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Do you really want to transform your company? – feature


"When you’ve finished changing, you’re finished." Benjamin Franklin

"Learning is what most adults will do for a living in the 21st Century." Sidney Joseph Perelman

"The ability to learn faster than the competition is often the only sustainable competitive advantage that the company can have." Arie de Geus

Are you really serious about wanting to transform your organisation? If so, here are some of the things you need to do:
- Be prepared to change yourself: your development is likely to be the key to your organisation’s future.
- be a servant leader; see yourself as a steward, a leader of leaders
- involve all stakeholders — ‘get the whole system into the room’
- listen to the full diversity of views, especially those you least like or those resisting changes; listen with respect
- drive out fear of expressing your truth and being who you are
- release the human spirit — the spirit of your organisation matters most
- engage the whole person — mind, heart, body and spirit — this applies to everyone in your organisation including you
- put world citizenship, corporate responsibility, sustainability, stakeholder needs, inclusion, diversity and fairness top of the agenda.

Business leaders face an impossible situation
Theirs is an immensely difficult job, given the dominance of transnational corporations, the intensity and unpredictability of global competition and the power and instability of financial markets. They need to be hard headed and enlightened, both at the same time. Long term success will come to corporate citizens, creating a sustainable and fairer global society. New thinking about organisations and leadership is emerging. The essence is: organisations are not machines but complex, self-regulating, open systems, apparently disorderly but, like nature, an orderly chaos. Chaos is an inevitable part of change to be embraced rather than feared. We can no longer rely on command and control. We do not have as much control as we might like and the leader’s role is a more humble one of facilitating and enabling transformation and learning, focusing on core values and purpose. The 11th September horror and its consequences, including the plight of Afghan people, remind us how unpredictable and interdependent our world is. Now it should be obvious that Global issues are everyone’s concern.

The challenge for business leaders
A new mindset is needed. Leaders need a fresh approach to strategic change and its implementation — developing strategy inclusively with all stakeholders; whole system, whole person, and not top down, approaches to strategic change; left and right brain thinking. The whole system needs to be involved; listen to and respect the full diversity of viewpoint, both crusading and restraining forces, especially those opinions you’d prefer not to hear or do not sit easily with your own!

We need to release spirit in organisations; liberate all that unused energy, intelligence and creativity, often blocked by cynicism and a history of not being encouraged to take personal responsibility. Leaders need to see themselves as servants or stewards, corporate world citizens, and not see making money and survival as their only goals.

It means helping people embrace change and understand how it comes about; showing people they are fully able to cope with uncertainty, chaos, complexity, feelings of fear and confusion. That is how transformation takes place. It involves, being open, letting go, openly learning from mistakes.

If companies are to be sufficiently innovative to thrive in the global economy, leaders need to create sustainable workplaces where people are not exhausted and depleted but have the energy to be creative. Furthermore, it is clear that we are one world, and corporate global citizenship is essential if we are to have sustainability, fairness and stability.

To carry people with us, we need to model all this.

The Strategic Leadership Model
This offers a simple, practical process for a retreat to decide how your organisation needs to transform in order to thrive and survive. If you contract well with the participants and other stakeholders, get the process right, help them build a climate of trust and openness, the results can be remarkable. Much of the process is self- evident. I will only elaborate what may not be.

First create a high quality environment: it is best if it is off site; arrange the room in a circle of chairs — no barriers like tables — which and can be moved around easily; this also implies equal partnership and no hierarchy; the space needs to be large enough to allow different groupings to be formed in the same room; a big wall is required to do work on and display big charts; opportunities for walking or exercise are important. If you believe in the importance of a holistic approach, find somewhere close to the beauty of nature. When people get in touch with the natural world it nurtures their spirit.

For really creative and inspiring work is to be possible, ground rules need to be agreed: eg we listen with respect; we are safe to speak our truth and be who we really are without fear; focus on desired future rather than wasting energy in problems and difficulties; seek common ground; everyone attends full time; we all take full responsibility for outcomes.

You need a facilitator whose job is to focus on process and not content! It is near impossible to participate and facilitate.

Global Forces
The group, representing all the key parts of the system or stakeholders, builds a picture of Global Forces affecting the organisation. Together they create a huge wall chart showing the full diversity and complexity of how they see the world as it affects the organisation. Give out pads of large post-it notes on which people write short phrases describing key trends and then post them on the chart, gradually arranging them into patterns. In this way everyone quickly gets involved, on their feet, their energy moving.

Current State
Together, the group rigorously reviews how well the organisation is responding to these forces. Then they identify key issues and opportunities. It is important to distinguish between corporate issues, that affect the whole organisation, and issues that are important to specific parts, and not necessarily others.

Purpose and Values
This is heart and spirit work and needs imaginative processes. Inspiring core values and purpose are strongly linked with long term success — more so than watching the bottom line. Values and purpose are a source of passion and energy. Corporate statements, handed down to people who have played no part in creating them mean very little. They must be involved. People also need to see if there is a fit between their own and the organisation’s core purpose and values.

A Vision of the Desired Future
This leads on naturally from core purpose and values — heart and spirit work again. Essence is more important than detail. You need vision of a desirable and probable future of the world; how you want to change it too. Oganisations, as well as people, change the World. Your vision for the organisation as a whole, your part of it and, most important, your life as a whole.

This may include key corporate strategies for the organisation; and, within a corporate framework, strategies for teams and individuals. Sometimes identifying a businesses unique positioning, or unique roles may be part of the work.

Influencing Strategy
Everyone needs to identify whose help and support they need to implement their strategy; those with whom they need to build relationships or closer relationships.

Key Issues
Identify the key issues getting in the way of moving from where we are to where we need to be. "Out there" means in the system around you; "in your group" is self evident — could be human problems; "In you" is the core of it all because when we come down to it, the biggest issues, the ones we have most control over and will make the biggest difference if we tackle them, are often in ourselves. Here we work on our own development. This requires the greatest honesty with ourselves. Its is tough work. Some are not up for it.

At this stage I find that using "open space" or a "flexible programme" releases energy. Simply described, people propose issues of whatever kind they want to work on with other people or ask for help with projects they wish to take responsibility for.

Actions and Support
Planning actions and support is essential. We often underestimate the need for the latter. Leading transformation and transforming oneself is not easy; there are bound to be set-backs and a really good support system is vital.

Follow-up and a Continuing Strategy
One event is not enough to bring about transformation and learning. It needs to be part of a strategy, including a lot of work beforehand, follow-up events in some form, and a continuing strategy to engage the whole system. This needs to be planned with the stakeholders and emerge appropriately. Lack of sustained, consistent follow through, with top involvement, is where a lot of change efforts fail and time and money is wasted. There can be no quick fixes in this business!

Simple Wisdom
Things can get very difficult. Setbacks, unpredictability and resistance are inevitable. We can get exhausted and depleted, physically and emotionally. To lead well we need to renew ourselves. It helps to remember:

Simple Wisdom
- chaos is part of transformation
- intuition makes sense of complexity and confusion
- we are part of a bigger process of global transformation
- live in four rooms each day, even if only to visit each -one: head; heart; body and spirit
- see difficulties as gifts
- let go of the old to let in the new
- trust your vision and dreams
- believe the universe will support you
- be open up to synchronicity
- feeling is healing
- provide whatever nurtures your spirit and restores your balance
- be a servant leader — a leader of leaders
- appreciate others and yourself, be grateful for what really matters and celebrate

Bruce is also author of Global Forces — a Guide for Enlightened Leaders — what Companies and Individuals can Do, 2000 and Making a Difference — Strategies and Tools for Transforming your Organisation 2001, Management Books 2000. You can buy "Making a Difference" from the TrainingZONE - Blackwells bookshop.


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