Preparing for Action Learning Set Meetings

As an Action Learning Set facilitator, the first step is to ask participants to prepare for the session in advance.

Set members need to have an issue to work on. This does not need to be a problem – it can be a very positive challenge or opportunity – but it needs to be something that we do not yet have a way to address. To get the best from the Learning Set each participant needs to prepare by thinking about an issue, problem, opportunity, challenge that they want to do something about.

The best kinds of issues to bring to ALS are those which are:

  • Important to the person who brings it.
  • Something that can be changed.
  • Something that the presenter can take action to resolve or change.


The questions below might help participants choose what they want to talk about:

  • Describe the issue in one sentence or 140 characters
  • Briefly describe why is this important to you
  • Why do you want to address this issue?
  • What benefits might there be if you resolve this issue?
  • Who else might want to see this issue resolved?
  • Are you willing to be challenged on this issue?
  • What/who can help you?
  • What/who might hinder you?
  • What might your first steps be?
  • What will success look like?
  • What are the benefits to you and others?


Asking Helpful Questions in Action Learning

Asking good questions and then listening deeply to the answers is at the heart of Action Learning. The purpose of the questions is to help the presenter to explore their own thinking, insights and actions, as well as to encourage them to reflect and start to ask themselves questions.

It can be very tempting to ask long and involved questions to try and get at the heart of an issue, but these can often cause confusion rather than help with clarity.

There is no great secret to asking good incisive questions, we ask them all the time. Open, short and simple questions are often the most powerful and the most helpful. For example:

  • What do you want to happen?
  • What do you want from this situation?
  • What do you want to change?
  • What would help you to ….
  • How do you feel about…
  • What gets in the way?
  • What do you want to do?
  • What will you do?
  • When will you ….?
  • What would success look like?
  • What are the consequences of doing nothing?


When you listen deeply you will begin to see which questions are most helpful and have the best effect on the speaker. We are all different and there is not one size that fits all. Through observation and attention, you will find the right questions for each individual (remembering of course that these may need to change over time).

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