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LEADING AT THE EDGE OF CHAOS Dr Peter Saul Director, Strategic Consulting Group Senior HR Forum AHRI National Convention, May 1999 Adelaide.

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Presentation on theme: "LEADING AT THE EDGE OF CHAOS Dr Peter Saul Director, Strategic Consulting Group Senior HR Forum AHRI National Convention, May 1999 Adelaide."— Presentation transcript:

1 LEADING AT THE EDGE OF CHAOS Dr Peter Saul Director, Strategic Consulting Group Senior HR Forum AHRI National Convention, May 1999 Adelaide

2 “EVERY ACT OF CREATION IS FIRST AN ACT OF DESTRUCTION” "In order to arrive at what you do not know, you must go by way of ignorance. In order to possess what you do not possess, you must go by way of dispossession. In order to arrive at what you are not, you must go through the way in which you are not". T.S. Eliot

3 PERILS OF THE NEWTONIAN MINDSET “If organizations are machines, control makes sense. If organizations are process structures, then seeking to impose control through permanent structure is suicide. If we believe that acting responsibly means exerting control by having our hands into everything, then we cannot hope for anything except what we already have - a treadmill of effort and life-destroying stress. What if we could reframe the search? What if we stopped looking for control and began, in earnest, the search for order?” “There is so much order that our attempts to separate out discrete moments create the appearance of disorder.” ( Margaret Wheatley Leadership and the New Science 1994, p.23, p.21)

4 RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE CRITICAL BUILDING BLOCKS “You think because you understand one you must understand two, because one and one makes two. But you must also understand and [plus the assumptions of the mental model that you have chosen to adopt].” Adapted from an ancient Sufi teaching Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science 1994, p.9

5 A QUANTUM UNIVERSE “...nothing exists independent of its relationship with something else...” “…we inhabit a quantum universe that knows nothing of itself independent of its relationships”. “The challenge for us is to see beyond the innumerable fragments to the whole, stepping back far enough to appreciate how things move and change as a coherent entity”. (Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science 1994, p.34, 39, 41)

6 RELATIONSHIPS MAKE REALITY HAPPEN “ A quantum universe is enacted only in an environment rich in relationships. Nothing happens in the quantum world without something encountering something else. Nothing is independent of the relationships that occur. I am constantly creating the world - evoking it, not discovering it - as I participate in all its many interactions. This is a world of process, not a world of things.” (Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science 1994, p.68)

7 CO-CREATING OUR REALITY “The tourists come here with the camera taking pictures all over. What has he got? Another photo to take home, keep part of Uluru. He should get another lens - see straight inside then. Wouldn’t see big rock then. He would see that Kuniya (python) living right inside there as from the beginning. He might throw his camera away then”. Tjamiwa, an Anangu elder quoted in “The Australian Way” October 1995, p. 22

8 HEISENBERG’S UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE AT WORK As soon as I measure your performance, I close off insight into all the other possibilities of you and your contribution to the organisation that could have been observed (by others, or by me using a different lens). No wonder we become defensive about being “shrunk” in this way by a process that reveals as much about the observer and the measurement approach as it does about “me” and “my performance”.

9 ORGANISATIONS IN A QUANTUM WORLD “ The environment that the organization worries about is put there by the organization”. Hence, the most useful questions to ask ourselves as we interact with the environment are:  What happened?  What actions might have served us better?  What lenses might have served us better? (Adapted from Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science, 1994, p. 37)

10 MORE OBSERVERS = WISER ORGANISATION “It would seem that the more participants we engage in this participative universe, the more we can access its potentials and the wiser we can become. ‘Whatever we call reality…it is revealed to us only through an active construction in which we participate’”. “An organization swimming in many interpretations [of all the information available] can then discuss, combine, and build on them. The outcome of such a process has to be a much more diverse and richer sense of what is going on and what needs to be done”. (Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science 1994, p. 65)

11 …AND GREATER COMMITMENT “In quantum logic, it is impossible to expect any plan or idea to be real to employees if they do not have the opportunity to personally interact with it. Reality emerges from our process of observation, from decisions we the observers make about what we will see. It does not exist independent of those activities. Therefore, we cannot talk people into reality because there truly is no reality to describe if they haven’t been there. People can only become aware of the reality of the plan by interacting with it, by creating different possibilities through their personal process of observation.” (Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science 1994, p. 67)

12 PLANNING IN A QUANTUM WORLD “Acting should precede planning…because it is only through action and implementation that we create the environment. Until we put the environment in place, how can we formulate our thoughts and plans? In strategic planning, we act as though we are responding to a demand from the environment; but, in fact,... we create the environment through our own strong intentions. Strategies should be ‘just-in-time…,supported by more investment in general knowledge, a large skill repertory, the ability to do a quick study, trust in intuitions, and sophistication in cutting losses’. In other words, we should concentrate on creating …resources that expand in potential until needed”. (Margaret Wheatley quoting Karl Weick in Leadership and the New Science, 1994, p. 37)

13 UNIVERSE AS HOLOGRAM “Acting locally allows us to work with the movement and flow of simultaneous events within that small system. We are more likely to become synchronised with that system and thus to have an impact. These changes in small places, however, create large system change, not because they build one upon the other, but because they share in the unbroken wholeness that has united them all along.” However, the nature and timing of these quantum shifts are unpredictable, creating a difficulty for managers held accountable for meeting short-term time deadlines. (Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science 1994, p. 42)

14 FIELDS INFLUENCE ACTION AT A DISTANCE In Newtonian physics, A had to directly influence B to cause an effect. In the quantum world, energy interacting with a field can cause an effect, even at great distance. “We need all of us out there, stating, clarifying, discussing modelling, filling all of space with the messages we care about. If we do that, fields develop - and with them, their wondrous capacity to bring energy into form… If we have not bothered to create a field of vision that is coherent and sincere, people will encounter other fields, the ones we have created unintentionally or casually. It is important to remember that space is never empty”. (Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science 1994, p. 56)

15 CHAOS IS HEALTH “All living systems, including organizations are chaotic. Chaos is creativity in process; the place between the breakdown of the old and the formation of the new. Living systems interact internally and with their environment; connections are made; relationships are formed; information is created; and ‘choices’ are made. This interaction is messy, constant and wasteful. Chaos is not the random, lawless, and meaningless behaviour it appears to be. Instead, chaos is stable globally and unpredictable locally... …Too much order and change will not cross impermeable boundaries. Too much chaos and the system loses its organization. Along this continuum of chaotic behaviour is a place called the ‘edge of chaos’; a location of maximized activity, balanced order and chaos, and enhanced creativity where new patterns, processes, and structures emerge from self-organization.” “Chaos” An ‘pamphlet’ by Tom Heuerman with Diane Olson, 1998

16 MANAGING CHAOS “In Chaos you cannot do, you cannot plan, you cannot reason to an end point. In Chaos, you can only be. “The 500-Year Delta” by Jim Taylor and Watts Wacker 1997, p.16

17 ACTING WITH INTEGRITY "Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it's the only thing". Albert Schweitzer "We must become the change we seek in the world". Mahatma Gandhi

18 THE ORGANISATION AS COMPLEX LIVING SYSTEM CAUSE-EFFECT LINKAGES ARE OFTEN UNKNOWABLE  The value of formal planning of actions is diminished  Planning for identity or being increases in importance CORPORATE “INTELLIGENCE” AND ADAPTIVENESS IS INCREASED BY INCREASING THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN PEOPLE AND FOSTERING INFORMATION FLOWS “LEADERSHIP” IS DISPERSED AND CHANGES WITH CONTEXT  Hierarchy becomes ineffective and breaks down CREATIVITY AND ADAPTIVENESS ARE GREATEST ON THE “EDGE OF CHAOS”

19 DEALING WITH COMPLEX SYSTEM PROBLEMS ENGAGE THE WHOLE SYSTEM -only participation saves us KEEP EXPANDING THE CIRCLE -Ask: “Who else should be involved?” CREATE ABUNDANT INFORMATION -and circulate it through existing and new channels DEVELOP QUALITY RELATIONSHIPS -trust is the greatest asset. SUPPORT ONLY COLLABORATION -competition destroys capacity FORGET BOUNDARIES AND TERRITORIES -push for openness everywhere FOCUS ON CREATING NEW, SUSTAINABLE SYSTEMS -there is no going back Source: “Turning to One Another: The Possibilities of Y2K” by Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers

20 QUANTUM LEADER AS STORY TELLER "Leaders achieve their effectiveness chiefly through the stories they relate....In addition to communicating stories, leaders embody those stories...[Great leaders] told stories...about themselves and their groups, about where they were coming from and where they were headed, about what was to be feared, struggled against, and dreamed about".... "Leaders and audiences traffic in many stories, but the most basic story has to do with issues of identity". Howard Gardner, "Leading Minds", 1995

21 THE POWER OF STORY THE POWER OF STORY Chris Noonan, Film-maker Talking on 2BL on 14 February 1996 on the making of the award winning Australian film "Babe" "We all fell in love with the story. Our faith in the strength of the story carried us through".

22 BILLION DOLLAR STORIES "Three senior executives gone, $2bn wiped off [BHP's] share price in two days” The Weekend Australian 5-10 August 1998, p. 57 "Prescott's $2.4bn resignation". "BHP's market value surged $2.4 billion yesterday after chief executive John Prescott resigned with a payout package estimated at $20 million". The Australian 5 March 1998, p.1

23 QUANTUM LEADER AS ECOLOGIST ESTABLISHING A CLEAR IDENTITY Clarifying shared vision and values through extensive dialogue Nurturing and embodying a culture that enables self-directed action Aligning purpose, strategy and systems DISTURBING THE SYSTEM - because living systems are most creative on "the edge of chaos" Creating audacious, inspiring, and unifying goals Ensuring the rich flow of information and feedback Promoting diversity and cross-fertilisation of opinion Allow anxiety, confusion about change to work its creative magic FOSTERING SELF-ORGANISATION Promoting ownership, commitment and self-reliance Nurturing a rich web of relationships Encouraging learning; trust; risk-taking; sharing ideas Nourishing the human spirit; engaging people's passion Adapted from Mark Youngblood, "Life at the Edge of Chaos: Creating the Quantum Organization" 1997

24 FLASHBACK: LEADER AS CONTROLLER OF ECONOMIC MACHINE DESIGNING AND BUILDING THE ORGANISATION Specifying job descriptions and authority levels Establishing formal channels of communication Assemble the required people and technology PLANNING THE WORK Strategic planning and objective setting Allocation of physical and financial resources Setting measurable job goals CONTROLLING THE WORK Close monitoring of activity and results Making corrections to system operation MANAGING “FIT” WITH EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT Monitoring the external environment Deciding what, when and how to change Providing competitive $ returns to shareholders


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