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Action Learning with an Humanitarian Aid Organisation

Background This organisation, has some defining characteristics in the medical field. It is made up of people from all corners of the world who share a common purpose: to save the lives and alleviate the suffering of people in danger by delivering medical care where it is needed most. They deliver humanitarian aid projects – from disaster response to long-term medical programmes – which stretch over decades. Sometimes there is an active team in a country when disaster hits at other times teams are deployed within hours with pre prepared disaster kits from their logistics centres and warehouses around the globe. Permanent emergency teams work at their headquarters who can coordinate a response and assess the needs before deploying staff from a pool. It has a high level of success in the field although has various issues and problems including the transfer of tacit knowledge between projects and the varying priorities of project managers and clinicians when working in the field.  For example, there were often tensions between project managers who liaise across differing stakeholders including politicians and funding bodies and the clinicians whose focus is on high quality emergency and often trauma care to patients Scoping As part of a pilot, it was agreed that all project managers and head clinicians be offered the opportunity of being involved in action learning groups.  We spent three days talking to the head office, project managers and chief clinicians in the field and collecting and understanding issues for action. Design In order to get full buy-in from participants, materials and handbooks were developed to reflect the context for each project and professions linking the outcomes to professional standards. This enabled clinicians to claim professional body CPD points. One purpose of the programme was to promote an awareness of the whole system in which they were working, and initially to include the recipients in the country were projects were based – this was later dropped as it proved logistically challenging to the point of inertia.  The design included forming sets by mixing pairs of staff – manager and clinician, from twelve different projects in different locations in groups of six – i.e. a project manager and clinician from 3 projects in one set. Each project manager /clinician pair chose a problem their project was facing to bring to the set meeting which was held virtually.   The set focused on one pair’s problem each week before rotating to a new pair’s problem in the following week. A learning and set diary was to be kept by each participant recording their learning from the questions from fellow participants and taking action on the problem.  On the 7th, 14th , 21st   and 28th meeting the facilitator helped the set draw out the tacit learning gained and the progress of the working relationships between project managers and clinicians  

National Social Work Development Action Learning Facilitation Programme

Background A number of years ago, we developed develop a sustainable resource for employers through training action learning facilitators. Through our published research* into the impact of this programme, we found that many employers now use action learning in the following ways: As part of their ‘support package’ for NQSWs; To enhance supervision and reflective practice discussions; To provide additional learning opportunities To provide development for supervisors and managers   In February 2019, we began supporting Skills for Care on the delivery of a Department for Education funded national innovation project to support 100 social work employers in developing and implementing best-practice in the delivery of the ASYE programmes (an employer-led, induction programme, helping newly qualified Social Workers transition from initial qualification into frontline practice). About this programme The challenges social workers face are often complex and carry high levels of uncertainty.  This is also true for the challenges ASYE leads experience when developing the quality of ASYE programmes.  It is in situations like these where there are no simple or single right answer, that the best solution is often found with the support of our peers.    Through their support and challenge in an action learning set, we can collaborate, experiment and take deliberate risks to not only do things better but also to explore new ways to doing even better things together. Programme aims Build capacity for using action learning to develop ASYE practice through critical reflection, analysis and learning through action. Develop ASYE lead Communities of Practice action learning sets to share best practice and explore new and better ways of delivering ASYE programmes both locally and nationally.   Programme structure A regional 3-day training course in how to facilitate action learning sets as part of an ASYE programme (ILM Foundation Programme in Action Learning Facilitation) Participation in a minimum of 4 x monthly two-hour remote (virtual) action learning sets with as part of a community of practice.   Expectations For action learning to become a formal component of participants’ ASYE programmes Action learning is built into ASYE Programme quality improvement plans. As part of this course, participants will be required to support the evaluation process by periodically providing feedback about the impact of the action learning programme on NQSWs and ASYEs.   Programmes delivered in the following regions: Blackpool Chelmsford Gateshead London x 3 Taunton Warrington Walsall York   Evaluation As the programme is still running and wont be completed until August 31st 2020, the evaluation process is still in progress.  However, data for the evaluation is is being gathered using the following: Longitudinal study  through data gathered through questionnaires and interviews. Examples of learning and behavioural change through reflective logs maintained by facilitators and via data gathered via questionnaires as part of a longitudinal study. Priority areas impacting the effectiveness of ASYE Development Programmes collected via ‘Complexity Mapping’ exercise conducted on each training course. Identify key issues faced by ASYE leads across England collected from themes of problems presented in sets by ASYE leads. Identify key issues faced by NQSWs on their ASYE collected from themes of problems presented in sets held in participant’s organisations.   Research publications * https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/Document-library/Social-work/Action-Learning/Critical-reflective-action-learning.pdf * http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0018726715586243

National Healthcare Provider (Austria)

Background On their journey towards excellence, this national healthcare provider for the elderly had reached a stage some years ago they had introduced the EFQM model, the feedback from the assessments, and integrating this comprehensive approach into their strategy and daily operations had helped them take the first steps on to becoming a leading competence centre for geriatric medicine and care.  The services comprised of inpatient, day-patient and, increasingly, outpatient care, and range from short visits to multi-year stays. The hospital contains 325 beds with specialisations in internal medicine, neurology and medical geriatrics, with a hospice also located at the clinic. In addition, there are four nursing homes with around 100 beds each, and two-day care centres that complement the nursing homes’ services. Finally, there are 45 assisted-living flats, with 100 new specialist assisted living flats to be opened later this year. The organisation employs circa FTE 1800 people with a team of 5 Directors and 4 Senior Managers leading a team of 24 managers of services. The next stage was to develop and leadership development process to drive the organisation forward in a competing marketplace. It had become apparent there was a cultural disconnect between the Board of Directors and the Managers that was stifling innovation.  It was seen that there needed to be a behavioural shift in the way teams were managed and a way of working with the board to develop services. We were invited to co-design and deliver an action learning programme intervention with the organisation s HR team and a local company who specialises in innovation which would address these challenges. Programme design. Materials and handbooks To facilitate the programme and leave a lasting legacy we developed a range of materials and resources to support the programme. Written in German and English they were tailored to each profession in the hospital to meet professional standards whilst retaining the core programme requirements. Scoping and design – month 1 The first 4 weeks of the project were key to establishing the relationship of co working and co-design. This was a challenge culturally as we ended to understand the healthcare systems in another culture, and we were working with people whose second language was English. The first week was spent working along side Directors , Senior Managers and Managers in the business as observers and then meeting staff and community organisations at all levels. We also were learning to work with another consultancy team and the internal team, build trust and rapport quickly. Part of the scoping exercise included identifying and agreeing how and what we would use to evaluate the success of the programme – see below for target and results.  The invitations went out for 24 managers from a variety of roles, departments and specialisms, all of whom agreed to take part.  A handbook and launch events were co designed with the HR Director and lead consultant from the other partner in the project who we subsequently met monthly to review progress. Directors Launch – Month 2 The Directors and Senior managers who constitute the board (9) were invited to take part in a full day together to explore the purpose and to develop a shared understanding of the programme and desired outcomes. This involved some futures thinking and identifying key organisational projects as a way of achieving goals – both in terms of individual and organisational success.  Part of the day also included exploring  and completing the Competing Values Framework (CVF)ready for a comparison with managers. Participants Launch – Month 3 The purpose of the launch was to create a shared understanding of the purpose of the programme , the methodology to be used i.e. action learning., the place of the projects and the facilitator. This group also explored and completed the Competing Values Framework (CVF) Competing Values framework analysis and presentation Month 4 The next stage was for Directors and Senior Managers and Managers to explore the results of the CVF. The morning was spent with each group separately as they looked at the results and the second half of the day the two groups joined together to explore the results and the impact on the way they worked and behaved Action Learning sets   Months 5 – 10 Action learning sets were formed each comprising of a Director, Senior Manager and Managers not in a reporting line from different work areas.  The sets met 4 times over 5-month period to address an area of commercial development. Masterclasses Months 5 – 10 During the overall programme the facilitators collected common areas of interest and arranged master classes for 2 hours using internal resources were appropriate .E.G – Financial awareness and cost control was delivered by the Head of Finance and Strengths based team work delivered by one of the facilitation team Final Event – Month 11 The final event was co-designed by Directors Senior Managers and Managers to evaluate the outcomes in terms of action and learning, and to celebrate success. Subsequent additions to the design Throughout the programme we consistently review the programme and from the feedback obtained we provided 3-day ILM Foundation Programme in Action Learning Facilitation was delivered to build internal capacity or future development programmes with ongoing support Evaluation A summative evaluation against the targets identified in the pre-programme stage took place at the end of the programme and the data shared in the form of a report.  The evaluation was conducted by an independent consultant.  The second part of the evaluation to look at longer-term impact will be carried out this autumn – 2 years after the programme delivery. End of programme Evaluation – Month 13 Target 1. – To identify the blocks to innovation and change. The Competing Value Framework identified the disconnect between the senior team and their outward facing roles in both the development and securement of the future of services and the managers who were concerned with the day to day challenges of the organisational management and leadership of services. This led to miscommunication and a lack of trust between the groups. Target 2 – To establish a learning culture where managers took responsibility for their own development. All 6 action learning sets established continue in a self-facilitated way and through the use of the behavioural framework have linked the action learning sets to their professional development Target 3. – To support managers to understand the commercial environment and develop intrapreneurial behaviours. Each of the action learning sets addressed different service development opportunities that had been identified by the Board and produced the business case together with operational plans. All have been realised and implemented.  The sets are now evaluating the projects. Target 4. – To build a behavioral framework for managers at all levels in the organisation. A behavioural framework has been developed by the external facilitators from the observations and organisational learning harvested from the programme. The framework was co designed with participants and now is being rolled out across the organisation.  

Multi-National Company – Action Learning and Innovation

Introduction A multi-national company operating container shipping terminals around the world and part of a larger container shipping and logistics company. The company had tried traditional leadership development programmes and had some strategic challenges from competitors and the market. The CEO and Directors had been introduced to the concept of action learning from a trade journal and where keen to try a new way of responding to the challenges they faced. They approached three organisations to tender for the project. We were successful in that we believe in building the organization capacity to be their own consultants rather than build a dependency on us as the consultants.  In the first year we ran the project entirely, the second and third years trained others within the company to co deliver the programme and in the final two years offered supervision and trained internal supervisors. The programme continues internally to our delight. The objectives and results The programme that was commissioned lasted for 5 years and was developed to address some of the complex international problems. The programme was to address three issues and resulted in the following: The improvement of international / intercultural working by reducing the existing business silos. This succeeded demonstrated by the ongoing collaboration the networks formed during the 5 years between sites within/without countries and across cultures. Innovation of processes that are commercially driven. This succeeded demonstrated by 43 innovation projects including new processes, markets and services introduced and embedded in the organisation. Develop leaders at both local and global level. This succeeded with 80/150 local managers successfully gaining promotion over the 5-year period and 30 making sideways moves. 10 left the organization due to re-structuring and the remaining 30 grew their own ports and therefore their own roles. Out of the global managers 70/100 moved position, 10 left the organization due to restructuring and 20 grew their existing role. The programme Each year over the five years two cohorts took part, the first cohort a group of 30 local port managers and the second a cohort of 18 global managers. The programme lasted one year for each group and consisted of: Taught input sessions: on innovation, customer service, leadership, strategy. These three x one-week taught inputs were held in different locations around the world. Understanding of local culture: Participants were able to work with local counterparts during the week to gain an understanding of the local culture and operations. Team Projects: The Directors each identified a process that required an innovative rather than incremental solution. Teams of six participants in each cohort choose an innovation driven project to work on which was outside their normal work role. Action learning: The projects lasted for one year and action learning was the methodology chosen to manage the projects and the individuals learning. Individual learning: Alongside the programme each individual took part in a 360 degree feedback process, and from the feedback from managers, colleagues and subordinates developed with a coach a development programme. The coach met with the participant at two monthly intervals to work on how the action learning programme and projects were impacting on their development a managers and leaders. Mentors: As the cohorts completed the programme they were trained as mentor for the next cohort in order to cross fertilize the learning from one cohort to the next. The project leader and facilitator Christine Abbott is a Director of the Centre for Action Learning Facilitation. She has held senior posts in both the private and public sector at Director and Board level More recently she has been engaged in action learning facilitation across Europe, Morocco, Syria, China, Japan, Egypt, USA, Brazil and Argentina. Christine wrote, the action learning qualification standards for the UK Qualification and Curriculum Framework and has developed and delivered facilitator training to build organizational capacity globally. Christine, a former chairman, is a Director and Trustee of the Institute for Leadership and Management.       

Evaluation of impact of action learning on a social worker’s critically reflective practice

We have a partnership with Skills for Care to develop a sustainable resource for social work employers across England through training action learning facilitators, so that they could then use action learning methodologies to support the envelopment of NQSWs during their ASYE.  To achieve this, we designed two new training programmes in Action Learning Facilitation: an introductory level ILM Development Award which 700 social workers completed; and a more advanced fully accredited and internationally recognised ILM Level 5 Certificate qualification in Action Learning Facilitation which 70 social workers completed . We have  a strong foundation in research-based practice. We regularly write evaluative and theoretical papers for publication and research purposes, so as to inform best practice.  Thus, on concluding the Skills for Care  programme, we were commissioned to conduct an evaluation into the impact of action learning on social worker’s critically reflective practice. We did this  by analysing data gathered by: The examination of reflective accounts written by 73 facilitators of critical action learning sets in their organisations Twelve group interviews with Critical Action Learning (CAL) sets and Eight telephone interviews with individual set members. The evaluation report was published on the Skills for Care website: https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/Document-library/Social-work/Action-Learning/Critical-reflective-action-learning.pdf After publication we evaluated the process and our work with Skills for Care, and as  a result we agreed to evaluate the emerging concept of ‘unlearning’ as a constituent part of critical reflection. As there was no funding specifically available it was  agreed that Skills for Care would allow access to information and people,  and pay out-of-pocket expenses, thereby crucially championing this further evaluation. For our part we agreed to conduct the evaluation with some support in kind from Portsmouth and Lancaster Universities,  where two of our Associates work part time. This evaluation resulted in a peer reviewed paper in the journal Human Relations(Sept 2015): http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0018726715586243 The results of the evaluation also extended the Skills for Care programme of developing facilitators of Critical Action Learning with a further 200 being trained., including members of the Skills for Care’s own  team as trainers,  thus building internal capacity.   A further indicator of the success is that Skills for Care and C-ALF   are about to embark together on a new programme of training for all Child and Families Social Work ASYE leads across England –  part of a wider development programme funded through the DfE. Although complex in scope, through an open relationship and good will between the parties  the project was successfully completed to the agreed schedule. We operated within a fixed budget from Skills for Care and,  as described,  the second phase  we sought resources between the  parties to make it cost neutral.  

Leadership in Social Work

Teaching Partnerships are a Government funded initiative  to improve the quality of teaching for social workers and to improve the standards of qualified practitioners. The Teaching Partnership we were contracted with  consists of a partnership between three Local Authority and a University.    In October 2016, the Partnership commissioned us to design and delivery 4 separate CPD leadership programmes to social workers, social work managers and senior managers across the three London Local Authority Areas. Leadership programme requirements: The bespoke programmes were required to meet the 70/20/10 model for learning and development, provide participants with an ILM qualification as well as other non-accredited content, both of which were to be matched to identified professional and national standards and competency frameworks for social work professionals.  They were also to provide progression routes to further qualifications as necessary, and for content to be mapped against national and professional competencies and standards for social work leaders. Scope The contract was for a duration of 18 months and to provide training and support to up to 120 social work professionals over the contract period.  Cohorts range in size of between 12 and 24 participants, with two of the programmes for aspiring leaders and experienced leaders (equivalent to ILM Level 5) to run twice during the contract period.  Programmes for Senior Leaders (ILM Level 7) and ‘Subject Matter Experts’ (ILM level 5) would run once during the contract period. Programme design We adopted a process of co-design with the partnership to ensure that the content met all stakeholders requirements and timescale objectives.  To ensure the programmes met the requirements of the 70/20/10 model, action learning methodologies and principles were used to ensure that taught input was being applied in practice.  We worked closely with other Teaching Partnership contractors and providers to ensure there is seamless learning experience for participants and that identified skills gaps amongst the training cohorts was used to inform the programme content. Challenges; The previously agreed timescales for the preparation of course content and start date for programmes changed after the contract was assigned.  We therefore had to accelerate how we designed and developed the programmes to ensure that the programmes were advertised and promoted with sufficient notice across the Partnership and most importantly started on time. Achievements: Effective close working relationships with large number of stakeholders involved in the four lead Partnership organisations. Meeting very tight unexpected timescales to ensure programmes ran to time Feedback from participants was very positive as was an evaluation of our programme context and delivery. The use of action learning methodology was often cited as of greatest value in supporting individual learning and application of leadership theory and input from taught modules into everyday working practice. Mapping of all content against national and professional standards and competencies for social work has brought the taught leadership content to life for participants and enabled them to prepare for future role out of national accreditation and assessment process for social workers.  Also enabled participants to more effectively use these competencies to develop own leadership capabilities and the performance of their teams. Flexibility in the delivery of workshop content to ensure continues to meet the needs of all participants. Production of a varied and engaging sets of resources and tools to accompany and support each taught module (handbook, workbook and textbook), the coaching conversation (Coaching Handbook) and action learning sets (Participant’s Handbook)

Action Learning to support cultural change

A leadership development programme was designed for all Adults Services Senior Social Workers across this UK Local Government Authority. The aim was to build leadership capacity across the organisation so that they could effectively respond to the emerging organisational and professional challenges in the social work environment, including cuts to budgets, joint working with the health service and new and developing social work practices which would require critical reflective practice. The programme aimed to contribute to the achievement of the organisation’s and the social work profession’s aims whilst developing a desired culture for the future. Materials designed for the programme We designed materials for the programme to reflect the aims and outcomes.  It was important to relate the programme to professional standards the KSS and PCF in social work so that participants could use the evidence from the programme for their professional portfolio. These materials in the programme handbook incorporated tools that could be used in the future e.g. CVF . The programme was designed with the organisation’s key leads and stakeholders and was comprised of 4 distinct phases as follows: Stage 1 Identify and map the current organisational and leadership culture by distributing a Competing Values Framework Questionnaire to all participants. This tool enables organisations to assess and diagnose existing organizational cultures and identify existing organisational gaps. It gives a classification of four corporate cultures, which indicate how a company operates, how employees collaborate and what the corporate values are. Stage 2 Participants were selected from across adults’ services and senior manager sponsors were also identified from the departments and specialisms across the organisation. Workshops were held with participants and programme sponsors to review the data collected and to support a better understanding what they needed to change in their organisation’s culture and how they could achieve better alignment between the different cultures mapped trough the Competing Values Framework. In this workshop they also received an overview of the whole programme including an introduction to action learning, and facilitated session where they could identify, and agree the organisational challenges and opportunities that the programme will work on and address whilst creating the desired culture. Separate workshops were held with participants and with programme sponsors so that they could explore the will and commitment required for the programme to be successful. andfully understood their responsibilities and how they could best work together and support each other throughout the duration of the programme. Stage 3 The 24 participants were invited to join 4 action learning groups, and they self-selected which of the groups they would like to join based on predetermined criteria for diversity of membership. Each set met for a day for a total of 6 meetings taking place every six weeks. The aim of the action learning groups was to identify and plan a mini project that they felt they could engage in that would address the gaps identified though the Competing Values framework. Four projects were identified, researched, planned and either partially or fully completed during the project’s timescale. These 4 projects were as follows: Set 1 – Developing a Coaching Culture Set 2 – High Quality Supervision Set 3 – Establishing a Senior Practitioner Forum Set 4 – Senior Practitioner Peer Support Midway through the action learning set programme,  a lunchtime workshop was held for participants, sponsors and stakeholders to review progress and capture organisational learning. It allowed space for participants to meet and share with sponsors information and knowledge about the organisation from the projects and the learning groups. It was at this workshop where the groups took up the valuable opportunity to communicate some sensitive organisational concerns that they had identified through their projects to the senior leaders of the organization. Sensitive information about an inherent feeling of ‘lack of trust in the organisation’ which everyone present acknowledged may not have been uncovered or understood had the action learning programme not had taken place. Through the Centre for Action Learning facilitation at this workshop, this communication of ‘truth to power’ was not only respected but also heard and acted on by senior leaders in the organization who took steps to address this underlying cultural concern. Stage 4 – Final event The final stage of the porgramme included a ‘summit’with sponsors, participants and managers where learning from the projects and whole porgramme could be shared. This was also an opportunity to celebrate success and recognise the cultural changes that the programme participants had been instrumental in achieving.    

Action Learning to address market presence

The production facility of an international large transformer manufacturer for electric power supply in Europe was facing increasing competition from countries with lower wage levels. Large customers were migrating to the cheaper competition. Even quality excellence could not compensate for the cheaper priced manufacturers. In the senior team various strategies were discussed. They agreed to set up a pilot project based on a new marketing concept – Marketing 3.0 for a large customer. The goal was to secure a long-term framework contract for the supply of transformers. The project started by creating a systemic mission statement for the division of transformers. From the comparison between desired and actual state we identified the key challenges for an Action Learning programme. The main objectives were Total costs of ownership had to be reduced Increased performance and environmental compatibility had to be acheived. A new client relationship to be developed on the basis of shared values . Two action learning sets and a control group were formed. One action learning group consisted of technicians of the various areas of product management, the other action learning set consisted of management, marketing, sales, product management and key account managers. The sets worked for about 3 months at their challenges and set a variety of methods, such as 5 steps, gossip, and learning from success. Finally, the entire customer relationship was explored with the method of Constellations Within this period, the products were substantially developed internally, from the many details a comprehensive environmentally sustainable overall concept was created. The departments concerned have through the action learning process more understanding and insight into their work and in their technical knowledge. The cooperation between development, sales and product management has been improved. The negotiations with the pilot customers are not yet finalized, but the company was able to develop a new combination of technical improvement and value-based approach for all of its market presence and found in this way a new market position with increased ethical attitude and also a new internal identification which leads in more motivation for employees.      

Action Learning to address small scale manufacturing

This case involves an international hardware manufacturing company engaged in the development, manufacture and sale of fittings for doors and windows. The company employs approximately 4,000 people worldwide and has manufacturing facilities in Austria, Germany and sales offices around the world. The company is acknowledged as the world market leader. The key to the success of the company is that they are able to produce large quantities of very high quality goods at a competitive price. All manufacturing processes therefore are designed for large scale production The Challenge: The company expanded into products for doors as this market was growing. However in this market customers order smaller quantities and want shorter delivery times. The company suddenly had to handle many small orders with different parts quickly at a competitive price. This was a big problem as the door product range was always operating at a loss and no one knew a solution. For years, they could not solve the problem. In 2012, we introduced action learning to solve the problem. The problem owner wanted to solve this problem with an interdisciplinary team of directors. An action learning set was formed by volunteers from sales, production, costing and quality management Over a period of six months the action learning set met 10 times for about 2-3 hours. Between the sessions scenarios were developed for different prototypes. In only 6 months a completely new production concept was developed. The remarkable thing was that this concept was considered by all parties as feasible. What was learned: Through the action learning program, participant’s mindsets changed so that they focused on the solution of the problem as a possibility. Previously, everyone thought that only large scale production was possible. Action Learning created a new “enabling space”, which made new solutions for small series production possible. The interdisciplinary team was able to solve all interface problems. The various concerns from the perspective of the different departments could be resolved by asking questions and discussing the unknown. Through action learning the different departments have discovered a better way of working together and saved the company from a crisis.  

Action Learning to address staff turnover in the USA

 Luxury Health and Fitness Company which also operates several well-known separate fitness brands with over 135 locations within every major city predominantly across the United States. The  Centre for Action Learning  were commissioned to provide action learning facilitation training to 18 senior managers from across the United States so that they could use the action learning methodologies to supplement the learning and development opportunities they use with their gym-based teams. All 18 senior managers completed our 3-day ILM Development Award in Action Learning Facilitation and for a further 6 months participated in online virtual action learning sets facilitated by Centre for Action Learning in order to support them to practice and embed their learning and explore possible solutions to reduce personal trainer turnover rates in their clubs. Programme outcomes: Reported wider use of questioning techniques used in action learning sets to develop more of a coaching culture to develop personal trainers Better team working and cohesion between senior managers involved in the programmes. Senior managers reporting that they used virtual action learning and questioning techniques to better support and develop their widely dispersed teams. Action learning reported as contributing to the improved change in culture in two clubs that were previously identified struggling. Although a further roll-out of action learning was not initiated after the pilot, it was recognised that as a result of this programmer facilitated a better insight into the current organisational management culture and practices. This included a clearer understanding of other leadership and management skills gaps that needed to be prioritised through a shift in strategic focus.  

Leadership in Learning Disability Services

Background A leading not-for-profit social care provider of support to people who have learning disabilities, autism, mental health support needs and their families and carers, which provide support to over 1600 people across London In 2014 the organisation began a new leadership programme to develop management and executive management teams in the organisation. The Centre for Action Learning were invited to co-design leadership workshops and  and action learning programme to complement and support the implementation of the taught input of an ILM Level 5 Award and Certificate programme in Leadership and Management. Their overall philosophy was that leadership is about self-development and comes from the inside out. The approach was to develop the intrapersonal and interpersonal characteristics of a leader and to develop a culture which recognised and understood that leadership is about continuous self-development, self-management, role-modelling effective leadership behaviours and the development of strong trusting relationships. Programme structure The programme was rolled out in phases, with the Senior Executive Team in the first phase, followed by senior managers and then more junior managers. The intention behind this was so that line managers could provide better ongoing line managerial support to programme participants having already gone through the programme themselves. Each leadership course contained 6 days of taught input followed by action learning sets which would take place one day a month over a period of 6 months.  The focus of the action learning sets would be for participants to expire and take action on the challenges associated with applying the taught input into everyday practice. Facilitator training With over 96 managers signed up to the programme and Centre for Action Learning ’s aim was to build internal capacity to facilitate the action learning sets through the Delivery of an ILM Development Award in Action Learning Facilitation to 12 Certitude facilitators. Facilitation of 6 action learning sets for trained facilitators throughout the duration of the leadership programme so that they could practice and embed their learning and explore the challenges they faced in facilitating sets of their own.   Evaluation We also committed to conducting an evaluation which would assess the quality of training to facilitators and the impact action learning had on managers leadership skills and practice the overall success of the leadership programme. The programme wasn’t without its challenges as not everyone engaged with the action learning component of the programme as membership was compulsory rather than voluntary.  Also, some managerial responsibilities were prioritised over set attendance – which resulted in set membership levels fluctuating over the duration of the programme when managers felt they had to attend to crisis or emergencies that took place within their teams rather than attend some set meetings. Outcomes The final programme evaluation demonstrated that the action learning element had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the success of the leadership programme with the following outcomes reported. Using sets as part of the leadership course enabled a large number of people to experience action learning and establish it as a learning and development tool that was often used in other forums outside of leadership programme. Sets successfully enabled people to try out and develop the leadership skills and behaviours explored in the taught input element of the programme – namely emotional intelligence, giving and receiving of constructive feedback, critically reflective practice, coaching practices. Sets were valued for the opportunity to explore and take action on real-life complex challenges that managers were experiencing. Sets were described as instrumental in improving interpersonal and interdepartmental relationships.