One of the most misused terms in organisations when referring to the development of people is “soft skills”. We have often wondered what people assume when they use this term.
Collaboration, resilience and vertical development have become part of the OD jargon in recent times, yet we all struggle to agree on what each truly means and so how to effectively operationalise them for both individual and organisation benefit.
How many times have we heard this? Given that our daily routines are systems we often overlook how important they are to daily lives often only noticing them when they don’t work or cause us frustration.
Over the course of the past year, you may have noticed that students, teenagers and other young adults, have escalated their concerns about the quality of decisions being made by the current generation of leaders.
As Peter Drucker is famously quoted: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and like all terrific definitive statements, concepts, models and theories, we at Cornerstone agree as well as holding to the ‘truth’ that all things are only partially true.
Let us be clear right up front, we here at Cornerstone Integral are not academics. However, we are smart, intelligent thinkers who can take the latest academic research and convert it into cutting edge practical applications. How do we do that? Through the application of what is one of the most profound and comprehensive sense making models to emerge in this post-modern world, the Integral Frame.
At Cornerstone Integral we pay attention to the world’s best research on building and assessing leadership capability and have been intrigued by the ground breaking work of Dr Theo Dawson and her colleagues at Lectica.
"Unfortunately, there still exists a mindset in many leaders that they need to lead from the front, having all the answers and being the font of all information and besides ‘collaboration’ takes too much time in this busy world."
How can Cornerstone Integral, a professional consulting organisation, with accumulated expertise of over 250 years, make this bold statement when multiple international and domestic studies confirm the existence of significant innovation and leadership capability gaps in most organisations?
These studies reinforce our own experience of diminishing levels of service and more complicated solutions emerging from trusted organisations purporting to provide “great” customer and product experience to their consumers.
(As we all know, repeated poor experiences with an Australian major telco could fill a novel!)
Against this backdrop describing organisations as ‘perfect’ seems nonsensical, doesn’t it?
Why are organisations ‘perfect’?
We invite you to consider that traditional organisations, characterised by their layers of hierarchy and functional silos are highly efficient in providing solutions in a world with less social, technological, environmental, economic and political complexity than we face today. Late 20th century organisational responses to increased complexity often relied on introducing formal and informal matrix structures with interrelated operating and reporting structures spanning vast geographical areas and complex product solutions. Our experience however is that ultimately most organisations rely on the goodwill, patience and perseverance of their customers, suppliers and employees to just ‘figure it out’ and do their best when interfacing with the various bureaucratic layers and complicated systems of an organisation .
If like many of us you hear the laments of…
“We need to focus on our performance management system, our people aren’t keeping up.”
“We will need to restructure our business, (again).”,
“We have to reduce our costs; our margins are too slim.”
“We have a shortage of talent, go and find me…”
“We can gain access to this market segment by buying this company.”
“Don’t be distracted by that new competitive offer, it won’t last!”
…you can be confident that your organisation needs to discover more sustainable solutions to the problems associated with the higher levels of complexity and uncertainty you are facing domestically and globally.
If this is the case how can we continue to claim?
…your organisation is just ‘perfect’ the way it is!
The key to understanding this conundrum is by looking at the evidence. In 2015 the Australian Industry Group (AIG) released a paper entitled ‘Addressing Enterprise Leadership in Australia’. The paper described research confirming the relationship between organisational success, collaboration and innovation.
“Leadership is increasingly … contributing to innovation through improvements to operations, organisational structures, new business models and design thinking. … good leadership also contributes to innovation, … the generation of new ideas; a business’s acceptance of risk and attitude towards failure; and the extent to which business collaboration is encouraged”.
Disturbingly however, the paper also describes the huge gap in the collaborative and innovation capabilities of leaders and the organisations they lead:
“When it comes to our efficiency in converting research dollars into innovation and commercial success – Australia ranks poorly coming in at 116th out of 142 countries. In addition, Australia ranks last place out of 33 countries in the OECD for collaboration”.
This finding predates but anticipates the profound conclusions resulting from the most extensive study ever conducted into leadership in Australia - ‘Study of Australian Leadership’ (SAL). Released in 2016 by The Centre of Workplace Leadership attached to Melbourne University, the SAL describes how collaborative leadership is a precondition for organisation success as it supports innovation, high levels of commitment and ownership of outcomes by teams.
If collaboration and innovation are so critical to the success of our organisations, how do we build this capability?
The great news is that the conditions for collaboration and innovation are a natural phenomenon of all organisations and emerge when enablers are identified and applied.
Two of these enablers are the Integral Framework and practiced vertical adult development.
The Integral Framework increases the success of finding and applying enablers, and the application of vertical adult development techniques can significantly grow the collaborative and innovative capability of leaders within organisations.
An alternative approach could be to use intuition and a dose of just good luck, but our research confirms that this is unlikely to provide sustainable solutions.
If you have a fascination for this topic as we have at Cornerstone Integral, the ground-breaking research at Harvard and Berkeley Universities by Dr Theo Dawson is a great place to start. Dr Dawson who heads the not for profit organisation – Lectica, highlights why collaboration and enhanced perspective taking and coordination, are critical to effective leadership decision making. Dr. Dawson has developed reliable and robust methods to build the cognitive and self-awareness capability of leaders to enhance decision making.
If this topic piques your interest, we invite you to review the short YouTube clip developed by Dr. Dawson and to go to Cornerstone Integral YouTube channel and watch the Gray's Anatomy for Organisations series of videos produced by Robinson Roe
So remind me - Why are organisations ‘perfect’?
The simple answer to this bold assertion is that most, if not all, organisations have the latent capability to thrive in our ever more complex world - they are ‘perfect’ environments in which to liberate this latent capability. At Cornerstone Integral we believe an integral approach to organisational and leadership transformation can unleash this capability.