The Change Diary

September 2009

"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory." --- W. Edwards Deming.

The sudden loss of a contract, market share, an unexpected increase in the cost of raw materials, changes in taxes, there are potentially hundreds of rapidly occurring situations facing organizations that can outpace the ability of the organisation to respond.

This kind of event can be completely fatal to the organisation accompanied by the loss of jobs, revenue, shareholder value and all the associated effects on the community.

Even if the organisation does detect the changing operational environment, it may be unable to mobilize and make the necessary changes in order to survive.

All of that may sound rather bleak, but there are practical actions that can be designed to help, assuming the will is there to survive, for as Deming puts it - survival is not mandatory - the organisation doesn't have to survive if its management or owners don't it want to.

However, if survival is the preferred option then there are a few approaches to take.

Firstly, there is a clear need to keep the organization's environment in constant view and assessment, looking out for the indicators of change. This won't stop the changes happening, but the organisation will have some warning.

Secondly, a programme of action learning or organisation development to help staff become more responsive and more able to response to a sudden demand to re-design the organization's structure or processes to increase the prospect of survival.

Thirdly, a strategy driven approach to directing the organisation can assist to keep ahead of changes in the operating environment - leading rather than reacting.

Next month this series will look at rapid change in society.

If you require support in learning how to work with and manage your change, contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our "how to contact us" page.



August 2009

"Nothing we can do can change the past, but everything we do changes the future." --- Ashleigh Brilliant.

The effect of rapid change on the team is that feeling of sudden loss of cohesion - of the loss of the society of the team.

It is hard to respond to the need to "un-learn" processes and practices that had previously been learned and now due to the change, need to be replaced.

There can be a reluctance to re-learn for fear of getting it wrong, being ridiculed, feeling foolish...

There is a feeling of loss and in extreme situations, the loss of the team entirely.

How we respond to the change can have a profound effect on ourselves and the other team members.

So what we do now is, therefore, very important to the outcome of the change.

Next month this series will look at rapid change in organizations.

If you require support in learning how to work with and manage your change, contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our "how to contact us" page.


The Change Diary

July 2009

"Become a student of change. It is the only thing that will remain constant." --- Anthony J. D'Angelo

In the past few months, Change Diary has been reflecting on incremental change.

Attention now turns to transformational change, particularly change taking place rapidly.

There are valuable models to help us trace the experiences, for example the models described by Kubler-Ross (1969) and Adams, Hayes and Hopson (1976).

These models suggest that initially, when confronted by sudden change, we experience complete disbelief - this can't be happening, I don't believe it emotions, and then into denial that the change has happened.

Other emotions during this time might include anger (why me?, why now?, why us?), complete disorientation - not knowing what to do next.

Anthony D'Angelo proposes becoming a student of change. Learn what the change means, for you or your organisation. Learn what you need to do, for yourself and your organisation. Learn.

Next month this series will look at transformational change in teams.

If you require support in learning how to work with and manage your change, contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our "how to contact us" page.


The Change Diary

June 2009

“The problem is not whether business will survive in competition with business, but whether any business will survive at all in the face of social change”---Laurence Joseph McGinley.

In times of (apparent) stability, changes in society may have seemed slow - incremental - but there has always been change, however imperceptible.

As observed in this series, any change, provided it is small and slow can be tolerated and accepted because there is time to understand and accept.

At any instant, changes are starting, ending with all the various states in between.

Could all these small, slow changes be a problem?

The problem might be that with incremental change, it is difficult to see how all the different changes accumulate and interact, ultimately bringing outcomes, not all of which are expected or welcome.

Laurence McGinley's words speculate on some of those outcomes.

Next month this series will look at the individual and rapid change.

If you require support in learning how to work with and manage your change, contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our "how to contact us" page.


The Change Diary

May 2009

"Organisations do not change. People change." --- Barbara Miller.

In April's Change Diary, the size and pace of change over an extended period, the associated issues of keeping the goals in view and sustaining motivation were noted.

At an organisational (or enterprise) level, similar experiences of change can be expected.

Unless the organisation is consciously and consistently directing its future, change will be more reactive, rather than reflecting learning from experience, from customers, from within the organisation and learning from what other companies are doing.

A significant input to that reflection is realising the effect we are having on our environment, and the consequent need to take lasting sustainable action.

The evolutionary change from lots of smaller changes, arise from the effect of agency - individuals finding a different, improved way of doing a task, with others/co-workers copying the change, and eventually the change becomes the "norm" or institutionalised.

With a slow pace from initial ideas to institutionalisation, the change can go almost un-noticed, be non-threatening and acceptable to most.

However, not all change is as "convenient" as this.

As people change, their thoughts, their likes and dislikes, how they perform their tasks, so the organisation changes.

Next month this series will look at incremental change and society.

If you require support in learning how to work with and manage your change, contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our "how to contact us" page.


April 2009

"People don't resist change; they resist being changed." --- Peter Senge.

Incremental change, taking place - evolving - over an extended period potentially brings loss of focus, or losing sight of the intended outcome.

However, it is resistance to change that can cause the most difficulty and impede progress.

The most common reasons for resisting change range from not understanding what the change is about; being frightened of either losing employment or appearing less competent while learning new processes or skills; the cynicism born of previous change experiences; or pursuing their own agenda in the belief that their approach is better.

Interestingly, some of the causes of change can also be thought of as the methods that help to create change. For example, changes in technology, re-designing jobs, organisational development, and re-design of the organisation or company itself. Many changes will employ all or combinations of these in creating change.

The essential elements in incremental change in teams (as with any) are communications and involvement. Explaining what is happening and why and involving team members in creating the changes will, in the long run be the most valuable enablers.

Next month this series will look at incremental organisational change.

If you require support in learning how to work with and manage your change, contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our "how to contact us" page.


March 2009

"The work of the individual still remains the spark that moves mankind ahead even more than teamwork." --- Igor Sikorsky

As noted last month, incremental (or evolutionary) change occuring over extended periods of time, can leave the impression that there has been no change. However, reflecting on what is remembered of the early part of the period and comparing it with the present experienced state - it is likely that much has changed.

Although we may be reluctant to accept it, one of the few things we can be certain of, is change.

There are a wide variety of models to assist in understanding how individuals respond to change.

Action Consultancy uses the following models as an initial approach to understanding change and the individual.

Two incremental types can be identified - General incremental and Specific incremental - compare these with Edgar Schein's evolutionary types.

General incremental change seems more emergent in behaviour as it can be considered continuous, open-ended and unpredictable. The response is about aligning with an ever changing environment.

Specific incremental change is more like planned change, for example from state to state through a series of managed steps based on Kurt Lewin's original work.

The use of these models helps to gather data about the individual's approach to change, however, it is only a start in revealing a complex picture.

As Igor Sikorsky remarked, the individual's response to change can be the basis of significant change, both for the individual and the rest of us.

Next month this series will look at incremental and team change.

If you require support in learning how to work with and manage your change, contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our Contacts page.


February 2009

"Oh, would that my mind could let fall its dead ideas, as the tree does its withered leaves!" --- Andre Gide

This month sees the start of a short series that attempts to bring an appreciation that change can be considered from a number of viewpoints. However, because this presents a such a wide range of views, the series will explore only two types.

It is likely that for most of us, change can range from almost unnoticed - imperceptible - to breathtakingly swift.

These days, change seems to be pretty overwhelming with far reaching effects for most, if not all of us. And with much of it, little we as individuals seem to be able to do.

It is not all doom and gloom, for as always this time could be a start to renewal, of awakening and a move to a more equitable and sustainable future.

What extremes of change do we experience?

Under 'normal' circumstances change is experienced slowly, for example, we are not particularly aware of growing old. Although, perhaps it appears to accelerate as we near the end of our lives! In the context of our work, there is also change, and this is often approached in a structured and piece by piece fashion to cope with size and complexity, and to make it manageable and easier for the majority to accept and assimilate.

Then there are those occasions when change is almost instant. For example, people who have to leave their work immediately when their jobs are made redundant.

The names or labels often used for these types of change are incremental (slow change) and transformational (rapid change).

Are these labels misleading?

For example, looking back over a period of incremental change and comparing the past with the present, it could that the slow change has brought about a transformation!


Next month this series will look at the individual and incremental change.

If you require support in learning how to work with and manage your change, contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our Contacts page.


January 2009

"The processes used to arrive at the total strategy are typically fragmented, evolutionary, and largely intuitive." --- James Quinn

Whether you are a one-person business, a large organisation, or somewhere in-between, the need for a strategy, sooner or later, becomes a necessity.

Without a strategy. or something like the idea of it, the individual, business or organisation is likely to exhibit uncertainty at least, lack of direction and focus, ultimately loss of business.

Some type of business planning or strategic development is necessary to keep the busness in tune with its customers and market, and helps to provide that focus and direction.

There are some important components to a strategy and different ways to consider them.

For example, it might be useful to think in terms strategy that looks out of the business and a strategy that looks inside the business.

Looking outward views the customers and the marketplace and is about understanding them so as to find ways to sustain the business. Looking inside the company is about developing the business capacity and capabilities needed to meet the needs of the outward view.

Perhaps the most important aspect of strategy development is to keep the different components in balance, in this example a balance between the outward and inside views.

Quinn sees the development of the complete strategy as evolutionary and fragmented, the key is to appreciate that the components or fragments, eventually, need to be complimentary - in balance - if they are to result in a strategy that adds value to the business, the people in it and the customers.

One of the consequences of strategy development, is CHANGE!

If you require support in learning how to work with and manage your change, contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our Contacts page.


December 2008

"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf." --- Jack Kornfield

We find ourselves in a period of increasingly rapid change as we move from one age to another.

Added to this are the effects of worldwide economic disturbances.

Jack Kornfield's words really resonate. We can't stop the changes, but we can learn to work with them.

This year in the Change Diary, we have briefly exlored a range of learning and learning related topics, Kolb and Fry's experiential learning cycle, Kolb's learning styles, action learning,action learning sets, unexpected and unintended outcomes of learning from experience - systems dynamics - and a listening a tool to help in the learning process. Finally, there was a brief mention of Otto Scharmer's Theory U and presencing - bringing the future into the present.

All of these can help us learn in times of change.

If you require support in learning how to work with and manage your change, contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our Contacts page.


November 2008

"My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there." --- Charles F. Kettering

In last month's Change Diary we explored listening. This month, listening again features by drawing attention to the work of Claus Otto Scharmer.

In July last year, Otto published a book titled "Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges." Otto describes Theory U as the social technology of 'presencing.'

You can find more detail of Otto's research and Theory U at http://www.ottoscharmer.com/

In Theory U, Otto emphasises that listening is particularly important in any situation, and identifies four basic types of listening.

Type 1: this type of listening is confirmatory - it really only helps you confirm what you already know, or that your actions are still appropriate. Otto calls this 'DOWNLOADING.'

Type 2: what is heard here is new, data that is different. At this stage you are only detecting what is different from what you already know. You are not making any judgment about it. This is called FACTUAL listening.

Type 3: in the practice of last month's Change Diary, this type is about trying to see, feel, experience from the viewpoint of the other person. This is not about ourselves, but about the other person. This is called EMPATHETIC listening.

Type 4: Otto calls this GENERATIVE listening which takes us to a deeper more profound level of awareness where we become able to tune in to the possibilities of the future. What is that future trying to tell us? What can we do to bring that best possible future into the present?

If you wish to know more about 'Presencing' visit The Presencing Institute at:
http://www.presencing.org/index.html

As Charles Kettering observes, if we spend the rest of our lives in the future, perhaps we need to pay more attention to what it is trying to tell us!

If you require support in your learning journey into the future, contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our Contacts page.


October 2008

"Knowledge speaks, wisdom LISTENS." --- Jimi Hendrix

A key skill in learning is to be able to - listen.

Listening is an active process. What are the key elements of listening?

Besides the non-verbal aspects of facial expressions, posture and making eye contact, it is the ability to listen without imposing your own views and experiences to what is being said, trying to feel what the speaker has experienced - acknowledging what the speaker is saying.

This can be quite a challenge especially with our own views and experiences to share (or is it impose?).

But it is more effective not to say anything until the speaker has finished, even better to try not to think about what you are going to say next, unless you need to ask a question for clarification.

Acknowledging what the speaker is saying is empathising with them, it leaves you with a number of options including disagreeing with them if that is your position.

If the speaker pauses naturally, don't feel the need to say something - use the silence even if it feels unsettling.

At all times during the dialogue, be attentive and respectful.

These skills require practice.

Well it is just possible that Jimi Hendrix was re-quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes, but practicing these few skills can assist the privilege of listening to support your own learning.

Should you require support with action learning, Action Consultancy can provide Action Learning Set facilitation service. Contact ron@action- consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our Contacts page.


September 2008

"To be pleased with one's limits is a wretched state." -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

This months' Diary records a feature of learning by experience which leads to unexpected and unintended consequences.


Firstly, however, it should be noted that the constructs around Kolb's Learning Cycle, i.e., those of 'activist', 'reflector', 'pragmatist' and 'theorist', should be attributed to Peter Honey and Alan Mumford. Peter Honey's web site is full of information and it is possible to purchase assessment tools to help discover your learning style, and development programmes to take your skills forward.

In the April and May Diary entries we briefly the explored experiential learning cycle of David Kolb, enhanced, as noted above, by Honey and Mumford.

Our experiences are a wonderful source of learning opportunities, particularly if we reflect on an experience and discover what can be learned from it. The value in reflection and subsequent action leads to changing our behaviour or our action as a result of what we have learned.

However, there are times when that changed behaviour or action results in an outcome that is unexpected and unintended.

Why?

Is it because the action was carried out incorrectly? Perhaps the action design itself had a fault? Well it might be for these reasons, however there is another reason.

The answer might be as unexpected as the outcome!

There is a time dimension to our actions. We are unable to determine what consequences our actions bring beyond a certain time. This is a limit or boundary - different for each of us - to our learning and the outcome of some of our actions.

So we are confronted with a realisation that, while our best learning comes from our experiences, we are unable to know with certainty what might happen in the future as a result of our actions based on that learning.

We should not be satisfied with this state considering Goethe's words in this months' quotation. What can be done to try to avoid the unexpected and unintended consequences? We will try to explore this in a future Change Diary.

Should you require support with action learning, Action Consultancy can provide Action Learning Set facilitation service. Contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our Contacts page.


August 2008

“I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.” --- Woodrow Wilson.

In the Change Diary last month a promise was made to describe in more detail what Action Learning Sets are and how they work.


Originated in the 1950s by Reg Revans, Action Learning has spread around the world to provide people in all walks of life with a means of finding solutions to organisational, working, community and personal problems. It is problem-based, experiential learning. It is usually conducted in small groups called Action Learning Sets.

A set typically consists from 5 to 7 people, and benefits from a facilitator who is there to help, keeps the set meeting on course, ensures set members get a fair share of time, and to ensure that discussions remain focused on the business in hand.

Each set member gets the opportunity to state what their problem, issue or performance need is, and the other members help by expressing their experiences, thoughts, ideas and pose questions to be considered.

Set meeting concludes by members stating what they plan to do by the time of the next set meeting. At the next meeting each member describes their experiences in acting on their plan, with the others asking questions and expressing their thoughts and ideas.

The effect is to create a wealth of information which helps each member to propose an action plan, as well as practical help and support for each other.

This very simplified explanation conveys only a small impression of an action learning set experience.

Just to remind you of what the Change Diary said about an action learning opportunity - participants are encouraged to find a solution to a business problem or improve their personal performance, and hopefully both.

The objectives for Action Learning are:

  1. to help people to learn how to learn more effectively from their own experiences
  2. to speed up the process of learning from experience
  3. to solve problems as projects and enable change and personal development

Many people trying to improve their professional or business practice will find Action Learning a valuable and rewarding experience.

Action Consultancy can help to promote an Action Learning Set and provide a facilitation service. Contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our Contacts page.


July 2008

“There can be no learning without action and no action without learning.” --- Reg Revans.

This month the exploration of learning types continues with Action Learning.


Originated in the 1950s by Reg Revans, Action Learning has spread around the world to provide people in all walks of life with a means of finding solutions to organizational, working, community and personal problems. It is problem-based, experiential learning. It is usually conducted in small groups called Action Learning Sets.

Like Kolb's learning cycle, Action Learning is also cyclical in its approach.

The cycle starts with the recognition of need and purpose, the need to solve a problem or make a change.

The next step is one of reflection with the purpose of understanding what is known and what needs to be known about the problem or the change.

Knowing what you know and what you don’t know leads to planning the activities that are needed to exploit what you know and to find out what you don’t know.

Following planning, comes action, working to the plan.

During and after taking action, observations are made of what is or has happened. What outcomes have been achieved from the actions.

Completing the cycle is a period of reflection. What worked well? What didn’t work at all? How can we improve on what happened? What did we do that might have helped or hindered? What have we learned about ourselves? Was this fun and enjoyable? Can you develop a better theory of your practice or about the problem as a result of what you have learned?

These are a small list of questions which you can ask of yourself or by others in the Action Learning Set.

The outcome of your reflection is now available to feed into and informs the next cycle which repeats as described above. To achieve a working outcome for the problem or change, 6 to 12 cycles are not unusual, with one or two months cycle time. This seems a natural duration so as to leave sufficient time to plan and carry out the actions. There are no hard and fast rules here – it is determined by the nature of the problem or change and the amount of work involved, and of course agreement of the Action Learning Set.

In an Action Learning opportunity, participants are encouraged to find a solution to a problem or improve their personal performance, and hopefully both.

The objectives for Action Learning are:

  1. to help people to learn how to learn more effectively from their own experiences
  2. to speed up the process of learning from experience
  3. to solve problems as projects and enable change and personal development

Many people trying to improve their professional practice will find Action Learning a valuable and rewarding experience.

Action Learning Sets have been mentioned above, next month’s Change Diary will describe a little more about Sets and how they work.

Action Consultancy can provide Action Learning Set facilitation service. Contact ron@action-consultancy.co.uk for further information or use our Contacts page.


May - June 2008

“The knack of flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” --- Douglas Adams.

In April we stated that we would continue our brief review of the work of David Kolb by the different styles of learning that are implied by the model.


Those of us who operate in a range between concrete experience and observation and reflection are described as "divergers". Such learners take their experience, consider it (reflect), and from this detail build up a wide view. We like to collaborate and need feedback provided it is helpful and constructive.


People who are more comfortable working in a range between observation and reflection and abstract conceptualisation are described as "assimilators". The preference is to learn be developing abstract concepts from their observation and reflection of theirs and others experiences - thinking rather than acting.


Those who operate in a range between abstract concepts and active experimentation are called "convergers". The approach for people with this preference is to take abstract concepts or ideas and turn them into reality or practice by trying out or experiment. They like to know how things work and often prefer to work on their own.


Those who operate in a range between active experimentation and concrete experience are called "accommodators". The preference here is for action - "hands on" working rather abstraction. They can be very creative, and tend to learn by their own practical experience.


Again we would caution against thinking each of us fall exactly into these styles. It is about preference - which style predominates for us. There is a reasonable likelihood that style changes over time as a result of our experiences and outcomes. There is no right or wrong style.


There is great value in applying an understanding of learning style. If you have an appreciation of your learning preference, then you can tailor your learning approach to be more compatible with that of your preference, and (hopefully) enrich your learning experience. However, don't forget, that adopting a different style can sometimes lead to a refreshing or welcome insight.


Challenging your style takes you out of your comfort zone and offers an increased opportunity for learning.

The above is a very simple summary of Kolb's Learning Styles. An assessment tool is recommended to obtain a better understanding of your own style.

If you need help, Action Consultancy can assist you to develop an action learning programme to safely support your learning and change.


The Change Diary

April 2008

"We are what we repeatedly do" --- Aristotle.

Last month, we stated that we would look at the work of David Kolb. In particular, we look at the experiential learning cycle which David developed with Roger Fry in 1975. This is the objective. Remember to set a learning objective.

There are four stages in the cycle.

Stage 1 is called "Concrete experience" and is just that - what we experience in the course of our lives and work. Our experiences then feed into the next stage.

Stage 2 is called "Observation and reflection." This looks at our experiences and reviews what we think has happened, and again this feeds into the next stage.

Stage 3 is called abstract concepts," and this is about how we devise theories or ideas, based on our experience, and that we can use in practice in the future.

Finally, there is Stage 4, called "testing in new situations" which is taking our ideas or theories and trying them out in actual situations.

In trying out our theories and ideas, we create more "concrete experience" and so the cycle continues.

This is a very simplified and brief look at this model.

The first point we would like to make is that models are never rich enough to express the experience of our reality. Put another way, all models have their shortcomings, and as with any model and theory, there are always detractors.

We believe that stepping through the stages of the learning cycle in sequence is not necessarily a fixed program. However, to complete learning and effect change the cycle needs to be completed. Indeed, we might find we are doing some stages simultaneously, or we step back a stage.

Although one of the stages is concerned with reflection, we feel that the model does not emphasize the role of reflection sufficiently strongly. If you read previous "Change Diary" entries, you'll know how much we promote frequent reflection.

However, action consultancy finds the model useful as it can help to put a structure into a very complex set of activities.

As for Aristotle - well if we keep doing the same things - we won't change.

If you need help, Action Consultancy can help you to develop an action learning programme to help with your change.

Next month, we will look at another aspect of Kolb's model - learning styles.


January, February, March 2008

"Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere" --- Chinese Proverb.

Last year, we proposed that we expose more about learning, how to be more pro-active in learning and how to create your own, team or company learning processes.

We apologize for the slow or delayed start. We have been involved in a number of projects which absorbed our web site research and writing time.

Good practice.

We won't promise to be always consistent with the following good practice - we are only human after all - but it is a valuable place to start.

The good practice is simply to write down what you are trying to achieve with what you are learning. That is, ask "what are my learning objectives?" What are you trying to learn or going to learn? Why have you chosen to learn? Why is it important to you? What outcome are you seeking? What will be your new feeling, behaviour, skill, changed state?

Ah there's that little word "changed"!

Action consultancy is a "change management" consultancy. Helping individuals, teams, organisations and small companies to achieve the change they need. Our approach to change is help, not by advising what to change to, but to help to find out what to change to, and the ways and means of finding out.

So what is the learning objective for this 'Change Diary' entry? Simply to make the connection between learning and change, and to propose that by improving how we learn, we can achieve the change that is needed more effectively while not feeling out of control.

Last year, we also promised to bring a survey of some of the theories of learning which will be used to guide our progress and develop a learning practice.

The first point to note is that there are a lot of theories, for instance constructivism, learning styles, Piaget's Developmental Theory, Communities of Practice, not an exhaustive list by any means and there are many methods and approaches for each theory.

Where do we start?

If we are to make sense of learning, we might begin by understanding the type of learner we are, the logic here being, if we understand this, then we might be able to use this to make our learning more efficient.

If we also consider that, for most of us at least, we are adult learners, we are not studying at college or university, then we could inform ourselves by looking at the work of Cyril O. Houle.

Cyril's research and teaching was in adult learning. He identified three types of adult learners.

  1. learning-oriented: learning for the love of learning.
  2. activity-oriented: learning for the social contact it brings and the learning to be obtained from that contact.
  3. goal-oriented: learning to achieve a desired objective.

Some say that these are a little simplistic in that we all, to a greater or lesser extent, exhibit portions of each of these types.

We make a connection today between this and the 'good practice' discussed above, of writing down the objective of our learning and encourage you to do this, for what you want to learn or what you what or need to change.

Next month we will explore the work of David Kolb.

If you need help, Action Consultancy can help you to develop an action learning programme.


December 2007

"Taking charge of your own learning is a part of taking charge of your life, which is the sine qua non in becoming an integrated person." --- Warren Bennis.

While we might struggle to appreciate what Warren means by an 'integrated person', it is much easier to appreciate what he means about taking charge of your own learning - becoming responsible for what you learn, how you apply it and how you can discover how to direct your learning to lead your own progress, or that of your team or business.

Since we started entries into the Change Diary in April 2007, learning has been a recurring theme, learning from the past, present and particularly the future. Learning actively and drawing from our experience as a source and using that learning to inform our future actions.

Next year - through the Change Diary - Action Consultancy will expose more about learning - how to be more pro-active in learning and how to create your own, team or company action learning process. We will begin in January 2008 with a survey of some of the theories about learning which will be used to guide our progess and help to build learning practice.

If you need help, Action Consultancy can help you to develop an action learning programme.


November 2007

"The only source of knowledge is experience." --- Albert Einstein.

To be alive is to experience. However, we don't want or need to convert all of our experience into knowledge. There is so much that is happening to us that we don't have time to devote to learning from the totality of our experiences.

But as Albert Einstein said, knowledge has its source in our experience.

So how do we create knowledge from our experience?

In many cases it is by formal means such as school, college or university, where we are guided and do tasks designed to help us gain the knowledge. In our businesses and lives, we often detect patterns arising from the repetition of our activites. From this we might change the way we approach the work, so as, for example, to improve efficiency.

There is another way. Rather than take a formal approach, unless a course or programme covers what you need to know, or to rely on chance observations, an action oriented approach could prove beneficial.

This works in a very simple cycle.

  • Survey the type of topic or area you need;
  • plan an action or activites from which to learn;
  • act - that is do the work you've planned;
  • and then - reflect.

Was the outcome what you had intended? What happened? What worked, what didn't? What could you do differently?

This cycle is designed - by you - to give you experience, and the reflection allows you time to turn the experience into knowledge, which can then be applied into the next cycle or future work.

See the Resources pages to learn about Reflection.

If you need help, Action Consultancy can help you to develop improvements to your reflective practice and action learning.


October 2007

"If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative." --- Woody Allen.

Of course, no one sets out on a project or task with a view to failing. The attempt is always to achieve a successful outcome. However, even in work that is straightforward or routine, things can, and do, go wrong.

In tasks or projects that are less routine, where something new or different is being used or tried out, there is an increased chance of something going wrong.

Notice my use of the word "wrong." Perhaps it would be better to say unexpected or unintended outcome or result. For who is to say that what has happened is "wrong"?

Just recalling my on-going theme - that of learning - we should consider what a rich resource our "failures" are for us - a rich source of material from which to learn.

So by taking a little risk and trying to innovate, occasionally failing, we can learn. Take a an untended or unexpected outcome as source material for reflection. What happened? Why did it happen? How did it happen? Was it something we did or didn't do? Perhaps we misunderstood? Perhaps the declared intentions were not what we were actually trying to achieve. See the Resources pages to learn about Reflection.

Whatever, the situation, trying something new, or a little differently, may result in a failure. But welcome the challenge and learn from the outcome. As Woody Allen says, maybe if you are not failing, you are not trying to innovate. Who knows you may succeed by introducing something new - and don't forget to learn from that experience too. But don't be hard on yourself if you fail - use that to learn how to do better - it is a valuable resource.

If you need help, Action Consultancy can help you to develop improvements to your reflective practice.


September 2007

"I'm doing it because I choose it. And if it's not working, I can make a change." --- Alanis Morissette.

This is good, because you must be sure in the action stage of a change cycle, that the action you are taking is the action you have chosen to take you to your goal. There is always a choice to be made.

But be sure to review the progress. If it's not working, then review and reflect on what is taking you off course. If you find the reason and you can see how to correct it - then go ahead and take the corrective action.

This is an example of single-loop learning.
See the Resources pages for an explanation of single-loop learning.

However, there is another way, or I should say many other ways. Challenge the action you are taking. Is it really appropriate, will it really take you to your goal?

This is an example of double-loop learning.
See the Resources pages for an explanation of double-loop learning.

The thing is, if you repeat, correct and repeat - you might find you get the same (unwanted) result!

So, as Alanis says - if it's not working - you can make a change.

If you need help, Action Consultancy can help you to develop improvements to your learning processes.


August 2007

"I can't change history, I don't want to change history. I can only change the future." --- Boris Becker.

But is it just possible that you can change history?

What will your own or your organisation's history be if you take no further action?

Look at a timeline of your organisation. Or consider your own timeline.

If you do nothing what is likely to happen?
This is in the future, but it is also history in the making.

Is this the history you want?

To change your history, study and learn from the past, create your future vision, make your plans, and like Boris - change the future.

If you need help, Action Consultancy can help you change your future.


July 2007

"The universe is transformation, our life is what our thoughts make it." --- Marcus Aurelius.

Last month we thought about past and present and how these can influence the future. But we also noted that we should not ignore what we can learn from the future. What do you want to become? What would you like to achieve? What do you have to do to make that future a reality? Part of this realisation is to try to imagine what it is like to be and do the things you want to do. Practice doing them. Act the role. Plan the steps and work at the things you need to do. Learn the skills, take the courses, get the licences or certificates, whatever it takes. Remarkably, in time, you will awake one day to discover that you have brought the future into the present.

If you need help, Action Consultancy can help you on this journey.


June 2007

"It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be." --- Isaac Asimov

Have you noticed the warning "past results are no guarantee of future performance" relating to investments? Simply, if our investment has done well in the past, there is no certainty that it will continue with that performance. But for many of us, the best that can be done is to look at trends and make our decisions accordingly, or to rely on experts to guide us. With respect to change, be it organisational or personal, there is value in taking time to explore the past, present, and the future. However, Asimov makes an important point when he talks about taking account not only of the present, but of the future. In the Resources page of this website there is a method that can assist in that exploration. The outcome of the exploration is information you can use for reflection to help help you shape and change your story - and help to change the outcome.


May 2007

"They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself." --- Andy Warhol

As this change journey proceeds, we will explore change and what might be done to work through it. To make a link with last month's Change Diary, it - I hope - will become clear in future entries, that learning is an effective approach to managing, coping, understanding, accepting and working through change. One of the key stages in learning is reflection, which is why it seemed appropriate to explain its use, and to pose some questions as a resource that might help. Picking up on Andy Warhol's quote, I would add that it is not just things that need to change, but ourselves too. Action Consultancy has as its higher aim, to help individuals, teams, groups and organisations in their change journey.


27th April 2007

"I believe we live our lives by the stories we tell ourselves and tell others. Change the story and life changes." --- [David Barry, PhD, Management and Employment Relations Dept, University of Auckland, New Zealand.]

I once worked with a senior executive of a company who, at the time, always seemed very difficult and very challenging. He was an engineer, and always asked the awkward, difficult questions that no else asked or even knew how to answer. He often had to stand up and do a presentation about the current state of our work, or our current understanding of our design. Often when he did this he would start by saying "Now I know this is stating the obvious..." and he would launch into a statement of the obvious - what we all knew, but actually, usually, ignored.

David Barry's words above seem to me a statement of the obvious, but I'm sure we all assume them and move quickly on, not realising that we ourselves have the power within ourselves to rise to the challenge of the change and make it happen.


In the Resources page of this website there is a method that can assist in telling the story. Reflecting on your change situation can help you shape and change your story - and help to change the outcome.

In future entries of the Change Diary, we shall explore more about learning and how learning can lead to action to effectively support and sustain you through times of change.