Welcome to the Action Learning Institute

We are a small but ambitious organisation determined to deliver vocational education in it’s purest form: action learning.

Action learning involves a group of people coming together to undertake a practical project. Participants come from different situations with different skills and knowledge to bring to bear on the problem. The intended change is used as a vehicle for learning through exploration and reflection.

Action learning is a natural way for adults to learn. It particularly suits people who may not shine in a classroom. Action learning projects achieve organisation outcomes and personal development outcomes. They demonstrate what is possible and set a pattern of learning for the organisations involved.

The Action Learning Institute is a Registered Training Organisation under the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011. Our aim is to promote innovation and collaboration by facilitating ‘learning through interaction’. Our mission is to plan, facilitate and support action learning programs within and across industry sectors to enhance the performance of participating organisations, develop and assess the competencies of their people, and advance the learning economies of the regions in which they operate.

An action learning program encompasses three projects, one for each participating company. Each project is undertaken at the host company by a team of four or five people. Typically the team includes two or three people from the host organisation with the remaining team members coming from the other companies. The team and their facilitator work intensively together, one day per week over five weeks. Outcomes are presented to the host company senior management on the fifth day and the host team members then commence implementation of the recommendations. At the end of the project implementation, some six to nine months later, the team reconvenes to review the outcomes achieved by the host company. Key elements of the project and its outcomes are recorded as evidence for assessment against nationally recognised qualifications in Competitive Systems and Practices or Sustainable Operations (from the Sustainability Training Package) and are used as the basis for a case study and public presentations.

The selection of an appropriate project for each participating company is critical to the success of the program and the Action Learning Institute has created a set of criteria for project selection:

  • Must address an issue of high priority to the company ie. be important to senior management
  • Likely to benefit from “fresh eyes”
  • Potential to demonstrate best practice/lean/sustainability principles
  • Likely to achieve a tangible outcome in the time available
  • Fits with the qualifications defined within the Sustainability Training Package
  • Company willing for outcomes to be used as a case study (within reason)

Source: The Action Learning Institute Facilitator Handbook © 2012 All rights reserved


The Lean Action Learning Program was initiated in South Australia in 2006 with funding and support from the South Australian Department of Trade and Economic Development (DTED, now the Department for State Development). The objectives of the program were to:

  • Enable companies to learn with and from each other by tackling real projects of vital importance, using an action learning/action research approach.
  • Demonstrate the application of lean principles across the supply chain, including manufacturing, warehousing, transport, procurement and distribution.
  • Disseminate the learnings.

To date, 13 projects involving a total of 28 companies have been completed in South Australia. A further nine projects have been completed in Tasmania.

The Tasmanian Initiative

In 2010/11 a Lean Action Learning Program was conducted in Tasmania, with funding and support from Skills Tasmania and the Tasmanian Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts (now Department of State Growth). The program was conducted in the Tamar Valley region over the period October 2010 to September 2011. Three companies were involved in the program; Tamar Valley Dairy Pty Ltd, ACL Bearing Company and Rio Tinto Alcan Bell Bay (now Bell Bay Aluminium). Each company hosted an action learning project and nominated two people to undergo the program. Each nominated person participated in two projects; one with their own company and one with another of the remaining two companies.

The benefits sought from the program were:

  • For the individual Participant:
    • Development of action learning skills
    • Achievement of competencies which will enhance their career prospects, enhance the contribution that they can make to their company’s performance, and achieve formal recognition against the Australian Competency Framework.
  • For participating companies:
    • Improved business performance through addressing an issue of high priority
    • Opportunity to learn from other companies’ experiences and benefit from the fresh views of outsiders to the company
    • Enhanced competency of key employees with formal recognition for that competency
    • Development of a pattern of action learning which can be further developed and extended within the company
  • For the State of Tasmania
    • The prototype of a strategy to promote collaboration between companies and across industry sectors to advance the performance of industry in the State and raise the skills of the workforce.

A program review conducted in September 2011 concluded that all of the above benefits were realised. In each case the companies achieved tangible business outcomes from the projects and all six candidates achieved a Certificate IV in Competitive Manufacturing.

An Advisory Panel, consisting of senior management representatives of the Action Learning Institute, participating companies, funding bodies and other stakeholders, was established to oversee program delivery. The Panel has evolved as new companies become involved and now identifies as Business Action Learning Tasmania (BALT). The BALT Coordination Team, led by Andrew Thompson (ACL Bearing Company) as Chair, has developed a strategic plan for the continued expansion of the Lean Action Learning phenomenon and a subsequent second round has since been completed (September 2013) with a third program now underway. BALT was recently recognised at the Tasmanian State Training Awards as a leader in industry collaboration based on the success of Lean Action Learning in Tasmania.

As Lean Action Learning continues to gain support in Tasmania and South Australia, local facilitators are sought from within programs to promote action learning and engage other local businesses, particularly within their supply chain. This program of facilitator development is delivered as Facilitator Action Learning and uses the same principles of ‘learning by doing’. Identified leaders within participating companies are mentored to become action learning facilitators capable of delivery programs within their own communities.

Nationally recognised qualification

As a registered training organisation (RTO) under the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011, the Action Learning Institute has been assessed by ASQA against the requirements of the Standards for NVR Registered Training Organisations 2011. We offer nationally recognised training under the Australian Qualifications Framework .

Qualifications offered are mapped against Action Learning Programs as a bespoke training plan to suit the needs of participating organisations.

Qualifications are derived from the Sustainability Training Package (MSS11) and include:

The framework of competencies embodied in the qualification enhances the action learning process by providing:

  • a reference for potential tools and techniques that apply to a particular project
  • a benchmark for the skills to be developed in that project
  • an added focus on the implementation of the project recommendations

The Action Learning Institute has developed a management system, which enables flexible training plans to be adjusted as the project progresses. For example, elective Units of Competency may be dropped or added to suit the tools and principles needed to address project objectives (eg. kaizan, lifecycle assessment, root cause analysis, etc). Assessment against established performance criteria is undertaken holistically and managed collectively, rather than sequentially (one Unit of Competency at a time), and this creates more intuitive clustering of Units driven by training needs identified in real-time rather than ‘set’ learning materials.

The results achieved to date demonstrate that the action learning process is robust and adaptable. The common objective is the continuous quest to maximise value creation and eliminate waste in supply chains and business processes. The process can be used effectively to address a wide range of business problems and challenges from high level strategy planning to detailed productivity improvements. Participants range from senior managers and directors to shop floor operators depending on the nature of the project.

Interested in participating in an action learning program?

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