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Esther Cross

Warrington Borough Council

Training Manager

Read more from Esther Cross

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Action Learning


I have recently attended facilitator training so that I can run Action Learning sets.
The rest of the delegates are new to the process, so apart from the course leader, no-one has any experience of how useful this learning tool is.
I'd love to hear any experiences any of you have had - both positive and negative.
Thank you

4 Responses

  1. Action Learning—An Experiential Tool

    Hi Esther, I am also new in this newly evolved tool called Action Learning. But how much I have come to know about this tool is that, since its advent in the 1940s, Action Learning has increasingly been used as a method to explore questions that often go unanswered in day-to-day organizational life through the use of reflective listening and insightful questioning. Through this  "learning by doing" approach many large as well as small businesses can evaluate important issues to the organization.

    Many of my friends, who are in business or just started their own, have had pretty good experience with this distinct tool. This unique, proven process has been used by major national and international corporations, such as Boeing, Samsung, and AT&T, to improve efficiency, create new products, and solve challenging organizational issues.

  2. My experience

    Hi Esther

    I've used Action Learning Sets several times when I've struggled to come up with a solution to a work-based problem.  All of the outcomes have been positive in that I've left the meeting with ideas to take forward and try out.  I think the key is that the group who are acting as 'critical friends' resist the urge to give advice; that's not what action learning's about!

    I've found the technique most useful and effective when there's been a facilitator available to keep the discussions on track and to help the group focus on techniques, rather than fix the problem for me.

    There are lots of techniques that you can use when you're facilitating an ALS: Thinking, Feeling, Willing; Helpful Questions; Listening Gossip.  A quick Google search will give you lots of other ideas to try out.

    In terms of commitment, it's really important that the problem-poser states what they're going to take forward and try out back at work.  Likewise, at the next meeting, it's critical that they report back to the group what they tried and its results.

    Give it a go and try it out.  Like anything, though, don't be too bound by rules: make the principles of action learning work for you in your context.

    All the best


  3. Action Learning

    Action Learning sets have been around for a long time now and have been very successful in a number of areas. The methodology is well established -and recognised, so much so that my husband completed his PhD through Action Learning , supported by other doctoral students who had no experience of his subject matter but supported the learning process.

    I see one of the great advantages of Action Learning being post training follow up: we have successfully established action learning sets to work on specific issues that have arisen during development programmes. These sets take ownership of the issues identified, work together, often with the support of a sponsoring senior manager, and their output can be included in assessing the ROI on the development programme. If you are not familiar with Action Learning ( which is different from Experiential Learning although many people confuse the two!) I'd strongly encourage you to explore the methodology.

  4. two birds with one stone.

    I've used Action Learning sets with clients and they produce two very distinct benefits:

    1. they provide a learning environment for the set members where they can try out ideas, explore and get feedback and critique from intelligent peers.

    2. they provide a means and a method for the organisation to investigate issues and opportunities that might cross functional boundaries or be very niche. This is without bringing in external consultant at enormous cost.

    I hope that helps


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Esther Cross

Training Manager

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