Strategic Leadership Development

Business Driven Action Learning BDAL

Business Driven Action Learning (BDAL) is an exceptional way of linking leadership development and business strategy. Dr. Yury Boshyk, an author and international expert on Business Driven Action Learning, states that BDAL is based on the belief that that some of the best business solutions come from a company's own employees not external consultants. It involves four key elements;

Firstly senior executives get actively involved in identifying key strategic issues, supporting the groups that address the issues and integrating the outcomes into the ongoing strategic planning process. Secondly participants work in teams on resolving real business issues and exploring new strategic business opportunities. Thirdly individuals enjoy a powerful learning experience involving personal development, strategic thinking and international teamwork. Fourthly the organization gains strategic value by implementing the strategic initiatives and by developing its pool of leadership talent.

Many of the principles behind BDAL have been drawn from the action learning work started by Reg Revans in the 1930s. Revans defined action learning as a process whereby groups of stakeholders use real problems to acquire learning and implement system-wide solutions. BDAL differs from action learning in that in addition to providing learning opportunities for the individual participant and the group it also provides a platform for the organisation to make new strategic decisions about how to grow and develop in the future.

The rationale behind Business Driven Action Learning is that the best learning occurs in problem-solving situations rather than in the more traditional classroom environment. Henry Mintzberg, from McGill University Montreal, argues that while traditional leadership programs, corporate universities and business school exchanges create strong corporate cultures, align people with strategy, share best practice and build personal networks, they do not develop the skills of exceptional leaders. BDAL helps to develop exceptional leadership skills by placing managers in situations where heavy emphasis is placed on developing interpersonal skills during real business situations. Leaders then gain greater self awareness of their strengths and areas of development through self-reflection and feedback from other participants.


The first step in the discovery phase is to engage with your senior executive team to understand the core elements of your company strategy and the key areas of focus for the upcoming planning cycle. Here we often encourage our clients to engage the services of strategic consultant to support them in the clarification of key strategic objectives, measures, targets and initiatives. It is critical to get this part of the process right otherwise working on the business issues can become 'just another project' on a manager's already busy schedule.

Once the senior executive team has selected 3-5 key business issues that they feel are vital to the success of the organization, your talent management group then selects participants to join the program and divides them into action learning teams. These teams should be as diverse as possible with members coming from different professional, organizational and cultural backgrounds. The senior executives remain as sponsors of the business issues and act as mentors for each of the teams during the duration of the learning intervention.


When designing business driven action learning interventions our objective is to have participants experience leadership at three levels: the organizational level, the group level and the individual level. We also seek to balance both learning and business objectives for maximum effect. To see an example program design, please download the attached presentation.



The BDAL program is usually based around three to four learning modules over a six-month period. The participants may set up and lead interviews with outside business experts that help them gain an outside-in view of their business issue. They may set up regular conference calls and some face-to-face meetings to continually redefine their objectives and produce outcomes for their specific business issue and call on their senior executive sponsor as needed. Our consultants act as team and leadership coaches, providing input and feedback when requested or needed and facilitating dialog and feedback exchanges within the larger and the smaller groups.

It is essential that the highest levels of management buy in and actively support the business driven action learning initiative. It requires significant investment in time and money to run a successful program. Business is results-driven and discipline and focus are needed to ensure that the leadership learning remains just as important as the outcomes on the business issues.


During the final module, each group presents their results (both on the issue and their learning) to the executive team. The executive team then reviews the issues, comes back with recommendations and announces how they intend to integrate the outcomes into the company's overall strategic plan. Evaluating the impact of the learning on your business results - based on relevant and agreed Key Performance Indicators - is an effective way of measuring your Return on Investment ROI or as we say Return on Learning ROL.

Return On Learning Diagram

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