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Agility

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In times of uncertainty and change, what is good leadership differs from how to lead routine work in steady conditions. The first step is to understand how the difference between technical and adaptive challenges. Because it is in the very problem definition phase that a leader goes wrong.

Is it a technical or an adaptive challenge? Why people sometimes get it wrong to identify challenges and solutions in times of change and uncertainty.

As an Executive Coach, I get to work with some brilliant people. These people are leaders in multinational corporations. Most of them have very strong technical skills, which made them successful and brought them to the leadership position that they are in now. In this regard, despite their unique personalities and trait, I believe they are rather representative of most executives.

Are you more interested in reading in Danish? Then you can find the article here.

Closing the gaps?

For many leaders, minimising risk and uncertainty is imperative, or at least, is at the core of leadership. Sometimes the solution involves hiring consultants that can provide a detailed step-by-step process with the objective of closing the gaps. But this doesn’t always work, especially not now. No one really knows where things are going in these times of great uncertainty and it can be rather unproductive to take a technical approach to something that is really an adaptive challenge.   

The hardest thing is not to learn new ways, but to unlearn what used to be the right thing to do.

Is your challenge technical or adaptive?

There is a difference between technical and adaptive challenges. It’s really important to understand how these differ to lead in uncertainty, solve the challenges, and be agile.

Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky, researchers at Harvard University, identified two types of challenges in change: adaptive and technical challenges. 

Read the Danish version of the article here.

There is no innovation without agility. I am not talking about agile methods, but agility as a mindset. When I started working with innovation back in 2008, innovation was nice to have. Today, most leaders confront a situation where innovation is need to have and many have experienced the difficulties actually turning innovation ideas and projects into business value and tangible results.

Learning to access more agility is the answer to several of the challenges that leaders confront in the face of everyday change, innovation, new technology and stress. You can try to work more agile, but if you do not increase your individual agility, it is difficult for your organisation to actually become agile.

You may be familiar with the leader who ended an otherwise successful project to minimise risks. This was simply because there were too many unknown factors which were too difficult to predict and too potentially challenging of an outcome to control. Perhaps, you have made a similar decision.

In a stable environment, this is definitely the right thing to do. This is the type of environment where you can anticipate customer behaviour 18 months or more ahead, where you are not in danger of being disrupted, where you are not threatened by stress or new technology, and where success is created by doing the same thing as usual. Yet, in a constantly changing and unpredictable environment, being agile is needed and necessary.

This article is about developing your agility and leadership.

Navigating uncertainty with coolness, keeping a calm mind, being fearless and dealing with any discomfort you experience – this is what it feels like to be agile. Lars van Hauen is Chief Innovation Officer of E.On. Denmark, a European energy company with 43,000 employees. As an innovation leader and officer, I consider Lars to be more agile and innovative than 95% of other leaders I know. With tips from Lars, I will share what it means to be agile and how to develop your agility and leadership.

Agility and leadership advice from the agile and innovation leader, Lars