Breakthrough Conversations – Leader’s Framework for Decision-Making

In Transformativ Dialog, Transformative Leadership by Göran Gennvi

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In the complex environment of the current business world, leaders often will be called upon to act against their instincts. They will need to know when to share power, when to wield it alone when to look to the group’s wisdom, and when to take their counsel. A deep understanding of context, the ability to embrace complexity and paradox, and a willingness to flexibly change leadership style will be required for leaders who want to make things happen in a time of increasing uncertainty.

HBR David J. Snowden and Mary E. Boone

If you treat a complex problem like a complicated problem, you are setting yourself and your organisation up for failure. Complicated problems/situations can be separated and dealt with in a systematic/logical way, relying on static rules or algorithms. Think of the popular ‘Divide and Conquer’ approach in this space, where you break an extensive system into its smaller subsystems and solve for the pieces to tackle the more significant problem. There is a sense of predictability that can be gained. Once you figure out how to solve a specific complicated problem, that solution can be used at will for problems of the same type in the future. Examples: Building rockets, coding a tax calculation engine, repairing a furnace, which is challenging but can be broken down into dependent steps, etc.

Complex problems/situations are when you can’t get a firm handle on the parts and lack rules/algorithms and predictability. These are more challenging and different than the sum of its parts thinking because its parts interact in unpredictable ways. You might figure these out once, but whatever you did won’t likely generate the same result next time. Think of the Butterfly effect here. Examples: Forecasting the weather four weeks out, predicting new product segment success, etc. Highly interdependent, exponential outcomes-based situations. Integrating two merging organisations is included here.

A problem can be challenging and complex in three ways: socially, dynamically, and/or generatively complex. Ordinary problem-solving approaches work well for simple challenges. But when we want to solve complex problems, we need to use an extraordinary approach in which stakeholders look together at the system and work through an emerging solution.

Socially Complex. A problem is socially complex when the people involved, the actors in the system, have highly diverse perspectives and interests. Experts and authorities can solve Socially simple problems because it’s easy to agree on the problem and for an expert or a boss to propose and implement a solution that people will support. However, a socially complex problem cannot be solved without the stakeholders’ direct participation.

Dynamically Complex. A problem is dynamically complex when its cause and effect are far apart in space and time. This is the kind of Complexity that is addressed by systems thinking. A dynamically simple problem can be solved piece by piece, but when dynamic Complexity is involved, we have to look at the system’s behaviour as a whole.

Generatively Complex. When a problem is generatively complex, the system’s future is familiar and
determined. A generatively simple problem can be solved using rules of thumb from what worked in the past. But when the problem is generatively complex, it can only be solved by working together, listening for and trying out emerging solutions.

”The future belongs to those who can constantly learn, re-learn and learn new things.”

We help teams and leaders, whether business organizations or community actors, reach the potential of their systems through consensus and unlock collaboration, achieve breakthroughs in the face of complex challenges, overcome obstacles, bridge differences, and move forward together. Our support creates three types of results: 
Collaborative alliances: from being unwilling or unable to start to work together. 
Systemic insights: from seeing and understanding parts of what is happening to a broader perspective and an in-depth understanding. 
Transformative actions: from mere conservation focus to opening and acting for change.

1) Understand and appreciate the differences between complex thinking and complicated thinking.
Both involve different mindsets, expectations, and tolerances of ambiguity, and they require dramatically different management techniques.

2) Become comfortable with Complex thinking, which is intuitive and simple, often requiring an open mind and basic common sense.
Ask yourself if this problem is complicated (can be broken down into subparts) or complex (part interactions wildly affect results to the point where it’s difficult to predict).

3) Think “Manage not Solve” when confronted with Complex issues
Manage effort with a playbook of broad principles (Guidelines) rather than rule books.
Use Inspect and adapt problem-solving efforts with tight feedback loops to allow for quick turns/modifications. In short, In complex situations, embrace that change and uncertainty are inevitable, allowing team flexibility to adjust often via a default=trust culture vs a default control culture.

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