Care by Design understands the fundamentals of organisational development, service management and leadership for the 21st century public sector organisation and communities.

Action Learning

Action Learning is a powerful tool for organisations and individuals to use to really make step changes in performance at work. Care by Design can facilitate Action Learning Sets and can also support the development of capacity and capability for organisations to facilitate their own Action Learning Sets and develop a true Learning Organisation culture.

Care by Design can facilitate Action Learning for an organisation and can also run development sessions to enable organisations to facilitate the process for themselves. For more information please contact us.

Key Principles

The focus of learning sets differ according to the situation but follow the same general principles and beliefs that participants gain by:

  • Learning from experience and sharing that experience with others
  • Being open to the challenge of colleagues and listening to alternative suggestions
  • Having a time where they are listened to (in a non-judgemental atmosphere)
  • Having more choices about the way forward
  • Reviewing the outcome of actions with the support of fellow set members and sharing the lessons learned.

Differences from Traditional Approaches

Traditional LearningAction Learning
Classroom-BasedWork Based
Individual OrientationGroup Orientation
Input OrientationOutput Orientation
Knowledge OrientationAction Orientation
Historical FocusConcern with Here and Now
Cost InvestmentInvestment Return Required
Producer OrientedMarket/Customer Oriented

From: Action Learning and Excellence in Management Development. Charles Margerison


Each participant is responsible for:

  • Choosing a problem that is intellectually stretching and contains some element of risk
  • Researching, diagnosing and offering a solution to his or her own problem
  • The implementation of at least some of the solution
  • Using the group’s help in identifying, defining and analysing the problem. (They can also assist with identifying where interest, energy and commitment lie, where power lies, where blockages are to be found.)

The Process


Each participant describes his or her problem and progress in detail

The following questions will be addressed:

  • What have I done/not done since the last meeting?
  • What can I learn from this?
  • What do I want to do before the next set meeting?
  • What is the best way of going about this?

The other members of the set provide comment so that all members become involved in helping to solve each others’ issues. However, each person retains responsibility for their own issue.


In summary, action learning brings together small groups of participants with the following intentions:

  • To work on and through organisational/individual issues. This is most effective when the commitment is voluntary.
  • To work on real problems. Situations in which “I am part of the problem and the problem is part of me.”
  • To work together to check individual perceptions, clarify (and render more manageable) the issue and explore alternatives for action.
  • To take action in the light of new insight. Begin to change the situation.
  • Bring an account of the consequences back to the group for further shared reflection.
  • To focus on learning, not only about the issue being tackled but also on what is being learned about oneself. This is essential to turn developing understanding into learning that can be transferred to other situations.
  • To be aware of group processes and develop effective ways of working together.
  • To provide the balance of support and challenge that enables each person to manage themselves and others more effectively.

Each group is provided with a facilitator (set adviser) whose role is to help individuals and the group to identify and develop the necessary skills.

Care by Design can facilitate Action Learning for an organisation and can also run development sessions to enable organisations to facilitate the process for themselves. For more information contact us.

Published 26th November 2018