I have been facilitating an in-house action learning set in a large housing association with a number of different branches and businesses. The set was formed from six middle managers who had a taster day first and then six sessions of action learning. Each participant set individual learning goals which they shared with their peers and scored themselves against at the beginning and at the end of the sessions. Because they came from different parts of the business, not only did they support each other’s learning through the group processes, but they also learnt a lot more about the different parts of the company. (more…)
Category Archives: Blog
Stop silo activity. How peer action learning sets can help managers
Unexpected benefits from action learning in teams
I have just returned from delivering action learning facilitator training in an unusual city, Monterrey in northern Mexico. There was a lot about the event that was unexpected. The city lies right beside some mountains and being flat desert area itself, attracts the most changeable weather. The first two days were 29 degrees while the second two were one degree, with people struggling to get to work as a result of the snow on their cars. Immediately afterwards the temperature soared again…..a real packing challenge. (more…)
Models of action learning supporting business change projects
At a recent session of Action Learning Facilitators Forum (ALF) I ran a session on project-based action learning which examined how action learning can be integral to a business change programme (see previous blog “What comes first, the project or the Set?”) The second part of our workshop explored two models of action learning that can be used as integral to a business change programme and which supports delivery of change projects. Groups explored the models concentrating on the following questions: What are the strengths of each model? What questions do they raise about the application of action learning? What’s the role of the ‘facilitator’? (more…)
“What comes first, the project or the set?” – project-focused action learning
I recently ran a session on project-based action learning for the Action Learning Facilitators Forum (ALF) with some 20 people. We had a lively dialogue about how to construct a learning process around complex change projects, and how action learning can be integral to a business change programme.
We looked at a number of components. The project lifecycle forms the core around which learning is wrapped. As shown in the diagram below, each step requires a focus on a range of activities and associated capabilities. In a learning environment, we have created development events for internal project/change leaders to support each step. (more…)
Accreditation milestone for action learning facilitator training
When Ruth Cook runs her next action learning facilitator training course in London from 11-13 February ALA will have accredited 500 action learning facilitators. Since introducing the Institute of Leadership & Management accreditation in 2008, five hundred participants, including facilitators from Australia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, have successfully completed the ILM approved Professional Development Programme in Action Learning Facilitation. This is in addition to the many action learning facilitators ALA has trained on open and in-house programmes over the past 15 years.
Action learning – a campaigning tool?
I have always been interested in how action learning can change the world. We often use it to support people whose work centres on social change but recently action learning has come one step closer to campaigning.
David Babbs, Director of 38 Degrees – a UK based internet campaigning organisation – invited me to support the development of a network of similar campaigning organisations around the world. We are now running a virtual action learning set for Executive Directors of these organisations who have been going for a few years, have staff and an established supporter base. There are participants from Australia, Canada, Germany and the UK.
The richness of different perspectives in an action learning set
In an action learning set you often find members who coach others and value the depth of this one to one work. Joining a set can make people speculate about the group aspect of action learning.
While individual coaching skills do lend themselves to action learning, the richness and diversity gained from listening to the different perspectives in a set provides for new layers of learning. (more…)
Using clean language in action learning
I recently took part in a thought provoking workshop organised by the International Foundation of Action Learning (IFAL) on using Clean Language in action learning sets. Expertly led by Angela Dunbar of the Clean Coaching Centre, the workshop aimed to help participants understand clean language, encourage us to think about how clean language is different from other conversations, give us sufficient time to practice asking the set of clean language questions; and then think about how the ‘clean mindset’ does or could support our work in action learning sets.
So what is ‘Clean Language’? It is a set of completely non-directive questions, it’s a process which encourages deep exploration, it’s a way of enabling the client (or explorer in clean language terms) to look for their own solutions without the questioner getting in the way, and it’s a method of exploration through metaphor. (more…)
Virtual action learning for Scottish cultural entrepreneurs
On 14 November Ruth Cook attended SPLICE -a sharing event which marked the close of the second year of the International Creative Entrepreneurs (ICE) programme which is funded by Creative Scotland. ICE is an innovative development opportunity for leaders working in the arts, screen and creative sectors in Scotland. It is an intensive, fully funded programme that includes a three month placement overseas, one-to-one mentoring and action learning sessions.
Ruth has been working with ICE since its inception delivering face to face action learning and virtual action learning sessions to support the participants. In year one six creative leaders from Scotland were selected because they demonstrated a commitment to self-development and a real desire to work globally. With placements in creative organisations or social enterprises in Australia, Hong Kong, South Africa, and India the virtual action learning sessions provided valuable peer networking and support to help them deal with any issues and challenges they faced.
With year two drawing to a close the five 2012 ICE participants used the SPLICE event to share their experiences from their placements in China, Turkey and Brazil. Comments on how participants benefited from action learning element within the programme included:
” The power is in the listening. Its amazing what comes out when people open up and are heard”
“Everyday I have to be strong, present, available. I’m constantly “on” but here I can just be in a space with people which then nourishes in a totally different way”
“Time to talk that has a real purpose. It has been really constructive”
Beginner’s mind and action learning facilitator training
Beginner’s mind is a Zen Buddhist concept that refers to an attitude of mind that is open, fresh, free of preconceptions and awake to the many possibilities of a subject or experience.
In 2008 I embarked on action learning facilitator training as part of the Cultural Leadership Programme’s Leadership Facilitation Skills course. I had had prior experience of facilitated action learning in two different contexts so I certainly didn’t feel like a beginner. I understood the structures of the process and the broad ethos yet sometimes something would happen in the set that would get me really curious. I would leave with a sense of wonder and with a range of questions which boiled down to ‘how did that shift happen? or more specifically and ‘ what were the factors that produced that change and is it replicable?’ (more…)