What is Cultural Transformation?Similar to cultural change, but with important distinctions, cultural transformation is an organizational development (OD) intervention with a long-term objective of bringing about long-term, long-lasting outcomes, sometimes described as reinvention of the organization. Whereas culture change consists of a finite set of initiatives, cultural transformation consists of a portfolio of initiatives which are interdependent and less predictable.[i] Cultural transformation involves the inclusion and dedication of employees and other stakeholders of the organization. It requires a new way of thinking about challenges facing the organization, how learning takes place, and who is involved in decision making. There are many ways to implement cultural transformation within your business. In order for your organization to advance, it is fundamental to identify any problems that are restricting progress of new initiatives. These problems can vary from workplace issues to the lack of employee development. In order to tackle these matters, there needs to be an operational plan in place. There are various methodologies available for companies to work through any issues that may arise in the workplace. Action learning and mutual learning are two models that have proven beneficial in transforming the culture within an organization. These influential approaches have both surfaced as key tools for problem-solving and social learning in the 21st century. So, just what are action learning and mutual learning?
What is Action Learning?Action learning is a process that involves a small group working on real issues, taking action, producing results, reviewing those results, and learning as individuals, as a team, and as an organization.[ii] Action learning, as the name implies, includes active learning as people plan, act, evaluate, and repeat the process. Scholars have characterized action learning as a social learning process that facilitates collaboration as people come together to explore solutions to problems. In the action learning process, leadership capacity is increased as individuals work in teams for the benefit of the organization. [iii] Reg Revans first introduced action learning in the 1940s to the miners of Wales and England in his position as Director of Education for the British National Coal Board. He continued to develop and promote its principles until he passed away in 2003. Revans created a formula to define the process: L = P + Q, where L is for learning, P is for programmed traditional knowledge, and Q is for questioning to create insight. [iii] Action learning helps teams work through ambiguity and complexity when old processes don’t work for new challenges. It has helped improve quality of organizations, cut costs, create new products and services, and facilitate cultural change in organizations.
Action Learning ProcessAction Learning is an experiential learning tool used to solve problems in the workplace while also building capacity to learn in ambiguous situations. This involves clarifying the problem to be studied, creating a team dedicated to the objective, taking action, measuring and reflecting upon the results, and then further refining the process and future actions to be taken by the team or staff. The five basic elements [iii] are:
- The Problem – The problem must be salient or important to the participants of the team.
- The Set – The set refers to the individuals on the team. High impact teams are composed of people with diverse backgrounds and commitment to the action learning process.
- The Client – The client is the individual that owns the problem. For example, a manager could be the client for a departmental team exploring new customer service procedures.
- The Set Advisor – The set advisor acts as the group facilitator and helps retain cohesiveness within the group.
- The Process – The process includes observation of the problem, reflection, and action.