In my experience, most leaders, embrace change……their teams however, do not. To help leaders motivate and engage their followers in transition, I use two key tools: Coaching and Action Learning. Let’s look at Action Learning in more depth.

 Action Learning – a brief overview

Action Learning is for groups, called sets. Typically, of no more than eight people, including one trained Action Learning Set facilitator. The set meets regularly, normally once a month, for at least four months. The sets are formed to problem solve. The facilitator enables this process using a range of techniques and a key set of principles.

Why Action Learning solves the problems that come with change

Action Learning is a fail-safe problem-solving technique. No matter how intractable a problem, I can guarantee some positive shift towards a solution if action learning is used skilfully.

It’s best described using an example:

Imagine you have a group of senior managers who have been tasked with implementing changes in your organisation but are getting nowhere. You bring them together in an Action Learning Set with a facilitator.

First, as their facilitator, I help them frame the problem clearly in the present.

Secondly, I help them take ownership of the problem.

For example, the problem may relate to a new way of working with a client. The complaint from the leadership team is:

‘Why aren’t our managers sticking to the new model, why are they using the old system, and messing everything up?’

So, the problem they have to solve is this:

“We are messing everything up because we are not effectively working with our managers to make the new system work”

This sounds a bit brutal.  But, by putting the problem into the negative you will help to focus the mind on solving the problem.

Now the group understand the problem, they can start to explore it. They can start asking questions like:

  • “What are we messing up exactly?”
  • “How big is this problem”?
  • “What does working effectively with our managers look like?”
  • “What could we do differently”?
  • “What assumptions are we making”?


Now they have the questions, they can start to come up with answers:

  • “We’ve messed up because we have left our managers with little support”
  • “At the moment, it’s not a big problem, but it could get bigger, if ignored”


Once the set have come up with answers, the first stage in resolving the problems, they can then come up with the actions.

  • “I’m going to offer my managers some protected time to evaluate the implementation of the new system so far”
  • “We are going to offer a facilitated session to our managers on how we can work together more supportively, in order to help make the new system work”.


Once an Action Learning set has actions, the set members then have to go away and take those actions before the set next meets.

This is why it is such a powerful technique for bringing about change; by putting problems into the negative it forces people to come up with questions and then solutions that lead to actions.

In my next blog I will talk about “What happens if those actions don’t solve the problem”?

Watch me talk about how action learning can help dysfunctional teams 

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