Action Learning in Preston

Thanks to Lucy for hosting the Action Learning Set at UCLAN last week. It was really good to meet others and find that two of them are, like me, new to their projects. I thought the principles of Action Learning – something else that is new to me – worked really well, as we took it in turns to listen to each other talk about project issues, ask helfpul questions and make practical suggestions. I noticed how often people said “thanks, that’s a really great idea!” People seemed to find the human contact reassuring.

What I learned:

  • Many projects start out with an over ambitious scope and have to be adapted to become more realistic
  • It can be really hard to secure buy-in and decision-making from senior management, a common cause of project bottlenecks.  People are sometimes appointed to chair project boards because of their seniority, but the  skills required to chair meetings effectively, and drive decision-making, are often underestimated. Tactics to combat this include making efforts to win support by briefing key individuals outside meetings
  • Sometimes small changes can be introduced almost  “by stealth”, but real strategic change requires concensus and organisational maturity
  • There are risks associated with an over-reliance on technology – we need to be aware of the pitfalls of platforms disappearing and changing, and upgrades and migrations
  • If we don’t have time to do justice to the outcomes of consultation exercises and workshops, it might be worth considering delegating some of the analysis to the participants, who might have an interest in resolving issues
  • One way for a project leader to draw a line at the end of a project, and extricate themselves, is to foster and empower a community of practice to continue the good work
  • When it’s hard to identify obvious indicators to measure progress, consider looking for metrics that reveal inefficiencies – eg how long it takes to find information, how many people are involved in achieving something – and demonstrate how this has changed
  • Plan consultation carefully, considering which methods are most effective for what you want to find out and, above all, consider at the outset how you plan to use the results

Thanks also to Sarah for chairing so supportively, and effectively by ensuring that we all agreed to some specific actions. This should ensure the day has practical outcomes that help us move our projects on, rather than being a talking shop or group therapy session, however valuable that might be!