Monday, February 27, 2012

Leadership Paradigm Shift Approaching...Rise of Collective Development


In last week's blog post...Leadership Development...What is New is Really Old...I discussed where much of leadership development best practices we are familiar with today really started between World War I and II. While in many respects these leadership development practices are are still highly relevant...we may need to shift the paradigm on what kind of leadership capability we are developing in our organizations and why we need it.

Much of my perspective is driven by the nature of the environment we all find ourselves operating in every day. I have written about it often...the VUCA environment is the new normal. VUCA, coined by the U.S. Army in 2004 as it looked at what junior officers were dealing with on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan and how it might shift leadership development to account for this, is defined as the following:

Volatile: change happens rapidly and on a large scale
Uncertain: the future cannot be predicted with any precision
Complex: challenges are complicated by many factors and there are few single causes or solutions
Ambiguous: there is little clarity on what events mean and what effect they may have

That new normal places immense pressures on leaders to make sense of the environment and make decisions that will maintain or advance competitive advantage. The Center for Creative Leadership recently issued a report titled "Future Trends in Leadership Development" where it addresses the VUCA environment and what this looks like to managers. The CCL report states research indicates that...

- They contain a large number of interacting elements.
- Information in the system is highly ambiguous, incomplete, or indecipherable. Interactions among system elements are non-linear and tightly-coupled such that small changes can produce disproportionately large effects.
- Solutions emerge from the dynamics within the system and cannot be imposed from outside with predictable results.
- Hindsight does not lead to foresight since the elements and conditions of the system can be in continual flux.

The report also indicates that the skills that leaders will need most in the future are the following:

- Adaptability
- Self-awareness
- Boundary spanning
- Collaboration
- Network thinking

The report also recognizes what may be critical to working in the VUCA environment...

"It appears that the new V.U.C.A. environment is seeing the demand move away from isolated behavioral competencies toward complex “thinking” abilities. These manifest as adaptive competencies such as learning agility, self-awareness, comfort with ambiguity, and strategic thinking. With such changes in the mental demands on future leaders, the question will be, how will we produce these capacities of thinking?"

Where does all of this take us? For starters it will need to shift the way we view and conduct "leader" development. Why do I say leader development? Because we are typically focused on individuals in leadership development. Helping them understand their individual leadership needs and addressing them through the best practices discussed in the last blog post.

The CCL report makes the case, and one that I agree with, is that in order for our organizations to prosper in the VUCA environment, we will need to focus on "collective leadership" development.

"The complexity of the new environment increasingly presents what Ronald Heifetz calls “adaptive challenges” in which it is not possible for any one individual to know the solution or even define the problem (the recent U.S. debt crisis, for example). Instead, adaptive challenges call for collaboration between various stakeholders who each hold a different aspect of the reality and many of whom must themselves adapt and grow if the problem is to be solved. These collectives, who often cross geographies, reporting lines, and organizations, need to collaboratively share information, create plans, influence each other, and make decisions."

Focusing on collective leadership, vice leader development is something we can and should embrace. It will take a different perspective from leadership development to raise up from the "dance floor" and look at it from the "balcony" and how we orchestrate collective leadership development , while supporting individualized leader development. I discussed looking at leadership capability through portfolio management perspectives to identify investments and risk (You Need a Leadership Capability Portfolio Manager)

This will be a new world for some of us, but a necessary paradigm shift. The success of our organizations depend on it.


J. Keith Dunbar is a Global Talent Management Leader...Creator of Talent, Leadership Capability, and Culture Change...He can be found connecting and sharing knowledge on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Twitter: JKeithDunbar
LinkedIn: J. Keith Dunbar
Google+: J. Keith Dunbar
Blog: DNA of Human Capital

The opinions or views expressed here are mine alone and do not represent the views of the SAIC.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Leadership Development - What's New is Really Old...


Leadership development is fact...vital to our organizations ability to be successful. For those reasons we spend a lot of resources in money (Upwards of $10B annually), people and time in developing the current and future generations of leaders to fuel business strategies. If you have been involved in leadership development either as the leader and/or provider you have had the occasion to participate in what are considered some of the cutting edge leadership development techniques available to organizations to include:

Job Rotations
High Potential Programs
Management Training Programs
Management and Functional Leadership Tracks
Peer Assessments
Executive Candidate Assessment
Action Learning
Execution Education Programs
Running Line Organization

There's only one problem...these aren't cutting edge. Sure maybe they are for you and your organization, but truth be told, all of these leadership development techniques have been around since the start of World War I.

In a piece from Wharton School Professor Peter Cappelli titled "What's Old is New Again: Managerial Talent in a Historical Context," Cappelli looked at the leadership development methods in context of evolving business needs and how our approach was much more complex pre-"lifetime employment" to today's approached. Specifically Cappelli states the following at the outset of the paper:

"We often think of the ‘‘traditional’’ process of management development in the United States as one that produced organization specific competencies, lifetime employment, and what has been described as a psychological/ social contract exchanging security (by the employer) for loyalty (from the employee). In fact this traditional model is a relatively recent, post-World War II development. By the end of the 20th century, most aspects of that model have been scaled back and some have been abandoned. What remains of the planning and development functions pales in comparison to the much more sophisticated models in place in the 1950s."

Some examples of where leadership development methods have evolved from include the following:

- Peer assessments started in the U.S. Navy during World War II
- Forced ranking systems started in the U.S. Army during World War II
- Executive Education like Harvard's Advanced Management program started in the 1940's.

This paragraph indicated that similar leadership development activities had been occurring for the last 50 years...

"The advice the authors of the Harvard Business Review study offered companies for developing their executives draws on the programs at companies like GE and seems remarkably similar to what is offered now 50 years later: rotational assignments, a mix of staff and line experiences, an opportunity to run an operation, attendance in advanced management programs, and psychological counseling or coaching (Janney, 1952)."

Now...there is no reason to throw all of this great work out and start over, but there is a realization that in the VUCA (volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world that leader's development may need to shift from focusing on the individual leader...

That folks is the topic for my next blog...


J. Keith Dunbar is a Global Talent Management Leader...Creator of Talent, Leadership Capability, and Culture Change...He can be found connecting and sharing knowledge on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Twitter: JKeithDunbar
LinkedIn: J. Keith Dunbar
Google+: J. Keith Dunbar
Blog: DNA of Human Capital

The opinions or views expressed here are mine alone and do not represent the views of the SAIC.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Global CEO Studies...A Broken Record


At the Davos World Economic Forum, PricewaterhouseCoopers unveiled the findings from their 2012 Global CEO Study.

I really like to look through these kinds of studies to get a sense of what CEOs and other C-Suite leaders are thinking. I am always particularly interested in what they see as talent and leadership challenges or priorities they want to address.

The PwC study is no different in that respect.

When asked "Have talent constraints impacted your company’s growth and profitability over the past 12 months in the following ways?" 1,258 CEOs responded with the following:

43% - Our talent-related expenses rose more than expected
31% - We weren’t able to innovate effectively
29% - We were unable to pursue a market opportunity
24% - We cancelled or delayed a key strategic initiative
24% - We couldn’t achieve growth forecasts in overseas markets
24% - We couldn’t achieve growth forecasts in the country where we are based
21% - Our production and/or service delivery quality standards fell

CEOs planned to attack these challenges primarily by three areas...

- We plan to move experienced employees from our home market to newer markets to circumvent skills shortages
- We plan to develop and promote most of our talent from within the company
- We plan to primarily recruit local talent wherever we have market needs

Additionally, not surprisingly, CEOs are looking for better information...this section of the report gives great insight that CEOs are looking for the right information to make informed decisions about their people/talent investments.

"CEOs are seeking a better understanding of the scale and effectiveness of their investments in talent. Productivity and labour costs remain important measurements; these are the tools investors, lenders and businesses use to benchmark progress (or lack of it). They are largely standardised in many industries, and thus easy to implement.

Yet for many CEOs, those tools aren’t enough. They’re very good at telling a CEO how the business is performing today relative to its peers, but not at indicating whether the organisation is investing enough in employees to generate future growth. Such measurements cannot isolate skills gaps, and struggle to identify the pivotal jobs that drive exponential value; they do not measure employee engagement or team performance, both of which are so critical for investments to foster innovation to bear fruit. These measurements are much harder to make, which is one reason why they’ve been neglected and why today, so many CEOs are frustrated with the issue of talent."

As my last post discussed...the people and talent challenges that many organizations face are very similar. That point continues to be driven home in CEO studies like this one from PwC. Year in and year out we see the same CEO perspectives...

If we were doing our jobs...would we continue to see these challenges over and over? Is the world we are in going to always be like this where our profession makes little progress in solving the problems that our leadership continues to see?

I recently had a discussion with HR professionals in an organization and the discussion turned towards business strategy. One person shared they didn't know or understand the business strategy in their let me be frank...if you don't understand your business strategy and how strategic people and talent capabilities support its shouldn't be surprised to find the same things coming up over and over again...


J. Keith Dunbar is a Global Talent Management Leader...Creator of Talent, Leadership Capability, and Culture Change...He can be found connecting and sharing knowledge on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Twitter: JKeithDunbar
LinkedIn: J. Keith Dunbar
Google+: J. Keith Dunbar
Blog: DNA of Human Capital

The opinions or views expressed here are mine alone and do not represent the views of the SAIC.