Leading for improvement within living systems Steve Onyett 2nd December 2009
Leading from Within Living Systems- 2nd December 2009 • A facilitated exploration of what our emerging understanding of living systems tells us about leadership for sustainable development
Some thoughts and ideas... • How do these connect to your world as experienced? • How might they help you in what you need/want to do?
“Modern leadership theory.. • ..is about leading and managing complex adaptive systems that operate as a series of networks with multiple stakeholder interests”. Beinecke & Spenser, 2007
Law of the Situation • Leadership is transient and contextual • Where knowledge and experience are needed the person who can is the right person to do it. • Not all leadership should be determined by position power yet people with authority should be prepared to exercise it.
The essence of leadership and management • …is the creation of environments in which people can be creative.. Where they can exercise power to achieve outcomes valued by end users, the people that care about them and that they care about, and other key stakeholders.
The Triple Bottom Line • Benefits to the organisation- financial and otherwise • Benefits to people within the organisation- both those that stay and those that leave, but as it’s ambassadors. • Benefits to the local community and beyond
Understanding our context Working well with living systems means working well with “complexity” • See for example – • Bob Hudson. (2006). Whole systems working- a Guide and Discussion paper. CSIP-ICN • Jake Chapman. (2004). Systems failure. Why governments must learn to think differently. London: Demos
Complexity theory ..or just “Recognising how the universe works and just getting on with it” .. theory
Leonardo da Vinci • “Those who take for their standard anyone but nature- the mistress of all masters- weary themselves in vain”
Simple Complicated Complex Following a Recipe A Moon Rocket Raising a Child • Recipe is essential • Recipes are tested to assure replicability of later efforts • No particular expertise; knowing how to cook increases success • Recipes produce standard products • Certainty of same results every time • Formulae are critical and necessary • Sending one rocket increases assurance that next will be ok • High level of expertise in many specialized fields & coordination • Rockets similar in critical ways • High degree of certainty of outcome • Formulae have only a limited application • Raising one child gives no assurance of success with the next • Expertise can help but is not sufficient • Every child is unique • Uncertainty of outcome remains From - Plsek, P. “Complexity, culture and large systems change” presentation Source: Brenda Zimmerman, PhD
Questions? (after Chapman, 2004) • Are we spending too much time trying to apply complicated solutions to complex problems? • What approach would we adopt if we accepted that systems cannot be controlled nor their behaviour predicted? • What might we need to do differently?
Build collective understanding of what working in complex systems really means • Small changes can have big effects • ..and big changes very little effect • Emergence- the whole is greater than the sum of the parts • Tolerance of uncertainty and flexibility • Recognising the futility of control
The pointlessness of controlfrom Jenny Rogers “Influencing Skills” • You can’t force people to work effectively on something they disagree with. • Organisations are so complex and subject to so many diverse influences that it is pointless trying to control them. • Distance from most senior to most junior makes it unlikely that control can be exercised over that stretch • Much control is unnecessary -where there is openness and willingness to give feedback • Control reduces risk taking- a necessary precondition for the innovation on which organisations depend • It’s exhausting and your time can be better spent!
The problem of Big Planning • “Long term planning and the rigid structures, precise task definitions and elaborate rules that often accompany it, may be positively dangerous, ‘fixing’ an organisation in pursuit of a particular vision when an uncertain world requires flexible responses”. Hudson, 2006 • May need “holding frameworks” for relevant subsystems to keep direction and coherence
What implications of more ecological thinking? • Push and exhortation from leaders and policy makers can be counter-productive.
People’s ability to stay the same will always be greater than our ability to make them different
Working with your stakeholders- what is their • Readiness to change? • Confidence to change? • Judgement of the importance of change?
What implications of more ecological thinking? • Change needs to happen bottom-up but the right conditions need to be created. • …like gardening, or throwing a party?
Working with complexity values • Allowing solutions to emerge by: • encouraging rich interaction, removing barriers and oppressive controls • giving space and time, • not over specifying means
Working with complexity values • Valuing multiple perspectives • Using multiple approaches that make effective use of experience, experimentation, freedom to innovate and working at the edge of knowledge and experience.
Working with complexity as “surfing the edge of chaos”, Pascale, et al (2000) “.. In systems as in life, when threatened, [it] move towards the edge of chaos. At this edge experimentation and mutation occur from which creative solutions can emerge. When this occurs living systems self organise and new forms or patterns emerge. The challenge for leaders is to disturb or disrupt the movement at the edge to provoke the desired outcome” – sometimes referred to as “perturbing the edge”. McKimm et al, (2008) Panic Zone Discomfort Zone Comfort Zone
“..Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm”. Winston S Churchill
“Transformational” leadership- roots • James MacGregor Burns defined transformation as that which turns followers into leaders and leaders into moral agents. • Transformational leadership occurs when people elevate each other into a higher level of motivation and morality. • Thus inextricably linked with the social meaning that people attach to their work.
Creating a better space • ‘ba’ A Japanese term, meaning ‘a shared space for emerging relationships’ or in more general terms a context where meaning may emerge. Originally proposed by philosopher Kitaro Nishida
Real teams have.. • Clear and shared objectives • Members who have to work closely together to achieve the objectives of the team • This interdependency includes users and their supporters • Members who have different and clearly defined roles within the team • The minimum number of team members required to get the job done
Thought for the day. Today Programme. Radio 4. 26th February 2009 • “Here is the gift of relationship. It lies at the very core of what it is to be human.” Rev David Wilkinson, principal of St John’s College, Durham
Holons- Whole-parts The “Transcend and include” principle
Holons- Whole-parts • Both systems and psychoanalytical thought share the premise that every part of an organisation represents the whole.
An example in mental health “It is important not to underestimate the human interaction that is at the heart of mental health treatment and care. This interaction is an expression of individual and organisational values”. Irish Mental Health Commission Vision for Change, 2009, p.14
So what DOES work to build relationship? • Trust • Transparency and fairness with respect to the exercise of power and influence • Giving away and sharing power • Giving back- feeling like an asset not a liability • Happiness • Noticing and affirming the good • Working to a shared agenda • Taking time • Finding a good space to work and develop together
Trust and social capital • In the absence of trust and mutual obligation staff become mired in mistrust and self preservation, while the organisation declines. • Communities and organisations with high levels of social capital work more productively and cooperatively than those with low levels—and are also healthier.” Welsh, T. & Pringle, M. (2001).
Trusting Relationships Conflicting Needs Shared Vision Pressures/Stress Shared Values Change/Uncertainty/Dishonesty Integrity UnclearCommunications Clear Communications Complex/Poor Data Reliable Information Lack of Time / Prior Experience Familiarity Distrusting Relationships Source: Richard Lauve, MD (VHA Inc.)
Four underpinning principles in the new DH approach to change • CO-PRODUCTION • To engage people across “the system” to work together to make change happen • SUBSIDIARITY • Ensuring that decisions are made at the right level, and as close to the user as possible. • CLINICAL OWNERSHIP AND LEADERSHIP • Building on the Darzi concept of staff as “Practitioners, Partners and Leaders”. • SYSTEM ALIGMENT • Aligning different parts of the system towards the same goals as a way of achieving complex cultural change TAKEN TOGETHER THEIR WHOLE IS GREATER THAN THE SUM OF THEIR PARTS
Co-production and working from strengths • “… people are defined entirely by their needs and so those needs become the only asset they have. No-one should be surprised when people then behave in ways that perpetuate such needs” (11). • “When ..assets are deliberately ignored or sidelined they atrophy”. (11)
Co-production and working from strengths • “Co-production demands that public service staff shift from fixers who focus on problems to enablers who focus on abilities. … This role is not recognised or rewarded within the management structures that are currently in place”.(13)
“Front-line staff are essential to delivery and empowerment... • Their morale is as important as client morale. Yet in practice, the participation that they are asked to extend to clients is often not extended to them”. New Economics Foundation. Co-Production. A manifesto for growing the core economy.2008. 13
System alignment • Envision the future together and ambitiously • Communicating that future in an engaging way is the task of leadership • Have end users needs and aspirations at the centre of that vision. • Ensure that the voices of end users and those are heard loudest in shaping the vision
The energy of social movements • “Social movement thinking is about connecting with people’s core values and motivations and mobilising their own internal energies and drivers for change… • …[evidence from change management studies show] people change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings • ..rather than a single individual, it is a network of leaders at multiple levels who guide and mobilise the successful movement” Helen Bevan of The NHS Institute
Subsidiarity • Decision making should be located as closely as possible to the place where actions are taken. • This means addressing the flight from authority • .. and helping people love their monkeys!
“.. Sloterdijk (1987) observes that the whole of postmodern society is living within an internal dialogue or cognitive environment of a universal, diffuse, cynicism. As a predominant mindset of the post-1960s era, Sloterdijk takes the cynic not as an exception but rather as the average social character. It is argued that at both the personal and institutional levels, throughout our society there is a widespread disturbance of vitality, a bleakening of the life feeling, a farewell to defeated idealisms, and a sense of paralyzing resentment”. DAVID COOPERRIDER, 1999
Cynicism limits imagination: The cultural challenge • Problem and deficit-based culture • extending into public communication and the media • A preference for experts and answers • Cynicism passing for sophistication From Global AI Conference Keynote by Bliss Browne, President Imagine Chicago- imaginechicago.org. November 2009
“A cynic, after all is a passionate person who does not want to be disappointed again” • Zander and Zander, The Art of Possibility. 2000, p.39
Involve young people as leaders • (e.g. of an appreciative interview process) to disarm cynicism and activate hope. • An inspiring way to engage in conversation about the future is by engaging in conversation WITH the future • Strength-based questions asked by young people help expand images of possibility and build affirmative competence. From Global AI Conference Keynote by Bliss Browne, President Imagine Chicago- imaginechicago.org. November 2009
The magic - “Abrahadabra” From the Aramaic.. • “I will create as I speak.” From Global AI Conference Keynote by Bliss Browne, President Imagine Chicago- imaginechicago.org. November 2009
Language is a moral choice. • To frame social development in problem talk creates expertise and focus on what communities don’t want and what doesn’t work. • To regenerate communities requires focusing on possibilities, focusing on what works instead of what’s wrong. From Global AI Conference Keynote by Bliss Browne, President Imagine Chicago- imaginechicago.org. November 2009
Deficit based approaches • Provide opportunities for lamentation and blame that weaken the fabric of relationships • Bring the past into the future- so slow- focuses attention on yesterday’s causes- better to bring a preferred future into the present • Offer a visionless voice • Create cynicism, alienation and fatigue
Appreciative Inquiry Is about developing the competence to CHOOSE a way of thinking • “Appreciative Inquiry is the cooperative search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them.” • “It involves systematic discovery of what gives a system 'life' when it is most effective and capable in economic, ecological and human terms.” From “An opportunity to learn more about Appreciative Inquiry” Presentation by Anne Radford
Appreciate “Best of what is” Imagine “What might be” Design “What should be” Create “What will be” Identify problem Conduct root cause analysis Brainstorm solutions & analyze Develop treatment - action plans Appreciative Inquiry Problem Solving Deficit-based change Strength-based change Mystery Metaphor: Organisations are alive, “appreciative systems” are universes of strengths via relationship Problem Metaphor: Organisations are “problems to be solved” Linear, machine-like metaphors; From Global AI Conference Keynote by David Cooperrider. November 2009