My team went through a major change initiative starting in 2006 that involved merging with ten organizations with geographic and functional responsibilities. While each conducted the same mission by collecting, analyzing and disseminating information to support leadership decision advantage, in many respects...each felt it was unique and did their mission differently. Each had learning functions that ranged in size of 1 to over 40...so this was the environment and scene my team faced in building a global learning enterprise that leveraged my organization's learning capabilities, while integrating their capabilities.
What my team came to find out that in order to integrate effectively and efficiently...we would have to change from the "Outside-In." What this meant is that in many respects, while trying to integrate and align these various learning capabilities, changing how we conducted business at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) would be possible by changing how we operated with our new customers. For example, within DIA's schoolhouses we used different course evaluations with some standard questions, but in large part no common standards. One of the first initiatives with our learning integration efforts was to develop and accept a common set of evaluation questions. This move precipitated a similar discussion internally.
We accomplished this and other key initiatives by treating our effort as a Skunk Works...Made famous at the height of the Cold War, Lockheed Martin created a group that revolutionized and transformed airborne reconnaissance.
Our internal Skunk Works supported change management during the integration and alignment period. By leveraging a world-class best practice in defining a common set of skills, knowledge and capabilities for all organizations...we were able to integrate learning and align existing solutions at a quicker pace. It allowed our new customers to see that while their organizations had different responsibilities, the challenges faced, the work they did and the type of human capital capabilities needed were very similar.
The lesson for Human Capital Management (HCM) leaders, creating a team within your HCM organization that has the green light to try creative and disruptive new approaches can enable change across the HCM organization. That can lead to new efficiencies and effectiveness in meeting customer needs and in our case...accelerating major change initiatives...from the Outside-In.
So great news that BP has finally stopped the unrestricted flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It took a long time and as an organization they have suffered greatly and in many people's eyes deservedly so.
As an example, I looked at a total of 25 blogs written in Harvard Business Review about a number of angles on the BP crisis. The most positive...and that is relative speaking of the BP oil disaster...was by Vineet Nayar titled "I'm Thinking About BP's Employees." Most however focused on some aspect of BP brand, culture and of course failure of leadership.
But I wonder if a silver lining can't be found for the future of BP or other organizations able to get BP talent in the future...
In many organizations, we attempt to replicate the conditions of the organization in our leadership development programs. We do this through action learning activities that help participants practice what they learn through business projects or solving organizational challenges. While these things are of immense value to the organization...it is difficult in a classroom setting to replicate crisis. The kind of crisis that comes in a world ripe with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity...the VUCA world.
The environment that new leaders in BP are growing up in now will pay dividends for them in the future. These BP leaders will be able to take advantage of volatility, make decisions under conditions of uncertainty, create clarity from complexity and adapt to ambiguity. All priceless traits for leaders of the future.
It would be extremely easy to just focus on the negative of the situation, but as a strategic human capital management leader...I prefer to focus on the positive.
In the past few weeks I have seen a number of blog posts and articles discussing different leadership attributes and their application to our current world state. All of these have one thing in common…they are intended to allow leaders to function in a world that is consumed by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity…a VUCA world.
Coined by the U.S. Army to define environments that forces would operate in, it allowed personnel to make sense of the world. Our Armed Forces don’t only operate in a VUCA world though. Our CEOs and Directors operate in this world daily. A world so complex and volatile, that CEOs taking part in IBM’s 2010 Global CEO Study named it “Capitalizing on Complexity.” In the study, CEOs admitted the following:
“In our past three global CEO studies, CEOs consistently said that coping with change was their most pressing challenge. In 2010, our conversations identified a new primary challenge: complexity. CEOs told us they operate in a world that is substantially more volatile, uncertain and complex. Many shared the view that incremental changes are no longer sufficient in a world that is operating in fundamentally different ways. Four primary findings arose from our conversations:
Today’s complexity is only expected to rise, and more than half of CEOs doubt their ability to manage it. Seventy-nine percent of CEOs anticipate even greater complexity ahead. However, one set of organizations — we call them “Standouts” — has turned increased complexity into financial advantage over the past five years.”
So at this point in the blog I want to use my power of engaging the reading audience and ask you whether you think your organization is operating in a VUCA world? If you don't...It would surprise me to find anyone who thinks they are not in a VUCA world now...
So if we agree that this is what is facing our organizations, what kind of leaders do we need to develop that can thrive and excel in a VUCA world? Some hints have started to come out in a number of places. Attribute areas that I consider important. I am calling it DOCGI Leadership…
Disruptive - This was written by Heather Vogel in her HR Whisperer blog titled “Aim To Misbehave.” In it she discusses the principles of Disruptive Leadership and what that can do for an organization.
"Disruptive leadership is a concept that is rapidly gaining ground in the new millennia – leaders create problems that must be solved. The solving of the problem serves as the catalyst for the organization to create change, whether that change is a new product, new service, or just a new way of doing things. When an organization has to solve a problem, it can provoke the necessary motivation to make a huge leap in innovation."
Open – Charlene Li co-author of “Groundswell” and her new book “Open Leadership” makes the case that in today’s super-connected world and the level of complexity associated with it, that leaders will have to give up need to be about relationships and a culture of sharing. Charlene Li believes the following statement about Open Leadership:
“Having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control, while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals.”
Creative – The 2010 IBM Global CEO Study identified Creative leadership as a key area for leaders in the future to focus in order to overcome uncertainty and complexity.
"Creativity is often defined as the ability to bring into existence something new or different, but CEOs elaborated. Creativity is the basis for “disruptive innovation and continuous re-invention,” a Professional Services CEO in the United States told us. And this requires bold, breakthrough thinking. Leaders, they said, must be ready to upset the status quo even if it is successful. They must be comfortable with and committed to ongoing experimentation."
Globally Integrated – IBM’s white paper titled “Developing Global Leadership” discusses the following perspective in developing their global leaders:
“For greater global effectiveness, decision-making authority needs to be owned and executed by those who are best positioned to make quick decisions and be responsible for outcomes.”
What Does It Mean
So what will a DOCGI Leader look and feel like? A DOCGI Leader is someone that can thrive in a VUCA world by being a risk manager and nurturing their workforce in the same environment. It is someone that is OK with failure, because the organization learns from that and creates and innovates further. A DOCGI Leader is agile and adaptable that can make decisions quickly to take advantage of shortened time lines, mobilize global teams for execution, and develop strategies that are short or long-term in nature.
The consideration in the future with Gen Ys moving into leadership positions now...is how do we develop these attributes in our future leaders? That...is a story for another time.