Category Archives: Blog

Life changing aspects of action learning by Guest blogger, Lindsey West of Burnley Youth Theatre

Lindsey WestWow. I’m on the train back from three days of intensity in London where I have been training to become an accredited action learning facilitator. It has been eye-opening and amazing! For those of you who may not have encountered action learning before “it is a fantastic personal and professional development experience that improves your performance and helps you build new competencies, it promotes learning and self reflection and it helps you find alternative solutions in challenging and changing times.” Quite frankly, it is life changing! (more…)

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Commissioning in health and social care: Action Learning as a process to support leaders dealing with complexity and change

Reflecting on the current winter crisis in the NHS, manifesting in ‘critical incidents’ being declared by a number of Hospital Trusts, I was reminded how complex ‘leading’ in the NHS has become. The focus of this article is on how action learning can provide a powerful process to support NHS commissioners as they grapple with complexity, change and difficult choices. (more…)

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

“My best Google result ever” – ALA’s taster workshops in action learning

Sonja Antell xs
ALA runs regular open taster workshops for people who are keen to try
action learning or for those who may be considering using action learning in their organisation and want to know more.

It is a slightly risky thing to do – the make-up of the group which attends is entirely arbitrary – made up of a wide cross section of people and professionals spanning a diverse range of organisations and businesses. A few already have a little experience of action learning and want to revisit; others have no experience at all.  Some are tasked with starting programmes in their organisations and just want to see what action learning involves. (more…)

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Does action learning increase performance?

ACI_PerformanceImprovmentWe are often asked how do you demonstrate that action learning is an effective, powerful and cost-effective methodology for developing individuals, teams and organisations?

Our Associates meet regularly in pairs or small working groups to discuss current pieces of work, client requests, programme design, quality of practice, depth of learning and all things action learning.  Once a year, however, we get together as a larger group of Associates to explore a particular aspect of action learning practice in more detail.  The purpose of these Associates’ days is to maintain and improve the quality of our practice and to re-connect as a group.  The specific purpose of our recent Associates’ day was to strengthen our capacity to evaluate action learning interventions and to develop practical methods for demonstrating the efficacy of action learning programmes. (more…)

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

What do UK businesses need? What can action learning contribute?

A study commissioned by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) on the challenge UK businesses face in recruiting and developing skilled leaders and managers found that:

  • between 2007 and 2017 an additional 2.2 million new managers will be needed  in the UK. I.3 million to replace those retiring and 0.8 to manage increasing numbers
  • 93% of survey respondents said that low levels of management skills are having a direct impact on their business
  • only 18% of employers expect candidates to have received management training prior to being appointed to a management position so the majority are expected to learn on the job, often with little or no support
  • there is a dire shortage of softer leadership and management skills.  Organisations consistently struggle to find managers at every level who are emotionally intelligent, inspirational and creative – attributes which are considered critical for 21st Century management as businesses adapt to diversity, complexity and change. (more…)
This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Action learning – high challenge and high support for project development by guest blogger Tony McBride

_MG_9524_CP8Project background & challenges

In February Cardboard Citizens were delighted to receive an Extension Award from the Wellcome Trust to further develop a theatre project exploring neuroscience and The Heritage of Violence. It’s an ambitious project and one made more so by a very tight schedule.  Although the project was designed and funded to go into schools, we had no firm commitment from our identified schools, just a conviction that it would be of interest to them.  But a niggling doubt remained – Is it something that they need and want?  What happens if not?

 Action learning set – high challenge/high support

At the time when these challenges were being faced, I had been a member of an action learning set funded by A New Direction (AND) for three months and had contributed to presentations made by other set members – asking clarifying, then open questions to support and challenge the presenter towards identifying specific actions towards desired outcomes.

Having decided to present, I had a decision to make:  whether to present on a personal work related issue, or to use the opportunity to present on the A Heritage of Violence project.  Having been reassured that it was ok to present on a specific project, I decided to do so.  I’m glad I did. (more…)

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

What about the pitfalls and risks of action learning?

TimeI am sometimes asked “what happens when it goes wrong?” and “what are the classic mistakes or pitfalls of action learning?”

Careful contracting within the action learning set makes clear the importance of all being present but a classic pitfall in action learning is the challenge of agreeing dates and securing full attendance.

This is a reflection of the pressurised organisations we work with and the number of external priorities set participants face from other stakeholders.  People are under pressure to release their own development time for whatever organisational challenge they face.  Poor set attendance impacts the energy in the set because members do not participate in each other’s presentations and are not there to feedback on actions. (more…)

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Profound applications of action learning

willow-buttercups-smlAs well as facilitating action learning I am a humanist celebrant and conduct a number of funerals every month.  I didn’t anticipate there being a connection between the two roles but what I’ve found is that action learning’s style of questioning is so helpful in drawing out the story of somebody’s life from family members who are often feeling fragile and chaotic in the midst of bereavement.  I find it helps me to keep myself out of the picture and focus entirely on eliciting from the family what they really want said about their loved one. I then have everything I need to write the funeral script. (more…)

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Do you really listen to what other people are saying? by guest blogger Judith Cross

Judith Cross

Judith Cross, Clore Social Leadership Fellow

When did you last stop thinking about: things that were bothering you; how busy you are; things you had forgotten to do and still needed to do; where you were going next; who was going to pick up the kids from school; what you were having for dinner; and really listen?

When did you last really pay attention to what someone was saying without thinking halfway through their sentence how you would be responding and letting your mind wander?

When did someone last really listen, and I mean really listen to what you were saying?

When did someone, anyone, last give you time and space to think things through; support you to develop your ideas; and allow silence

We live in a world where our lives are lived at such a fast pace, always on the go, always thinking ‘what next?’ (more…)

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Facilitator training July 2014 – never the same river twice

RiverFacilitating an action learning set – for real – is at the heart of our training course for facilitators.  Just as the best way to understand action learning is by doing it, so too the best way to understand the challenges and opportunities of being a facilitator is also by doing it.  Although we cover some key theory on the course, and also help participants to consider how they will put use their skills in their individual contexts, most of the course time is spent facilitating action learning, with each person taking a turn to facilitate.  It’s an intensive experience – participants have come together to learn how to facilitate, and at the same time, they are working as a temporary action learning set.

When I ran a facilitator training course last month, with six participants from very diverse backgrounds, I was struck by how  this intensive, repeated experience of action learning operates on different levels.  There is learning about the skills of facilitation, but there is also learning about being in an action learning set – both as an issue-holder and as a supporter.  We noticed over the three days how much more skilful participants were becoming as set members, as well as honing their facilitation skills.  By the end of the course, the quality of questioning had deepened, with more probing and challenging questions, and the group was working more effectively together.

How did this happen?  Simply, by reflecting each time someone facilitated and sharing our thoughts.  We asked what had worked well and what could have been done differently; we reviewed those moments which had puzzled or surprised us; and each person received rich feedback on how they had facilitated the set.  Although there was repetition of the process, the content was always different.  As the saying goes: “you can never step in the same river twice”.  Or, as one participant commented at the end of the course: “I have to admit that when I saw that we were going to do seven action learning sets, I thought that by the end I’d be bored… but the reality was that each of them was so educational”.  For me, each time I run a course, it reaffirms that the process of practising, reflecting, and having dialogue with open-minded people is, quite simply, an enormous pleasure. If you think you might enjoy it too, why not find out more about our open action learning facilitator training courses? 

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.