Is it possible to combine training with solving essentially practical and business-critical tasks? How do you stop teaching people in the organisation and encourage them to learn by themselves? How do you convert the knowledge and ideas of your employees into value-added action?
The answers to these questions are found in the methodology developed by Professor Reginald Revans from Cambridge University. Action learning refers to the learning process of a group of people working on a real project or a real problem from which they gain further insight. Action learning projects consist of several repeated cycles: do – reflect – learn. A professional coach plays an essential role in supporting this process and through the use of relevant questions helps the team analyse their experience and apply it to their work in future.
Action learning promotes the development of the following essential business skills:
- Systems thinking
- Flexibility and readiness to change
- Critical thinking
- Analytical approach
- Active listening and questioning
- Self and social awareness
- Communication and influencing
- Team interaction
- Teamwork facilitation
- Problem-solving and decision-making
- Project management
I generally recommend action learning under the following circumstances:
- Team members have already completed a number of training programmes (training, seminars, MBA) and are wary of any type of “classroom” learning.
- The group consists of strong leaders who need to learn how to work with one another.
- The projects or the problems are of strategic importance and the lessons learnt from them have to be replicated within the organisation.
When working with clients, I assist with developing an action learning plan (which problem/project would be most appropriate, who should be included in the team, how much time should be spent on independent teamwork and how much on working with the coach). In my role as coach, I support the work of the team during the actual project.