The Greatest Learning Initiative You’ve Never Heard Of? What Are Action Learning Sets?

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Today’s blog contains an answer to the question… How do I embed learning?


The answer we are presenting to you is a fantastic option for so many reasons.

However, to name a few, it is:

  • Continuously impactful to participants
  • Cost-effective to you
  • Easy to introduce and set up.


Today we are discussing Action Learning Sets, and we will be describing what they are, then giving an overview of their benefits before concluding by telling you how you can begin introducing them as part of your learning plan!


We believe that this blog is incredibly important, as Action Learning Sets might just be the best development initiative that you have never heard of!

For us, it is the best thing since sliced bread…

… because what a tremendous knowledge embedding technique sliced bread was.


What Are Action Learning Sets?

Amazing question!

An Action Learning Set is a small group of people from the same organisation, who get together regularly to talk about the challenges they are facing.

Within these meetings, each person can bring a challenge to the group, which then gives them the opportunity to receive group coaching, as they can ask questions about the challenge and help the person to find appropriate actions.

They can take place both in-person or virtually, and can last anything from 30mins to 3hrs – you just need to make sure you give each challenge enough time, 30 minutes each is usually about right!


Whilst it is best to have people of similar seniority within an action learning set, it is a good idea to mix departments. Do not include people within the same teams. Comfort when discussing challenges is a priority and will maximise the impact of the sessions.

You can attend each session with something new to discuss too. It does not have to be a continuation of the conversation within the previous session about the same subject. Of course, there is always the opportunity to check in and ask how something has progressed since the last meeting, but it does not have to be in the spotlight again unless it persists.

A trained facilitator can be used to run these sets, however if participants are given the training to understand and implement the coaching techniques required, then they can run them themselves.


What Are The Benefits?

So many places I can start with this one!

Action Learning Sets are a cost-effective and tremendously impactful way to ensure that personal growth is ongoing within your organisation.

If the people within your teams are a part of these groups, then you know that they are regularly interacting with people about their specific dilemmas and gaining the insights, perspectives, and support from their peers to help them negotiate it. Ultimately, after each session, people leave with specific actions, which could contain incredible value. These are safe spaces too, where people can talk without fear about what they want to overcome. This lowers the risk of people sitting on their dilemmas out of fear of judgement and therefore, causing it to continually affect them negatively.

Action Learning Sets are a fantastic way of building accountability for personal growth. Discussing an issue and being guided with specific actions can give you all you need to make that difference you require. A difference that then could be positively reported back to your group.

They are also gifted with the opportunity to help others, which is a great way to build meaningful connections with people, who without Action Learning Sets, they may not get the opportunity to speak with regularly. When listening to others and asking questions, they may uncover potential solutions to other areas which they had not brought to the group.

There is never a scheduled end for these groups either. So, once these groups are set, they can continue to mutually help each other for time to come.


How Can You Do This?

For your people to really see the benefit of Action Learning Sets, we recommend that you commit to building the firmest of groundwork to ensure that these sets prove to be an incredible asset to your business for the long term.

By this, we mean that it is incredibly beneficial to begin with guidance, before letting the groups float on their own.

Investing in Action Learning Set/Group Coaching training will build a foundation for which people can approach leading and participating in their own groups with confidence and excitement.

A skilled facilitator to train participants in key listening, questioning and coaching skills will ensure that once the training has concluded, these groups will contain high calibre coaching discussions, built towards non-directive guidance, which is helping others find the actions that best suit their situation, rather than the telling of solutions which may or may not fit the problem. 

Outstanding listening and questioning open up  an environment for people to reflect and explore their issues in greater detail, which therefore means they discover better solutions.



Alex & The Excel Team

P.S. If you would like to discuss any of your learning & development challenges for 2023, call us on +44(0) 1628488 854.

About Excel Communications     

Excel Communications is a learning and development consultancy based near London in the U.K. For more than 30 years; we have been collaborating with clients across the globe.  

Partnering with Excel empowers you to evolve your people and business by fuelling a love for learning.   

We work with you to create unforgettably, customised learning experiences to achieve your vision of success and growth, with tangible results.   

View our case studies here.