LEADING THROUGH COMPLEXITY
The same applies to organisations; where success is profoundly constrained or enabled by the quality of the judgement and decision-making.
Decision Making is easy to miss…
From strategic planning to innovation to marketing and recruitment (I could go on!), effective decision making is so closely entwined with leadership effectiveness that it’s easy to miss.
It’s more than choosing…
Effective decision making is a lot more than making a choice once all the information has been collected. The best decisions typically happen when leaders gather and coordinate a range of perspectives to grasp the full complexity and tensions in a situation. They consider the context, the future range of possibilities and the principles that optimally weigh and balance alternatives.
It’s getting more complex…
We’ve known for years that as we progress up the management hierarchy, the work typically becomes more about solving unique and more complex problems (see Elliot Jacques).
More recently however we’ve seen the emergence of more interconnected, dynamic and unpredictable industries and economies (aka VUCA). The pace of change is accelerating and the path to enormous financial growth can be rapid (ladders) and the slide to oblivion just as quick (snakes!).
Well this all means that mastering the skills to deal with higher levels of ambiguity, complexity and to more effectively consider multiple perspectives has never been more important. To you, your organisation, your community and your planet..!
So what can we do about it?
Well let’s start by defining some terms. What we are talking about here is called Vertical Development. This type of development is not just about IQ or sending everyone off to a decision-making course. Development in a vertical sense involves developing the whole person and expanding their capacity to think, feel, act and lead in more progressive ways.
Traditional approaches are only part of the answer
Traditional leadership development (called horizontal development), culture change and coaching programs largely focus on behaviours (e.g. be more constructive, ask more open questions, set SMART goals). These types of programs are most suitable for stable environments where decision making can be based on prior experience and embedded within procedures.
In a continuously changing and complex environment, effective decision making often requires novel thinking and collaborative approaches. So in a VUCA world we need to support leaders to master those skills that enhance the quality of their individual and collaborative thinking and decision making.
The pervasiveness of traditional approaches could go some way to explaining the recent Global Leadership Forecast 2018 research findings that even after spending more than $50 billion annually on developing their leaders, most companies still don’t have the bench strength to meet their future business goals.
Vertical Development research shows that building the capability in adults to take on broader perspectives and more sophisticated ways of leading can be fostered and accelerated through structured learning processes including:
Small, achievable continual cycles of learning (it never ends!)
Vertical and horizontal assessments to pinpoint individual learning edges
Personal coaching for insight, challenge, encouragement and support
Team learning events to accelerate team and individual growth
If it’s time to rethink your approach to leadership development, culture change and coaching.