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Action Learning

Beyond Kaizen-- Action Learning & Cultural Change 

Introduction

Action Learning LogoAction learning promotes individual and organizational learning through small teams. These teams address real problems and learn from their attempts to change things.

The most important aspect of Action Learning is its ability to promote cultural change. The surface simplicity of Action Learning can mask its real power. It not only provides learning for individuals and the organization. It also solves intractable problems and generates significant changes in corporate culture.

Action Learning shares many characteristics with Kaizen events and process improvement teams. Indeed, some process improvement teams or Kaizen teams are, in fact, Action Learning teams. Figure 1 shows the general process. Click here for a comparison of Action Learning, Kaizen and Task Forces.

Benefits

The benefits of Action Learning come at two levels. At an individual level, people learn through doing. They learn about technical issues such as workcell design. They learn about team processes and how to function in teams. They also learn leadership and cooperation skills. Action Learning gives team members confidence in their abilities to learn while promoting an appropriate humility about their actual knowledge.

At the organizational level, companies need to learn coping skills for new problems. The rate of change in the external environment is accelerating and has been for several decades. It is only likely to accelerate more.

For survival, organizations must learn at least as fast as the pace of change and, preferably faster. they must become learning organizations or lose competitive advantage.

Existing knowledge about how things work, or are supposed to work, often misdirects inquiry rather than facilitates a solution.

Action Learning promotes the kind of Corporate Culture that allows companies to survive in these changing environments.

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Action Learning Cycle 

Figure 1 the Action Learning Process

 

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Origins of Action Learning

Reg RevansThe term “Action Learning” was first coined by Professor Reg Revans. Originally an astrophysicist, Revans later worked on productivity improvements in British coal mines. He experimented, developed, researched and wrote about Action Learning for almost 50 years. The concept is better known in Europe than in the U.S.

Action Learning drew upon many older tools from Work Simplification and the work of Gilbreth, Taylor and the other Industrial Engineering pioneers. At the same time, it anticipated many of the techniques of Team Development that came later such as self-norming and conflict resolution.

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