EZC.Partners

“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging”. Joseph Campbell

With the world becoming more volatile, more uncertain, more complex and ambiguous, personal and organizational life has become more than a just a small challenge.

How to respond to an increasingly complex, volatile and uncertain world is the primary challenge facing today’s CEOs. With all this uncertainty comes ambiguity – something a surprising number of CEOs feel ill equipped to handle.

At EZC.Partners, we help people, leaders, CEOs, managers and other professionals to navigate these challenges efficiently, successfully, and elegantly.

Do you recognize any of these symptoms?

In a personal or team domain
  • lack of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, inattention to results (team dysfunctions)
  • missing a sense of purpose
  • unhealthy competition and infighting
  • bad communication
  • a felt sense of overwhelm
  • workloads are too high or too complex
  • bumping against questionable rules
  • little investment in capacity building or leadership development
  • missing impact, power and alignment in personal reality (job, relationship)
  • uncertainty in transition periods
Leadership
  • complexity gap: leaders feel overwhelmed with the complexity of the job
  • Leaders feel in over their heads
  • they get bad support in transition or promotions
  • find it hard to communicate to direct reports or bosses
  • find it hard to make decisions when outcomes can’t be predicted
Organizational Culture 
  • lack of trust in teams and across hierarchies
  • ‘the way we work around here keeps pain alive’
  • mismatch between espoused values and lived culture
  • inattention to results
  • group cohesion instead of coherence
  • culture is not tended to but has crept in
  • culture is not made conscious or explicit
  • ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’
System and Governance 
  • high artificial complexity caused by inflexible structures and hierarchies
  • inadequate structures for 21st century organisations
  • having to follow or to administer rules that add to artificial complexity
  • gaming the system and workarounds
  • pushback from clients or staff
  • resistance to change
  • lack of innovation and creativity

We regard these phenomena as natural tensions in organizations and, in many cases, as tensions bearing vital information and opportunities for growth and development.

We offer relief and support:

 

 

Vertical Development

“Seeking the ideal has a long history, it produces many saints but few paradigm changes”. Dave Snowden

We work with developmental models and find them helpful in many ways, especially when working with leadership development. We draw on models from different researchers, such as Susanne Cook-Greuter (ego development), Bill Torbert (action logics), Robert Kegan (orders of consciousness and immunity to change) or Theo Dawson and her team (Lectica/LDMA).

We work with developmental models where they are adequate in order to cope with ever increasing complexity in the VUCA world. We don’t focus on teaching people to think at “higher levels”. “Higher levels of performance emerge when knowledge is adequately elaborated and the environment supports higher levels of thinking and performance. We focus on helping people to think better at their current level and challenging them to elaborate their current knowledge and skills”  (Theo Dawson).

We support people through working on building fundamental skills, like the ability to feel, the ability to direct one’s attention, to dis-identify from previously held viewpoints and identities, the ability to integrate projections and shadow material.  This work is directed inwards, bottom-wards, lateral, around, but not “up”. In this sense, vertical development can be a peculiar by-product and result of this kind of work. Often, we have found that an over-emphasis of vertical development as “growth” is often both counter-productive and partial.

This is why we hold “developmental logics” lightly, as so many people are mistaking vertical development for the ‘growth to goodness” and the ‘ladder of development’ for the only way how people learn, which is isn’t. Also, we are a bit suspicious of the promise of vertical development leading to greater success in both business and life. We don’t find real evidence for that correlation.

Teaching people at any level to gain awareness around their personal patterns and the ability to dis-identify with unreflected identities is the key for us.

This also has some implications for organisational development. This kind of work is fantastic for personal and leadership development, but the approach of “one consciousness at the time” doesn’t scale so well.

This is why we complement our development work with other approaches. We work with our clients to enable them to work in and with human systems and manage complexity and uncertainty. We work building capacities that enable them to participate fully and authentically in value creation and in organizational life with emergent outcomes and behaviors. We also work with approaches that engage employees and staff members of entire teams, departments, companies or communities. Read up on this approach here.

“Follow the intensity of your resistance down to its source and sure enough you will find a treasure.”

With transformation work, encountering and overcoming resistances is an intrinsic part of the game. In coaching and facilitating transformative change, people naturally face stages of resistance, fear and confusion. This will inevitably trigger escape and protection mechanisms of the Self system that come in a multitude of shapes, sizes and flavours.

Many of these take the form of well-rehearsed identities (e.g. spiritual identities, cynical attitudes, attack of coach or method, sudden shift of priorities) that are designed to ‘protect’ the coachee from the suspected pain of re-owning deeper lying disassociated parts (shadows). These defence mechanisms can easily sabotage the transformative process. In many cases, people are not aware of these phenomena, but rather strongly identified with them. Kegan and Lahey (2009) define this as “Immunity to Change”, a “hidden commitment”, with an underlying root cause that competes and conflicts with a stated commitment to change. These hidden commitments cause people to resist change and to fail to realise their best intentions. It takes experience to spot such phenomena and to defuse or utilize any deviating construct arising in the space appropriately, in real time.

Fortunately, these patterns tend to have recognizable sequences.

An experienced coach can identify them and knows how far or deep a group or an individual is on their way through the process and what is still ahead of them relative to their goal. The good news is that there are plenty of extremely good tools available.

Resistances are treasure indicators

In transformation work we encounter a lot of tension and collective shadow around resistance and blockage, not just in the coachees, but also with some coaches and trainers. These tensions can and should be harvested as there is an intelligence in there with a communication. It requires practice, like mental aikido training, to recognize obstructing, attacking or resisting forces as forces to work with and as pointers and key indicators to the most important acupuncture points for change, much like a treasure map.

The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.” Peter Senge

If the transformational process is designed to prototype new ideas, listening to the information sitting on resistances and fears can actually provide the breakthrough that is called for. Then, working with resistances can be like a fun ride in a roller coaster or a ride in a sail boat using the resistance to propel you in the direction of your conscious choice. Welcome to the world of trim tabs.

“To work our way towards a shared language once again, we must first learn how to discover patterns which are deep, and capable of generating life”. Christopher Alexander

A Realist Approach to Complexity 

Ever heard of this awkward sounding word, VUCA? It stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous and tries to describe the conditions of the systems we work and live in. The point is, that navigating these VUCA waters makes life tough for leaders, organizations and CEOs, many of whom don’t believe that either they or their organisations are equipped to deal with it. Indeed, how do you make decisions when the outcome has to be uncertain and cannot be predicted.

We work with three complementary approaches parallel.

  1. We work on closing what we call “the complexity gap” and work with matching leadership skills in complexity thinking, collaborative capacity and leadership decision making  with the growing complexity of the jobs, especially in international multi-stakeholder work environments. This is capacity building at its finest.
  2. We work inside of complex adaptive systems with processes and governance structures that release artificially built up complexity in organizations.
  3. We work with the people in whole organizations to tease out what is actually happening for them and probe for the actual, mostly unrecognized and untapped potential for culture change, growth, and emergence.

The Complexity Gap  

According to a report from IBM’s Institute for Business Value, which interviewed more than 1,500 CEOs from companies of all sizes across 60 countries, says that CEOs are confronted with a “complexity gap” that poses a bigger challenge than any factor measured in eight years of CEO research.

Eight out of 10 of the CEOs interviewed expect their environment to grow significantly more complex over the next few years, but fewer than half believe they know how to deal with it.

At EZC.Partners  we help leaders to close this growing gap between the complexity of the workplace challenges and personal leadership skills and capacities. 

We can meet these demands and (1) work strategically on the development of respective skills and knowledge, (2) learn to work closely with others who represent a widdownloade range of perspectives and areas of expertise, and (3) use the best tools available to scaffold their thinking.

We work with tools that are best geared for

  • assessing current thinking in relation to the complexity of the job (Lectica’s LDMA, Lectical Decision Making Assessment)
  • scaffolding employee and leadership development and capacity building in the areas of complexity thinking and collaborative capacity to foster skill development as learning experiences
  • supporting hiring decisions: providing a nuanced and objective source of information about prospective employees’ leadership decision-making skills.

Releasing Complexity  

We help organizations deflate artificially increased complexity that has built up. This occurs when you operate in complex adaptive systems but apply rigid constraints and assumptions that are linear or causal. Complex adaptive factors (people, emergent processes) are hitting inflexible structures (rules, hierarchies, cultures). We untangle the power dynamics, path dependencies, constraints, and commonly held views about workplace challenges through rigorous processes and organic governance structures. Releasing this built up complexity enormously increases impact, efficiency, fosters open participation and team intelligence, and introduces different strategic conversations around managing organizations successfully despite of VUCA factors. Our most favorite approach and tool to work with this is Bonnitta Roy’s OPO (Open Participatory Organization) and App Associates Intl.

Complex Adaptive Challenges and Sense Making  

We understand how complex adaptive systems behave. And while we help leaders become “VUCA fit” with personal leadership development, we are committed to a ‘realist position’ where we work with “what is” outside of the developmental agenda. We work with people, not on them, with the system, not on it.  We manage the intelligence potential of the present rather trying to constantly achieve an idealized future state that makes us miss signals and opportunitiescynefin2 on the way there. We tap into the distributed intelligence of the workplace – people aren’t stupid, most of the time they know what is going on, what is going wrong and how things could be improved. We provide means to tap into that knowledge and get real time, unbiased, relevant and ongoing data about what is actually happening at work. Scanning the data for weak signals, trends, emergent behavior or detractors, we simply nudge the system into a generative direction. We help creating locally contextualized solutions and architectures for sustainable change and beneficial emergence. To do that, we work with Dave Snowden’s Cynefin Framework and the Sensemaker® Tools by Cognitive Edge.