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In the complex and volatile context we face today, change is no longer episodic but continuous. Therefore we can no longer afford to treat it like a project to be managed.  We need to find ways of enabling change resilience throughout our organisations; in effect, creating enabling and responsive environments that can naturally evolve when needed.

leadership-change-culture

Change is the lifeblood of modern organisation, yet  seemingly neverending and rapid change have left many leaders and teams at a loss as to how to handle it.  From a strategic point of view, in order to remain relevant, many organisations have made strategic choices that though necessary, require radical transformations in how people think and behave.  An example we are encountering in multiple client organisations is a strategic shift from a focus on product, to a focus on the client (mostly referred to as client centricity).  This  shift  introduces massive complexities into already complex environments.  Decision-making often grinds to a halt, because role clarity and lines of authority become “blurred” as no one person owns the customer value chain anymore.  Incentive and performance management structures must change in order to foster greater collaboration.

Often these changes require people to “unlearn” old mindsets; for example what it takes to be successful (e.g. individual performance vs effective collaboration).  In this environment traditional, often linear approaches to change are no longer sufficient.  Approaching change like a linear project often creates or re-enforces negative perceptions about change and over time leads to a breakdown in trust between the organisation and it’s employees.

We have developed a unique Adaptive Change Framework, a set of principles that we use to enable leaders and change practitioners to fundamentally shift how they think about and approach change organisations.

We enable them to:

  • make sense of their context using the Cynefin Sense-making framework (described in the award winning Harvard Business Review article by Boone & Snowden, 2009)
  • understand which change methodologies are applicable in which contexts
  • deal with the non-linear nature of change in complex interdependent organisations where a small seemingly insignificant shift in one area can cause disproportionately big unintended consequences in another.
  • create enabling environments where new practices can emerge from the context, rather than mandating one-size-fits-all solutions that might not fit the context.
  • use narrative to map the current landscape and monitor the impact of change interventions
  • make change simply part of the everyday fabric of the organisation, not something that needs to be actively managed
  • create environments where people aren’t afraid of experimentation
  • enable de-centralised and rapid decision-making to increase agility
  • learn and adapt while moving forward and co-creating the change; or in narrative terms co-authoring the new story.

We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, so while have a change framework and methodology, we co-create every intervention to fit the client’s unique context. Contact us today for a free consultation.

culture-change-leadership

Our view of culture is founded on the belief that an organisation is a complex adaptive system that is more like an ecosystem than a machine or organism. We see culture as something that emerges over time from the thousands of small interactions that occur between the people, processes, systems and stories in the system. This has several implications, which we discuss in our white paper on culture that you can download from the White Papers section of the site.

The main focus of our culture interventions involve working with culture as something that emerges over time and is constantly evolving. In many ways it is an every-changing conversation. We can influence culture to evolve in a beneficial direction, but we cannot design or engineer the ideal culture and “create it”.  When we try to engineer and instil an ideal culture, mostly by seeking to align individual behaviour to a set of designed values and behaviours, we are often left with a cynical work force that resists or ignores our culture interventions as they’ve seen too many of these initiatives never come to fruition.

To shift a culture, we need to start with where we are. We look for the areas of evolutionary potential and evolve the culture into a beneficial direction through small actions in the present. We do not attempt to force a rigid design and fixed outcome onto a naturally evolutionary process.

  • To understand culture we need to tap into the ongoing conversation, into the stories people tell: Stories create culture, and culture creates stories

To build, change and transform the culture of an organisation requires an awareness and understanding of:

  • the dispositional nature of complex systems i.e. that there are no levers we can pull to create predictable culture change;
  • non-linearity – small actions can have a disproposionally big impact;
  • culture involves more than individuals and behaviour; the environment, systems and processes are equally important;
  • the role and generative power of narrative in the emergence of culture;
  • the power of language and symbols;
  • the role of leadership and relationships that carry preferred organisational narratives.

In a very real sense, everyone in the system is actively co-authoring the current culture every day through actions big and small, and the stories they choose to tell or not tell.

We therefore start our cultural interventions by seeking to understand the existing culture as defined by the day-to-day stories of work, those small anecdotes that get shared around the water cooler or braai.

Once we have this narrative mapping of the existing culture, we can look for areas where there is evolutionary potential. Often we find that beneficial cultural patterns already exist and simply need amplification. We therefore design small actions to amplify positive stories (more stories like this) and dampen negative stories (fewer stories like those) to start shifting the culture in a real and sustainable way. If we continue gathering stories from the organisation while we are intervening we are also able to monitor the effectiveness of our interventions in real-time and in a way that is not easily gamed. The only way to change the stories people tell is to actually change the environment they interact with, or the nature of their interactions with each other.

Step 1: Exco alignment and enablement.
Culture processes seldom work if not mandated and supported directly by the Executive. It cannot be “outsourced” or delegated to OD or HR.

Step 2: Map the narrative landscape
Deploy Sensemaker® to map the current cultural landscape of the organisation by capturing the micro-narratives of every day experiences across the organisation.

Step 3: Make sense
Work with key stakeholders, including the Executive, to make sense of the patterns in the narrative landscape. Which stories do we want more of, which do we want fewer of and what can we do to affect these changes.

Step 4: Enablement of leaders across the organisation
Leaders across the business should be the primary agents of change. To that end, leaders will be enabled to guide the evolution of the culture in their own area through small actions and by applying narrative practices.

Step 5: Monitor

Evolving a culture is a continuous process, not a once-off intervention. Because of it’s emergent nature, something seemingly insignificant like a small change in a process, or a badly used metaphor can cause big repercussions in the culture. We therefore use Sensemaker as a monitoring tool to keep our finger on the pulse of the culture continuously so that unintended consequences or undesirable patterns can be detected and disrupted quickly, but similarly positive patterns can be amplified and exploited quickly.

Throughout this process we partner with (vs consult to) the organisation to co-create the process and enable internal capability to take it forward.

leadership-change-culture

One simply has to look at current business literature to see that the role of the leader in modern organisations has shifted.  In today’s complex and volatile work environment, leaders are called upon to lead very differently to what their predecessors did.

“Leaders will no longer be seen as grand visionaries, all-wise decision makers, and ironfisted disciplinarians. Instead, they will need to become social architects, constitution writers, and entrepreneurs of meaning. In this new model, the leader’s job is to create an environment where every employee has the chance to collaborate, innovate, and excel.”

Gary Hamel (Moonshots for Management, HBR 2009 (https://hbr.org/2009/02/moon-shots-for-management)

There is a prevailing conception of the traditional leader: a heroic military general devising grand strategies or a masterful CEO who knows every nook and cranny of his business. We expect leaders to be chess masters, seeing the whole board, expertly moving pieces around, and making every single decision.

However, the world has changed. Speed, interdependence, and complexity have bombarded our senior leaders with an onslaught of data to understand, facts to master, and decisions to make. For leaders of complex organization, it is simply too much for one individual to handle. Leaders no longer have the mental capacity or the bandwith to sift through all the information, understand incredibly complex situations, and make decisions on their own. Even if they did, the world moves too quickly— the lone leader making every decision would swiftly get left behind, serving as a bottleneck that choked the effectiveness of the organization.
The fact of the matter is that leaders are now more important than ever, but in a different way.


Instead of directing chess pieces around the board and mulling over every single decision, leaders instead should act as gardeners— tending the environment, shaping the ecosystem, growing the organization that can adapt and win. – General Stanley McChrystal

Most leaders realize that old ways of leading are simply not cutting it anymore, but are at a loss as to how to lead differently.  They all know that world is volatile and uncertain, that it is increasingly complex with seemingly endless trade-offs and paradoxes, but they are stuck in old mindsets and habits.

Simply telling someone that they need to think and act differently is not useful.  Our ability to change is often hampered by beliefs and ideas that are so much a part of who we are that they become invisible to us.  Before leaders can think and act differently, they need to become aware of and question these assumptions so that more options become available to them.  Often the only away to achieve this is through potentially disruptive learning experiences (not just exposure to new information).

We offer custom designed leadership journeys for leaders across all levels of the organisation from the C-suite and down.  In these journeys we employ well-researched methods and practices from complexity theory, cognitive science and narrative practices.  We combine these with disruptive elements for example:

  • Simulations and ideas from the military environment (influenced by the thinking of among others Gnl Stanley McChrystal and Capt David Marquet (ret).
  • Simulations and ideas from the aviation world (actual cockpit simulations and spending time with aviation crash investigators)
  • Learning from the world of the arts (influenced by the work of Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) and the improvisation theory)
  • Learning from scientists and managers who manage ecologies and natural systems
  • Learning from the world of IT and the agile movement
  • Experiences similar to “Back to the floor” or “Undercover Boss”

Each journey is a unique combination of theoretical input; practical application; transformative and disruptive experiences.  We partner with the best local (and international) thought leaders and authors to deliver these custom designed journeys.

Contact us today to co-create a leadership journey for your leadership cohort.

sensemaker-diagram

Sensemaker® is a software tool that was first developed for the Singapore government as part of a larger horizon scanning system to monitor and detect weak signals of civil unrest and terrorist threats. It has since been used in various projects in government, corporates as well as development agencies.

It’s patented approach of allowing story tellers to self-interpret their stories into a quantitative framework makes it an advanced research, decision support and monitoring tool that enables the collection of thousands of micro-narratives. These narrative landscapes provide decision-makers with a whole-of-system perspective of people’s actual experiences and perceptions i.e. what is actually happening the system, and why. Using these “storyscapes” we are able to monitor the impact of our interventions by focusing on movement of the stories in a given direction over time (vector) vs reaching a specific outcome or target. This is more congruent with the ever-changing landscape of complex phenomena like culture.

Sensemaker® can be utilised for a multitude of applications including but not limited to:

  • diagramCulture transformation in organisations and society
  • Risk & resilience (horizon scanning and weak signal detection)
  • Leadership Journeys & 360 degree feedback
  • Learning Journals e.g. journaling key insights during learning interventions and conferences
  • Innovation
  • Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing
  • Safety Culture
  • Enabling and supporting decision-making
  • Crowd-sourced scenario planning and strategy
  • Narrative-enhanced Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • User requirements capture
  • Customer & Brand Experience
  • Academic and other research
  • Attitudinal audits e.g. to ethics & safety as a lead indicator or risk

Coaching:

coaching

Sonja is certified in several coaching modalities including Gallup’s Strength-based coaching, Narrative coaching and Organisation and Relationship System Coaching (ORSC).

She works with teams and individuals and focuses on:

  • greater effectiveness in uncertainty
  • working with individual and team narratives that are defining to the extent that they create stuckness or forward momentum
  • dealing with conflict productively
  • visioning and strategic planning

Mentoring:

Decision-makers and leaders who find themselves in overwhelming complexity often simply need a sounding board and a new lens to help them make sense of what they are facing. Using her deep experience in complexity and narrative, Sonja mentors leaders in applying these two lenses to their real world problems. She also teaches them how to apply the Cynefin framework to help them make sense of their contexts and challenges.

She plays the role of thinking partner, enabling clients to think and act differently when facing uncertainty and seemingly intractable problems.

Talks-Master-ClassesSonja is a sought after speaker at conferences and corporate events.  She has several talks and master classes that cover topics such as:

  • Thriving in a VUCA world
  • An introduction to complexity
  • Cynefin 101: making sense of the world so that we can act in it
  • Becoming entrepreneurs of meaning: How to change the world by asking different questions
  • Agile leadership
  • Re-authoring leadership
  • Re-authoring culture
  • Dialogic OD
  • Fostering a strength-based team culture

These talks work well as conference talks, but also for Exco and other leadership sessions.  They range from 45 minutes up to 3,5 hour mini workshops and one day master classes.

If these topics aren’t exactly what you need, feel free to contact us for a custom-designed talk.

Contact us today for a free 1 hour consultation to discuss your unique needs.

 
 

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