The Living Organisation :

June 2016

Systems Thinking for Networked Organizations

My plans for yesterday didn’t work out – at all. Changing diaries, illness, road works and emerging priorities all intervened, culminating in me postponing a trip to Glasgow ten minutes before I was due to leave.

I do love the idea of being in control of my life, but it never seems to work out. What’s this like for you?

As the day progressed, my capacity for self-management got a good work out. I started off highly irritated with the world for not getting with the program. By staying with this irritation, not encouraging it but not dismissing or ignoring it either, I was able to shift after a while to just paying attention and adjusting to what was actually happening, rather than expending all my energy in a internal dogfight trying to keep my plan on track. I re-established my influence by letting go of my desire for control.

There is a connection to organisations. Systems thinking is a vital response to our modern, highly networked organisations, but uncertainty and unpredictability, despite being inevitable from a systems perspective, are often subtly written out of our approach to Organisational Development, as are people’s responses (also part of the system) to uncertainty and unpredictability.

I have written an article exploring these ideas further – Planning, Uncertainty and Emergence.

Leadership Formation

I recently discussed the use of the Harthill LDF (Leadership Development Framework) with a client. The LDF poses open questions (such as “Men are – – – .”) Responses are scored to give the individual profile.

Around 7000 leaders have now been scored against the framework.The PWC paper, “The Hidden Talent: Ten ways to identify and retain transformational leaders,” discusses the data and its implications in more detail.

My client and I agreed that the framework could provide a useful “entry,” with the individual members of the executive team. If there is engagement, we can design a follow-up team development inquiry process.

Systemic Team Coaching (in-situ leadership development)

I trained in systemic team coaching with the AoEC in 2011/12, taking a full year advanced diploma, including working live with the executive team of a tech SME.

Since then I have used the systemic team coaching methodology with teams in very large organizations, in SME’s and in both the private and public sector.

The great strength of systemic team coaching is its inquiry approach – the work is shaped and adjusted as it proceeds and as we find out more, rather than adhering to a pre-defined design.

Clients consistently say that they find this approach very effective in changing both how their teams work and the results that they get.

The AoEC Team Connect 360 diagnostic can provide an entry point for such a structured, systemic inquiry.

Leadership Coaching

We continue to work with leaders in all three sectors – private, public and 3rd.

We have significant capacity through our partnerships with high-level coaches in the UK and Europe. In one such partnership, four of us from across Europe have just been awarded a significant contract (in competition with more than 50 other consultancies) to provide high-level leader coaching in a leading world-class service organization.

Building Internal Capacity

The demands of working as an internal coach or facilitator have in my view long been under recognized. The pattern I come across more frequently is of people showing an interest and signing up, getting some training focused on tools and techniques and then being left to get on with it.

But working as a coach and facilitator is a highly involving, demanding and on-going process. Models, tools and techniques provide a welcome focus and distraction for a while, but sooner or later we realize that we are also a part of whatever outcomes are emerging. My image is of the “empty-handed facilitator,” which can be a highly creative or anxiety provoking role to occupy, depending on training and experience.

Whilst in-housing the coaching and facilitation resource makes sense in many ways, it also makes sense to support this expensive resource so that it can perform to its maximum capacity.

We offer a range of inexpensive ways to provide engaging, supportive and developmental support and supervision for in-house coaches and facilitators.

What Do I Actually Do?

I occasionally revisit my “elevator speech.” What is it that I do?

I lead structured, systemic inquiries that build leadership capacity.

I will write more about the power of structured, systemic inquiry and how it reflects the nature of our modern, highly networked organizations in future articles.