2015 Review & 2016 Plans - Action Learning International

4th January 2016

Happy New Year to Our Action Learning Friends 

As we look forward to the new year at Action Learning International we would like to provide a brief review of 2015 which was a transformative year with our clients and partners and team.

2015 - A Year of Transforming Organisations

Our People...

So suddenly we lost our dear friend, colleague and co-founder Dr Joanna Kozubska, taken cruelly and rapidly by motor neurone disease.  Joanna was the initiator of our organisation. She invited us to join together and continue the tradition of business focused action learning which we had experienced through our work with IMC.  This was where Joanna had worked with key movers and shakers in the field of action learning including Reg Revans. The IMC Admissions Ceremony in the UK this year showed how many people had been touched by Joanna’s support. She was directing and inspiring us right to the end and met her fate with such dignity. We will continue to build on the foundations she laid. We will stay true to the enduring values of action learning as we adapt our practices to the demands of future business and society. A lovely tribute to Joanna has been provided by our colleague Dr Bob Mackenzie.

2015 saw the retirement of Jo Denby who was founding editor of our journal Questioner - the first publication is in hand and editorial duties have been ably resumed by our colleague Dr Karen Jackson.  We thank Jo for her always cheerful and valued contribution to our organisation, not least naming it. We wish Jo a continued recovery.

Looking ahead to 2016 and beyond we continue to benefit from great support from Dr Karen Jackson and Dr Nigel Sewell who is supporting our doctoral level work in the UK, bringing much wisdom and organisational skill. We have welcomed new faculty into the role of supporting Action Learning Question based programmes including Dr Tracy Kite and through partnership with Mayvin a great group of organisation design specialists who have recently completed the Action Learning Facilitator Accreditation programme (ALFA) based on their leading edge work.

Action Learning International in Australia

In Australia our work goes from strength to strength, being driven by our parter in Sydney, David Rosenbaum. We were delighted to welcome David to the UK in 2015 where he met faculty and partners and contributed to the SEAL doctoral workshop.

We look forward to inducting Marcella Lazarus and Phil McDonald from Sydney as they enhance their own ALQ with the ALFA in the New Year.  They will be followed by a growing team of Australia based faculty. 

Our partnership with AIM Business School continues to develop at pace. AIM Business School now recognise the Action Learning Question process as an elective unit towards their MBA and 2015 saw the completion of the first cross-organisational ALQ programme in Australia. Richard Hale was delighted to be in Sydney for the launch of the programme in the wonderful setting of the AIM Business School facilities at Circular Quay. Towards the end of the year Action Learning International were represented in partnership with Optimum NFP at two major conferences in the Not for Profit sector - the NDS CEO Conference in Sydney, 6th-7th December, and the Not-for-Profil People Conference,16th-17th November, in Melbourne. There was a huge interest in the way action learning can be applied to address the significant challenges facing the NFP sector in Australia.

Our presence in Melbourne continues to be supported by Dr Barry Smith, a great mentor and action learning practitioner.  Professor Charles Handy said in assessing Barry’s doctorate based on Action Learning Questions 'This is the most thorough and complete review of a working life I have read'. Other faculty in Australia have supported our work including Dr Elyssebeth Leigh who has worked closely with the ALQ approach and who will be continuing to support our doctoral level work in 2016.

Working with Mayvin

Through partnership with organisation development specialists Mayvin we have been able to extend the application of the Action Learning Question process across all departments of government in the UK via an Organisation Development programme which has led to over 200 Organisation Development Questions being completed by career civil servants. Richard Hale and a team of assessors have read these papers with interest. The value of the programme has been reported in the article Nurturing the H in HR - have a think about that title - published in Action Learning: Research and Practice.  Each paper apart from earning 20 postgraduate credits for the action learner, tells a real practice based story of value add to their business.

Richard reports: 

'Two quite different examples come to mind. One participant who with the encouragement of her action learning set was able to summon up the courage to ask a pressurised incoming Director General as a client how he actually felt.  Sounds simple to take such a human approach, but given the prevailing organisational culture and politics it wasn’t. The result was a huge positive breakthrough in the relationship between HR and the business. The other example was the participant who dug beneath the metaphorical ground in her department to reveal how colleagues felt on returning from Sierra Leone following postings to support work tackling the Ebola crisis.  Normally to show one’s emotions, to expose the very real personal internal turmoil might have been seen as a career limiting weakness. Her digging, encouraged by action learning set members, led to a recognition that colleagues needed a programme of ‘decompression’, both for the sake of their own wellbeing and to keep them in the business. Put a 'Return on Investment' number on that.'

Another remarkable innovation this year has been the completion of Mayvin’s Restorative HR work with local authorities where the Action Learning Question approach has been applied by HR professionals who normally work with high volume case loads of formal procedure based work. The framing of this work has tended to be confrontational - having to work through complex grievance or discipline and industrial relations issues. Adopting an approach based on learning from the restorative justice context, and using an ALQ process, referred to as Restorative HR Questions, has proven transformative.  Mayvin hope to extend this work in 2016.  

UK Trade Mission to Morocco

In November Richard Hale was delighted to join Alex Morgan from Abbey Communication the executive English language and communication school, on a UK trade mission to Casablanca and Rabat . We are now in discussion regarding the application of the ALQ approach to support transformation of the education sector. The mission was led by minister Tobias Ellwood and supported by UK Trade and Investment.  It coincided with the release of the film Spectre, so much fun was had at the red carpet event linked to that great UK export James Bond!. 

Ashridge Executive Education

Richard Hale was delighted to be invited to support the Ashridge Doctorate in Organisational Change programme as faculty, supervising doctoral candidates and we look forward to developing the relationship with this world class business school in 2016.

Senior Executive Action Learning Programme

The SEAL programme is unique in its design as a doctoral programme which incorporates both the ALQ and Explication approach.  Participants on the programme spanning continents have met for workshops twice in 2015 to share their learning in a real spirit of inquiry.  They address profoundly important business and personal challenges and it is a priority to build on the strength of this programme in 2016.

Corporate Action Learning Programmes

We have enjoyed working with successful business organisations in running organisationally focused action learning based talent development programmes. Motorpoint is a successful and growing motor sales business which has embraced the action learning approach where we have delivered a senior level talent development programme based around two major business projects focused on quality control and organisational culture.  This has proven a great learning journey for all and we look forward to supporting further business growth in 2016. A highlight of this programme was an illuminating visit to the first ever factory in Derby - see Richard's Blog.

Supporting Corporate Action Learning Academies

We support organisations in the design and operation of their corporate academies. A current project entails currently working with a major international technology organisation where the focus is on using a business focused action learning based approach to support an overall transformation from a retail to an e-tail business.  This has entailed transforming the approach to leadership, management and professional development.

Action Learning Forum on Linked In - What is Your Question?

A couple of years ago we set up the Action Learning Forum as a group on Linked In - the idea was to develop a virtual community of practice for practitioners, academics or anyone interested in Action Learning. The group numbers 1,122 people as at the end of 2015. We did not dream of it growing to this size, such is the interest in action learning and the simple idea but challenging practice of posing insightful questions to support others in their problem solving and learning.

The rate of change is increasing and we need to develop our skill in asking insightful questions at an even faster rate.
Go on... pose a question here for 2016… or respond to an insightful question with another really insightful question...
What is Your Insightful Action Learning Question for 2016?

Sincere thanks to all who have supported us in 2015 and we look forward to action and learning with you in 2016.


Dr Richard Hale, Action Learning International, 1st January, 2016

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