Action Learning is a powerful problem-solving tool that has the amazing capacity to simultaneously build successful leaders, teams and organisations. It involves a small group working on real problems, taking actions, and learning both as individuals and teams.
WIAL Action Learning is also a process built on the principles of "learning by doing" founded by Reg Revans, comprising of two ground rules and six components and involving a group of four to eight people from diverse backgrounds enquiring about the problem at hand.
Two ground rules are:
- Statements only in response to questions; anyone can ask questions.
- Action learning coach has authority to intervene whenever he/she identifies learning opportunities.
Action Learning is the most effective when all six components described below are in operation:
- The Problem should be urgent and significant and should be the responsibility of the team to resolve.
- It may be related to a project, a challenge, an opportunity, an issue or a task.
An Action Learning Group or Team
- Ideally composed of 4-8 people who examine an organisational problem that has no easily identifiable solution.
- The group should be diverse in background and experience.
An Action Learning Coach
- The Action Learning Coach helps the team members reflect on both what they are learning and how they are solving problems.
- The Action Learning Coach enables group members to reflect on how they listen, how they may have reframed the problem, how they give each other feedback, how they are planning and working, and what assumptions may be shaping their beliefs and actions.
- The Action Learning Coach also helps the team focus on what they are achieving, what they are finding difficult, what processes they are employing, and the implications of these processes.
- Action Learning tackles problems through a process of first asking questions to clarify the exact nature of the problem, reflecting and identifying possible solutions, and only then taking actions.
- Questions build group dialogue and cohesiveness, generate innovate and systems thinking, and enhance learning results.
Commitment to Learning
- Solving an organisational problem provides immediate, short-term benefits to the company.
- The greater, longer-term multiplier benefits, however, are the learnings gained by each group member and the group as a whole, as well as how those learnings are applied on a systems-wide basis throughout the organisation.
An Action taken on the Problem
- There is no real meaningful or practical learning until an action is taken and reflected on.
- Action Learning requires that the group be able to take action on the problem being addressed.
- If the group makes recommendations only, it loses its energy, creativity and commitment.