This week I co-facilitated a beautiful U journey with three countries’ leadership teams. When I reflected a bit on my experience during this journey, the analogy of the ball and the flatland came to mind. For me it is a nice way to represent perhaps the biggest leadership reframe as we’re transforming in a complex world.
I got this analogy when thinking about the novel <Flatland>, when everything on flatland is two-dimensional. Then one day a ball appeared, yet for those who are on the flatland they could only understand a circle because they’re not able to see another dimension. For the ball, it is only natural to move around freely in a three-dimensional world, while appearing on flatland as a circle. I first thought about this during the bottom of the u journey coming up, when one leader in the workshop brought up the topic of the value created by a leader. What is the value of me as a leader if I let go of my power and trust the organization and the system to do the right thing? That’s what I call a moment of the biggest leadership reframe, becoming the ball in this flatland analogy. Seeing the potential that previously couldn’t see when we’re in flatland.
Our workshop started with co-sensing and sharing on the left side of the U. Having mixed country leadership team sharing with each other, learning from each other’s transformation journey. I could feel the inquisitiveness in the space, people listening tentatively about their peers’ journeys. No surprises there are many similar challenges, patterns along the way. I would dare say many similar challenges on Agile transformation are not only limited in one company in different countries. Organizations from various industries are also experiencing similar challenges.
What I find most obvious is that when an organization is trying to transform itself from a tayoristic system to an adaptive organization with agility working principles, starting and doubling down on mindset is almost always most efficient and effective. Yet this is not enough, there must be systems thinking behind everything we do in a transformation effort. Processes, structures need to accompany the mindset effort in order to create systemic momentum. And in this process, many organizations might overlook the greatest reframe of leadership.
Gradually going through to the bottom of the U journey, topics of leadership started to emerge. In my particular group the topic of letting go or stepping in occurred. This naturally links to the flatland analogy. At some point I asked the question: what is the absolute worst that could happen. I could see that this question seemed to have landed with people rather with a heavy heart. Psychologically it might not be the most easy process for senior leaders to go to the place shining light on their fear. Yet one beautiful moment happened when someone said, perhaps the worst thing that could happen is not that when we let go and something got screwed up, it is the possibility of eroding trust if we don’t keep our word and truly empower the people. I love that moment.
Of course from a systemic perspective there is a lot of work on the system so that we could create space for a self-organized team. Yet, the sheer joy of hearing an enlightening comment from a senior leader is energizing. This is the first moment when I started using the analogy of flatland. The beauty of such great leadership reframe moments lies in the realization that as leaders, we could bring ourselves out of our mental model in the flatland, see the world in a different dimension. From this dimension, we’ll be able to realize that by creating the space to unleash human potential we’ll create values that we could not have realized in flatland. We’ll embrace a whole new world of leadership values that could bring many more enlightening moments to our work. All we need to do is to make that brave jump out of our flatland mental model.
If I bring this to a more concrete space to my current environment in the healthcare industry. If senior leaders could embrace the concept of self-organized teams, formed in an adaptive and networked system, then they will be able to relieve themselves from a tayloristic model to having energy to a role that looks at the entire healthcare ecosystem. With such swift changes happening in a COVID 19 world, imagine how much wisdom could be applied if we put energy into fostering an entire healthcare ecosystem that will ultimately benefit many many more patients.
This step is of course not easy, because this means letting go of something that we’re holding on to for so long, letting go of something that is proven useful that paved the way for my success. This is when the passion and purpose to serve the wider society could play a main role. And invite the purpose that is greater than ego to start a leadership reframe.
The workshop ended with some bold decisions for the group of senior leaders that I was accompanying. Seeing that they’re more comfortable to make bolder decisions compared to 4 days ago, this is a real change for my day.