HPMA London Academy Action Learning Set for Heads of Service with Roger Raw...

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**This Event is for HPMA London Academy Members only**

HPMA London Academy Action Learning Set for Heads of Service with Roger Rawlinson

We are setting up a new Action Learning Set for HR professionals in Heads of Service roles. This will be a small group who will meet every 3 months to take an action orientated approach to learning, through working on current work challenges.

If you would like to join this group, please book a place and we will get back to you to confirm the group, once all the places have been filled. We may come back to you with questions in order to ensure there is a good mix of people in the group. Ideally, all members should be from different Trusts or not working closely together and should be in roles with broadly similar levels of responsiblity. Of course, some difference in roles can work well. If you book on this group, you should ideally be able to commit to all four dates within reason.

The dates for the meetings are:

21 September 2017

14 December 2017

22 March 2018

21 June 2018

How does action learning work?

Each delegate will have equal time and space in the first meeting to convey their expectations and concerns. From this, the set will develop its subject matter and objectives.

In action learning, participants take it in turns to be the 'client' who will bring a problem or issue. The other members of the group will act as 'consultants' to help draw out the problem and what actions can be taken. It is not assumed that the person knows precisely what the problem is or what should be done. The process will help the 'client' to define and think through their issue in a way useful to them (Schein, 1999).

Consultation is about providing help. Set members asking questions must remember that the person owns the problem and their role (as consultants) is to help the person to solve the problem themselves. From the client’s perspective, it’s about seeing the issue or problem, exploring it, being wholly involved in the diagnostic process and trying to generate possible actions or solutions. From the consultant’s perspective, it’s about actively listening, being empathic and supportive, being genuine and respectful, and not giving advice or trying to offer a solution.

The CIPD describes Action Learning as “a method of collaborative learning where a small group of learners (an ‘action learning set’) meet regularly to reflect on real work issues. Its basic philosophy is that the most effective learning takes place when we are faced with a real problem which we are obliged to solve”.

Essentially, Action Learning Sets should involve the following components:

  • Having a set of approximately 8 colleagues (of similar levels of experience) to support and challenge one-another in working through the problem or task

  • People accepting responsibility for taking action on an issue.

  • Identifying a problem or setting a task to work on.

  • Trust between the colleagues in the room

  • Being open and honest

  • Regular reflection

  • Willingness to learn from others

  • Discussion of real issues

  • Willingness to seek help

What can participants expect in terms of some of the benefits or outcomes?

The set will commit to some measurable objectives in the first or second meeting at the latest, accepting that objectives then change over time. The set will be held to account on the objectives agreed. Although the nature of the outcomes is very much a matter for the set, the group will be supported to develop practical and applicable objectives which make a demonstrable difference back in their workplaces.

It is also important that there is space in a learning set for mutual support and understanding in a sector which often feels hostile and unsupportive, so it will be important to listen to each other and give time for colleagues to express the difficulties they are experiencing.

Some of the other benefits of using action learning are outlined below:

  • Learning a more disciplined way of working.

  • Learning to network.

  • Learning to communicate with others more effectively.

  • Increased self-confidence.

  • Increased self-awareness.

  • Increased readiness to take responsibility and initiative

  • Helping to solve complex, urgent problems.

  • Developing teams and individuals

Set members use the set to share their uncertainty, to explore their problems, and to engage in a process which has the potential to generate greater self-understanding and learning, thus resulting in creative solutions to problems.


A commitment to the process is needed. The group will need to meet on a regular basis, as decided by the members and facilitator at the start. As a suggestion, groups may meet every 2 to 3 months.

A lack of commitment not only lets other members down but also changes the dynamic of the group and can affect the trust between members, which in turn reduces the potential for learning and resolutions. The groups are small, so if people don’t attend, it has an impact on the sustainability of the group.

Some background information on the facilitator

Roger has been coaching teams and individuals for almost ten years and has a big box of tips and techniques, which he can draw on. He is accredited to run MBTI, ASTON OD and the LEA 360 diagnoses, which might be useful, and his CPD over the last couple of years has included extensive work on Transactional Analysis, Mindfulness, Leadership Styles (particularly Heifetz, Goleman, Covey and Peters) as well as a wealth of “coaching” exercises from the likes of Clutterbuck, Whittington, Lee, Hawkins and Megginson.

Over the past two years he has gained some excellent direct experience as a learning set facilitator. He was a learning set facilitator on the Public Health England Talent Management Programme in 2015: he coached a group of six delegates over an eight month period and led five action learning sets during that time. They focused on two principal areas:- working through a series of “wicked” issues using peer review techniques, and working on a variety of leadership styles, appropriate for their individual circumstances.

He has been working closely with the Reducing Premature Mortality team from NHS England’s Medical Directorate. He is accredited to facilitate ASTON OD’s Aston Team Performance Indicator, so undertook the diagnostic with the team, which led to the development of a team action plan. He has recently returned to review the action plan and undertake further development work.

In terms of wider facilitation, last year he facilitated four public meetings, In London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast, for NHS England’s Allied Health Professionals Directorate’s consultation on extending prescribing rights for a number of professions, and facilitated two away days for NHS England’s 350 strong Medical Directorate.

He has also facilitated a systems wide senior leadership forum on behalf of East Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, and undertaken a series of Myers Briggs Type Indicator feedback sessions and Management Development sessions for West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group.

He has been the HR Director of a Strategic Health Authority and Chief Executive of a Workforce Development Confederation. Neither role came with much “positional” authority, but both gave him the opportunity to bring HR and L&D professionals together both to help design their part of the health and social care system, and to work across systems so he is very accustomed to helping HR and L&D professionals to develop their ideas and formulate their plans.

His website is at

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