coach does not participate in the process, but ensures that the ground rules are being followed and there is action and learning
Action learning has several applications
WIAL Coach Certification: World Institute of Action Learning helps certify future Action Learning coaches. This can open opportunities for career advancement, professional development and leadership development for individuals. It has a great role to play in executive education and provides valuable coaching skills
Breakthrough Problem solving: Action Learning enables teams to solve critical organizational problems such as performance improvement, results revenue growth. Action learning sets strategic direction of the company by providing the opportunity for “ big picture” thinking and opportunity to provides diverse approaches to view the problem With its focus on deliberate learning, the quality of problem solving and solutions are drastically improved, even when working with available resources.
Build a Learning organization: Action Learning offers longer-term strategic value to the organization in terms of the learning gained by each group member and the group as a whole. These benefits cascade in terms of application of learning throughout the organisation. It has tremendous use in organisation development, design, change management and setting long term goals.
Develop High performing Teams: Action Learning creates dynamic opportunities for leaders, teams, and organisations to successfully adapt, learn and innovate. It develops powerful work teams that perform quickly with strong norms and cohesiveness. As team members practice deliberate learning , each action learning session provides opportunity to enhance the problem solving capability of the group.The Action Learning process also enables teams to agree and commit to shared team goals. Overall, at team level the process can help in team building, improvements in communication enhance collaboration among group members
Individual problem solving: Action learning is used not just for business issues but also by individuals to solve personal challenges related to concerns around relationships, career, health, communication, change etc. They only need to take the first step; trust the process and be open to questioning, reflection and sharing.
Leadership Development: Action learning helps develop creativity, critical thinking, confidence, communication and problem-solving ability among its participants. The traits that a leader often possess.
To understand if Action learning can be applied to your organisation, team, please call our TC Global learning teams and they will be happy to discuss with you.