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Action Learning - A Powerful New Tool for Developing Leaders, Solving Problems, Building Teams and Transforming Organizations Dr. Michael J. Marquardt.

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Presentation on theme: "Action Learning - A Powerful New Tool for Developing Leaders, Solving Problems, Building Teams and Transforming Organizations Dr. Michael J. Marquardt."— Presentation transcript:

1 Action Learning - A Powerful New Tool for Developing Leaders, Solving Problems, Building Teams and Transforming Organizations Dr. Michael J. Marquardt Professor, George Washington University President, World Institute for Action Learning

2 What is Action Learning?
A process that involves a small group working on real problems, taking action, and learning while doing so A powerful management tool that creates dynamic opportunities for individuals, teams, leaders and organizations to successfully learn and innovate Acting your way to learning

3 Action Learning - Worldwide
Sodexho Novartis Siemens Boeing Caterpillar Microsoft Nokia UN Trade Organization Hong Kong Transit General Electric DuPont Samsung American University Constellation Energy Goodrich Business School of Mauritius

4 Power and Benefits of Action Learning
Solves complex problems Develops leadership competencies Builds powerful teams Generates continuous, valuable learning by individuals Creates a corporate culture that can handle change and learns Enhances systems thinking and creativity

5 Components of an Action Learning Program
Project, challenge, task, or problem Group of 4-8 people with diverse perspectives Reflective questioning and listening Development of systemic strategies and implementation of agreed-to actions Commitment to learning Action Learning coach

6 Two Ground Rules/Guidelines in Action Learning
Statements only in response to questions; anyone can ask questions Action learning coach has authority to intervene whenever he/she identifies learning opportunities

7 Demonstration of Action Learning

8 Problem Presenter Take just 1-2 minutes to highlight the key elements of the problem/challenge/task for which you would like to receive some help Trust that the group will ask the important information and details Be brief. If you take too long to present, the group may (a) have difficulty coming up with questions and (b) be bored or impatient with your details When you provide too much detail, you may create unnecessary or irrelevant “brush” which slows down or gets in the path which the group is seeking to find Answer the questions asked of you as concisely as you can You do not have to answer questions that (a) you do not have the answer for (“I don’t know”) or (b) for which you have not yet formed an opinion (“I need to think about that question;” “I’m not sure”) Feel free to ask questions of other group members

9 Team Members Seek to gain a group-agreed understanding of the problem by asking questions Make statements only in response to questions directed specifically to you or to the group as a whole Feel free to ask questions of other group members as well Try to build on each other’s questions rather than just on getting your questions answered Listen carefully to the questions of the action learning coach and do not resume working on the problem until he/she asks you to continue

10 How Action Learning Differs from Other Problem-Solving Groups
Learning and team development as important as solving the problem Groups charged with implementing as well as solving real problems Membership not reserved to experts or involved people Questions precede answers; dialogue over discussion and debate Learning coach with power Actions and strategies requiring systems thinking

11 1. Problems/Challenges for Actions Learning
Important to the organization or individual - not a made-up exercise Difficult, challenging problems generates creativity, commitment and learning The more complex a problem, the more likely that only an action learning group can develop a systemic, successful strategy Problems should be feasible and within the authority and/or responsibility of group

12 Examples of Problems for Action Learning
Recruiting high tech workers Developing training programs for leaders Improving information systems Sony Music and revenue from singers Improving customer service Resolving conflict between departments Developing a new performance appraisal system Establishing work schedule

13 2. Action Learning Group 4-8 members to maximize creativity
From within and outside the organization Diverse so as to obtain fresh viewpoints (Pizza man) May be familiar or unfamiliar with roles and situations May include external resources when needed

14 Attributes of Group Members
Committed to solving problem Carefully listening to one another Willing to develop and learn Respectful of others Constructive and supportive Group rather than individually focused

15 3. Questioning and Reflective Process
Questions to clarify, to open up new avenues, to unpack, to offer ideas and insights, to learn Time and space needed to stand back, reflect, unfreeze, and gain new perspectives Questions enable us to diverge and examine from a systems perspective before we converge towards solution Questions allow us to reflect, to listen, to be creative, and to learn

16 Questions are Essential for Understanding and Reframing the Problem
Assures working on the right problem and not symptom Fable of the blind men and the elephant Questioning each other is only way to get agreement on the problem Understanding the context as well as the content of the problem Seeds of solutions reside in questions

17 Power of Questions Creative problem solving and systems thinking
Build group cohesiveness, listening and respect Increase reflection, learning and change

18 4. Strategies and Action Holistic problem-solving
Great goals and creative solutions Commitment to implementation

19 Holistic vs. Reductionist Approaches to Problem Solving
Seeks broad context in which to understand a problem and its potential solutions Aims to find unique, novel ideas that provide solution that can endure Puts solutions in a systems framework, recognizing interdependencies Employs many mental models – intuitive, analytical & creative Future oriented; focuses on creating solutions that may solve other problems Limits context to the problem itself Aims to find a single, immediate solution that “fixes” the problem Specifies changes only in terms of the parts of the problem Employs rational, empirical thought processes Past oriented; focuses on solving this problem

20 Establishing High Level Goals and Creating Optimal Strategies
Expand the possibilities of solutions Asking what are we seeking to accomplish Focusing on the future creates energy and requires anticipation of the future Enlarges your creative space Elevates thinking beyond obvious first answers Actionable strategies are built on the three questions of: Who knows what we are trying to do? (facts) Who cares about getting it accomplished? (interest) Who can get it implemented? (power) Use of systems thinking in developing powerful strategies Utilize various project management methodologies

21 Taking Action Action learning requires action after each session and implementation of strategies Testing ideas in the real world determines if strategies are effective and practical Merely recommending diminishes creativity and commitment Deep and real learning occurs when reflecting on real action

22 5. Focus on Individual, Team and Organization-Wide Learning
Members take responsibility for own, group’s, and organization’s learning Time set aside to talk about learnings and how they can be applied systematically elsewhere Leveraging and linking of knowledge serves as a multiplier of action learning’s benefits

23 Learning Quickly and Continuously
Learning = Existing Knowledge + Questions + Reflection Skill development requires (a) commitment to skill, (b) practice, (c)feedback (d) self-reflection and awareness Learning how to learn Alters beliefs, values and basic assumptions

24 6. Action Learning Coach Ensure sufficient time for capturing learnings Help members to reflect on interactions and implications of actions to be taken Assure norms and processes are followed Create an atmosphere of learning and reflective inquiry Only asks questions related to learning and problem and goal clarity May be group member or “external” partner although a trained, certified coach will enable the group to identify great actions and achieve great learning in a much quicker, more efficient manner

25 Coach Accelerates Performance and Learning
Problem Framing Questions Action Strategies Questions Group Effectiveness Questions Individual Learning Questions Organizational Application Questions

26 Action Learning Coach Describe the two ground rules
Identify the leadership skills Question to begin action learning session (To problem presenter) Could you take a minute or so to tell us the problem or task that you would like the group to help you with? Questions at first intervention (8-10 minutes into session) How are we doing as a group thus far? (Ask each member for a 1-2 word assessment; i.e., okay, not okay, great, etc.) What are we doing well? What could we do better? Do we have agreement on the problem – yes or no? Why don’t we all write it down? Is there agreement? Continue. Questions at conclusion of session (To the presenter) What action are you going to take as a result of this session? Were you helped? How? (To the entire group) What did we do best as a group? Let’s explore how each of us demonstrated our leadership skills. What did we learn that we could apply to our lives/organizations?

27 Power of Action Learning based on Multiple Disciplines and Theories
Simple actions built on numerous disciplines and theories Action learning uniquely able to interweave divergent perspectives Key theoretical disciplines: Learning/education Sociology/anthropology and groups Organizational behavior Leadership/management Physics, systems thinking, engineering and chaos theory Psychology and biology Economics, ethics, and others 27

28 Benefits of Action Learning
Develops leaders and teams of leaders Solves complex and important problems Develops systems thinking and creativity Builds teams Creates learning cultures and learning organizations

29 Leadership Development
Every leadership competency can be developed when working with a group over whom one has no control on a problem with no know solution Opportunities for self-reflection as well as supportive feedback from peers who are committed to helping us develop Everyone is here to learn and become a team of leaders Action learning coach is perfect model of 21st century leader Action learning diminishes blind spots and expand capabilities

30 Framing and Solving Problems
Gaining fresh perspectives and new ways of seeing issues Macro and micro views Generate “breakthrough” insights, solutions, and effective strategies Complement and contribute to other organizational operations

31 Systems Thinking Skill of seeing: “wholes ” rather than parts; relationships rather than linear cause-effect patterns; underlying structures rather than events; patterns of changes rather than snapshots Knowing when and how to leverage Identifying underlying causes and impacts

32 Building and Guiding Teams
Action learning builds team performance, team learning, and individual satisfaction Sharing responsibility and accountability on real problems builds strong team unity and success Questions and shared learning build powerful caring and cohesion Working on agreed-to problems develops clearness of task, strong communications and commitment

33 Creating Organizational Change and Building Learning Organizations
Organizations are now able to adapt to change more quickly Action learning groups are models of learning organizations Leaders assure that knowledge is captured and transferred Every event is a learning opportunity Learning is connected to all business goals

34 Questions/Learnings/Ideas

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