Organisational Learning Overview

Chair, Justin Johnston

Justin was appointed as the Chief Fire Officer for Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service (LFRS) in May 2019 and has responsibility for the leadership of the Service together with providing direction and improvement.  He advises the Combined Fire Authority on all matters to ensure that the Service continues to meet its statutory obligations through reducing risk, providing effective operational response and resilience, whilst providing value for money.

Previous to this, he was the Deputy Chief Fire Officer/Director of Strategy and Planning for LFRS since October 2012.

Justin is a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and longstanding member of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), of which he was appointed Vice-Chair in April 2021.  Justin was the national lead for Firefighter fitness and he established the Firefighter Fitness Standards.  He is now the NFCC lead for:

  • Physical Health & Wellbeing
  • National Organisational Learning
  • NFCC Leadership Standards
  • Academic Collaboration and Research

Academically, Justin holds a Master’s Degree in Management and various qualifications, including counterterrorism.  He has completed a postgraduate diploma in elite physical performance with the University of Central Lancashire.

In his free time, Justin enjoys mountain running, previously completing the Lakeland Ultra 50 collecting fundraising in aid of the Cumbria and Lancashire Flooding.


The National Fire Chiefs Council is setting up organisational learning (OL) arrangements. This will support services by gathering, analysing and tracking learning across all areas of fire and rescue (FRS) service activity.

Many services have established systems locally, and the organisational learning team are available to help develop or enhance local systems to be able to receive and respond to lessons drawn from learning and shared through NFCC.

Providing support and guidance at a national level will enable organisational learning to be implemented in a more uniformed way within every fire and rescue service as well as enabling NFCC to simplify learning for services as we will analysis a broader range of learning and insights from multiple perspectives including prevention, protection, people, and operations, which will save services time and resource, and enable continuous improvement, in turn improving both public and firefighter safety.

What is the definition of organisational learning?

The definition of OL as agreed at NFCC Council 2022 is:

“Organisational learning is a process of considering the widest possible evidence base to identify notable practice and highlight where improvement or change is needed at a national (NFCC) or local (FRS) level. The output of this analysis informs action within NFCC and fire and rescue services to drive continual improvement in the quality of service delivered to the public.”

Why has organisational learning been set up?

NFCC’s organisational learning arrangements aim to identify, understand, coordinate and apply different areas of learning in a consistent and standardised way.

Currently, there is no central organisational learning system that enables both NFCC and services to systematically consider all drivers for change, make decisions about actions required and then follow through those actions too through to evaluating change. Whilst NFCC coordinates some national learning, primarily related to operational response (National Operational Learning or NOL) and National Protection Learning (NPL) there is an opportunity to expand and enhance existing arrangements.

The aspirations for organisational learning arrangements are in the short term to align and consolidate, as well as ensure we have the means to “fast track” any learning which is risk critical. In the longer term, the opportunity exists to consider how a wider range of learning sources can be included in organisational learning arrangements.

What are NFCC’s organisational learning arrangements?

There are four phases to developing and delivering organisational learning:

Phase one (up to December 2023)
Phase two (January – December 2023)
  • Engagement with FRS to establish levels of readiness for OL
  • Review interim arrangements and refine as required
Phase three (From September 2023)
  • Develop options and technical specifications for future technology requirements to support OL
Phase four (from January 2024)
  • Clarify final OL arrangements
  • Transition to business-as-usual.

As at 2023, phases one and two have been initiated. This has included consolidation of learning teams, ways of working, and drafting new relevant organisational learning methodologies. Piloting of interim organisational learning arrangements with 10 trial services has also started.

The ACER Group has also been established and is an independent forum, convened by NFCC, to help coordinate and maximise the benefits of academic research to contribute to improved public and firefighter safety. Find out more about the ACER Group

The organisational learning team now complies with a quarterly summary of Prevention of Future Death Reports (Regulation 28s) to provide you with one set of nationally reviewed data relevant for fire and rescue services. View the summary of Prevention of Future Death Reports.

In the interim, we encourage you to continue to share learning through the routes that you currently use. In the background, we will be piloting how to move into one new unified organisational learning arrangement with the support of a pilot group of fire and rescue services throughout 2023.

Once evaluation of the pilot has taken place, we will share further communications about how to engage with organisational learning. If you’d like to stay up to date with communications about organisational learning, please email