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Webinar - Understanding the complexity of business transformation and how to lift performance

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Published on 18th November 2021

​Thanks for hosting today’s webinar with Kieran Duck. I found it really valuable. His insights and presentation style ensure maximum engagement. His DT methods combined with traditional PM practices provided me with very useful tools to add to my kit bag. I love these educational sessions - ongoing learning and insight sharing among seasoned professionals is so valuable - Phillipa Lee, Attendee

Kieran Duck joined Watermark Search International – Interim Executive for a webinar on "Understanding the complexity of business transformation and how to lift performance". Kieran is an expert in this field and is an advisor and coach to senior leaders running complex projects and transforming organisations.

Transformations are complex. They are emergent, social undertakings that are full of opinions and unknowable elements. Trying to use standard approaches in transformation doesn’t work so Kieran suggests that a Design Thinking approach is much more effective.

Kieran spoke about the characteristics of complexity, why standard approaches don’t work, the value of a design driven toolkit and the skills in this toolkit that deliver in complexity. Read below to find out more.

The five characteristics of complexity in transformations

  • Subjective

  • Connected

  • Unknowable

  • Unique

  • Constrained

Why standard approaches don’t work

Using a standard toolkit applies the wrong mindset. It has a focus on certainty, predictability and control, wants to minimise ambiguity and plan and show progress. However, the characteristics of complexity, as mentioned above, get in the way of this. Due to this, we curtail ambition to something simple and achievable but this is not transformational!

We need a different toolkit to take into account these characteristics. Kieran suggests one that doesn’t tame the situation too quickly, looks for connections, understands opinions, copes with ambiguity and creates a greater sense of possibility. This is a design approach toolkit.

The value of a design approach toolkit

Design thinking has a strong alignment to the complexity characteristics mentioned above. Due to this overlap, Kieran created a model and approach to transformation based on this design thinking.
The approach is as below:

Mindsets – moving away from a mindset of certainty, predictability and control towards a mindset of curiosity, perspective and flexibility.

Practices – putting in place practices that don’t focus on scoping, planning, tracking and managing but on connecting, holding space, finding a way and responding to the situation.

Skills – moving from just planning, measuring and controlling towards a much more human-based approach of conversation, sense-making and adaption.

It is these skills that become valuable in transformation.

The skills required to deliver in complexity

There are three categories of skills required to deliver in complexity:

Conversation – understanding another’s reality and bringing forward a collective view. How to do this:

  • Ask good questions

  • Listen with intent

  • Draw for clarity

  • Share stories

Sense-making – gaining a deeper understanding and distilling what is important. How to do this:

  • Explore and discover

  • Make to break

  • Reframe for insight

  • Search for significance

Adaption – changing to match the evolving situation. How to do this:

  • Sense and respond

  • Rethink the approach

  • Coordinate action (lead!)

  • Create the context

Key takeaway message

Three things to do differently to deliver in transformation complexity:

  • Ask good questions – a good question provides the opportunity for someone to tell their story and can bring forward great insights

  • Make to break – there is more learning in understanding the modes of failure than proving you are right

  • Rethink the approach – be willing to consider if a different approach will overcome what stands in the way of delivery

A full recording of this webinar is below:

If you would like more information on our Interim Executive webinar series then please contact one of the team today

by Watermark