2. Improved Quality of Thinking Leads to Improved Outcomes

Agile Leaders value high-quality thinking which will result in meaningful action.

One of the main complaints in many organisations is that there isn’t enough time. As a result, people don’t give themselves adequate time to digest information between meetings as they rush from one to another and that’s why improved quality of thinking to improve outcomes is so critical to organisational success.

This lack of time affects the organisation in many ways; one of the key impacts of rushing is that many people go about the business of solving problems in exactly the ways that they have done in the past. However, the world in which business operates today is much more complex than ever before. Today the activities of problem solving and decision making require much more thought, both diagnosing the

problem and then crafting the solution.

We believe the effective Agile Leader embraces two complementary approaches:

1. Mindfulness

There are many advantages for leaders adopting a mindful approach . One is slowing down and building an awareness of “what is” happening rather than “what I think” is happening. Focusing attention more fully and completely on the external world (as opposed to the inner world of thoughts, emotions, and sensations) builds greater awareness of themes, emergent patterns, coincidences and so on. Organisations that embark on mindfulness programmes develop leaders who have:

  • Improved focus, concentration and clarity
  • More resilience and self confidence
  • A more accepting attitude
  • Increased self-control and ability to engage
  • Enhanced communication and relationship skills
  • Better decision-making abilities
  • As a result, mindful leaders develop empathy with their teams and the ability to inspire trust.

Before you leap to any conclusions about mindfulness or training the mind, watch this:

2. Complexity thinking and the Cynefin (pronounced kunev-in) framework

The diagram shows the Cynefin framework. This framework helps leaders to understand the context within which they seek to solve their problem and how to react accordingly. For instance, the right-hand quadrants are ordered, they are cause and effect relationships. Simple cause and effect is where the solution is self evident, predictable and repeatable.

By contrast, the complicated problem requires much thought and analysis because the solution isn’t self-evident. The left-hand quadrants are the unordered types of problems. Complex problems are not governed by cause and effect relationships as the results are quite often unrepeatable. Chaotic problems, like complex ones, are unordered but are also unpredictable.

As the diagram shows, the context of any problem has to be approached differently. For instance, change management as practiced in many organisations tends to follow the approach of Sense-Analyse-Respond. This approach relies on experts who understand the problem and can predict outcomes based on deep thinking.

This approach is flawed if applied to the complex domain where there are too many unknowns. Instead, the complex problem should be tested with many experiments (probing) to help move from unknown responses to known ones, i.e. to move parts of the problem back into the complicated space which has more predictability. This approach is in line with an Agile process to change as it recognises that “shift happens”.

As Henry Ford once said, “thinking is the hardest thing people do, that is why so few people do it.” Understand that down time and thinking time are critical not only to high performance but also to avoiding burnout, poor decision-making and poor performance.

Action Step:

Right now build at least 20 minutes per day into your diary for thinking time and mindfulness practice (there are hundreds of Apps available, or videos on YouTube or Vimeo). Put this time in your diary like an appointment and ideally earlier in the day when your mind is fresher. Your brain and your team will thank you for it.

Here is an example of a mindfulness video that helps you to switch off and  improves focus:

Click on the image below to download our quick reference guide

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