An Action Learning Coach Can Help Transform Your Organization

Action learning might be a new term to you, but the process has been around for over sixty years. In recent years, however, executives across the United States caught on to the effectiveness and value of this type of learning so it has had a resurgence in popularity. In fact, since 2004 it has increased in corporate popularity by over 50 percent, and many experts agree that the process works best when led by an action learning coach with specific expertise in this area.

Action learning is an educational process that involves working together as a group and learning as a group. The group tackles issues and reflects on everyone’s actions toward that issue. Through this process, learners gain knowledge through physical action rather than traditional learning techniques. The problem-solving capabilities of this form of learning stem from the diversity group members bring to the group dynamic.

The Basic Principles
There are many different facets of action learning but, generally speaking, this type of learning is based on four principles:

1. Leadership centered: A leader must bring a challenge to the group and control the learning environment to make sure employees follow through with their education. An action learning coach can oversee this process or act as an advisor to the leader.

2. Inquiries: There is no right or wrong answer. There is also no one answer to solve the issue. Instead, learning is enhanced through group inquiry.

3. Accountability: Participants must set aside any preconceived notions or differences and work together as a team. Open reflection is key and each member of the learning session must be accountable for his participation.

4. Systematic: Managers and business leaders can use these learning sessions to find common patterns and translate them into systematic, company-wide change.

An action learning coach and company leaders can participate in two types of learning: peer coaching or team learning. Team learning focuses on an open forum approach, while peer coaching involves a smaller group that meets and reflects on issues they are struggling with on their own.

A lot of companies bypass the idea of this type of learning, thinking it is better suited for the classroom-not the corporate world. In general, managers who broaden their perspectives drop assumptions and look for new opportunities see more results than managers who don’t. When you work with an action learning coach to develop a comprehensive program you can take advantage of benefits that include:

• Solving complex organizational issues using more innovative methods
• Enjoying a low-cost, higher ROI for employee development
• Creating a team of highly trained, exemplary leaders who are superior at problem solving
• Teaching employees about the challenges your organization faces at all levels
• Improving career growth and opportunities within the organization
• Creating a strong network and better working relationship among employees
• Improving critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can continue to be used to solve complex company problems

Getting Started
Action learning is a cost-effective approach for your organization to create a better problem-solving team. A successful program should employ at least three components:

1. Make sure your organization has a real problem for teams to face that is urgent and needs solving.

2. Work with a skilled action learning coach who can host your organization’s sessions. This business coach must be experienced in the learning methodology for the best results. Your action learning coach should also not be involved or too close to the issue your organization is trying to solve as this has proven to be counterproductive.

3. Ensure that upper management is ready to implement the learning process and can help drive the process company-wide.

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