Ideas and Insights


Emerge – Emergency – Emergence

Origins

The 3 words in the title of this short paper, have floated through many conversations and dialogues of which I have been part over the last month.  They have lodged in my mind, and helped me in my thinking about my work, personal, community and global futures.

The root word emerge, originated in Middle French (mid 16thC) – émerger, and came directly from Latin, emergere – bring forth, bring to light.

 When I consulted the OED, the definitions included,

“move out of or away from something and become visible”

“recover from a difficult situation”.

Both these aptly describe the current situation of a Coronavirus emerging around the world – moving away from its original host species and becoming visible to the human species. Talk has also focused very much on ‘recovery from a difficult situation’ – how will we emerge?

From emerge comes the word emergency – a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action”.  Clearly again an appropriate word to describe the COVID-19 events.

Emergence: a useful concept for leaders

It is the words emergence or emergent that are of most interest. These words and the concept associated with them find a home in the field of complexity science. Emergence describes,

the way complex systems and patterns arise out of multiplicity of relatively simple interactions’  Lewin & Regine (2000) The Soul at Work

In a recent paper Paul O’Neill and Tim Dalmau described the OODA loop, a practical application of this concept – that is in an iterative process – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. As more information and understanding unfolds, and we absorb and reflect on it we decide what is the best step to take based on what we know in the moment. Then we step back and observe again to see the impact of our small step and decide based on this the next actions or steps to be taken.

In times of emergency, when the situation is complex, rather than immediately jumping to problem-solving or creating a plan to address the situation, a more effective approach is to create conditions for emergence and allow the future or solutions to emerge.

As D’Auria & DeSmet of Mc Kinsey say

What leaders require in a crisis is not a pre-defined response plan but behaviors and mindsets that will prevent them from over reacting to yesterday’s developments and help them look ahead

To me, one of the most important applications of an understanding of emergence is to allow solutions to unfold rather than push for answers too quickly.

We know that in any crisis or catastrophe 12 different aspects come into the foreground and drive a social system’s response. These are well documented in a recent article by Tim Dalmau. They are an apt description of emergence in action, and they will arise whether intended or not. But knowing they will emerge is different form creating the conditions for them to emerge and fostering them once they do.

In the words of Roger Lewin and Birute Regine (2000) we need to create conditions for constructive emergence rather than try to plan in detail our way out of the emergency.

They identify the 3 key conditions as

  1. nurturing the formation and creativity of teams
  2. evolving solutions to problems – not designing them
  3. moving from command and control to distributed influence and flat organizational structure

To what might leaders pay attention?

What one pays attention to is determined by so many factors too numerous to list, but is expressed in what types of decisions we make, what we focus upon in making those decisions and what we believe to be a priority.

To foster emergence in a time of crisis, first and most important, is the nurturance, formation and creativity of teams to develop a shared purpose.

“In order to be adaptable, people need freedom for maximum flexibility, but with freedom comes a need for an even stronger sense of direction” (Lewin & Regine, 2000 p273). 

Building on this leaders might also give priority to,

  • developing and maintaining a strong sense of mutuality, urgency and care
  • encouraging and improving the diversity within teams of both people and ideas
  • creating a sense of openness and providing opportunities for people to learn and participate
  • fertilizing connections between people and parts of the system (other teams, resources, external groups etc)
  • creating a safe space for people to express opinions and pursue their goals
  • encouraging, supporting and showing appreciation.

I and my colleagues have been part of number of weekly conversations for the last 8 weeks with individuals from across the globe. These gatherings share many of the characteristics described above, and the creativity, work and actions that have arisen from these are simply astounding.

You cannot create such emergence (and the consequent results) without listening attentively, being authentic, speaking from the heart – not just the mind and being prepared to put on the table and discuss things that had previously been taboo. It is a very sad but unfortunate fact that for some, such behaviors will be new.

Time and time again in these global meetings we are finding the more information is both available and shared the more focused, practical. relevant and realistic are the actions that follow – at first glance this may seem like a paradox, but the availability and sharing of all information (facts, data, assumptions, feelings and beliefs) is critical in times of crisis or catastrophe.

In fact, in so called normal times, they are equally valuable and the leader who acknowledges and values the behavior of others, who shares information openly, who fosters self-organizing, connecting and collaborating along with accountability will thrive in times of crisis. Not without its challenges it requires they too are accountable for their organization or team and its results. At the same time they must be able to live with paradox, ambiguity, contradictions and uncertainties, encourage experimentation, and value failures and mistakes: no small order but a profoundly satisfying and useful one.

What can leaders actually do to foster emergence?

Leaders can operate at 4 different levels or domains in order to be more effective in an emergency or crisis. These are

  • whole organization
  • across teams within the organization (network or ‘team of teams’)
  • within a team
  • the individual (one-on-one)

Organization prioroties:

  • Leaders simply cannot share enough information and provide enough background context frequently and freely – fostering whole-of-organization transparency will reap huge gains in times of emergency: video broadcasts, town hall meetings, email and “Microsoft Teams” publications, etc
  • Create central rapid response teams that assist in implementing the networking of teams, the “team of teams” approach
  • Ensure and rearticulate time and time again purpose and goals that are understood and shared across the organization
  • Promote psychological safety – where anyone can speak up and say what is on their mind without fear or retribution

Networking and connecting teams across the organization:

  • Create a robust network of crisis response teams that is empowered to operate outside the current hierarchy and bureaucratic structures of the organization
  • These teams need to be creative and adaptable, united by a common purpose – where they use the OODA loop and act fast
  • Promote understanding across all in the organization but especially in the and between teams of the new decision-making architecture and where new accountabilities lie
  • Refer to Chris Fussell’s, One Mission: how leaders build a team of teamfor many more practical suggestions and examples of how to make this happen

Within a team:

  • Ensure each leader of a team has strong personal abilities to be optimistic, remain calm, inspire confidence, has the quality of humility and knows how to frame good questions (not jump to solutions)
  • Promote multi-disciplinary groupings that are collaborative and where expertise is fostered
  • Once the team is established and is clear on its purpose and goals get out of the way and let them get on with the work
  • Allow teams to re-organize and self-organize as they go. In other words, your task is to let go, be hands off and create the bowl in which they can self-organize

With individuals:

  • Listen attentively and seek to understand
  • Offer assistance, support and guide – don’t direct
  • Demonstrate empathy
  • Re-assert context frequently

Jill Tideman

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You don’t need to be an expert: practical ways to help employees with mental health issues

We know that globally one in five people (20%) suffer some sort of mental health problems at least sometime during their life. Therefore it is likely in most families and work groups that there will be people with mental health issues. In working with many leaders and managers one of the major concerns that is increasingly verbalized is how to best to approach and help people in their team who are suffering some sort of mental health issue. Clearly and thankfully awareness as to the prevalence and seriousness of mental health as a workplace issue has risen enormously in the last 10 years, but still many feel ill-equipped to know where to start of what to do if someone they work with is showing signs of poor mental health.

Recently I listen to Jim Al Khalili, on one of my very favourite podcast series A Life Scientific, from BBC Radio 4 talk with Peter Fonagy on his life, career and contribution to mental health care.  Like many people who make outstanding contributions to our lives and well-being, Peter has suffered very much in his early life. Indeed, he says that it only through having experienced trauma which personally caused him significant mental health problems, that he was able to make such a contribution.

Read more…
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Responding to catastrophe

In times of crisis or catastrophe there are some among us who expect leaders to act quickly with informed decisive action and one simple stable message. This primitive expectation ignores the complex reality of chaos caused by the event at hand and totally ignores fluid and moment to moment changes in reality.

Tim has prepared a short paper on what we know from how social systems behave in a time of crisis. Click here to download your copy

Tim Dalmau

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Assessing team development needs – Handbook #3

The third handbook in a series on Team Development gives you guidance in how to assess your team’s development needs.

In the previous Handbook,  #2 a nine-dimensional framework was outlined to provide a structure for your approach. In this handbook there is an approach suggested for determining what are the priority areas for focus are for your team.

Just enter your details below to receive your free copy of the handbook, Assessing team development needs.

 

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Review: One Mission: How leaders build a team of teams

One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams, by Chris Fussell and C.W. Goodyear published in 2017, follows on from the highly successful book, Team of Teams, that Chris co-authored with General Stanley McChrystal and others in 2015. General McChrystal, was commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) whose last assignment was commanding all U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. He is currently a senior fellow at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and co-founder of the McChrystal Group, a leadership consulting firm where Chris Fussell and C.W Goodyear are his colleagues.

Generally, I would not be attracted to a management book written by military men, whose ideas are rooted in their military experience. I know this says more about me and my biases, but my assumption was that the military experience is very different from the corporate and organizational world – and I was sceptical of the relevance to that world. I eventually picked it up to read on the recommendation of my colleague, Tim Dalmau, whose judgement in this area I respect. Read more…

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Team development: a guide

Teams are the core operational unit of all organizations – no matter how small or large. Forming, building and sustaining functional and high performing teams is at the heart of managers' roles, and yet is a constant dilemma for them – how to effectively develop teams?

 To assist, here is the first in a series of handbooks or guides for team development. It provides an introduction to what makes effective team development. Over the coming months, additional handbooks will be available that will provide a framework and practical activities and approaches to help you build a flourishing and performing team.

Just enter your email address below to receive your free copy of the Team Development Guide

Jill Tideman

 

 

 

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Lessons from geese

Life is not a solo activity. It is an act of co-creation with all those with whom we interact over the course of a life time. No less in organizations with those with whom we work, as in any other sphere of life.

As we were reflecting on the learnings we have collected over the years, a number stand out and one is the metaphor based on geese flying in formation. An oldie, but a goodie, as they say. We share this again for the messages and learnings are timeless. The source is unknown.  They are simple truths which resonate with our experience and that of many of our clients

“As each bird flaps its’ wings, it creates an uplift for geese following. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.”

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because the are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay with those who are headed in the direction we want to go, and be willing to accept their help as well as to give our help to the others.

When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into formation and another goose flies at the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and share leadership. People, as well as geese, are dependent upon each other.

The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging, and not something else.

When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down it honks for help and two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help protect it. They stay with the sick goose until it is able to fly again or it dies. Then they launch out on their own, or with another formation, or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we too will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong …. and honk when we need help!”

Unknown source

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Creating psychological safety in teams

I get to work with teams and groups of all shapes and sizes; from dusty mining crews, to cool urbane executive teams and all in between.  You do not need to be with them long to get a sense of how well the members of the team gel. In other words, the level of trust in the group.

Back in 2013, Steve Zuieback wrote an article, Trust: Cause, Effect or Process, building on the work of Jack Gibb. His Trust Cycle shows 6 steps or actions, that if repeated builds trust in teams. These include,

  • Sharing critical information
  • Experiencing openness
  • Experience more trust
  • Commit to common work
  • Learn as you go
  • Create and document results

In addition to these, my colleague Tim Dalmau often talks about “creating safety” in groups. By this he means psychological safety.

Psychological safety means that there is certainty (in terms of behaviors and decisions by those in power) and people feel safe. Read more…

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Tips for improving contributions in meetings

Click here for a copy of some tips to help you make better contributions in meetings, enhancing the overall quality, effectiveness and efficiency of  meetings in which you participate.

Related Ideas and Insights articles are Breathing 101 and Go Visual!

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Leading teams to be their best

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Leading teams to be their best

Tim Dalmau and Michael Grinder will conduct a workshop in Adelaide for people who seek to lead teams to perform at their very best,  March 9th  – 10th, 2016 in Adelaide.

Would you like to get your group or team working collaboratively, be innovative, deal with conflict, be aligned and cohesive? Above all, would like to help them to perform at their very best?

Tim Dalmau and Michael Grinder will again conduct a special training event.. This time you will learn ways you can get the best from your team.

This training is for you if you are a leader, executive, educator, middle manager or supervisor who leads a team of people.

You will have the opportunity to work on your own specific needs under the guidance and skill of both Michael Grinder and Tim Dalmau

This is not a workshop of theory, but practical how to’s. Read more…

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Buy Tim & Steve’s Book

''A truly useful and practical book'' Rich Shapiro, EY

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