“To build leadership, a company must be capable of reinventing its industry; to rebuild leadership, a company must be capable of regenerating its core strategies. In this sense, it is not enough to get smaller and better; a company must also have the capacity to become different. But to ultimately be different, a company must first think differently.” Hamel and Prahalad via Competing for the Future
It is difficult to look around and not be overwhelmed, almost mesmerized by the outright ferocity and speed for which this current crisis has upended and left our previous sense of normal in tatters. In many ways, we have watched our previously entrenched mental models of future expectations uprooted and defaced in a matter of weeks. For many, if not most leaders, any semblance of strategy for the future and next steps has brought everyone back [remotely] to the organizational table. Or as Peter Thiel shares in his work Zero to One, “Big plans for the future have become archaic curiosities.”
In many ways, we have to come to terms with the idea that we previously created our organizations to sustain, and now we must prepare them to adapt…continuously.
Today’s leaders will have to learn how to strategically disassemble the current organizational DNA that traps us in outdated and outmoded operating systems. Surgically removing the DNA that allows stasis, static and status quo ways of doing and operating to entrench us within and across our organizational ecosystems. Recognizing that organizations are tilted towards and designed for safety and stability, requires modern leaders to move forward from a deeper sense of intentionality, especially in creating the spaces and room for these cognitive shifts of change to be unveiled and explored.
To create spaces that allow individuals, as well as the organization, to push past our unconscious [or conscious] bias for the stability of past practices, towards the willingness to engage in the experimentation and eventual discovery learning that will allow our individuals and organizations to build upon “best” while moving us towards and into necessary “next” practices.
To provide individuals and organizations the capacity to continually adapt into the future in a more connected and relevant manner.
In VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environments, where we find ourselves currently existing, the speed of change is often both turbulent and accelerated, which means that individual and organizational learning and adaptability must gain its own heightened and amplified sense of velocity, momentum and flow across the organizational ecosystem in order to parallel pace this acceleration of change. At all levels of the organization.
Which will necessitate a leadership reframe, a reframe in order to engage not only new ideas, but different ways of thinking, especially in order to effectively navigate and weigh the cognitive load created from the organizational tension and individual strain required from this heightened level and manner of parallel pacing change.
Tension and strain that will only be amplified under the current constraints of building up this capacity and creating a greater sense of alignment…remotely, or at distance.
Which will require from leaders, to begin to…
- Reimagine how to engage ongoing organizational learning and capacity building beyond face to face spaces and arenas
- Determine current capacities and capabilities necessary for the present, while focusing on which core competencies that will need to be added or expanded for the future
- Communicate beyond current modes, to a more diversified multi-media approach, both internal and external to the organization
- Tap more effectively into formal and informal individual and organizational learning networks
- Allow space for experimentation and discovery learning, creating opportunities to share the learning from those experiences, both positive and negative, in order to better scale and cascade creative and innovative strategies, practices and behaviors that are having positive impact and outcomes across the organization
- Communicate and effectively engage the organization in determining new or changed targets, objectives and/or goals in moving forward, as well as creating ongoing opportunities to deepen individual clarity and responsibility around and towards those targets, objectives and goals
- Provide space for individuals and teams to engage in continuous improvement opportunities for systems-wide inquiry, root cause analysis, question posing, problem-solving, and scenario planning
- Engage individuals and the organization in future thinking and future narrative processes to support scenario planning
- As the organization moves from “best” to “next” practices, allow the organization time and opportunities to begin to determine new and evolving metrics that allow for improved ways for measuring the effectiveness and outcomes generated by these “next” practices
- Create a platform that can not only measure learning, but allow that learning to be channeled, transferred and ossified across and throughout the organizational ecosystem
As Hamel and Prahalad share in their book Competing for the Future, “Strategic planning almost always starts with “what is.” It seldom starts with “what could be.” However, current circumstances may and undoubtedly will require today’s leaders to reverse that statement, and begin to determine how to backwards map from “what could be” to “what is.” To begin to create scenarios and future narratives of change and transformation that allow us to push past entrenched mental models of the past, towards aligning our individuals and organizations towards new and emerging visions for the future. To determining a new, and hopefully better way forward.
“What was a core competence in one decade may become a mere capability in another.” -Hamel and Prahalad via Competing for the Future