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Saturday, 12 December 2015

Developing Leadership and Measuring It: The Action Learning Question Program Could Be A Way Forward

Recognition as to the effectiveness of Action Learning as applied to the development of leadership skills, has been highlighted by two well known and internationally accredited academics and leadership practitioners, Michael Marquardt (Professor of Human Resources and International Affairs at the US based Elliott School of International Affairs and Program Director of Overseas Programs at George Washington University) and H.Skipton Leonard (Faculty member at the Carey School of Business at John Hopkins University). In a 2010 publication entitled "The Evidence for the Effectiveness of Action Learning", as published in the Action Leaning: Research and Practice Journal, they identified four reasons to support their conclusion regarding the impact of Action Learning in this field, being:

1.    Action Learning encourages people to take responsibility and action to achieve a desirable result or goal;
2.    Action Learning provides a disciplined process for reflecting and learning;
3.    Action Learning allows people to work on the specific skills necessary to get things done through people, and
4.    Action Learning provides people with the direct and indirect feedback necessary to learn complex leadership skills along the way.

Having considered the strengths associated with Action Learning as it applies to the development of leaders within organisations through either formal in-house leadership development programs or through less formal development, the question of measuring the success or otherwise of leadership development programs becomes the next issue to be addressed. In a recent edition of the MITSloan Management Review, Gandossy and Guarneri (Principal and Research Consultant respectively, from the US based Hewitt Associates, human resource consultants) reported that research from the top tier of US based companies identified the development of a range of holistic measures that addresses key organisational stakeholders namely, people managers, business leaders, HR professionals, and key organisational talent. These measures included, but were not limited to the following:

  • identifying when key talents would be ready to move onto new roles within the organisation
  • understanding the extent to which leaders take responsibility for their own development and that of their people
  • identifying how leaders contribute to the development of talent as a corporate resource
  • understanding the extent to which leaders 'walk the walk' on effective leadership behaviours
  •  identifying the business trends that most influence leadership strategies within the organisation, and
  • understanding the link between our leadership development programs and the internal supply of qualified candidates.


The real linkage that appears to be highlighted throughout the discussion presented by Gandossy and Guarneri relates to the extent to which an organisation can ensure that the leadership development programs are aligned to actual business needs as distinct to being abstract and somewhat detached from the organisational imperatives that need to be addressed.

The design of the Action Learning Question Program ("ALQ") addresses such needs by operating at the dual level of developing your staff but doing so in the context of resolving very real organisational challenges that, left unresolved, will hinder organisational efforts towards future and long term sustainability.

The 2015 public ALQ Program, referred to as Cross-Organisational Cohorts, (which recently concluded in November 2015) proved highly successful and delivered real solutions to the organisations that were represented, and real value to the individuals involved in the cohort.

Similar programs with bespoke ALQ Program structures are commencing in March 2016 as in-house ALQ Programs. These are developed for medium and large organisations that are, from a resource perspective, able to accommodate unique Learning Sets necessary for an effective program. Whilst structural elements are uniquely developed in these instances, both the in-house and the cross-organisational cohorts all operate under a common ALQ framework.

The support provided by the Australian Institute of Management ("AIM") has added further value to both the Cross-Organisational Cohorts, as well as the In-House Cohorts. AIM have identified the rigour and value of the Program, and have agreed to recognise completion of the Program (through undertaking a multi-tiered written assessment process) as one Credit Unit towards their highly acclaimed 8-Unit Graduate Diploma of Management and their 12-Unit MBA programs. Whilst this accreditation path is not compulsory, it provides a very sound base to support ongoing education and staff development - a very valuable process for organisations. 

OPTIMUM NFP in conjunction with Action Learning International Ltd. is currently preparing a further Cross-Organisational Cohort to commence in February 2016. Given the success of the recent Program, and the detailed expressions of interest received from five prospective cohort members to-date, it is recommended that you lodge your interest as early as possible, as these Programs are designed for a maximum number of participants of eight per Program. You can register on-line at www.optimumnfp.com.au (ALQ Workshop tab), or contact David Rosenbaum at drosenbaum@optimumnfp.com.au or on 0411-744-911 to register or to discuss the nature of the Program and how it may benefit your organisation, as well as yourself.

As the Principal of OPTIMUM NFP and Senior Consultant and Head of Relationship Management and Program Delivery for Australia at Action Learning International Ltd., I am well placed to structure a program that responds to your organisation's requirements. With the advent of both the Cross-Organisational Cohorts as well as In-House Cohorts, all organisations, irrespective of size, can now consider the practical benefits resulting from participation in an Action Learning Question program to solve sticky organisational challenges whilst simultaneously developing the leadership skills that your organisation will need in the coming years.

Contact David Rosenbaum at drosenbaum@optimumnfp.com.au or 0411-744-911 to discuss how an Action Learning Question program can assist your organisation achieve its objectives.

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