Action Learning

Managers learn best through taking action to solve their own organsation's problems where the jobs they perform become the LABORATORY OF LEARNING rather than the classroom. Programmes are done IN-COUNTRY, IN-MINISTRY, IN-COMPANY and IN-PROJECTS and customised to meeting the needs of single organisations, their cultures and problems

What is action learning?

Action learning, or learning by doing as it is often called, suggests that the process of learning works best when individuals take action to improve the performance of their own organisations and, while they are doing this or immediately after, they reflect on their experiences, compare their behaviour to "best practice" and from this process learn how to do something better next time and then do it. That is, learning flows from action taken and the process of reflection on experiences had while taking action.

This process leads to the delivery of improved effectiveness (delivery of strategy) and efficiency (operational productivity) and individual competence and commitment.This action learning approach is often compared with the approach to development that focuses on the provision of knowledge, usually in a classroom situation which assumes, somewhat naively, that this knowledge is fully understood, transferred to the workplace and leads to appropriate action being taken. Management development must lead to improved organisational and individual performance. Many capacity building programmes do not do this. They need replacing by customised, work based, problem solving, action learning programmes

What we have to learn to do we learn by doing

Our approach to action learning which has been delivered in 66 organisations worldwide shifts the primary focus of management development from the individual to the organisation. That is, the primary objective of management development should be to improve the performance of the organisation and, while this is being done, to use the experiences gained to improve individual performance. That is, improving individual competence is NOT the primary purpose of management development, it is the secondary purpose. The primary aim is to produce an observable improvement in departmental and organisational performance through process-driven productivity and quality improvement activities featuring innovative leaders of high performing teams all set within an action learning envelope within single organisations. How we do this is what makes our approach to action learning unique.

The primary purpose of management development should be to produce an observable improvement in the performance of the organisation

That is, our programmes;

  • Are CUSTOMISED to the particular cultures of specific countries and projects. For example, if poor infrastructure is the problem we deliver programmes in the management of water, electricity, ports, urban development etc and in public investment management and project finance. If civil service reform is the problem we do programmes for top civil servants AND politicians.
  • Focus on the integration of TECHNICAL and MANAGERIAL issues with faculty members who are experts in the client's particular processes and technology. We do not focus our intervention purely on the learning process or process improvement but on their integration, on the fusion of practice and learning and achieving measurable improvements in organisational and individual performance.

Programmes focus on solving real problems, on developing the implementation capability of individuals and teams where individuals take responsibility and are held accountable for their actions.

  • Focus on closing the strategy-execution gap through an emphasis on the dual task of developing appropriate strategies at all levels and developing IMPLEMENTATION skills. We focus on implementing strategic direction, process excellence and a progressive approach to people management and how learning takes place in all these three areas.
  • Feature the management of change. Action learning integrates continuous learning with continuous improvement which inevitably leads to a need to modify operational processes and individual behaviour.

Change emphasis from what can be taught to what can be learned from experience of improving performance ON THE JOB

Our approach to learning features participants taking action to improve their own performance and that of their organisations. WHILE they are doing this they reflect on both positive and negative experiences to learn and develop from the process. It is LEARNING BY DOING in the workplace where the individual's job becomes the 'laboratory of learning'. It involves working on real time problems, on defining and implementing pragmatic solutions that lead to measurable improvements in performance and bottom line benefits. Therefore the majority of our programmes are undertaken IN-MINISTRY or IN-COMPANY or IN-PROJECT and they are part-time taking into account the pressures managers are under in their 'day jobs'. Typically they last for 12/15 months and consist of 5/6 modules lasting 4/5 days each designed around the four elements; customised workshops, individual and group projects and personal development plans.

Give me a fish and I'll eat for a day. Teach me to fish and I'll eat for a lifetime Lan Tsu

Our Unique Approach

  • Our programmes are designed to help countries and organisations develop a 'CRITICAL MASS' of competent and committed leaders able to define and implement their national, ministerial, project and company strategic plans via action learning leadership programmes for ministers, senior civil servants and company directors.
  • Our focus is on civil service and company reform and infrastructure project delivery via improving the ability of ministries and companies to implement their strategies and major projects and to develop a locally appropriate model of project delivery. This is set within action learning 'envelopes' aimed at ensuring cost, quality and delivery excellence, learning from the experience of doing this and passing this knowledge onto other parts of the organisation and other projects, ie creating learning organisations.

If you don't learn from your mistakes, you will be doomed to repeat them.

  • Our programmes deal with both technical and managerial issues through faculty who are experts in the client's processes and technologies and in the management of change. They are much more than traditional 'training' programmes. They are designed around solving problems in all aspects of the client's operations, learning from the process and then introducing superior practices.
  • We believe managers in all organisations learn best through taking action to solve their organisation's problems where the jobs they perform become the laboratory of learning rather than the classroom and where learning becomes an integral part of day-to-day management activity and results in an integrated, continuous improvement and continuous learning process.