Why is there never time to do it right, but always time to do it again?
As new competitors keep entering the marketplace, and the speed of technology continues to increase, many entrepreneurs are going to need to change direction. Successful leaders will “pivot” into new markets, harness the power of new technology and abandon old business models. Those who don’t keep up will fail.
The problem is, that when business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders are put under pressure most rely on previous habits and practices without considering their current environment. They jump ahead to “get started” without fully understanding or communicating what needs to be done or listening to others.
This approach is less and less effective as the environment keeps changing. Many habits and practices were designed for more stable times. Sometimes even “tried and true” methods don’t work in the new environment. Yet people can be reluctant to speak up and ask questions in case they look stupid. Over time miscommunications occur, mistakes happen and everybody gets frustrated.
The single best investment that leaders fail to make is a small investment of time to think clearly and ensure they are making the right decisions using the right information. Everybody knows the value of planning, but in the heat of the moment many people fail to invest the time required.
A new approach called Network Centred Leadership (NCL) is helping leaders with this challenge. It introduces three ideas that help leaders perform better despite ongoing environmental and technological change.
Successful leaders are increasingly thinking in terms of networks not hierarchies. When the environment is stable, the results are likely to be similar, because a hierarchy is one kind of network. However, when the environment becomes complex and dynamic, a network provides much greater agility and flexibility.
Using a network approach helps leaders to think laterally and coordinate various capabilities from inside and outside the organisation to solve client problems. This helps leaders to navigate change successfully.
Perhaps, most importantly a network approach aligns the organisation with new technologies. The work that people need to do and the tools that they are using are properly connected. New technology can genuinely help business performance rather than being another source of confusion and frustration.
Surveys show that employee satisfaction and engagement are at all-time lows across most companies, impacting productivity and service levels. This is not surprising given the uncertainty of the new environment.
The root cause of this problem is that people have lost track of what they are supposed to be doing and why it’s important. Network Centred Leadership restores this connection by teaching organisations to regularly ask, and answer, four questions:
i.What is the context?
ii.What are the best plans and/or solutions?
iii.What’s the right team for this work?
iv.How do we measure success and risk?
If you think these questions “are simple” and “who wouldn’t think of these” then you’re right. Yet so many programs start without these basic issues being addressed. Inevitably, teams have to go back to square one when they are already half way through.
The problems that organisations face will not be solved by a few heroic figures at the top of a hierarchy. There is just too much information and too many decisions for one person to cope with. Instead, lots of people across an organisation need to be involved to ensure decisions can be made in a timely and effective manner.
To do this successfully, entrepreneurs focus on leadership. They treat leadership as simply another type of work that can be distributed across an organisation. By thinking in this way they can properly delegate authority across the organisation.
These three simple ideas work together to help organisations survive in complex environments. Networks provide a map of what needs to be done and facilitate the use of new technology. Centred conversations ensure that the team at each network “node” understand what needs to be done and have the tools to be successful and finally. Leadership ensures everybody understands how the team will work together to make progress.
By using these techniques regularly an organisation can create a new culture that helps to ensure problems are identified well before they occur. This helps to reduce rework and leadership failure. It is a process that takes time, integrity and trust, and if you make an ongoing effort to help everybody understand the evolving context you will be able to navigate through the complexity more successfully.