Example Own Job Programme

Case Studies

The following two case studies describe how Action learning can be applied to develop individuals and deliver organisational change.

Example Own Job Programme

Case – Using the Own Job Model to empower personal development


In 2000 Roche Pharma introduced, with London Business School, the ‘Insights for Pharma’ program. Insights was a one week 360-leadership development program designed to develop Pharma senior managers as leaders. Pharma (PD) supported the program and carried out a research project on its effectiveness early 2002. The study found that whilst the vast majority of participants felt that the workshop itself personally satisfying, many reported having difficulty applying their newly discovered leadership skills back in the workplace. PD management had already embraced the idea that enhanced leadership was the best way to optimize performance in difficult market conditions. They decided to build on the Insights for Pharma program by introducing Own Job action learning, Peer Group Learning (PGL), as a vehicle for providing local support for those Insights participants who wished to develop their leadership competencies in their working environment.

It was decided to start the programme by inviting all past participants of the Insights workshops to join a Peer Group Learning set. Of the 95 Insights alumni who were invited 75 people actually attended introductory meetings and 49 across the three main sites decided to participate in the pilot program enabling nine sets to be created. In parallel with the launch of the program twelve people from the HR community were recruited and trained as facilitators. The training of this group involved a short introductory workshop on the PGL philosophy followed by on job training. Once the sets had been created, the internal facilitators, supported by an external specialist, held one on one meetings with set members. These meetings had two main objectives:

  1. To develop set member’s understanding of the PGL process, how it works and to answer any queries they may have
  2. To help participants reframe the development needs identified during the Insights workshop into something achievable and relevant to the development need.

Set meetings began in January. Typically these started with the facilitator outlining the aims of PGL. Set members then appointed a coordinator for the meeting and an agreement on individual ‘air time’. Participants were encouraged to share their development projects and to set out their action plans. The main points of each person’s plan were recorded by the coordinator to be used as the agenda for the next meeting. The facilitator encouraged open discussion and members very quickly developed a good open relationship, with lots of sharing experience and ideas.

Meetings continued at the rate of about one a month, usually at lunch time as this reduced the time away from the job, with most people attending. On a number of occasions people who could not attend participated by telephone. One set had two members from Italy and apart from the first meeting, used video conferencing to communicate.

A review of the program with participant’s facilitators and sponsoring managers was carried out on all three sites during the week beginning 19th May by which time most sets had had six meetings.

Our findings show that all participants both enjoyed the experience and reported that they had been successful in achieving their development goals with more than 50% having begun a second phase of development. They valued the discipline imposed by the PGL meetings, the facilitation, and the opportunity to share experiences and to learn with and from each other. The feedback shows that PGL is seen by the participants as being key to enabling them to achieve their learning goals. 86% reported the overall value of the PGL process as good or excellent. The main strengths pf PGL were seen as:

  1. Providing a safe environment
  2. Giving access to relevant support materials
  3. The facilitation which encouraged participants to question themselves and others
  4. An opportunity to share and learn with and from each other
  5. Demonstrating management support

The following comments made during the review meetings provide a good summary of participant’s views on PGL:

  1. Drives forward action plans – brings focus and relevance
  2. The ‘team’ provides a positive obligation to change
  3. Structured time – scheduled/agenda/ notes etc / actions
  4. Gave access to a supportive group
  5. Demonstrated that the more you put in, the more everyone gets out
  6. Provides resources – internal, share web, training facilities, external ALA adviser + materials
  7. Became a valuable forum for – sharing ideas confidentially – questioning assumptions
  8. A focus for networking / sharing – time saving as not reinventing the wheel
  9. Created time to talk and reflect about people issues
  10. A forum for honest communication and experience of trust (not found in our normal work teams)

The facilitators reported that they have learnt by doing. They enjoyed the experience and felt they now have the confidence to work alone. All said the experience was either good or excellent. They valued the training they received; however a number said they would have liked a longer period of formal up-front training. 70% felt comfortable with the re-framing process; however 25% felt that this needs improvement. Set meetings are seen as very valuable but there are mixed views as to the value of the support materials. The facilitators value highly the external facilitation support they have received.

The main issues were:

Time pressure – Some participants felt their management begrudged them the time out

Diversity/Make-up of the sets – Some were not happy with other set members

Future projects – Many would like to continue and some sets did.

Management Support – The level of support from managers varied. Whilst a few participants said they were encouraged by their managers most felt that they had been ‘allowed’ to participate but had received little, if any active support.

From the evidence we concluded that the prime aim of the pilot project, to introduce the concept and practice of Peer Group Learning into Roche PD, had been achieved at all sites. The feedback indicated that PGL is able to deliver the stated long-term aim; to contribute to the growth of a learning culture within Roche by enabling participants to develop their leadership skills. Those who participated said they felt that PGL: Shows that management value us.”

They saw the PGL’s and the Leadership Team support this implied, as a clear indication that management has changed its approach to the way they manage us; they are now encouraging us to change”. When asked what they would say to management about PGL they said: “Thank you!”

As a result of the experience management felt that PGL had shown itself to be a simple, effective process for helping people to develop themselves. It was well suited to the Roche culture and style of working. It was therefore decided to formerly adopt PGL as part of Leadership Development Programme and link it seamlessly with Insights.

For a copy of the published paper please follow this link:


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