Workshop design LO30077

From: Malcolm Burson (
Date: 04/07/03

Replying to LO30044 --

On April 3, Nick Heap wrote,

> I have an opportunity to create workshops to introduce senior people in a
> client company to the idea of a learning organisation. They have already
> done some work on people development. This workshops will delivered by
> the HR Director, who is an old established client and good friend, and I
> will
> be behind the scenes helping him think about the design and how to deliver
> them.
> I was wondering if you have any experiences, resources, useful books or
> stories that may help with this. I want to do this well. I will post back
> to the list what we do and what happens!

Nick, I would agree with At in LO 30050, and would add a few thoughts in

 1. Avoid the label "learning organization" at all costs. It's
unnecessary, and can easily sound like the "flavour of the month."
Instead, invite your participants to work with you to build their
individual and corporate effectiveness by concentrating on practical,
real-time opportunities to learn, practice, and reflect (or some such).
With this in mind,

 2. Find one or two activities in each section of "The Fifth Discipline
Fieldbook" which you can link to the real activities of the company. For
example, if they're engaged in developing some new directions, choose
something from the "Shared Vision" section that you can adapt to their
real-world situation. Or, if they've presented an issue of
executive-level discussion, try building their competence with an activity
from the "Mental Models" or "Team Learning" sections, again choosing one
that is a good match with their actual situation. In the best of all
worlds, find a way to introduce the concept in real time: that is, as a
way for them in an existing context to learn an LO skill (and a little bit
of theory), practice it "off line" briefly, and then apply it to their
actual agenda.

 3. As Rick our host would say, LO is less about an idea, than about
developing "the capacity for effective action," not just learning a nice
theory. With that in mind, avoid giving them extensive chalk-talks,
theory presentations, etc. Instead, offer practical tools and then help
them to reflect on their experience as a way of building learning.

[Host's Note: Thank you, Malcolm. Yes, I would say that! ..Rick]

I could go on further, having spent much of the last decade and more doing
just what you're engaged in, as an internal and external consultant, but
it's probably time to let others in. My major caution in what you wrote:
I'm uncomfortable with you being the "teacher behind the scenes" on this.
Unless your old colleague is himself quite conversant with LO approaches,
and comfortable both presenting and promoting active learning and
reflection, you may have some difficulties. Better, IMHO, to be
transparent about your role and leadership in bringing this to them.

Best regards,

Malcolm Burson
Director of Special Projects
Maine Department of Environmental Protection


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