Collaborative Strategic Improvement through Network Action Learning

Collaborative Strategic Improvement through Network Action Learning

The Path to Sustainability

Paul Coughlan and David Coghlan

Improvement is fundamental to the competitiveness of networks and requires the participating firms to collaborate in identifying and introducing changes. This book presents collaborative strategic improvement as a cycle of activities in which firms in a network can engage together. Drawing on actual cases, authors link this cycle with disciplined action learning as a means of building upon experience generated through collaborative action. They describe how a network can learn from experience and deploy that learning in the marketplace.


Paul Coughlan and David Coghlan

Subjects: business and management, knowledge management, operations management, organisation studies, research methods in business and management, innovation and technology, knowledge management, research methods, research methods in business and management


An introductory workshop on action learning at the outset is useful and may even be necessary to provide basic training for those participants who are unfamiliar with action learning or to refresh those who are familiar. Such an introductory workshop is also useful for creating a shared experience of what action learning typically involves. Remember that the introductory workshop on action learning is not a one-off training event. Participants need to appreciate that they are engaged in continuous learning in action through the group process and the interventions of the facilitator. A central issue in action learning training is how participants learn the value of questioning. Asking questions, rather than providing solutions, is one of the core characteristics of action learning. Indeed it is its most distinctive one. Questions aim not merely to seek answers, but to challenge people to think, to explore and to learn. They allow people to reflect, to listen and to be creative. Questions that seek to clarify, to understand, to open up new possibilities enable the emergence of new insights and perspectives. Marquardt (2004) suggests that a useful ground rule for action learning groups is that only questions be asked, and that statements be made only in response to questions. We outline two possible approaches to a training day or half day. Materials on developing action learning skills may be found in McGill and Brockbank (2004) and Marquardt (2004). The latter provides sets of useful checklists which may be used as the basis for assessing...

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