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07 |  Action Learning Groups for Organisation Development

“The end of learning is action, not knowledge” Peter Honey

There is an age old adage that says “two heads are better than one”.  Consider collaboration in recent history: the beginnings of Microsoft, Google and the increased frequency of Nobel Prizes that are awarded to collections of people. Collaboration acknowledges that in today’s uncertainty and complexity that the best decisions are made by working together. Human beings are social learners; they learn through conversation and discussion, the sharing and clarification of ideas and opinions. Most importantly innovation and change is most likely to emerge out of collaboration.

The Principles of the Collaborative Action Learning Groups
  • The result of learning is action
  • All action outcomes have to deliver within the strategic goals
  • For a goal to be achieved there needs to be buy-in and commitment
  • People are not problems, problems are problems and people get captured by them. This means there is always an exception to a problem
  • People are experts in their own jobSolutions emerge from people joining together in dialogue
  • Solutions are emergent from dialogue

What is a collaborative action learning (CAL) group?

A CAL group is six to eight people that is committed to a common purpose, actions and approach that lead to actions and changes to address common issues in the business. They meet regularly with a facilitator, monthly for 12 to 24 months moving through several cycles of action learning (see below)

The group begins with a common purpose and vision for the future of the organisation and what gets in the way of them achieving this (process of Collaboration Forums). They then reflect on the issues and choose an issue to work on. In groups they analyse the situation and all the possible things that have contributed to it, identifying an immediate goal for action. Out of this reflection the group identifies all the possible actions that will address it and plan to take actions that will address the issue. They then go back to the workplace and take these actions making sure that they are monitoring and observing what happens. When the group meets again each CAL member reflects and reports back on what happened and how the action served to meet the agreed goal. This reflection forms the basis of the next cycle of planning, action, observation and reflection. .

Setting the groups up for success requires:

  • Leadership involvement, support and collaboration
  • Continuing alignment of the strategic vision and the “do wells”.
  • People who actually do the work are CAL group members
  • CAL group members come from different parts/levels of the business
  • Facilitation and process management ensures success.