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Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 1 How Action Learning Supports Organization Development & Change How Action Learning Supports Organization Development.

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Presentation on theme: "Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 1 How Action Learning Supports Organization Development & Change How Action Learning Supports Organization Development."— Presentation transcript:

1 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 1 How Action Learning Supports Organization Development & Change How Action Learning Supports Organization Development & Change November 10, 2009 Center for Organizational Dynamics University of Pennsylvania Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. World Institute for Action Learning Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University

2 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 2 OD&C is a system-wide application and transfer of behavioral science knowledge to the planned development, improvement, and reinforcement of the strategies, structures, and processes that lead to organization effectiveness. Cummings, T. G., & Worley, C. G. (2005). Organization development and change, 8 th edition. Mason, OH: Thomson/South-Western. OD&C is a system-wide application and transfer of behavioral science knowledge to the planned development, improvement, and reinforcement of the strategies, structures, and processes that lead to organization effectiveness. Cummings, T. G., & Worley, C. G. (2005). Organization development and change, 8 th edition. Mason, OH: Thomson/South-Western.

3 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 3 Action Learning: developing executives and organizations while dealing effectively with critical, unprecedented, discontinuous organizational issues

4 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 4 The first step of any innovative process is an act of destruction

5 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 5 Most contemporary organizational transformation projects are triggered by unprecedented and discontinuous events that originate in the external environment

6 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 6 Organizational Change is Stimulated Primarily by External Events Organizational Change is Stimulated Primarily by External Events Supra-System, Organization, Subsystem or Team Information: surveys, research, theoretical concepts, best practices, and benchmarking Technological innovations Demographics, migration, and population growth patterns (customers & labor pool)* Customers preferences or requirements* Economic conditions* Climate, meteorological conditions* Social values* Political conditions* Legislation (e.g., AAP, EEOC, EPA TERRORISM Pandemics* Competition* * local, national, regional, and/or global

7 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 7 Organizations typically respond to environmental changes with a technical or structural solution. If internal resources are insufficient, organizations often secure external technical expert or techspert consultants (Freedman & Zackrison, 2001).

8 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 8 Techsperts and OD&C Practitioners Should Be Friends (Sung to the tune of Farmers and Ranchers Should Be Friends (Oklahoma)

9 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 9 Existing Organizational System Supported by Tradition Bearers

10 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 10 Desired organizational system Supported by Crusaders for Change

11 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 11 ADD ON PRESERVE LET GO (with Respect & Appreciation) To function effectively in unprecedented, discontinuous conditions, a transforming organizational system must determine what to:

12 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 12 Techsperts focus on techno-structural- systems problems and solutions Techsperts see themselves as masters of hard sciences (SMEs) Techsperts typically do not anticipate collateral socio-emotional damage caused by techno-structural-systems change Usually, techsperts are unskilled in dealing with socio-emotional problems

13 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 13 Implicitly, techsperts seem to assume the power of their techno-structural interventions will force people, teams, and subsystems to adapt and accommodate Techsperts see OD&C practitioners as soft stuff But, the soft stuff is the hard stuff OD&C practitioners and ALTCs are experts on the soft stuff

14 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 14 Based on Richard Beckhard & Reuben T. Harris (1987) FUTURE STATE TRANSITION STATE PLANS WHY CHANGE? CURRENT STATE ONE VERSION OF THE ORGANIZATION DEVELOPMENT & CHANGE PROCESS

15 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 15 The Basic Change Process is Scalable – from Incremental and Local to Transformational and Systemic MACRO PLANS FUTURE STATE WHY CHANGE? CURRENT STATE Future State Current State Review & Approve Execute Implementation Plans TRANSITION STATE Project Integration or Coordination Team Create Task Forces or Action Learning Teams Micro Plans

16 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 16 No matter how precise, plans for complex system change rarely work out as expected The best way to understand an organization is to try to change it. Kurt Lewin The best way to understand an organization is to try to change it. Kurt Lewin

17 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 17 Today, organizations need to: Adapt to unprecedented, volatile changes in their external environments Deal with critical, emergent, unanticipated, trans-organizational issues Find or create and apply effective solutions Be anchored in real-time Be responsive to cycle-time pressure Today, organizations need to: Adapt to unprecedented, volatile changes in their external environments Deal with critical, emergent, unanticipated, trans-organizational issues Find or create and apply effective solutions Be anchored in real-time Be responsive to cycle-time pressure

18 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 18 However, most existing organizational problem-solving strategies, mechanisms, and processes are: More effective for dealing with precisely defined, well-known, historical issues Less effective for fuzzy unprecedented issues

19 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 19 When and Why Action Learning? OUTCOME (GOAL) Uncertain, Ambiguous Clear, Specific B. Known, Clear Solution for a Puzzle (Need: skilled task facilitator, techspert) C. Action Learning D. Action Learning PATHWAY (SOLUTION) Unknown Controversial Well-known Precise A. Solution in Search of a Problem – e.g., strategic planning (AL may be beneficial) Arthur M. Freedman (1998)

20 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 20 Action Learning is an approach to leadership, team, and organization development and change Originally conceived and developed by Reg Revans Currently championed and refined by Mike Marquardt (1999, 2004) and WIAL (2009) Originally conceived and developed by Reg Revans Currently championed and refined by Mike Marquardt (1999, 2004) and WIAL (2009) Boshyk, Y. (Ed.) (2002). Action learning worldwide: Experiences of leadership and organizational development. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Dotlich, D. L., & Noel, J. L. Action learning: How the worlds top companies are re-creating their leaders and themselves. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Gasparski, W. W., & Botham, D. (Eds.) (1998). Action learning. London: Transaction Publishers. Marquardt, M. J. (1999). Action learning in action: Transforming problems and people for world-class organizational learning. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishers. Marquardt, M. J. (2004). Optimizing the power of action learning: Solving problems and building leaders in real time. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishers. Marquardt, M., Leonard, E.S., Freedman, A.M., & Hill, C. (2009). Action learning for leadership and organization development. Washington: American Psychological Association. Rothwell, W. J. (1999). The action learning guidebook: A real-time strategy for problem-solving, training design, and employee development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

21 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 21 The elegant simplicity of Action Learning integrates: Action Research (Lewin) Laboratory education -- T-Groups (Bradford, Gibb & Benne) Sociotechnical Systems Theory (Rice, Trist, Emery, Murray) Adult (Andragogical) Learning (Knowles) Double-loop learning (Argyris & Schön) Participative Organization Development & Change theory and methodology (e.g., Cummings & Worley) The elegant simplicity of Action Learning integrates: Action Research (Lewin) Laboratory education -- T-Groups (Bradford, Gibb & Benne) Sociotechnical Systems Theory (Rice, Trist, Emery, Murray) Adult (Andragogical) Learning (Knowles) Double-loop learning (Argyris & Schön) Participative Organization Development & Change theory and methodology (e.g., Cummings & Worley)

22 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 22 Action Learning supports project management teams that confront C- and D-type problems: Coordinating activities of interdependent contractors Resolving territorial disputes among involved parties Developing commitment of end-users to support plans for complex system changes Establishing priorities with which all involved parties agree and sustain

23 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 23 Action Learning Team For Project Management Project Director Stakeholder & Regulator Relations Finance or Legal Design Engineering Action Learning Team Coach OD&C Practitioner Quality Assurance Cost & Scheduling MULTI-DISCIPLINARY MANAGEMENT TEAM

24 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 24 A cadre of Action Learning Team members is created by selecting high-potential managers from different levels, departments, regions, or product groups

25 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 25 ALT Members Are Trained in Organizational Change Pre-Entry Entry Contact Agreements Evaluating Progress and Results Action Planning Data Organization and Preparation Data Feedback Implementing the Action Plan Termination or Recycle Feedback Loop: Variance Analysis PHASES OF THE CONSULTING PROCESS Data Collection Single-Loop Learning

26 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 26 ALT Members are Trained in Double-Loop Learning (Action Research) 3. TAKE ACTION 1. DIAGNOSE 4. EVALUATE EFFECTS 2. PLAN ACTION Content Premise Process No action without research; no research without action Kurt Lewin No action without research; no research without action Kurt Lewin

27 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 27 Predictable Surprises Realistic Execution Based on Lewin (1948) Context & Purpose Diagnose Act Evaluate Plan Evaluate Act Evaluate Plan Evaluate Diagnose Act Diagnose Plan Evaluate Diagnose Plan Act CURRENT STATE (Goals & Plans Complete) Reasonable, Idealized Execution of Implementation Plans DESIRED STATE (Complete Execution) The Action Research Method as Applied to Implementation Phase The Action Research Method as Applied to Implementation Phase

28 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 28 Predictable Surprises We may not know what specific surprises we will run into during implementation We do know, with a high degree of certainty, that such surprises are inevitable; they cannot be avoided First, when we deliberately change even one part of a system, the change will perturbate the entire system and affect it in unpredictable ways (side effects) Second, implementation activities will cause previously existing, benign conditions to emerge and become visible; implementation will exacerbate these nascent issues

29 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 29 When predictable surprises inevitably occur, techsperts may ignore, avoid, cover up, or deny them – or how they lead to enduring consequences Lost-time accidents Shortages of essential supplies, resources Competing demands of stakeholders Resistance from end-users Competing crises that divert attention, resources Leadership changes Questionable cost-benefit analysis

30 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 30 Project Manager (PM) Administrative Assistant (AA-Logistics) Action Learning Team Action Learning Team Action Learning Team Action Learning Team CHAMPION SPONSOR AL Project Structure

31 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 31 One person from each AL Team is deployed to the S.A.L.T. for a full-time, temporary mission An AL Team Coach is assigned to the S.A.L.T. AL Teams continue their work The S.A.L.T. is mandated to clarify, diagnose, analyze, and develop recommendations to deal with the Predictable Surprise All relevant stakeholders and involved parties are identified and asked to participate in the process The S.A.L.T. and its Predictable Surprise issue is treated as a short-term Action Learning session The AL Project Manager may choose to convene a Special Action Learning Team (a S.A.L.T.)

32 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 32 ACTION LEARNING TEAM A SALT AL Team Coach ALT Members are Deployed to a SALT with an ALT Coach

33 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 33 The AL cadre is oriented & introduced to AL theory & methods

34 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 34 No learning without action; No action without learning Reg Revans No learning without action; No action without learning Reg Revans

35 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 35 Executive managers (sponsors) select a number of significant, critical trans-organizational issues Problems-to-solve Opportunities-to-exploit Dilemmas-to-manage What keeps them awake at night?

36 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 36 Recruiting high tech workers Developing training programs for leaders Improving information systems Six Sigma projects Improving customer service Resolving conflict between departments Developing a new performance appraisal system Establishing work schedule Establishing common priorities incorporating diverse vested interests of multiple stakeholders Recruiting high tech workers Developing training programs for leaders Improving information systems Six Sigma projects Improving customer service Resolving conflict between departments Developing a new performance appraisal system Establishing work schedule Establishing common priorities incorporating diverse vested interests of multiple stakeholders Examples of Action Learning Problems

37 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 37 Critical issues are allocated to the AL cadre along with deadlines for expected results The cadre is divided into four- to eight-person ALTs Each ALT (Set) selects (or is assigned) an issue to investigate Critical issues are allocated to the AL cadre along with deadlines for expected results The cadre is divided into four- to eight-person ALTs Each ALT (Set) selects (or is assigned) an issue to investigate

38 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 38 A Coach is assigned to help the ALT learn how to: Scope out the issue (consider context, culture, climate) Develop strategy Focus on Process Focus on Individual, Team, and Organizational Learning

39 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 39 Two Ground Rules/Guidelines in AL 1.Statements only in response to questions; anyone can ask questions 2.Action learning coach has authority to intervene whenever he/she identifies learning opportunities

40 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 40 Questioning and Reflective Process Questions tap into, surface preconscious information 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 Questions to clarify, to open up new avenues, to unpack, to offer ideas and insights, to learn Time and space is needed to reflect, share perspectives, unfreeze, and gain (synthesize) new perspectives

41 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 41 Questions are Essential to Understanding and Framing Problems Assures ALT is working on the right problem (not symptom) Clarifying, understanding, testing validity of assumptions The blind men and the elephant – do we all see the problem the same way? Or do we see different aspects? Or do we see different problems? Inquiry and reflection is a sure way to get agreement on the problem Understanding the context as well as the content of the problem is essential Seeds of solutions reside in responses to great questions

42 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 42 IDEATE EVALUATE NO JUDGMENT YES JUDGMENT DIVERGE CONVERGE Step 1 Step 2 Quantity Imaginative Free Gut Quality Analytical Restricted Intellect Problems Solutions CRITERIA Focus of questions Ratio of questions to assertions Open vs. closed-ended questions

43 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 43 Questions Establish High Level Goals and Create Optimal Strategies Questions encourage the team to expand thinking beyond common or traditional solutions Asking what are our organization seeks to accomplish Focusing on a compelling, desirable future creates energy and requires anticipation of the future Questions search for root causes 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)

44 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 44 ALTs work in both collocated and distributed modes Individual ALT members take responsibility for various tasks, actions, activities & functions between meetings Convene when and as needed in pairs, triads or total team Face-to-face, voice-to-voice and/or virtual meetings ALTs work in both collocated and distributed modes Individual ALT members take responsibility for various tasks, actions, activities & functions between meetings Convene when and as needed in pairs, triads or total team Face-to-face, voice-to-voice and/or virtual meetings

45 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 45 Typically, ALT Coaches meet with the ALT when they convene for face-to-face meetings (every 2 or 3 weeks) : Progress reviews Data analysis Emergent planning of next steps (What? So what? Now what?)

46 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 46 Commitment to Learning Members take responsibility for their own, their teams, and their organizations explicit learning Time is set aside to reflect on and discuss learnings and how they can be applied systematically elsewhere in the organization Leveraging and linking of knowledge serves as a multiplier of Action Learnings benefits

47 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 47 ALT Coaches enable ALT members to empower themselves by learning to ASK GREAT QUESTIONS

48 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 48 The Enablement-Empowerment Matrix ENABLEMENT: Level of technical competence, skill in managing power, and effectiveness when working autonomously & teams EMPOWERMENT: Level of personal and organizational authority (discretion to act)

49 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 49 ENABLEMENT LOOSE CANNONS ENTRENCHED IN BUNKERS CAGED EAGLES FULLY EMPOWERED EMPOWERMENT HIGH LOW HIGHLOW

50 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 50 Action Learning Team Coach Trained A member of the organization or external partner Only asks questions related to learning Ensures sufficient time for capturing learnings Helps team members to reflect and learn Helps ALT to set norms and monitor adherence (or relevance) Creates an atmosphere of learning and reflective inquiry

51 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 51 Mental models and evidence-based principles serve the purpose of INFORMING the ALT Coach re: What questions to ask How to ask questions Mental models and evidence-based principles serve the purpose of INFORMING the ALT Coach re: What questions to ask How to ask questions

52 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 52 Action Learning Enables ALTs to become High Performance Teams (HPT)

53 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 53 ALTs and Coaches begin by focusing on the Task Achievement and Goal Attainment (WORK) Level. As the ALT engages the work, indicators may emerge for the need to focus at the Group Dynamics, Individual or Interpersonal, and/or Boundary Management Levels. ALTs and Coaches begin by focusing on the Task Achievement and Goal Attainment (WORK) Level. As the ALT engages the work, indicators may emerge for the need to focus at the Group Dynamics, Individual or Interpersonal, and/or Boundary Management Levels.

54 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 54 A high performing team A collection of individuals Boundary management (lateral interface transactions with significant stakeholders & constituents) Developing an HPT Task accomplishment & goal achievement (participatory problem-solving and decision- making methods & skills) Group dynamics Personal & interpersonal dynamics Team Development: Phases & Stages

55 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 55

56 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 56 Taking Action Action is required after each ALT session & during implementation of strategies Testing ideas in the real world determines if strategies are effective and practical Merely recommending solutions diminishes creativity and commitment Deep and real learning occurs when reflecting on real action

57 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 57 Teams present their results to executive decision-makers for approval to proceed with IMPLEMENTATION

58 Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D. 11/10/09 58 Benefits derived from Action Learning Increase executive bench strength Identify & deal with real, consequential trans-organizational issues Learn how individuals, teams & total systems can quickly grow & develop Familiarize high-potential managers with different organizational perspectives Develop consultative problem-solving and decision-making skills Learn to build & develop high-performing team Develop leadership capabilities & practical skills Gain self-awareness, self-esteem Influence executive decision-makers Earn recognition, appreciation, respect Increase executive bench strength Identify & deal with real, consequential trans-organizational issues Learn how individuals, teams & total systems can quickly grow & develop Familiarize high-potential managers with different organizational perspectives Develop consultative problem-solving and decision-making skills Learn to build & develop high-performing team Develop leadership capabilities & practical skills Gain self-awareness, self-esteem Influence executive decision-makers Earn recognition, appreciation, respect


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