Agility: How to Navigate the Unknown and Seize Opportunity in a World of Disruption

Agility: How to Navigate the Unknown and Seize Opportunity in a World of Disruption

by Leo M. Tilman and Gen. Charles Jacoby (Ret.)

“The need for agility in business, government and warfare arises precisely from the uncertainty and complexity of the competitive environment.”

I imagine both co-authors of Agility have some battle scars—Tilman from Bear Stearns during the 2008 financial industry crisis and Jacoby from his career in the U.S. Army where he achieved the rank of 4-star general. Kidding aside, this book goes beyond military metaphors and presents a fusion of military and business thinking about risk intelligence and uncertainty as well as a leadership approach that emphasizes truth (as opposed to assumptions), trust, clear communication, and executional dexterity throughout the organization.

Complex adaptive systems “are constantly changing and evolving. They lack centralized control. They are inhabited by a multitude of stakeholders driven by distinct objectives, risk tolerances and modes of operation. These players interact in dynamic tension with one another, alternating between the urge to recoil from and engage in risk-taking and aggression. Their actions and adaptations lead to entirely unpredictable patterns and outcomes.” Continue reading “Agility: How to Navigate the Unknown and Seize Opportunity in a World of Disruption”

Rethinking Risk Management: Critically Examining Old Ideas and New Concepts

Rethinking Risk Management: Critically Examining Old Ideas and New Concepts

by Rick Nason

Rick Nason challenges the status quo of risk management which mindlessly follows third-party frameworks and does too little independent thinking. He argues that risk management acts as “The Department of No” while ignoring upside risk. He envisions risk management as a strategic player in value creation rather than a cost center.

“Defining risk management as increasing the probability and magnitude of good risk while decreasing the probability and severity of bad risk implies balance, and risk management is nothing if not an exercise in balance. It is a balance between art and science, process and judgment.” Continue reading “Rethinking Risk Management: Critically Examining Old Ideas and New Concepts”

Organize for Complexity

Organize for Complexity: How to get life back into work to build the high-performance organization

by Niels Pflaeging

“As we have seen, the world has already changed—high complexity in value creation has become the norm.” This book proposes a cell-based organizational structure (Beta) better suited to a complex, unpredictable world than the traditional hierarchical system (Alpha).  Continue reading “Organize for Complexity”

Humble Inquiry

Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

by Edgar H. Schein

Retired MIT Sloan School of Management professor Edgar Schein asserts, “Without good upward communication, organizations can be neither effective nor safe… Your organization may be underperforming because various employees or groups do not recognize the degree to which they are, in fact, interdependent.” The gist of this book is about creating a trusting environment with open communication across hierarchical boundaries. This entails less telling, more asking, and better listening.

“The U.S. culture is strongly built on the tacit assumptions of pragmatism, individualism, and status through achievement… Given those cultural biases, doing and telling are inevitably valued more than asking and relationship building. However, as tasks become more complex and interdependent, collaboration, teamwork, and relationship building will become more necessary. That, in turn, will require leaders to become more skilled in humble inquiry.”

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Simple Complexity: a Management Book for the Rest of Us, a Guide to Systems Thinking

Simple Complexity: a Management Book for the Rest of Us, a Guide to Systems Thinking

by William Donaldson

This book provides the cure for myopic management. It is about applying the principles of complexity and systems thinking to management. “Every organization is a system—in fact, a system of systems, perfectly designed to get the results it is getting today… Systems thinking is the unifying discipline that brings clarity to all of the other disciplines at work in your enterprise… The key, defining concept of systems thinking to remember is that nothing in the system is ever unconnected.”

Donaldson emphasizes the importance of context. “You have to ensure everyone has shared mental models of the enterprise and its management system… Remembering that context can enhance learning and comprehension by 50-100 percent, you must give employees context for both the part of the system they play a role in and the whole system.”

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Using Systems Thinking to Solve Real-World Problems

Using Systems Thinking to Solve Real-World Problems

by Jamie P. Monat and Thomas F. Gannon

“Systems thinking focuses on the relationships among system components and the interactions of the system with its environment, as opposed to focusing on the components themselves… Those relationships typically dominate the behavior of systems.” As an antidote to myopia, systems thinking takes a holistic and integrative approach.

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It’s Not Complicated: The Art and Science of Complexity in Business

It’s Not Complicated: The Art and Science of Complexity in Business

by Rick Nason

This book may fundamentally change the way you think. Or it may give you a framework to understand why you intuitively know that conventional management practices are sometimes incongruent with reality.

“This book is about systems thinking, and more specifically the important distinction between simple, complicated, and complex systems as applied to common business problems… The world of business is usually complex rather than complicated. That may seem like word play, but the difference between ‘complicated thinking’ and ‘complexity thinking’ is profound. This important distinction is well accepted in the scientific community but is virtually unknown in business.” Nason explains, “The ability to manage complexity is the key to competitive advantage.”

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