Saturday, 7 June 2014

Building a thriving leadership incubator

This presentation was made at the INTASE Leadership Conference, Singapore in April.

Building a thriving leadership incubator from Chris Jansen

 It focussed on the shift in the development of leaders from one off leadership development events like workshops and conferences (ironically) to leadership development processes that connect a number of components over a 6-12 month period of time.  In the work of Leadership Lab (our consultancy) such a process is created in the form of an incubator, one that cultivates and grows leaders.
The presentation outlines a range of design principles that Leadership Lab uses to create such an incubator. These are based on the work of Paulo Friere, Brazilian social justice advocate and educator who recommended that learning is based on the 5 step process below. The key to this process is that it allows the learner to define and explore the problem they are addressing, to consider external 'expert' information and to critique this content to consider its relevance to their context.  This approach puts the leader (or learner) firmly in the 'drivers seat' as recommended in Leadership Lab's design principles.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Weaving collaboration: Exploring new possibilities in post-quake Canterbury

At a recent Community Leadership Day organised by the Christchurch City Council (Shirley Papanui ward), a colleague of mine Dr Billy O'Steen and I presented a workshop with the title above -"weaving collaboration".  At the beginning of the session we held up a very large Tongan fine mat (as photographed in the slides below) and asked the leaders to reflect on the ways in which a woven mat could be a metaphor for collaboration...... idea emerged such takes more than 6 people to weave a mat like that at the same time, its incredibly strong compared to the strength of each thread, it can carry weight, people dialogue while weaving a mat, you can sit on a mat and it protects you, it has a pattern which incorporates diverse colours and textures....etc....

We then suggested that the most urgent need in Christchurch (a city 3 years on from disaster and still very much in the beginnings of recovery) was the weaving of collaboration, strategic partnerships, alliances and interconnected initiatives across diverse and sometimes opposing groups and individuals.   This gnarly collaboration is forged under intense pressure and amongst strong emotion.  We shared some of the key principles we had learnt in building such seen in slide below...

A key principle is awareness of the temptation to resort to a simple either-or scenario where different parties take sides around any particular issue.... and the vital decision for leaders to instead adopt a both-and approach - refusing to take sides but instead looking at the issue from both perspectives simultaneously - acknowledging the partial truth in each....

Finally we shared two examples of new collaborative processes in Christchurch, one in Riccarton West Community and one in the Heathcote Community. Both of these were forged over time and through the patient weaving of 'invisible threads' based on authentic relationships, shared vision, small steps and people working alongside each other over the long term.  

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Complexity based leadership: navigating adaptive challenges

This presentation below was one of four that I designed for the EARCOS Leadership Conference in Bangkok last month (the others are available under "Presentations and Publications").  
Slide 5 refers to the distinction that is often drawn between technical challenges that can be solved with knowledge and procedures that have been tested, and fine-tuned in another context and imported into this current situation versus adaptive challenges which are far more complex, do not readily respond to direct interventions and require completely new solutions to be created.  Unfortunately our collective track record of successfully and sustainably solving these adaptive challenges is under 30%

In this workshop we explored the following 5 questions that a leader of adaptive change could consider (slide 4);
1) Why are we changing? (Is the opportunity and/or threat worth the risk)
2) Where are we heading to? (What future vision is guiding us?)
3) How do we design our change journey? (What underlying design principles could be helpful?)
4) Who do we collaborate with? (How we engage others on this change journey?)
5) What steps do we take?  (What would an change leadership action plan look like?)

Lets explore each of these questions in more depth over the next month or two.....
...have a great Christmas :) 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Creating ideas...


I came across this Prezi last month as part of some development work I was undertaking......I have shared it here for two reasons.....
....I love the interactive format in which it gives us an overview of this "HOW Design Live 2013" innovation event in San Francisco in June 2013.  Craig Bieri has used a simple but powerfully visual prezi format to showcase a range of people at this event that he connected with.  If you haven't come across prezi have a look at  Its free and has a whole bunch of inbuilt design templates that really change the way we can communicate and interact with others.

.... I also enjoyed a few of the presentations themselves - you might like to check out;

  • Danny Gregory - "How your sketch book can open your mind, boost creativity and rock your world
  • Austin Kleon - "Steal like an artist" 
Austin's presentation talks about the value of exposing ourselves to all sorts of inspiration, then making it our own, making it better and then sharing it with others.... I completely agree and thrive on working alongside colleagues (both in person and virtual) to create new mash ups of existing frameworks and techniques... the concept of shared IP and collective contribution is the name of the game these days!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Accelerate - leveraging collective intelligence...

Every organisation I work with is prioritising the ability to adapt, learn, grow and be responsive to new opportunities (and threats) that are part of the ever changing context that they work in.  One of the key ways to develop this learning agility is to foster collective intelligence.  This entail tapping into the expertise of a wide range of people in an organisation rather than the more common hierarchical process of creating strategy at the top management level and then presenting this strategy to the rest of the organisation to then implement.  

Leveraging collective intelligence actually has two significant organisational benefits; 
  1. It allows the organisation to create a wider range of smart ideas (more brains involved) 
  2. The process of doing this also builds engagement of staff since as we have discussed in earlier posts - our commitment and ownership of an initiative is often proportional to how much input we had into the creation of the initiative.  
There are many mechanisms used to foster and leverage this collective intelligence. All of these involve creating forums where people from different parts and levels of an organisation meet together and discuss the initiative within a structured process. The phrase altering the social architecture is often used to describe how these new ways of interacting are intentionally implemented.    Some examples include; 
  • cross functional teams
  • focus groups 
  • vertical teams
  • multi-disciplinary teams and interdisciplinary teams (health) 
  • design charrette (architecture and design) 
  • think tanks
  • google days (a day set aside for employees to create projects of their choice) 
  • operational process groups (Outward Bound) 
  • agile development methodologies ie SCRUM
  • accelerate teams
Generally these teams have a set project and a limited time frame (a month to a year).  However in his article in the link above, John Kotter takes these ideas even further and suggests that organisations can maximise their ability to adapt and innovate by creating a parallel operating system - a structure that works alongside the normal hierarchical structure of line management, job descriptions and efficiency.   He suggests that organisations create a 'volunteer army' where cross functional teams are created around projects that have participants from all levels and sections of the organisation.  The role of this parallel system is to generate innovative thinking through cross-pollination of ideas.  The ideas are then absorbed back into the main structure of the organisation in order to be implemented.    Kotter suggests that this 'innovative function' operates in parallel with the traditional system in order to not confuse roles and processes rather than attempt to integrate a more collective intelligence approach in the organisational hierarchy.  

My question is whether this allows the traditional structure to not adapt or innovate given that this function is delegated to the 'volunteer army'. I also wonder about the connections between the two systems and how ideas that are generated actually gain traction in the main operating system.  However I can also see the power of creating a 'people movement' within an organisation based on volunteerism, engagement, cross-pollination and the creation of useful ideas.  The concept reminds me of "The Starfish and the Spider" written about by Brafman and Beckstrom.  The Spider is an analogy for the organisational hierarchy with a head, and then legs that are analogous to line of accountability. The Starfish on contrast to this has a distributed intelligence with control and initiative coming from all parts of its body.   

The Starfish and the Spider (extract)

There book gives a huge range of cases of where starfish organisational structures are much more adaptive and competitive than spider type organisations in the same industries.   Personally, I can see the strengths and weaknesses of each organisational structure and hence I focus on creating a hybrid organisation which leverages the strengths of each system while minimising the weaknesses.   

The creation of hybrids such as this are the cutting edge of leadership and organisational development.  

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Leading Change for the Future - development opportunity....

A colleague of mine, Dr Cheryl Doig and I have offered professional development workshops on "Leading Change" in a number of countries but have decided that of all places – Christchurch is undergoing so much change post earthquakes and its crucial we as leaders get it right here.   That’s no easy task – as I’m sure you are aware the evidence would say that 70-80% of change initiatives fail to result in sustainable new practices….however that also means that leaders who are competent in planning and implementing change can make a huge impact.

Consequently we have designed a learning programme called "Leading Change for the Future" which aims to;
  • extend thinking about the nature of complex human and organisational behaviour.
  • diagnose deeply embedded challenges in each participants own setting using systems thinking tools
  • grow leadership capacity to foster engagement and lead cultural change across organisations and systems
  • explore ways to unleash organisational agility and adaptability
There are two really unique aspects to this programme that we have developed based partly on the material in the Center for Creative Leadership's  Future trends in leadership development.

1) Learning Methodology
The programme involves pre-workshop surveys and readings and then a 1 day workshop on Friday 14th June where participants focus on designing a change project that they will lead in their work. This is followed by a month when there will be an opportunity to be mentored and connect with peers.  There is then a second 1 day workshop on Thursday 11th July where participants will finalise their change projects.  The content of the workshops is based around complexity based leadership and we will also be covering systems thinking, appreciative inquiry, adaptive leadership and design thinking.   

2) Cross pollination of learning across diverse teams and sectors.  
We have a range of people attending from across the sectors including health, education, business and the social services area and the programme looks like it’s going to be a great opportunity to cross pollinate ideas with a wide range of people.   We have also had a number of small leadership teams (3-5) attending in groups which we believe is a great way to make the change initiatives more strategic and sustainable.  

Here's a short video interview from a colleague who attended this workshop when we ran it in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2012.

If you're interested in more information you can download more information at "Leading Change for the Future" workshop flyer

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Creative tension?

"Holding two opposing ideas in mind will be even more important in the future....The dilemmas of the future will be more grating, more gnawing, and more likely to induce feelings of hopelessness.  Leaders must be able to flip dilemmas over and find the hidden opportunities."
Futurist Bob Johansen, Institute for the Future.
Addressing seemingly opposing ideas in our organisations is often a leaders challenge. These 'either /or' choices or two extremes could include; 
  • competition or collaboration
  • innovation and change or stability and sustainability
  • quality or speed
  • flexibility or consistency
  • action or reflection
  • consultant lead initiatives or organisational lead initiatives
  • compliance/directive or collaborative decision making 
  • contribution to the wider industry/sector/community or focus on organisational outcomes.
They are also known as tensions, dilemmas, paradoxes, contradictions, competing values, unsolvable problems, independent values and polarities... In the following table - see if you can identify which polarity or dilemma is underlying each statement (answers in column on the left)

The example below illustrates the apparent choice between an organisation that is stable, and one that is changing.  Both options have an up-side or benefits, but interestingly both options also have a down-side or risks.  

How do we decide which choice to support? How do we perceive these tensions? Do these tensions need to be resolved? Can there be strengths in both end of the polarity?

Perhaps what is required is a shift from "Either or” thinking to “Both and” can we actually say yes to both options, being aware that this will require careful navigation of seemingly opposing beliefs and approaches.
The following principles are thought provoking.....
  • Principle #1: All values come in pairs and these pairs are interdependent
  • Principle #2: When you actively work towards the upside of both values in a polarity you create a virtuous cycle leading to a higher purpose
  • Principle #3: When you over-emphasize one value over time, to the neglect of its pair, you get a) the downsides of the chosen value and eventually b) the downsides of the other value as well
  • Principle #4: There are two truths in every polarity, and neither is the whole truth.  
What would an organisation gain by holding and exploring the tensions rather than trying to remove them?   In order to explore a polarity and navigate a path of leveraging the benefits of each extreme a leaders task is to;
  • to value and hold the tension rather than try to resolve it
  • avoid over-representing one end of the tension in conversations even to the point of playing the devil’s advocate to promote debate and thinking
  • promote the ongoing debate and discussion of the unique solutions to be found in addressing these dilemmas
  • work hard to create a hybrid -  incorporating the best of both worlds…
It is suggested that on-going collaboration and sustained high performance  can be facilitated through the artful management of these paradoxes.  Not only will this allow organisations to avoid the downsides of each polarity, but also foster creativity innovation and experimentation.  Here's an example of how an organisation has planned to specifically harness the tension between long term planning and short term responsiveness.  

(Acknowledgements to Meredith Osmond (Though Partners) and Russ Gaskin (Co-creative Consulting)