Sunday, August 22, 2010

Clarity Agents and Chaos Double Agents...You Need Them...


A good friend shared with me the perspective of someone he knew as we spoke about leadership. The quote went something like this...

"Leaders create clarity from chaos and create chaos when there is clarity."

That is a profound statement and really sets the tone for what great transformational leaders are and should be about in their organization. Our organizations are going through massive swings in volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity...the VUCA world I have discussed in prior blogs. A great transformational leader is able to embrace what is happening in a VUCA world and turn it from challenge to opportunity for them and their team and organization. To do that requuires someone that can see through the fog and move the team in the right direction to achieve results that are impactful. These leaders take the chaos of the VUCA world and add clarity to it...become a Clarity Agent...This allows understanding within your team and sets the tone for accomplishing those things that are most important to business or mission impact.

In 2006-2010, as we merged the Defense Intelligence Agency's learning capabilities with those of 12 global Combatant Commands, my team and I were in VUCA trying to create clarity from chaos in some respects. All felt they were unique and requiring tailored support, training, and opportunities. But by setting a strategic vision to align learning, communicating that vision and executing a cross-organizational plan, we were able to make the transition smoothly in a global environment.

The more interesting side of the equation is creating chaos when there is clarity. So why would you want to do that? Why have a Chaos Double Agent?

The enemy of improvement in performance and enabling the ability to innovate is being comfortable and allowing the status quo to maintain. In the future, successful organizations will be defined by leaders that are disruptive and creative. These leaders will have a sixth sense about the why and when of change. In a VUCA world, leaders with this vision and skill will define their organizations success. The ability to create chaos from the inside-out or outside-in depending on the contextual environment will be a key skill.

Bottomline...You need this kind of leader on your team and in your organization. You need to grab them and cherish them and covet what they can bring. The current environment that we are all operating in is likely to continue...Having Clarity Agents and Chaos Double Agents is the key to success.


Twitter: JKeithDunbar
DNA of Human Capital:

Monday, August 9, 2010

Measuring Action Learning Projects in Public Sector Leadership Development

Action learning projects in leadership development have continued as an important development tool for many organizations. It was a recent topic in the Imagining the Future of Leadership blog series hosted by Harvard Business Review in one blog post by Trina Soske and Jay A. Conger titled "Its Time to Focus Executive Development on Real Business Issues."

In the blog, Soske and Conger make the case that...

"The complexity, interconnectedness and transparency of today's organizations mean that no one individual can get much accomplished by themselves. Most challenges and opportunities are systemic. Leadership is distributed and change now requires a collective sense and a coordinated set of actions."

My team enables a key leadership development program named GEMSTONE. The intent of the program is to take the best and brightest leaders at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and create the next generation of DIA leaders. Like many other leadership development programs, GEMSTONE utilizes action learning principles through Capstone projects to enable key program goals. These include skill development, collaboration and team building, and critical and creative thinking.

Key aspects of the Capstone projects are their alignment to a specific Directorate (Business unit equivalent in private sector) with senior executive sponsorship. Through a series of conversations with Directorate senior executives, we are able to determine key challenges facing the organization that are within the control and authority of that senior executive to take action.

Our Capstone projects lead to a series of project recommendations. The senior executive sponsor has one of four options:

1. The project plan is accepted, a team is formed and funding is procured;
2. Interesting elements of a plan are evaluated further;
3. The project plan is accepted but staged for future investment; or,
4. The project is halted because the timing or investment is not right.

The intent of GEMSTONE is not unlike other private sector leadership development programs. Cisco's Executive-Action Learning Forum is a case in point. Led by Annmarie Neal, vice president of the Cisco Center for Collaborative Leadership, the program looks to accomplish the following:

"While executive leadership programs are common, the Cisco Center for Collaborative Leadership – known as "3C" – is unusual in how it implements such teachings. As part of the program, Neal's team helped design Cisco's Executive Action Learning Forum (E-ALF). In E-ALF, five to six teams of 10 promising executives work together to build the strategy and tactics for addressing crucial business issues that have $1 billion in potential revenue generation or cost-savings. In most cases, the work of the teams leads directly to major initiatives the company implements. Each program has at least one senior executive sponsor."

Key differences between measuring the impact of action learning projects between the private sector and public sector is the revenue generation measurement component. In Cisco's case, addressing crucial business issues that have $1 billion potential in revenue generation is a key metric. Since public sector doesn't engage in revenue generation, we have to focus measurement in other areas that also show impact and program effectiveness.

Key areas to measure for GEMSTONE and other public sector programs include the following:

1. The number of organizational challenges addressed - Tracking the number of challenges is really just a first step. If recommendations are accepted by the senior executive sponsor on aspects of mitigating the challenges to improve organizational efficiency and/or effectiveness, ultimately measuring these outcomes and their impact are the goal.
2. Resource optimization - In the public sector, optimizing resources to enable more efficient use of the taxpayer investment are important. Measuring these types of outcomes may enable investment in new capabilities to overcome other organizational challenges.
3. Project alignment to organizational strategy - In many organizations, just aligning projects to the strategic goals of the organization can be extremely helpful. In some organizations, leaders can't always see the alignment.
4. Social Network Analysis - Creating leaders of the future as Soske and Conger discuss is about collaborative and collective engagement. Bringing
together future leaders from across the organization should lead to measurable improvement in collaboration and communication that are critical for the future success of organizations.

The benefits of action learning projects are well established in leadership development. Now take the next steps to align the impact of this helpful tool to developing your future leaders in the public sector and the key metrics that tell the story of its impact on the organization.


Twitter: JKeithDunbar
DNA of Human Capital:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Jonathan Kayes...Passing of a Learning Leader

I just found out that Jonathan Kayes passed away the evening of 5 August quite unexpectedly. Jonathan was the former Chief Learning Officer (CLO) at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) until his retirement earlier this year. He had in retirement started working with Elliott Masie of the The Masie Center and was serving as the Learning CONSORTIUM CLO.

I had known and admired Jonathan for his learning leadership within the Intelligence Community since 2005. He was a driver in collaboration across the Intelligence Community learning enterprise. Because of his insights and perspectives not only on learning, but more importantly leadership, I had asked him to serve as a mentor to me, which he graciously accepted and did with the utmost professionalism.

So this blog post is to recognize Jonathan for what he was...a great person. You will be missed.

God bless...


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Importance versus Effectiveness Gap...Closing...Slowly

I attended and presented at the Human Resource Management Institute 25-27 July. It was a great opportunity to engage with senior HR executives representing the areas of talent, diversity, learning and compensation.
It also presented the chance to validate of key findings from the IBM 2009 study I have referenced in previous blog posts.

I asked the group, using Turning Technologies audience response system (great tool to engage the audience and collect data), to rank the nine human capital challenges from the study by voting for their top three challenges.

The voting came out this way...

#1 - Defining skills, knowlegde and capabilities to execute business strategy.
#2 - Developing succession plans and career paths
#3 - Sourcing and recruiting individuals.
#3 - Retaining valued talent within the organization.

I then asked the group to rate their organizations on a 1-5 scale regarding importance and effectiveness....

1. Defining knowledge, skills and capability requirements for executing business strategy is an important need for my organization.

2. My organization is effective at defining knowledge, skills and capability requirements to execute business strategy.

Importance rated a score of 92 out of 100 and effectiveness rated 51 out of 100. This provided an Importance vs. Effectiveness gap of 41%. This compared favorably to the IBM study gap of 48%, but still a pretty big gap.

So what does it mean? For starters, I was pleasantly surprised at what was #1. While the other eight human capital challenges in the study are important, organizations will have a difficult time negating these challenges without knowing what human capital capabilities are required now and in the future.

My concerns continue that there is such a wide gap between importance and effectiveness. There could be some good reasons for it. There has been such volatility and uncertainty since the financial meltdown starting in 2008, that attempting to identify skills, knowledge and capabilities was a bridge too far. Many organizations were making strategic decisions on a week-to-week and month-to-month basis and couldn't focus much more strategic than that. That kind of environment is not good for anything other than reacting.

The message for Human Capital Management (HCM) is the time to position your organizations for future success. A number of HCM leaders of prominent organizations are successful at defining the workforce capabilities needed for their future strategy...IBM, Cisco, and Google are a few. If you don't spend time with your customers understanding where they want to drive the business and culture, you have a difficult road ahead. If, on the other hand, you have a sound approach in place to work with organizational leadership to define current and future are ready to play an important role for your organization and our profession.


Twitter: JKeithDunbar
DNA of Human Capital: