Henry Senko has worked closely with Marilyn Herasymowych to develop a Leadership Through Learning Program (LTL) that is based on action learning principles and design. The underlying philosophy of LTL comes from that of action learning and direct democracy, exactly what is practiced in GULL. A direct democracy is a political system in which citizens participate in the decision making personally, as opposed to relying on representatives. In action learning, the people who are involved are the people who own the problem, and will therefore own the solutions. Dissent and majority rule are also principles of a democracy, and therefore of a direct democracy. However, in a direct democracy, dissent is critical to determining a majority position. If citizens hear the dissenting opinions, they will be much better informed before voting to determine the majority position.
The action learning process can be described using the following six characteristics that value people and their ability to learn from their actions. People:
- Solve real-life problems that they experience in their day-to-day work and life
- Learn to solve these real problems with the help and support of others
- Reflect on their decisions and actions, in order to learn about how they think and act within the problem situation
- Ask questions that bring to the surface deeply held assumptions, so that these assumptions can be openly discussed
- Bring their experiences and expertise to the learning, in order to help others
- Are accountable for their decisions and actions, and are committed to taking action on their decisions
In today’s complex environment, people often find that their solutions to problems do not work over the long term, or that their fixes actually cause more problems to appear. As a result, people are often frustrated and confused, asking themselves, “Why do our fixes not work? What are we doing wrong? Why can’t we make things better?” Adding to the complexity is the belief that there never seems to be enough resources or time to adequately address the problems.
Unless people in organizations can learn to think and act differently, they will continue to struggle with problems they cannot seem to solve. If organizations are to match the speed of change, people need completely different approaches to dealing with complexity. Herasymowych and Senko’s Leadership Through Learning (LTL) program features these approaches — ways of thinking and acting that enable everyone in an organization to solve real problems in real time, and to create the resilience required to deal with complexity and change. The LTL program integrates an action learning approach with a decision support system to help people make informed decisions and to take effective actions.