Does action learning increase performance?

We are often asked how do you demonstrate that action learning is an effective, powerful and cost-effective methodology for developing individuals, teams and organisations?

Our Associates meet regularly in pairs or small working groups to discuss current pieces of work, client requests, programme design, quality of practice, depth of learning and all things action learning.  Once a year, however, we get together as a larger group of Associates to explore a particular aspect of action learning practice in more detail.  The purpose of these Associates’ days is to maintain and improve the quality of our practice and to re-connect as a group.  The specific purpose of our recent Associates’ day was to strengthen our capacity to evaluate action learning interventions and to develop practical methods for demonstrating the efficacy of action learning programmes.

As a framework for our discussions, and in advance of meeting, we asked Associates to think about the potential impact action learning has on individuals, teams and wider organisational performance.  Also to consider what needs to be in place, both within the organisation and in the action learning set itself, in order for the process to be successful and meet, or exceed, whatever objectives have been set.

Our starting point aimed to encourage detailed discussions and output on the why, what and how of evaluation as well as the challenges of evaluating action learning specifically.

The rhythm changed after lunch as we heard from four colleagues who had volunteered to share real case studies of evaluation.  These case studies were further ‘mined’ using action learning style open, exploratory questions.

Finally, the big ‘so-what?”  What can we do better, and how?  Drawing on outputs from the morning discussions and what we learned from the case studies, specific actions were identified at every stage of an action learning programme from contracting and setting up to the final set meeting and the closing of the programme.  Longer-term actions beyond the programme were also identified.

Action learning can be challenging to evaluate and data collection for evaluation purposes can be time-consuming and expensive.  If we are serious about, and confident in, the work we do, and if we are to maintain and improve the quality of our practice, we have to be able to demonstrate the efficacy of the process to our clients and ourselves.  From the commissioners’ perspectives, where budgets have to be fought for and justified, they will need to prove that investments have been well spent.

The special issue of ‘Action Learning: Research and Practice’, Vol. 7, Number 2 July 2010, is dedicated to assessing the value of action learning.

If you want to know more about how we can help you evaluate effectively, please contact us on 0207 407 1971 or email


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