Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Changing Leadership?



Today I was involved in a presentation with the staff at SCIRT (Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team). The session was focussed on 1) the changing nature of leadership globally and 2) feedback to SCIRT on their own leadership practices based on a major review of their Peak Performance Plan that I was a part of in late 2012 (see previous blog post 'A dynamic of experimentation and innovation').  

In part 1 I suggested that in the face of the intensely complex contexts that leaders are facing globally (and even more so in post quake CHCH) that this demands that organisations are "adaptive, innovative, flexible, agile, responsive, creative, resilient and self organising.  This requires leadership of a different sort than that based on a 'well oiled machine' which has been the predominant paradigm in most management training to this point in history.   In a new paradigm where 'self organisation' is encouraged we need to think less about the 'position of leaders' and begin thinking about the 'action of leadership'.   This re-defines leadership as a verb - something that can be enacted by everyone in an organisation - effectively harnessing the collective intelligence of the entire staff - rather than just those in 'leadership' positions.   It also requires all these leaders showing a different range of skills - leadership attribtutes such as being 'informal, connected, un-precious, agile, subtle, inspired, gutsy and engaged' (again see previous blog).   

Part 2 discussed the performance of SCIRT in regards to this new view of leadership....suggesting that its response to such an enormous yet un-defined quantity of horizontal infrastructure rebuild in CHCH showed all the signs of cutting edge leadership practice.  This includes; 

  • complete clarity of objective across all team members aligned with SCIRT's defining purpose
  • outstanding staff engagement levels (85% plus) 
  • an improvement focussed collective inquiry mindset
  • an open and flat management structure 
  • minimal internal politics, ego's and 'BS'
  • a 'can-do, give it a go' attitude
  • radical collaboration across 80 engineering consultancies and 5 major construction companies
....all contributing to a high octane organisational environment that is showing outstanding performance results.

My challenge to SCIRT was that they could see themselves as a legacy company. Clearly this legacy will be the horizontal infrastructure rebuild (water, power, sewerage, waste, roading) when its completed in 2-3 years.....  However, this legacy could also extend to;  

  • a legacy of changing BAU (business as usual) with regards to a wide range of engineering practice (ie: new trenching techniques, health and safety, community engagement, wellness etc) 
  • a legacy of innovation in management (ie: alliancing contracts, KPI's for collaboration, communication strategies etc) 
However the biggest opportunity of all is to consider a legacy of; 
  • a large scale shift in organisational design and leadership practice across an entire industry or even city.  
As mentioned above, all of SCIRT's hundred's of team members are seconded from 80 engineering consultancies and 5 major construction companies.... all have experienced a completely different organisational and leadership model in their time at SCIRT and hence have the potential to be 'change agents' or 'catalysts' when they return to their home organisations.....a ripe opportunity to influence organisations all over the country.....

The presentation ended with feedback to the staff on the following question that was asked during the Peak Performance Plan review in late 2012......to which staff literally jumped out of their skins with idea after idea...all of which could be part of the legacy described above....

"What have you learnt and experienced during your time at SCIRT that you believe would invaluable for your home organisation to adopt?"

A range of these suggestions are included towards the end of the powerpoint above. You might be interested in the video of the seminar available on my  IdeacreationNZ channel on Youtube.


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