Developing a service management strategy facilitated by action learning: an empirical study from the UK health & fitness industry

Authors: Oliver, J.

Journal: Action Learning: Research and Practice

Volume: 3

Pages: 213-220

ISSN: 1476-7333

DOI: 10.1080/14767330600885938


One of the principle tenets of action learning is that it provides the potential to explore and solve complex organisational problems. The question of how best to develop a future business strategy is such a problem. Existing literature on strategy making presents a multi-faceted debate, suggesting that the complexity of competitive environments means that the strategic route forward for many organisations can often be unclear. As a lecturer who teaches strategy at university, I have been intrigued by the 'Learning Group' of strategy making (Argyris & Schon, 1974; Quinn, 1980; Mintzberg, 1987; Argyris, 1993, 2004) for some time, as it argues that competitive environments are complex and unpredictable, and therefore, organisational strategies must be reactive and flexible. As a consequence, strategies simply emerge over time, and are characterised by a process of trial and error where individuals and groups within the organisation learn more about the environment they are competing in and how best to take advantage of it.

This paper aims to explore two key questions: firstly, to examine the role that action learning could play in helping strategy makers become more reflective practitioners, and secondly, to explore the use of peer consultancy as a vehicle to enable action learning. This paper presents the findings of empirical research from an action learning project with the Chief Executive of a leading UK service provider of health and fitness. It provides a detailed examination of how a service management strategy was developed in practice and enabled by a process of iterative action, change, reflection and learning.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: John Oliver