The Leadership of Organisational Change SIG was delighted to hold another of its informal meetings at the offices of AECOM and we take this opportunity of thanking them for their hospitality.
Our special guest was Dr. Richard Hale – Director of Action Learning International Limited, who has over twenty years experience of facilitating change through personal and organisational learning. Richard focused on the organisational impact and performance improvement that can be attained through Action Learning, highlighting some of the practical implications of using this approach.
We were reminded of the pioneering work of Professor Reg Revans, who fundamentally believed that the majority of help required for solving challenging problems need not come from “experts”, but from the appropriate mix of colleagues working within a carefully constructed Learning Set framework. He identified three basic principles for Action Learning Sets:
- They are about discussing problems not achievements.
- A Learning Set is a “set of comrades in adversity”.
- Set members should be “masters of asking challenging questions”.
Richard expanded on these ideas by highlighting the primary importance of spending enough time developing an “action learning question” using words like: “How can I......” or “How do I.....”, as the means of clarifying the Goal, rather than jumping in too soon with solutions.
To illustrate the introduction of Action Learning and “Sets” into a large organisation, Richard took us through his Case Study for Bright Horizons – a global business dedicated to childcare and early years education. This was a 90 day process that included the identification and development of Action Learning Facilitators and two-day process workshops, with a strong emphasis on developing Action Learning Questions. He also stressed the importance of an organisational “Mobiliser” who could generate commitment for the process and manage political and organisational barriers.
The final part of the evening involved group work that focused on each participant developing their own “action learning question”. This was a highly engaging activity and as usual we would have liked more time!!
In conclusion, Richard summarised the three major benefits that can be derived from using an effective Action Learning approach as:
- Generating new insights.
- Recognising here and now problems.
- Equipping people to anticipate tomorrow’s problems.
Leadership of Organisational Change SIG Chair
10 July 2014