Change Management The Talent Advisors

The profound complexity inevitable with working across divisions, cultures and markets presents new contexts at every cross-point. Today’s leader has to constantly work on the inside, the edge or the outside of shifting agendas. They understand the need to unite and engage everyone. This collegiality requires greater acceptance of difference, with absolute meritocracy, enhanced by open information flows. Networked collaboration is the corporate zeitgeist.

The commitment to teamwork within companies readily exists, but often opportunities that are talked about never seem to be fully achieved. Cross-divisional ideas that can deliver actual value remain a coveted commodity. The solution may require leading from a different place.

Businesses need a new approach to cope with the demands and complexities of corporate silos, matrix structures, knowledge based influence and cross-divisional collaboration. Networked coaching brings together those that are best connected to improve decision making and execution,while addressing where each division sits on the compete-collaborate continuum.

It is a paradox that collaboration originates from a structured process rather than random connections. Processes that develop and exploit high-performance plus encourage no-fault brainstorming, outside-in thinking and participative decision-making can create new levels of action, excitement and engagement.

Not to be forgotten is that teams do not normally form on their own as people too swamped by operational tasks tend to manage in the moment – it is the “doing trap.” An organisational diagnosis of performance gaps or client opportunities can discover new networks or combine ideas in ways that competitors have not yet seen.

Design is critical. First, create an environment that is safe enough to promote experimentation and give a voice to silent questions, but intense enough to create change. Next, use a real-life business challenge that is relevant and important so that the need to succeed is high and competing commitments unfrozen. Third, get to the real business issue and expectation of the task so that people can talk honestly around the facts and listen deeply. Finally, facilitate the team in such a way that conflict is utilised and there is a breakdown of the traditional hierarchy so all positions are equal and that solutions can emerge from any source.

Training for the networked group can enhance respectful teamwork. New skills in holding meaningful conversations, reframing assumptions and suspending opinions help the flow of new possibilities.  These new actors come to understand that the creative effort is also a social process that requires give and take to develop conscious interdependence. They build commitment by creating a shared sense of belonging, purpose and urgency.

The tone resonates from the senior team. If the culture or mental age of the executive leadership is such that it either resists execution or overrides or is impatient, cynicism then sets in elsewhere in the organisation. Leaders must create a safe environment in which everyone is able to challenge the current ways of working and prove, or disprove, different approaches, with no recriminations or blame or sacred cows or turf boundaries.

Properly constructed groups must have all the ingredients to provide a lateral solution plus the commitment to execute. They do not replace the existing organisation structure – they run parallel to it. They draw on the diverse talent of the most experienced, best and brightest, critics or lateral thinkers from all areas. This acts as a bridge across a diversity of opinions, assumptions and ideas.

Collaborative groups have a collective identity and an acoustic quality that makes the participants more aware of their thinking, conversations and interconnections plus the accountability to develop actions. When they have a high tolerance for ambiguity or unusual connections, people more easily try new things and come up with new solutions, even if they are not perfect at first. They understand that mistakes teach something new that leads to the next idea and then the next. It is not failure – it is feedback.

Each team member also comes to understand that they cannot go it alone. Ultimately, if the team accepts that no one person has a meaningful answer and that the team itself must generate it; then if the team fails, each team member also fails. This prevents factions developing or pushing competitive bias.

Equally, experiential group processes do bring about change as they are based on an insightful concept about adult learning: people are more likely to act their way into new way of thinking than to think their way into new actions.

Whatever way you decide to kick-start the process, the task must have a significant impact on the business, including those activities that add customer value, lead to competitive advantage, do things that are distinctive, reduce costs or ease the bureaucracy. This may mean taking commercial business risks. The stakes to succeed must be high.

With unrelenting pressure to look for new sources of advantage, deal with complexities or break down the barriers created by divisions or remote structures, executives are looking for new ways to tap into the collective spirit. It cannot be business as usual.

There’s an African proverb that says: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Related content:

6 Insights On Dissonance and Change

Don’t Ignore Conflict In The Ranks

Transition consulting

Mentoring circles on next-level leadership

Follow these LinkedIn pages to suit your area of interest:

The Talent Advisors: Busy executives don’t have time to hunt for the more interesting insights. Following this page keeps you updated on a range of ideas, emerging trends or good leadership and governance practices in complex and networked businesses. It is particularly useful for those aspiring to the next level or c-suite.

Aspiring Directors: Aspiring directors can follow this page for mentor tips on aiming for a non-executive board role including how to best be prepared from a nominations committee perspective.



About the author: Dianne Jacobs


Dianne Jacobs of The Talent Advisors, Melbourne, guides and informs businesses, executives, partners and aspiring directors aiming for the next level.