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Saturday, 8 September 2012

Looking for a Change Management Tool for Your Not-for-Profit? Try Action Learning – It Really Does Work


The humanistic attributes of the Organisational Development link to Action Learning, have been identified as potentially the most important for the purposes of changing the cultural attributes of organizations and it is this element that makes it so applicable to the not-for-profit sector as a direct reflection of the characteristics attributed to staff within this sector. In this context, Action Learning is viewed as a multi-faceted, structured, experiential process that impacts an informed group of individuals in an organisational context, focusing on the proactive elements of the organisation as distinct from the more reactive elements

Whilst it has a defined starting point, being the resolution of some form of strategic or operational issue with no clear immediate or identifiable outcome, its end point is less defined as it relies not only on the identification of the solution or solutions, but also its implementation over time with constant feedback and input. Thus, an unending cycle of action, reflection and understanding underpins the base of an Action Learning approach. Hence it is an iterative process that rolls on until the end ‘target’ is achieved – that end target being the resolution of an organisational challenge.

It therefore relies heavily on successful workings of an open systems methodology that underpins the learning processes that makes Action Learning applicable. This is supported by the collaborative approach to problem solving as well as the learning that underpins the successful Action Learning outcome. Contextually, participants are the experts and these experts develop the solutions, implement the solutions, monitor the success and learn from the process, enabling the application of similar processes to future organisational and human development issues

Two fundamental elements of Action Learning are described in the name itself. The Action element refers to the underlying need to resolve issues at various levels. These could be personnel developmental issues that underpin personal performance or they could be organisational issues that underpin organisational performance. It is clear from a practical perspective that, implementing the outcomes of the participants within the Action Learning groups, empowers them and underpins the full learning experience which also underpins change outcomes.

The Learning element refers to the ability of the members to clearly identify the path that has been taken to derive the end outcomes and to inculcate this path development into future projects, irrespective of the nature of the project itself. Moreover it enables the participating individuals to become aware of, and further develop their own, functional attributes, both from an individual and group perspective. Thus, the Learning component of Action Learning enables participants to identify, develop and improve their utility from a personal and organisational perspective. Skill enhancement and development, therefore, becomes a fundamental by-product of the process. The extent to which such learning is focused entirely at the management level should be questioned, as a strong case can be made to elicit Action Learning as a process of engagement and development across the broader organisational hierarchy, further inculcating change processes in support of potential institutionalisation of the change outcomes.

OPTIMUM NFP has designed and developed Action Learning programs at numerous not-for-profit organizations with excellent results having been achieved both organisationally as well as from the perspective of personnel development.

Contact David Rosenbaum of OPTIMUM NFP to further discuss your requirements in this area. I would be more than happy to introduce Action Learning to you in an attempt to determine the extent to which it fits your organisational requirements.

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