Busy people in casual clothes on the street.

A short chronicle of 2016

I always admire those writers who have the discipline to publish consistently regardless of circumstance. I tend to write in spurts. I find that when I become really busy with projects and speaking engagements, my writing suffers. So in case you were wondering why I’ve been so quiet, I thought I’d write a short update on what’s been keeping me so busy.

Enabling change fitness:
One of my biggest projects this year has involved partnering with one of our top 5 insurance companies to enable change fitness as part of their culture journey. This has been a very exciting project where I’ve learnt so much about change, but also the challenges practitioners and leaders face when attempting to lead change in a large corporate. Our approach was to co-create an approach based on principles, not recipes and methods. We used Cynefin, narrative practices, generative metaphor and many others to create an enablement process that has now been rolled out to more than 100 people, which includes the entire OD and HR community and two pilot groups of leaders. So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Some of my learnings:
– don’t engage as the expert consultant, engage as a learning and thinking partner
– honour the context and the expertise that exists in the organisation
– people are much more open to new thinking if they are given a generative metaphor as “hook”
– people are much more accepting of a new framework if they are given principles that they can adapt to their specific context rather than a 7-step process or recipe.
– if people have the opportunity to apply the new thinking to their own real-world problems, they internalise it much better
– a two-day workshop is not sufficient, a process like this needs to be structured as an apprenticeship or learning journey
(Feel free to inbox me if you’d like more details, I may also publish a case study soon)

Making sense of adaptive management:
One of my all-time favorite clients is SANParks, who manages South Africa’s many national parks. I always love hanging out with natural scientists as they bring a very different perspective to my work. It is also refreshing to be in the company of people who are passionate about what they do because it is a calling or vocation and who don’t have so many ulterior motives as those engaged in the often political corporate world.
I recently had the opportunity to take part in a two day think tank around a flagship process they developed called Strategic Adaptive Management, and how it could be taken ‘to the next level’. The insights and learnings from this workshop are too many to mention in such an abbreviated post, but one that stands out for me is the differentiation between “Adaptive Management” and “Managing for Adaptiveness” – in essence the difference between a process and a mindset. I’ll be processing some of these learnings in separate posts over the weeks to come.

Enabling responsiveness:
Again in financial services, I had the opportunity to be part of the leadership journey of an Exco, seeking to build a culture of “Sense & Respond”. We’ve conducted several sensemaking workshops with them, where we explored their narratives and meanings around leadership and the current challenges they face. I also facilitated a large-scale event with around 300 of their top sales people to introduce them to the concepts of Cynefin, followed by a large scale Ideathon to come up with a few safe-to-fail experiments. Some of these ideas are currently in process of being rolled out.

Sensemaker® projects:
I’ve had the opportunity to be part of several fascinating Sensemaker studies this year, and am currently in process of rolling out a couple more.
1. Understanding the unarticulated needs of consumers when it comes to financial services. This project was done for another of our top insurers and in partnership with KLA. Fascinating insights emerged such as the collective value for family; time as a separate currency and how the balance between time and money as currencies shift according to life stage; also the widely divergent meanings groups and individuals ascribe to “lifestyle”. These insights are currently being used to inform new product offerings and segmentation models.
2. Understanding the current reality of financial advisors in the face of volatility and uncertainty driven in part by coming new legislation.
3. Pilot for a narrative-enabled NPS for Gautrain Management Agency
4. Exploring the lived reality of refugee students and their challenges at University (this one is still ongoing)
5. Academic research study for a leading SA business school, to understand the changing role of management and assess the effectiveness of management training.

And THAT’s why I haven’t been blogging as often as I’d like!

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