You said « Learning Team™ » ?

La Learning Team™?

Sylvie Deffayet Davrout – Louise Henninot


You said Learning Team?

The Learning Team™ is a training program created by the Leadership and Managerial Competencies Chair at EDHEC; it is based on two convictions : 

The first is that a group of people gathered around and sharing their experiences can become learning resources for each other.

The second part notes that managerial competencies and managerial skills[1] can not be taught in a top-down manner but it can be learned, thanks to dialogue[2] within the group.

The pedagogical inspirations of Learning Teams™ 

The inductive pedagogy of the Learning Team™ aims to bring the learners into the cycle proposed by Kolb.

In this view, the guiding thread of the Learning Team™ is managerial experience, which is studied under the focal point of a “Critical Incident[1], a noteworthy event that is “out of the ordinary”. “ These incidents can lead to happy outcomes or become the source of trouble, giving rise to setbacks or leading to complications that are difficult to overcome.”[2] Working from these critical incidents is a powerful pedagogical technique.[3]

The manager in training is therefore invited to collect data in the form of critical incidents encountered during his recent professional practice and to note them down. He the proceeds to reorganize his notes, classify it, prioritize it and then choose one or two questions that emerge in relation to his managerial practice and his area of responsibility. The time spent in the Learning Team™ is time of conceptualization where the manager poses his question to the group and then works through it considering the resonance his story generates in the other participants. Through the resonance of each member and the assistance of the Learning Manager, who maintains a safe and healthy discussion framework and may bring theory to enrich the exchange, the manager will see his problem, refine the problem towards an essential question which, once formalized, resonates so profoundly with the manager that a major part of teh answer emerges on its own. The “questioning” part is therefore indispensable and brings all of its power to this process.

Les conditions de succès d’une Learning TeamTM

Several conditions guarantee the proper functioning of a Learning Team™: the composition of the group, the setting up of a framework conducive to this type of learning and the use of a learning journal.

The ideal composition of a LT is around a dozen managers of the same hierarchical line so that everyone has the space to express themselves with confidence.

Regarding the framework, the session is facilitated by a Learning Manager who, from the outset, will create conditions of security so that a genuine dialogue between the members can be established; this involves the development of rules for the particular Learning, by the group as a whole; such as, confidentiality, non-judgment, genuine sharing and the commitment to come to all sessions. If, however, at the end of the first two sessions, a person does not perceive the relevance of this approach requiring reflexivity, introspection and group sharing, they are free to withdrawal.

The indispensable tool for the Learning TeamTM

A Learning Journal is distributed to each Learning Team™ Member, to accompany him/her throughout each session and between sessions. It is a learning logbook with dedicated space for taking notes, for calling upon reflections and for questioning.  Writing is an essential part of the Learning Team ™ as a way to step back and clarify the questions a manager has been asking himself and to identify what he really needs to learn in his own context. It is also a means of anchoring the new ways of seeing, questioning, and reflecting so that can last autonomously once the ten sessions have ended, so that they can become reflexes.

The goal of Learning TeamTM

The Learning Team™ is a process which aims to awaken the awareness that we can be learning resources for one another and that the regular practice of writing to reflect and take distance is extremely effective in unraveling situations that, at first glance, appear to be blocked.

At the end of the ten sessions together, the group constitutes a true community of collaborators equipped with new reflexes, such as knowing how to take the time to stop, confront, and deal with their concerns with other managers. They also develop their capability to accompany their own teams of managers using this practice.

The Learning Teams ™ are experienced as privileged moments of leadership and managerial skills learning through the questions that are tackled. The participants leave both "lighter" and "empowered".

While the learning manager can not foresee which questions will be brought by the participants and how these will be dealt with, it is her posture of facilitation (and not didactic contribution) that allows her to uphold the goal of the Learning Team which is the production of a collective intelligence through the different phases of the learning cycle and through dialogue. Thus, for each of the problems tackled, the managers leave with a clarification of the managerial problem that they have to face and concrete courses of action to deal with the problem.

What those who have experienced this process say:

The importance of structuring your thoughts pour being more effective in action.

To be more serene in who I am rather than focusing on who I am not.

To wait less for the solution to come from above.”

Set limits and allow my team to set limits.

Step back and revisit the match: go through the managerial decision again like the referees do.”

To be able to communicate, leaving no room for illusions; to make real demands.”

To realize that sometimes I slow down the progress on a particular subject.

Know how to transform a difficult situation into a learning opportunity: analyze, to feel the satisfaction of what went well, to be more emotionally balanced…”

To take back control of my schedule and to declutter – let go of things that are unnecessarily weighing me down.”

To formulate my managerial interntion precisely by using the Learning Team method. Using a process of demanding questioning that in the end saves time.”

A powerful experience of confidence in a training method: it’s very rare and allows for true learning.”

10 years of experience have shown us that :

When the Learning Team Members arrive at their session, it isn’t always with a light heart or a calm spirit. On the contrary! But if you pose the questions, they will almost always say that they come with desire to be there. “For my part, the LT is a real breath of oxygen in a very busy business day." 

To start, each member brings his problems/questions/preoccupation of the moment. Sometimes they are regrouped, often they converge into one essential question that comes out throughout the 10 sessions. What is the most surprising is that “each member shares their experiences but we can see ourselves in each question shared by all members.”

The principle of the Learning Team is based on group dynamics: “we build together what could be a solution or an area to work on.” “The contribution of the other members - especially those whose profiles differ from mine - is precious: it sheds light on relationship with others ... and unravels potential tensions, false perceptions that I might have about colleagues, or counterparts.”

The Learning Manager is a veritable facilitator, accompanying the group in its questioning, sometimes with the help of theoretical models which help members consider a situation from a multiplicity of angles. "The different perspectives or ‘lights’ allow us to better understand others and their reactions but also to get to the bottom of our questions and some form of "truth". As a result, there is clarity, assurance and understanding."


In summary, by experimenting with this pedagogy, the manager is led to identify / become aware of his representations / beliefs which are often his own barriers to solving the situations he encounters, even if they are complex and constrained. At the end of this work, of sharing in collective intelligence with his colleagues, he is able to draw on new resources (of leadership) to act in conscience and with pleasure as a manager, because he has somehow "re-legitimized" himself.

Sylvie Deffayet-Davrout, Louise Henninot

[1] Une Learning Team « standard » se compose d’une trentaine d’heures, réparties sur 7 à 10 rencontres espacées de 4 semaines environ.

[1] Flanagan, J.C. (1954) « The critical Incident Technique », Psychological Bulletin, Vol.51, No 4

[2] Joly, A. (2009) « Pédagogie de l’incident critique dans la formation des responsables », Revue internationale de psychosociologie et de gestion des comportements organisationnels 2009/37 (Vol XV)

[3] Picq T., (2009), Education permanente, n° 181 -4

[1] L’autre nom du leadership pour les canadiens francophones

[2] Bohm, D. (1990). On dialogue, Ojai, CA: David Bohm Seminars., Isaacs, W. N. (1993). Taking flight: Dialogue, collective thinking and organizational learning. Organizational Dynamics, 22, 24-39. Isaacs, W. N. (1999). Dialogue and the art of thinking together. New York, NY: Currency.


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