There are four action-learning realities that we try to share with our clients:
For each of the above reasons, Executive KnowledgeWorks cautions our clients to engage in an action learning intervention only when the appropriate commitments and controls are in place.
The Action Learning Project As A Leadership Lab
The action learning project can be an exceptional opportunity for the individual manager to receive feedback regarding his or her leadership style. This is particularly true for a senior manager. It is sometimes difficult for any one of us to receive constructive criticism. Receiving that criticism on the job and as part of a team with ones subordinates can be all the more challenging. This seems to get further complicated as an individual moves up the ranks of the organization and becomes a key executive.
The challenge then becomes to find a venue or opportunity that is grounded in the business reality but is outside the complications of the leaders team of subordinates.
An action learning project, while not without its own challenges and complexities, can be an unusually rich opportunity for examining leadership style and providing constructive coaching and feedback. When properly designed, an action learning initiative allows for and even amplifies the same communication, problem solving, decision-making, conflict management and leadership behaviors that the executive will rely on in his or her normal day-to-day interaction with direct reports. It can even include timely (but non-personal) feedback from the executives team "back home". But, it does all of this in a reality grounded exploration with ones peers. It can be an exceptional vehicle.
The Executive KnowledgeWorks Process
The services that Executive KnowledgeWorks provides in action learning projects can be thought of as similar to those of both architect and general contractor. EKW helps the client conceptualize, design in detail, build and deliver the agreed-upon project. Often such initiatives require or can benefit from the services of "subcontractors" such as world-class subject matter experts, government officials or highly regarded corporate practitioners. Like the general contactor of a construction project, we fully manage the contributions of all contributing suppliers.
At the same time, the staff of Executive KnowledgeWorks personally handles the research, design, facilitation and overall management of the project. Executive KnowledgeWorks prides itself on 1 1/2 decades of attention to quality, budget control and timely project completion. But, above all else, we have a history of delivering results -- of achieving high impact. The steps we follow while providing such services include:
A Note about Facilitation
Our experiences have taught us that one of the most critical factors for the success of an action-learning project is the facilitation and coaching. At the same time, one of the great opportunities presented by an action learning project is the "learning moment" -- the chance to provide just in time learning, coaching or feedback, and to do so at those moments of any action learning process when the individual or group wants or needs the insight or teaching.
Capitalizing on this opportunity requires a special kind of highly experienced facilitator -- one who can help with the business focused discussions, knows when and how to stay out of the way, and has the experience and knowledge to constructively help the group capitalize on the learning moments. Executive KnowledgeWorks has been providing just such facilitation to major U.S. corporations for over 15 years. As a result, our clients, more often than not, realize both of the potential benefits of an action learning initiative -- a breakthrough on the strategic task or challenge and accelerated learning and development for both the individual participants and the team as a whole.
* Action learning is often a component of "Breakthrough Centered Development" -- which we consider to be the most powerful (multi- component) form of individual and organization development.