What it is
You may have attended professional development training programs in the past that gave you good information but understandably had to approach issues from a general perspective. When you went back to your worksite, you found it difficult to implement what you had learned.
There were most likely three key reasons for this difficulty:
- Others in the organization who have not attended the management class either did not understand or felt threatened by the new techniques you wanted to use;
- If you attempted to implement a new management technique, you often suffered a lack of support from your peers and/or from upper management; and
- You encountered difficulty in translating what you learned in general terms to the context of your organization, work process or culture.
- What if you could learn new management techniques to address workplace challenges while onsite with your peers?
- What if you could test out new management techniques with the assistance of mutually-minded peers and the support of upper management?
- What if, together with those peers, you could begin to change your organizational culture from within, one step at a time?
These are the ideas behind peer learning groups.
A Peer Learning Group©
A peer learning group provides an open sharing space in which the managers can learn from each other and validate their experience as they grow their expertise. The group differs significantly from a general management meeting in six ways. In a peer learning group, all the managers:
- Have the same level of responsibility;
- Want to become better managers;
- Share the same management issue, problem or concern;
- Are invested in learning how to address the issue;
- Are committed to using what they learn; and
- Are accountable for reporting on and learning from their experience.
The groups provide practical and timely learning relevant to your job:
- Just what you need: the knowledge, experience and context come from you and your peers
- Just what matters: management strategies you can apply immediately
- Just when you need it: when you have a performance challenge in your job.
- Just where you need it: at your worksite.
- Just how you need it: in short 90-minute sessions.
The group size is limited to no more than six managers, to ensure that each member can hear each other clearly and has sufficient time to participate.
The peer learning groups can meet for as long as they think they need to and the members benefit from the participation. The group can meet to resolve one pressing issue or it may continue working on a number of challenges for several months. Regardless of the length of time, the group will follow a modular approach to addressing each issue, as described below.
Every topic module is comprised of two 90-minute sessions.
Session 1 focuses on Exploration. The managers: share their stories about the management issue; discuss their experiences; build their knowledge and skills (with written reference materials, exercises, job aids and/or videos); and plan to apply their new learning.
Session 2 focuses on Reflection. In a follow-up session 2 to 3 weeks later, the managers report back and learn from each other’s experiences, building each other’s competence to address and handle similar management challenges in the future.
The group meets in their worksite, so no travel is necessary, and they operate within the system with management support. The group is self-directed, so there is no outside facilitator. Instead, each manager takes a turn facilitating the group, assisted by a leader manual that provides a format for discussion, suggested time frames, and additional resources to build the group’s knowledge and skills.
Groups can select a specific two-session module chosen from a topic menu, or a mini-track for a management category comprised of multiple two-session modules.
All members of the peer learning group receive a module workbook, which contains: a table of contents; agenda; objectives; worksheets; reference materials; and a valuation page for each session.
The two group members who will act as the facilitators for the first or second session receive a facilitator workbook, which contains: an explanation of the facilitative role (before, during and after the session); the desired output of each session; examples of different approaches for handling the issue; answer keys for worksheets; and tips on how to facilitate a group, engage all participants, handle monopolizing or silent members, and keep the session on track and on time. If there is a video, the facilitator is expected to review it prior to the session.