Action Learning Sets (ALS)
Action Learning is a method of problem solving for managers which offers scope for personal and organisational development. It is based on established peer support with the aid of an experienced facilitator.
Unlike most traditional forms of management training and education, action learning is not based on solutions that are delivered but rather on the re-examination of problems and their resolution. An essential part of this process is taking action and learning from the outcomes of the action. This is the basis of the technique that is currently being widely used.
In particular, managers value the benefit of working with peers outside their own department and free from political agendas. Each manager is able to bring issues to the table without bias.
Action learning has no simple definition – it is only truly understood by practicing the techniques with a skilled facilitator.
Guidance on the Action Learning Sets Process
How to Prepare in Advance of the First ALS
- Everyone is asked to think of a topic or current 'issue' that they would like to discuss. So give some thought to current challenges/opportunities/decisions/circumstances that you face
- Write (no more than 10 lines) a very brief articulation of the scenario, and the specific question or guidance that you seek from the group (this is for your own benefit - it does not need to be shared with the group)
WHAT TO EXPECT
- ALS represent a great opportunity to share and pool approaches - they can be incredibly powerful if the group members are working well together
- The challenges faced by others will be similar to yourself - your experience and guidance will be invaluable to others
- Anticipate your listening skills to be challenged!
- Don't expect answers from the facilitator (though they might occasionally offer a perspective) - they are 'caretakers' of the ALS process
During the ALS
- At the start of each session, everyone is asked to share their topic
- The group then decides which topics they wish to discuss in more detail (usually 2 or 3)
- The group also agrees the sequence in which the topics will be discussed, and the time allocated
- The first topic is 'brought to life' by the person requesting support/advice/suggestions/guidance - they spend a few minutes articulating the scenario and what they would like from the group. They are then asked to stop talking, and listen to the rest of the group
- The group members then volunteer their thoughts/suggestions/experiences in 'free form'. Meanwhile, the person bringing the topic remains in 'listening mode'
- Once all options are on the table, the person bringing the topic gets to respond to the group suggestions (asking questions where necessary)
- The person bringing the topic is then asked (by the group) to confirm what action they will take
- The suggestions and actions are ideally captured so that they can be kept for future reference
Following the ALS
Those people who have received suggestions and committed to actions are expected to undertake them, and then be in a position to briefly report back to the ALS group at the start of the next ALS
ADDITIONAL THINGS TO CONSIDER
There is an expectation that everything discussed in ALS will be maintained in confidence by all members of the group. Peer support can only effectively occur with high levels of trust. Not everyone will be able to have their topics discussed within an ALS. The group will need to utilise each ALS opportunity, and ensure balance across the ALSs to ensure everyone has had the opportunity to receive suggestions
Last updated 23/11/12 Jean Bennett
Review Date Aug 2014