‘I never lose. I either win or I learn.’ Nelson Mandela
During the summer of 2016, we were chosen by a leading business service organisation as the preferred provider for a leadership development and culture change initiative. A month later we lost the project.
In our team After Action Review, we realised our operating model was too loose and that there were a number of important pieces missing in the puzzle. During the twelve months that followed we built the processes needed to ensure we would never have to go through this experience again. We were determined to offer clients what they expected from an associate-led consulting model like ours: i.e. consistency, continuity and professionalism led by the company, and thought-leadership, creativity and imagination delivered by our consultants. We call this “Freedom within a framework”
We defined the capabilities needed from consultants joining our team, we evolved and refreshed our approach, we changed our structure and clarified our purpose, mission and values. We looked at our competitive landscape to clarify what our value proposition should be and what that meant in terms of our brand identity – corporate credibility with a human touch. Finally, we simplified our portfolio of services to three.
Since summer 2017, we’ve experimented with a way of working that emphasised speed (in response to client requests), consistency (in the application of our design and delivery principles) and excellence (in offering innovative learning methods and development experiences that lead to behavioural change and business impact, at the same time).
We also decided to part company with talented consultants who had been with us since inception, and brought new consultants, who combined strong capabilities and values, into the team. Centralising and consolidating our efforts was paying off. However, something was missing. Our plane had a pilot, a co-pilot and a crew member. What about the rest of our crew?
In Spring 2018, we hosted a team meeting – with current team members as well as prospective consultants – to share progress made and discuss our way forward. The guidance from our consultants was very clear: we needed to be more strategy-led in our consulting services and more inclusive in working with our team. In parallel to reviewing our services, we’ve started to include more consultants at an earlier stage of client conversations and keep them on board as Relationship Manager throughout the customer journey.
Some of today’s most urgent challenges facing organisations
While we rebuilt the plane in mid-air, the world continued to evolve. Our research and recent projects have centred on the three biggest challenges leaders will face over the next 20 years¹:
- The need for executive teams to operate as ‘a real team’ rather than a set of independent functional experts is THE most pressing human capital issue facing organizations today (Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2018)
- The increasing pace of change led by the technological and digital revolutions
- “Uber-isation” (the threat of whole industries embracing a whole new mode of operating without intermediaries)
Challenges which are to be taken up in the context of a changing workforce expected to constantly adapt and learn faster. This frenetic pace can impact performance as the time for reflection and self-reflection – key to good performance – are sacrificed². Being out of the office no longer offers a respite as digital technologies make it possible to work from anywhere with the associated expectation of always being available, putting a clear strain on mental wellbeing
Digital is omnipresent. The automation of routine and complex work activities puts an even greater emphasis on the need for human skills, especially empathy, integrity, deep listening and conversations, at every level of organisations. Whilst collaboration is seen as a critical skill in the digital era some employees are found to be suffering from work loneliness, triggering emotional withdrawal from their organisation and impacting their performance in team tasks and overall³.
Millennials are often associated with the recent rise of ‘meaningful’ work and Deloitte’s 2016 report, Aligning the organisation for its digital future, found they believe climate change is one of the most significant challenges organisations face, in stark contrast to the 90% of businesses who feel the threats to their operating model top the list.
The challenges and opportunities available for the future leadership of every organisation are abundant, and to make matters worse there is no time to spare.
Understanding the role of leadership in today’s world
At Accelerance, we believe the key to addressing these challenges lies in leadership and how organisations – i.e. systems – work. Our role – and our promise – is to help your company succeed by developing the leadership capability and culture required for today’s meta-modern (i.e. abstract) world.
For this reason, we wanted to reconnect with you, share the journey we’ve been on this past two years and let you know how we can help you, now.
In addition to the new services mentioned above, we now offer new research-led expertise in developing 21st Century leadership skills including Critical Thinking, Collective Intelligence, Authentic Leadership and Learning Ability.
We also know how to optimise self-directed and collaborative learning. Through our own research, we have discovered how to harness digital learning methodologies in executive and leadership development.
Evolving our business model hasn’t come without obstacles, difficult decisions or doubt. We’ve had to let go of old ways of working and thinking so we could embrace a new approach, and dream a new dream! One belief “kept us centred” throughout the journey..: That by understanding and adapting to the world that leaders face, we can better deliver what they and their organisations really need.
Thanks for reading our article. If you’d like to find out more about our services, email us at [email protected]
¹Tomorrow’s Leadership and the Necessary Revolution in Today’s Leadership Development, Prof. Hawkins, Henley Business School, 2017 https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/assets.henley.ac.uk/legacyUploads/pdf/exec-ed/Research_Report_-_Tomorrow_s_Leadership_and_the_Necessary_Revolution_in_Today_s_Leadership_Development.pdf
²Making Experience Count: The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning, HEC and Harvard Business School, 2014 https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2414478
³Work Loneliness and Employee Performance, research from California State University and the Wharton School, 2011 https://faculty.wharton.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Work_Loneliness_Performance_Study.pdf