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Reflective Practice. Leadership Development Tool. Context. recognised that a key differentiator between places where people wanted to work and places where people did not want to work was “Leadership” staff with varying degrees of training ie short courses to Masters

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Reflective practice

Reflective Practice

Leadership Development Tool


  • recognised that a key differentiator between places where people wanted to work and places where people did not want to work was “Leadership”

  • staff with varying degrees of training ie short courses to Masters

  • staff with varying degrees of experience


  • needed ongoing development approach to maintain skill development

  • needed approach which provided opportunity for staff to reflect on whether “words matched actions”

  • needed approach which facilitated learning from each other

The project using reflective practice and action learning as strategic management tools
The Project – ‘Using Reflective Practice and action learning as strategic management tools’

  • a twofold purpose:

    • make a contribution to the skill development of a group of managers at Northern Health Service (NHS)

    • produce data that could be used to develop better ways of using RP approaches in the health industry

  • action research was the research methodology used

Action research
Action Research learning as strategic management tools’

  • a family of research methodologies involving:

    • a collaborative problem solving relationship between researcher and client aimed at solving problems, building skills and generating new knowledge

    • this involves the researcher and client in collaborative cycles of planning, taking action, observing, reflecting and evaluating (Cherry, 1999, Dick, 1991 & Coglan & Brannick, 2001)

Reflective practice1
Reflective Practice learning as strategic management tools’

  • an approach to management and organisation development that integrates or links thought and action with reflection

    • ‘…a process of disengaging from or stepping back from an experience and taking time to deliberately and carefully review it, think about it and construct meaning from it’ (Doyle & Young, 2000, p. 18)

  • requires participants to assume the perspective of an external observer, to identify assumptions & feelings underlying their practice, how these impact their practice & determine if they need to change to be more effective

Reflective practice groups
Reflective Practice Groups learning as strategic management tools’

  • they create a space different from the everyday activities of managers where participants can help one another, through cycles of reflection & action, explore the events, issues and feelings that stem from their roles, under the guidance of an experienced facilitator

    • can positively affect professional growth & development – leading to greater self-awareness

    • enable managers to distinguish their espoused theory & theory-in-use so their actions more closely reflect their intent

    • generate new knowledge about professional practice

    • can also be time-consuming & involve some personal risk as practice is questioned

    • require participants to be open to potentially sensitive aspects of their practice – beliefs, values and feelings

Project design what we did
Project Design - what we did learning as strategic management tools’

  • the RPG’s:

    • agreement between RMIT and NHS to proceed based on previous work

    • ethics approval from RMIT & NHS

    • invitation to all managers at TNH & BHS

    • information sessions conducted

    • interested staff allocated to a group (6 in total)

    • RMIT staff member allocated to a group

What we did
What we did learning as strategic management tools’

  • Evaluation

    • 5 focus groups were conducted by an RMIT staff member who did not facilitate the group

    • 5 interviews were undertaken with senior managers whose staff had taken part

    • an interim and final report was provided to the NHS Executive with findings and recommendations

  • Analysis

    • data was transcribed and analysed using a modified form of grounded theory

  • Ethics approval was obtained from RMIT & NHS ethics committees

Findings focus groups 1
Findings – Focus Groups (1) learning as strategic management tools’

  • overwhelmingly a place where managers felt supported, could trust others when exploring issues & discussing risky/confidential matters, in a non-judgemental setting

  • enjoyed being challenged, opportunity for feedback, a much needed opportunity for time out to reflect on events, issues & feelings stemming from their roles

  • noticed modest but significant changes:

    • specific changes to behaviour eg. dealings with staff

    • need to develop support systems for selves as managers

    • more likely to stop and think & felt they had more options

    • more strategic

    • better able to delegate & handle difficult interpersonal situations

Focus groups 2
Focus Groups (2) learning as strategic management tools’

  • Contributing factors:

    • positive group dynamics – listening, developing trust, being non-judgemental

    • the presence of a skilled facilitator was important to:

      • manage the group

      • model appropriate behaviours

      • offer ideas based on practical & theoretical knowledge

      • provides an outsider perspective

  • Improvements

    • these focussed on meeting frequency (fewer/longer), group composition (similar levels in hierarchy & site based, mixed regarding professional background) and group size (not too small)

Senior management interviews 1
Senior Management Interviews (1) learning as strategic management tools’

  • assessment of the impact of RPG’s based on conversations with members & direct observations

  • some limitations in opportunities to observe direct reports

  • reported a number of general benefits & particularly noted that participants had more insight into the impact of their own behaviour, especially those with no formal management training

    • RPG participants reported the value of time & space to discuss issues especially related to managing staff

    • capacity to network with peers they previously had little contact with

    • work in RPG’ contributing positively to other change efforts

Senior management interviews 2
Senior Management Interviews (2) learning as strategic management tools’

  • changes they observed focussed on general improvements in a broad range of skills especially communication & interpersonal skills and the capacity to take more initiative

  • at least three of the groups planned to continue to meet

  • wanted to see RPG’s implemented more strategically (to increase the pace of change) & broadly (in the longer term)

  • participation should be part of a mgt development activity

  • managers have an important role in helping staff involved consolidate their learning

  • senior managers needed to commit to RPG’s if they expected staff to

  • preference for groupings based on similar levels in hierarchy and mixed in terms of professional backgrounds

The collaboration
The collaboration learning as strategic management tools’

  • the staff from NHS and RMIT designed, conducted and evaluated the project collaboratively – owning it and shaping it jointly

  • we met as a RPG throughout

  • research, learning, organisational action and reflection were integrated

  • organisational benefits & impacts are beginning to be felt, learnings about the doing of reflective practice in busy organisational contexts are developing and research/knowledge outcomes emerging for both parties

  • relationships strengthened

Where to now
Where to now? learning as strategic management tools’

  • include reflective practice as part of an overall leadership development strategy

  • complement reflective practice with opportunities for leadership training, seminars and tertiary education

  • facilitate reflective practice sessions explore organisational identified issues and participant identified issues