Episode #081: Peter Cauwelier, PhD: Action Learning: Unpeeling and Solving Complex Problems to Build Lasting Teams

How does learning influence action and action influence learning in teams? How can coaches help teams leverage learning to solve complex problems in organizations? Tune in to this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone podcast to learn how special guest Dr. Peter Cauwelier leverages Action Learning to help organizations embed teaming and learning into their cultures. Peter Cauwelier, PhD is Chief Team Connector at TEAM.AS.ONE, Managing Director at ASIO Consulting, and Managing Director at the World Institute for Action Learning (Thailand).

On the podcast Peter shares his journey from his origins in Belgium, to his move to Thailand 26 years ago, to his more than 20 years of experience leading multi-cultural teams in Asia in various operations management roles in the manufacturing sector, to his transition to becoming a Master Action Learning Coach and to his founding of ASIO Consulting and serving as the Managing Director of the World Institute of Action Learning. Themes explored in the episode include:

  • Action learning as a problem solving methodology for helping teams work on real complex problems
  • The dynamic and reciprocal relationship between learning and action
  • How to balance taking action with learning
  • How Peter engages CEOs and Senior Leaders to let him use Action Learning on their most complex problems
  • Applying Action Learning in ad hoc teams, intact teams and with leaders
  • Stories of hits and misses applying Action Learning in a variety of teams and organizations
  • Scaling Action Learning with multiple teams
  • Embedding Action Learning within organizations and to foster teaming cultures
  • Peter’s E-Book: Team-As-One: When A Team Connects
  • A conference on teams that Peter is organizing in Chiang Mai, Thailand in November 2018
  • And more!

This episode is essential listening for all team coaches who are seeking to unleash the power of learning to transform teams and drive organizational change. Tune in today and let Dr. Peter Cauwelier help you take your team coaching practice to the next level!

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Part 1 – Getting to know the Show Guest: Peter Cauwelier

  • Managing Director at ASIO Consulting
  • Originally from Belgium, moved to Thailand 26 years ago, now located in Chang Mai
  • Started working at ASIO  with a focus on team development, supported teams globally
  • Executive board member at World Institute for Action Learning (WIAL) in Thailand
  • WIAL has 20 affiliates in different countries which promote action learning as a methodology, with training programs to certify action learning coaches
  • Peter is 1 of 10 coaches who have reached level of Master Action Learning Coach
  • Executive MBA from Boston University & PhD of Knowledge in Innovation and Management from Bangkok University (researched team dynamics and team learning)
  • Moved into field of action field coaching formally 5 years ago, though he has been working with teams for past 20+ years with international companies (operations/ manufacturing fields)
  • Started to research action learning from an initial curiosity about team coaching certifications, which at the time were scarce.

Part 2 – Approach to Team Coaching

  • “In action learning you slow the team down first, to go faster later”
  • “There is no learning without action, and no action without learning” -Reginald Reynolds
  • Action learning is a problem solving methodology where a team works on a real complex problem, take actions, and learns as individuals and a team
  • Follows 2 ground rules: 1) statements can only be made in response to questions 2) the coach has the authority to intervene when he/she sees a learning opportunity
  • The coach’s only role is to help the team learn, makes learning very explicit
  • Uses iceberg analogy to describe what happens in an action learning session: tip is the problem, individual and team development happens below the surface
  • Wait for dynamics to appear, then the coach supports team in learning about the dynamic
  • Balances taking action (looking for solutions) & learning
  • He asks leaders to provide him with their most complex problems, uses 4-6 sessions to solve this issue, solving a business results that really matters in a relatively short period of time
  • Works with ad hoc teams, intact teams, and with leaders
  • Story # 1: An organization had a chronic issue with turnover. At the end of each session he has everyone in team take an action of their choice to address the issue. In next session, the team discusses actions taken and they share their learning. Team members found information on their own and realized that the real problem was that the supervisors have been promoted without management training. They identified this after a few action learning sessions- a consultant did not have to show them, the team learned this through trial and error, which created great engagement for working through problem.
  • Story # 2: A CEO asked him to use this method to convince his team of the solution for the problem that he had in mind – Peter, however, declined!
  • Story # 3: He realized that his client was never actually designed as a team. There was very little connections between the team members. Therefore the team could not develop. He used action learning for personal development and they made progress individually, but he was not able to develop them as a team.
  • He is noticing now that large organizations have scaled action learning to embed teaming in their culture. They require one coach for each team, which can include a team member who is trained as an internal coach.

Part 3 – Closing / Parting Advice / Words of Wisdom

  • Peter just finished his first E-book called Team as One: When a Team Connects, which is a teaser for a book he is writing
  • He is organizing a Team Conference in Chiang Mai, November 2018- stay tuned!
  • Visit WIAL.org to learn more about action learning coaching, get in touch with your country’s affiliate
  • Connect to Peter Cauwelier here on LinkedIn
  • Best way to find out about action learning is to experience it in a session- try it out!



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