Book Review – Action Learning For Change By Lynne Butler and Nigel Leach

Action Learning For managersAction learning has been an approach I admired for a long time and three years ago I trained to become an action learning practitioner and even got to use it as part of a leadership development programme. Action Learning For Change, which I first read about four years ago and I’m now reading again is one of those books that inspired me to take on action learning. The reason being, the book describes a simple approach to implementing action learning which almost anyone can understand and I like simple. In my opinion Lynee and Nigel have done a brilliant job to make action learning an accessible practice.

About the book, though it covers 220 pages you can read it in a couple of hours and even though the entire book is written in black and white, it’s very visually appealing. It uses a good balance of quotes, bullet points, case studies, tables, diagrams and images. Each chapter is broken into small sections which are easy to digest so reading it won’t feel like a chore.

The book is broken down into nine chapters and it has some appendices and a section on references and resources. Following is a one sentence review of each chapter.

  1. An introduction to action learning: In this chapter you will learn about the origins of action learning, what it actually is, it’s main features and the kinds of programmes action learning can support.
  2. How can action learning be used to support cultural change?: The title says it all, the focus here is on how action learning can be used as a tool to support culture change.
  3. How can action learning support competencies?: Action learning is looked at from three perspectives. How can it support competencies? How can it help to develop the competence of future managers? How can it help to define organisational competencies?
  4. What actually happens in a action learning set?: This chapter describes how action learning supports the learning process.
  5. How is an action learning set facilitated?: This chapter gets into the mechanics of action learning and explains how one goes about facilitating an action learning set.
  6. How can I measure the impact of action learning?: This chapter delves into the Holy Grail of learning and development, evaluation. can the true value of action learning really be evaluated? This chapter discusses some ideas that might make that possible.
  7. How prepared is your organisation to move forward for action learning for change?: The title of this chapter suggests that an organisation needs to be ready for action learning. Therefore information on how to assess the readiness of an organisation for action learning is discussed.
  8. How can I get and sustain buy-in from key people in my organisation?: This is a very important aspect of introducing something new to an organisation and the information presented in this chapter comes up with some ideas on how to get buy-in for action learning.
  9. How can I put together a proposal and plan for implementing action learning in my organisation?: Another important aspect of introducing something new to an organisation is being able to write a proposal that is compelling enough to influence key stakeholders that it’s beneficial to introduce something as unconventional as action learning. The authors have presentaed some information of how to write such a proposal here.

For me the strength of this book lies in its simplicity and  practicality. Being a learning and development practitioner, there are aspects in the book which if I learn about properly can be applied to other learning delivery modes such as face-to-face training, eLearning and coaching. If you are interested in action learning, I definitely recommend this book.

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