The Action Learning 2016 Approach

The Action Learning 2014 Approach

The Action Learning 2016 Approach

One example of innovative activity stems from the early 1970s, when GEC initiated a senior management development program using the Action Learning approach. This entailed twenty-one managers from within GEC companies and their client organizations working for eight months tackling tough, real-time projects in different parts of GEC, not only to bring a fresh approach to the issues, but also to learn rapidly and effectively the skills required for senior management. As part of the Action Learning approach, the managers also had to meet regularly in small groups to review, criticize and support each other. A senior, woman civil servant who was seconded to a major manufacturing company reflects on this experience as extremely valuable and, in particular, working with her Action Learning Group.

The Action Learning approach has been developed, honed and modified in many diverse ways over the years. A recent variation was introduced into the NHS under the name of Skill Swap in 2004-95. This initiative was funded by the South Thames Region and offered short-term secondments to employees, so that people with relevant expertise could be brought in to tackle specific problems in another part of the region. The scheme, therefore, provided individuals with an opportunity for personal growth while, at the same time, offering scope for wider organizational development - with staff moving between agencies, sharing expertise and challenging cultural boundaries. Support for the secondees was provided by staff from the Salmons Centre (which is a training and development provider for health and social care attached to Christchurch College, Canterbury), on both a one-to-one basis as mentors and on a group basis in workshops. Secondees were also encouraged to develop their networks as a way of establishing relationships and maintaining contacts which would continue beyond the formal Skill Swap activity. One of the secondees wrote enthusiastically, 'It is one of the most important and exciting developments in the NHS. The whole process is innovative, inspiring, challenging and it has so much to offer every party involved.'

As a direct result of its success the Skill Swap idea is now being considered by several NHS Trusts as part of their personal development strategy, and the NHS Women's Unit has since commissioned the Salmons Centre to design and run a program specifically aimed to develop women in middle and senior management.




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