If you are stuck at the bottom of a hole 20 metres deep and I throw you a rope 10 metres long have I met you halfway!? Yes and no is the answer. Similarly learning without action means stopping halfway and action without learning is only going halfway. Fortunately, there is an excellent way to understand the interplay between action and learning. The Radka Action Learning Matrix captures the dynamics of this interplay within teams and for leaders. It can be used in leadership development, team development, and coaching sessions to explore the dynamics and the behaviour which characterise each Box within the matrix.
Box 1 represents the classic case where lots of learning, development, and training is never put into practice. Many organisations continually reinvest in the latest leadership and team development approaches within getting the ‘traction’ in improved behaviours and enhanced performance.
Box 2 represents the ‘dead’ area where no one learns that much and no one attempts anything new or different. A sort of behavioural comfort zone which generates little dynamism and adds little real value – either for people, teams, or the organisation.
Box 3 represents the another classic – the ‘firefighting’ dynamic where people rush around ‘solving’ the continual stream of ‘problems’. Trouble is that without learning the same problems crop up time and again and nothing really gets permanently fixed. There is no reflection and without reflection, there is no real learning and development of either teams or leaders.
Box 4, however, represents the complementarity and synergy between action and learning. Here people act and learn in a continuous cycle of improvement. The cycle can start at any point. The best leaders reflect and learn from what they do, to become better leaders, and they learn from their training and development, and then put this into practice, and begin the cycle again. The best teams reflect together on what they have done and talked about how to learn from that and to do it better, and they capitalise on team development resources to confidently try new ways of working together and begin the cycle again.
This matrix also helps to generate the tough questions like why investments in training have not produced a return, why some teams perform much better than others, why some leaders continually grow and develop while others stagnate. Which box do the leaders and teams within your organisation operate in? How can you move them out of boxes 1, 2, and 3 into the high performing leaders and teams in Box 4? What would a current and future profile of your organisation look like?