When Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) decided to include action learning in their training plans, they commissioned Action Learning Associates to train 14 brand new facilitators. This was last summer. Since then the programme has gathered pace. Great leaders recognise the importance of employee engagement in organisational performance. At LFRS the Executive Board were so positive about the outcomes of their action learning pilot project that they are now extending the opportunity to take part in action learning sets. Feedback from set participants has given clear indications of improved engagement and an increased feeling of organisational support. The success of the pilot project lies in the efficacy of action learning itself and in the strong commitment of the LFRS Executive Board, the Learning and Development team, and the newly trained facilitators. Throughout the project, senior management has understood its responsibility to support organisational learning and senior team members have been willing to learn themselves and to participate in the programme. Crucially, they have also made sufficient time for the programme. As a result, participants have been able to discuss their experiences and their problems fully and openly. Issues raised have been both organisational and personal. The former have been addressed with the help of the senior team while the latter have, in most cases, been resolved by individuals.
Technical problems may require deductive, linear problem-solving approaches. But where ‘wicked’ organisational problems involve people, with their deeply-held values and beliefs, the problems may be more complex and dynamic and are likely to require different problem-solving strategies.
This is where action learning is most effective.