Highland Perthshire Action Learning Programme

What was the issue you were addressing or working on?

Action learning (AL) is an approach that is widely recognised as having great value for leaders and managers who are working with complex issues.  Participants do not simply discuss theoretical issues, but bring real challenges to the group, to first understand them better and then to find how to take skilful action.  AL fits with both action research and the experimental approaches required for complex issues, as well as with PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) frameworks for taking proactive improvement initiatives.

A learning set is a group of eight to ten key members who agree to meet for an agreed number of facilitated sessions to reflect on how and what they are doing in the face of complex challenges.  These meetings are confidential and require a willingness to question their assumptions.  The aim is learning not performance management and, facilitated by an external third party, focuses on tackling the real work issues of the participants.  It involves reflection, analysis and taking specific action.  Group learning involves drawing from each other’s issues and action plans for what are often similar or shared problems.


What you did?

Completed     :  ALS in North West Perthshire

Ten team leaders and senior practitioners (from Health /Social care in NW Perthshire) were nominated and took part in the Highland Perthshire Action Learning programme.  The aims included:

  • developing further understanding of each  others’ roles and responsibilities
  • developing new ways of working more closely together within specific communities
  • sharing experiences and problems and assisting ALS colleagues in finding achievable solutions

The ALS was evaluated after the six sessions/three full days, the final session was arranged to share their learning/progress with senior managers.

A further set of half day sessions were requested by the group/ and Joint SMT’s and was supported by internal OD facilitators.  These sessions were attended by only seven of the original learning set members.

Planned  : ALS – Strathearn  :  Sept 2013- Feb 2014

Co-ordination and support to organise ALS.  Facilitation of 1 full day and 8  ½ day events


What were the outcomes - benefits or otherwise?

The ALS work was fully commissioned and supported by Senior Managers from LA and Health, by presentations from LA CEO, Head of Community Care and CHP General Manager. The group were encouraged to be innovative, challenging, pushing boundaries in their work together.

This ‘message’ needs to be communicated throughout both Health and Social Care systems so that respective Line Managers fully understand the process; the ‘permissions given’ and can provide the additional enabling support required for participants.

Example of Participant feedback-

“The ALS programme has been invaluable and has challenged me personally and professionally. It is useful to have an honest open attitude and to be able to take constructive criticism in this supportive environment. I have welcomed the opportunity to develop my skills in dealing with change management and look forward to supporting others to do the same”, participant Perth & Kinross


Contacts - to find out more

Catriona Ness  catriona.ness@nhs.net  01382 632031 / Susan Nevill  snevill@pkc.gov.uk 01738 477945