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TTI - Issue #51 The Times are A-Changin: Context, Leadership & Bob

Elizabeth M. Lembke - Chief Talent Navigator (HR Consultant)
Elizabeth M. Lembke - Chief Talent Navigator (HR Consultant)
Principles over Process? That is what is behind “Unlocking Real Work” and the insights from the productivity gains in 2020 - despite or perhaps even due to the beyond-VUCA-whirlwind that we find ourselves in.
As we look to our leadership imperatives in our changed context, we can heed some helpful advice from Bob…

Or maybe it will? Principles Over Process - taking chances, having gumption.
Or maybe it will? Principles Over Process - taking chances, having gumption.
“Cooperate Flexibly” this past year of 2020 has brought many things to light as to how we work, how we get work done, and what we do to collaborate as real people working not only to secure our livelihood - but also of course, our lives.
Our good sides, our scrapes, and our bruises have been brought to more than one video screen this year as we have all shown our mad juggling skills. The realities of living in a beyond VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) COVID-19 Era World were brought home like Beyoncé’s Christmas gift to her inner circle e.g. a bit of irony, wrought in a lot of real connection, and intention to focus on what is important (teaser alert: joy).
While this year has brought some incredibly hard lessons - both emotionally, fiscally, and socially - it has also brought with it a broader opening to question what is - and what could be - and the role that real leadership plays in applying these lessons.
The incredible flux capacitor that was 2020 challenged a lot of the command and control paradigms over the course of the year. The proverbial light came on when it came to intention-based leadership ála “oh, we hired adults - let’s treat them as such”.
The lessons from L. David Marquet, Jocko Willink, and Leif Babin, out of the military towards a “leader-leader"mentality instead of a "leader-follower” gained a larger fellowship outside of the podcast groupies. Adding meat to the lessons taught to us by Le Petit PrinceIf you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea”(Antoine De Saint‐Exupery) to foster ownership, controlling one’s ego to be able to truly learn, and collaborate.
Much of the fluff, pomp, and circumstance in business is seeming to fall more and more to the wayside as more and more, as the lessons taught by Bob Dylan  “the times they are a-changin” are sinking into the broader awareness around how our context of the work we do and why has changed.
In fact, more and more companies are embracing simple, “we hire adults” types of principles to better approach complexity to be more adaptive organizations. An excellent example of this is, of course, Netflix who ascribe to two main principles: Freedom & Responsibility:
  • As We Grow, Minimize Rules.
  • Inhibit Chaos with Ever More High Performance People.
  • Flexibility is More Important than Efficiency in the Long Term
“The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control their people”.
Pretty simple to say - bold to execute.
In fact, the Netflix Culture Statement continues with the statement
“Managers: When one of your talented people does something dumb, don’t blame them. Instead, ask yourself what context you failed to set.”
In this day and age, you do not as a leader or team member want to hear “because you told me to” or “that is the process”.
In short, because those are the antithesis statements to enabled ownership, taking the space to rethink, and flexible collaboration.
Companies are understanding that if processes are no longer fit-for-purpose, they need to be put into question or thrown out the window, so that the focus is on truly value-added work.
In fact, according to BCG, “the the challenges posed by the pandemic have revealed considerable untapped potential that can be captured by any organization to achieve major improvements in productivity and performance”. In the according research summary to bolster that statement, Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman say that
“…over the past-half century, business complexity—the proliferation of multiple (and sometimes conflicting) performance requirements—has multiplied roughly sixfold.
To manage complexity, companies typically create new organizational structures, roles, processes, and systems; ever more elaborate matrix organizations; and new metrics, KPIs, and scorecards to track progress against these multiple objectives.
The paradoxical result is an explosion in organizational complicatedness.
During the same period that complexity was increasing by a factor of 6, organizational complicatedness in response to complexity was increasing by a factor of 35 times—or roughly the square of complexity.
Metastasizing complicatedness has taken a significant toll on organizations. It is a serious obstacle to real (genuinely value-adding) work, and as such is a major cause of stagnant productivity in many developed economies….
In this process of adjusting to a radically new situation, much of the complicatedness of the traditional work environment melted away, creating space for people to reset and refocus on the nuts and bolts of value-adding work.
The lockdown unlocked real work.”
At the end of 2020 and transitioning into 2021, we can take some keen advice from Bob as we look to how we are dealing with complexity, giving our people freedom and responsibly as adults, and focusing on what really makes a difference in value-added work:
Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times, they are a-changin’
Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times, they are a-changin’
No matter what form work will continue as be it hybrid, flex, with a commute, with or without homeschooling - how are we unlocking real work and moving away from the complicatedness that grew over time. By allowing ourselves the bravery to strike through what is no longer fit for purpose and reassess our value-streams, what our customer’s users actually need, and what makes for a great workplace, we can look to thrive and adapt in complex times, rather than stall-out under the burdens of organizational complicatedness.
For the times, they are a-changin´.
"Adults, Please"
Learning from Netflix: How to Build a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility
How Netflix Reinvented HR
‎Jocko Podcast: The Debrief w/ Jocko and Dave Berke #8: Getting The Team to Perform When the Leader Is Not Around on Apple Podcasts
Leading in Complexity: "Break it down for me, fellas"
Turn the Ship Around | L. David Marquet | Talks at Google
You’re Not Powerless in the Face of Uncertainty
A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making
Asking Better Questions
The World We Are In Now
How the Lockdown Unlocked Real Work | BCG
The Age Of Community Capitalism
Finding simplicity in chaos: Beyond VUCA — People Matters
TTI Question: How has your own leadership shifted this year?
This edition comes on the heels of an awesome interview I did as part of #RCIRCLE Talks To series with my friend, mentor and overall one of my favorite people, Tom Klein. (Find the talk here). The conversation ranges from the application of psychology and politics in business, obliquity in approaching what we want to achieve, word associations that get in the way of what we want to truly accomplish (e.g. lean or agile, anybody?), Gordon Gecko as a business school guru, and bad puns in regards to organizational development. We had a lot of fun and I look forward to your feedback!
Please so let me know what further interview topics or guests you would like to see on #RCIRCLE!
If the topic of leading in complex times or organizational development is a topic that is relevant for you and your team, I am happy to pop on a call to dive into deeper.
All of my very best regards,
Liz Lembke
Chief Talent Navigator at Transforming Talent
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Elizabeth M. Lembke - Chief Talent Navigator (HR Consultant)
Elizabeth M. Lembke - Chief Talent Navigator (HR Consultant) @elizabethlembke

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Elizabeth Lembke, Transforming Talent Consulting: and