Monday, June 27, 2016

Leadership Action Learning – How to Really Move the Needle

a graphic of a needle on a dial

If you really want to have an almost immediate yet long lasting impact on performance and development in your organization, try action learning for leadership development.

What is action learning? It is an approach to solving real problems whereby a team of learners acts and then reflects upon the results. They work on-the-job to address current problems, decide upon a solution, act and then step back to assess the effectiveness of what they have done. The process helps develop leaders and get “real work” done at the same time. It is a proven strategy that increases leadership capabilities in an organization while moving the business forward.

An interesting example of action learning involved one of our high tech clients.  They had been experiencing difficulty with one of their products.  They had assigned various expert teams to address the problem, but all attempts at correction had failed. They could not meet the efficiency specs of their biggest client, and time was running out. 

Looking for a different approach, the client set up another action learning team of high potentials to troubleshoot the problem. This team came from various departments, had a range of skills, and had not worked together as a team before. And this was part of the strength of their approach. They were not stuck in the past nor by more established company knowledge and, as they questioned assumptions, they developed new paths of inquiry. Bottom line? They solved the problem. It turned out that there was not one reason for the inefficiencies but several, including some surprising findings that allowed the team to advance other products in the company. 

Action learning can encourage innovation, resourcefulness and collaboration. Well-designed action learning teams from different areas of the organization are often able to bring new perspectives to the problem at hand, challenge traditional approaches, and flex with changes as they occur. They are highly motivated because they are tasked with solving real work issues, not just a scenario designed for the classroom.

The action learning pattern of “decide”, “do”, “reflect” and “connect” improves critical thinking, decision making and problem solving. Action learning for leadership development can have a positive impact on the whole organization and may be the best value in terms of professional development that costs your training budget darn little.

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