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Leading New Levels of Complexity

Are Organisation Leaders Truly Prepared?



Leading an organisation is an incredibly tough gig, no one can dispute that. People often say that you are alone at the top. And with the currently changing world, it could get tougher. 


According to research by McKinsey, 60% of board directors in a global survey feel their organisations are not ready to face the next big crisis!


Let's face it, there are currently massive changes and (arguably) bigger challenges afoot right now, because there are 2 revolutions occurring at the same time; ESG and AI. They are both driving rapid change as the technology evolves and the regulations become more stringent. Businesses need to consider the impacts on them; perhaps as both benefits and threats.

 

This concept is not new though. Over the last few hundred years there have been multiple ‘revolutions’; the Agricultural Revolution, Industrial Revolution and Digital Revolution being core events. We have worked through them, and although the pace is faster right now, the underlying issues are so similar. And while the risks may be enormous, so are the opportunities.


We believe that with a shift of perspective and focus, it can get better for leaders, the organisations and the planet as a whole. To get there requires shifts in perspective.


So what needs to happen? 


Seeing the Challenges Differently

From the mid-twentieth century business leaders have increasingly focused on the short term, including greater efficiencies and profit margins. This has proven to be an effective strategy in a reasonably predictable space. Yet now the long term view is becoming less predictable, with new technology evolving at an astounding pace, extreme weather events and even cultural polarisation playing a significant part in some areas. 


Many executive leaders around the world are seeing the tide turning and have been shifting their perspectives, seeing a need to shift to more employee engagement and ESG focus. They are increasingly centering  on clear purpose and meaning, as shared in a report created by Griffith University in collaboration and Brandpie


The leaders are seeing this as a way to move forward for a better future for all. We see that as analogous to how Design Thinking proved that a different perspective can be invaluable. By shifting product development from dollar first thinking, to customer first thinking, it has been demonstrated that customers are more inclined to partake and therefore the revenue grows. To many this is still counterintuitive.


As a leader wishing to successfully manage your own domain, and be able to create an enduring legacy, lifelong learning and continuous improvement are critical. They will help you provide evolving leadership.


Positive long term outcomes will require resilience building, leveraging risk as opportunities and applying systemic regeneration throughout.


Broadening the Perspective

Leaders must be aware that there are many perspectives to everything. And for future success, it is important to be aware of them and enable successful utilisation of them.


For example, in the middle of a soccer game, each player will see what they can see. They will have an excellent view of the people in front of them, and likely have awareness of others in their immediate vicinity. However, they will not have the same perspective as their coach on the sideline, who in turn has a different view of the proceedings than the video referees! 


A systemic view may require further analysis; accepting that just because something occurred, it was not necessarily through a straight forward cause and effect relationship. There are so many other factors that could be at play.


In the 1980s, when General Motors (GM) worked with Toyota to improve efficiencies and effectiveness of the NUMMI plant, the GM perspective was that employees were terrible. Toyota’s alternative perspective on this occasion made a very different observation. They removed most of the management and kept the workers, turning it around to being one of the most productive and highest quality factories in the USA at the time!


Seeing ESG challenges with a fresh perspective can open seemingly closed doors.


New Strategic Perspective

Senior leaders often work with the mindset that got them to where they are, and that is more tactical than strategic. With a more strategic perspective, it is possible to better consider the whole system and the contributing factors.


For example, although traditional project management recommends a Post Implementation Review (PIR) at the end of a project, the results are too rarely considered when the next project starts. Running group exercises like Pre-mortems or Futurespectives on the other hand bring the risks to the fore.


Through such action, it becomes easier for people to see the desired destination and genuinely acknowledge the risks and likely deviations.


Resilience

It may be seen as a cost, but getting more people aware of, and involved in, the big picture helps them become more resilient and more productive.


For example, people involved in the Pre-mortem are more likely to see obstacles when they occur, and not only call them out, but actively provide suggestions for mitigation approaches. With such a big picture view of the purpose and the terrain, they will be able to reduce costs and improve quality through early management and resolution. 


There are many great examples already, and inspiration can be drawn from them. Organisations like Real Estate Australia have their programme board clearly visible for all employees to see, and meetings are run openly in front of those boards. Employee satisfaction and effectiveness is very high and this reduces more costs, including hiring and staff retention.


All of these shifts bring more benefits, yet we may not be able to see them.


Systemic Regeneration

In 1991 I moved from the UK to Germany (British RAF), having previously only left the UK once! Yes it was a culture shock, and what a valuable one. Perhaps you had a similar experience?


One person who was leaving the next day told me how, in 3 years, he had never left the base, except in a military vehicle. I may have been fresh in a new world, but I wasn't going to stay that way!


Of course I had to learn to drive on the other side of the road. But twelve months in, I also had to change the culture of fellow Pommies that were accustomed to throwing their beer bottles into the landfill waste bin. I had to get them to manage their waste better; putting bottles in the appropriately coloured containers - green bottles in the green bin, brown bottles in the brown bin .. and I can’t recall what colour bin was used for clear glass!


It wasn’t easy, at a time when recycling was new to us all, but it was a great start because we all quickly adapted and adopted a more caring approach.


All this opened my eyes to a plethora of other opportunities. And as all changed together, it was easier to embed in an effective and meaningful way.


What are you seeing that could be an opportunity to grow, help others grow and together achieve more?


The Way Forward

Shifting direction with a new lens opens the doors to a new world, with new opportunities. When we not only let it happen, but encourage it to happen, we embrace the stretch.


Bringing together a clear purpose, a strategic perspective and effectively engaging colleagues and employees are key contributing factors to leading a successful business.


How prepared is your organisation?

And what are you going to do to lead a greater shift for sustainability across the board?

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