Objectives vs. outcomes – how far can action learning take your people?

The success or failure of any organisation relies to a great extent on the skills, talents and personal attributes of its people:

  • How well do they work together as a team?
  • Can they communicate effectively?
  • Do they possess the necessary resilience to cope well with tough challenges?
  • How willing are they to adapt and embrace change?
  • How much ownership and responsibility do they take for their individual role and the greater good of the organisation?
  • Are they effective and inspirational leaders lighting the way?

The list goes on, but demonstrates the importance of high performing teams if a business or organisation is to thrive and prosper. 

Action learning for team and organisational development has an important role to play in promoting team relations at all levels; between peer groups and leaders, senior management and staff.

We recently conducted a series of in-house action learning sets for a group that was not working optimally as a team. This group had been assigned specific project goals that required them to work well together if the desired outcomes were to be achieved. Action learning gave them the time and space to explore which attributes make a good team.

Between them the group identified a list of qualities that they felt would produce the best team:

  • Regularly communicate
  • Listen to each other
  • Have agreed goals
  • Learn from each other’s experience
  • Improve their performance
  • Team morale boosts wins
  • Generate momentum
  • Look at effectiveness and efficiency
  • Question what they do

The action learning programme took place over a period of 7 months, during which the team members came together 5 times for a series of 1 and a half day meetings.


Through an exercise of self evaluation, where individual team members scored their team against these attributes, where 10 was best and 0 was worst, it was possible to track progress by analysing results of this poll at the outset and at the end of the programme.


Each individual team member increased their score out of 10 by either 4 or 5 points at the end of the course, demonstrating a significant improvement.

In addition to working on team attributes, the group were also asked to set themselves individual objectives which would deliver benefits to both the individual and the organisation. In doing so, they were able to achieve the following benefits to the organisation by focusing on very specific, personal goals:

  • Improved problem solving skills
  • Confidence and resilience
  • Improved inter-personal and listening skills
  • Better team working

It has united a professional team and encouraged them to work together to share group objectives

Action learning puts the power of the learning directly into the hands of the participants. Throughout the process they were fully engaged, finding solutions to issues, concerns and problems through reflective learning, listening and questioning. It’s this unique way of reaching outcomes that leaves participants fully committed to the changes they identify are needed, and gives them the confidence from within to take action

And the outcome?

This action learning programme produced a more agile team. Working collaboratively and with improved interpersonal skills they were able to meet the challenges of their specific project more effectively. The team recognised and appreciated each other’s strengths and weaknesses, supported one another and flourished through shared learning.

Of course these benefits will last way beyond the extent of the specific project they are working on together. Team members have taken away new skills, new ways of thinking and a team spirit that will continue to benefit the organisation into the future.

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