Using an implementation science approach to build leader facilitation capability in healthcare: a novel approach for enhancing action learning set facilitation

J Health Organ Manag. 2021 Sep 17;ahead-of-print(ahead-of-print). doi: 10.1108/JHOM-12-2020-0510.


Purpose: The study describes the implementation of a novel strategy, entitled the Action Learning Set Facilitation Model, to develop internal facilitation capability to lead change. The Model incorporated the Novice-Experienced-Expert pathway, a facilitation development approach underpinning the integrated-Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services Implementation Framework, with action learning methodology.

Design/methodology/approach: A mixed-methods descriptive approach reports the results of 22 interviews, 182 Action Learning Sets and 159 post program survey data sets to explore facilitator experiences, strengths and potential application of the Model.

Findings: At program completion, five novice (of 174) and one experienced (of 27) facilitator transitioned to the next facilitation level. The three groups of facilitators described positive change in confidence and facilitation skill, and experience of action learning sets. Inconsistencies between self-report competence and observed practice amongst novices was reported. Novices had decreasing exposure to the Model due to factors related to ongoing organisational change. Internal facilitators were considered trusted and credible facilitators.

Research limitations/implications: There are practical and resource implications in investing in internal facilitation capability, noting proposed and real benefits of similar development programs may be compromised during, or as a consequence of organisational change. Further research describing application of the facilitation model, strategies to enhance multisystemic support for programs and evaluation support are suggested.

Practical implications: The Action Learning Set Facilitation Model offers promise in developing internal facilitation capability supporting change in organisations. Critical success factors include building broad scale internal capability, stable leadership and longitudinal support to embed practice.

Originality/value: This is the first application of the facilitation component of the integrated-Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services implementation framework embedded to action learning sets as an implementation science strategy for leader development supporting organisational change.

Keywords: Action learning sets; Change leadership; Facilitation; Healthcare; Leader development; integrated-Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services (i-PARIHS).