Learning at the Speed of Change
“Living with paradox is like riding a seesaw. If you know how the process works, and if the person at the other end also knows, then the ride can be exhilarating. ... If we know how and why things work, we can live with the ups and downs, knowing opposites are necessary to one another"
- Charles Handy, The Age of Paradox (1994)
It is an understatement to say that organizations are experiencing more change than ever before. In fact, most people are finally getting used to the idea that constant change is a part of living and working within organizations. What is less understood is how to work within the uncertainty, instability, confusion, and loss of control that accelerating change creates.
To deal with the conditions that change creates, leaders use all of the skills, knowledge, and experience that they have at their disposal. However, when they try to fix problems, they can make problems worse than they were in the first place. Then, people ask themselves questions to try to make sense of the resulting confusion: “What is going on? What are we doing wrong? Why can’t we make things better? Why do our fixes not work?” Common answers to these questions are even less helpful: “It’s their fault! We didn’t have enough time or resources to do it right! We didn’t get any help! We should have known what to do!”
The reason that leaders fail to solve these complex problems has little to do with being smart enough to deal with accelerating change. It has more to do with not being smart in a way that works when the degree of complexity is so high. Nothing that they have learned in the past has prepared them to deal with increasing complexity and the change that it creates. Unless leaders think and act differently, they will continue to struggle with problems they cannot seem to solve.
If organizations are to match the speed of change, or, perhaps, to slow it down and to change its direction, leaders need completely different approaches to dealing with complexity. Leadership Through Learning (LTL) is a program that features these approaches - ways of thinking and acting that enables everyone in an organization to solve real problems in real time, and to create the resilience required to deal with complexity and change. The program is an integrated set of diagnostic and learning approaches that work together to help leaders to make informed decisions and take effective action in real time.