Systems Doing: Business Agility Beyond Systems Thinking


10th September 2021 by Steve Holyer

DRAFT v1.1 - Initial for Comments

(This is the draft description of Steve's work in collaboration with the Glenda at the HSDInstitute.)

If you're leading complex projects, your success as a leader is usually measured by delivering on mission, on schedule, on budget and in scope. Leaders are turning to business agility to capture this kind of measurable success in volatile, complex, fast-changing times.

We also see these efforts are likely to fail because both business agility and business itself are wickedly complex.

Leaders and organisations are looking to find answers and common ground so they can manage this wicked complexity. However, we think it's unrealistic to expect success with this approach to business agility. In these times of rapid change and uncertainty your answers have a very short shelf-life. Common ground is much less solid than you think.

You might be surprised, but asking questions and seeking differences is the successful alternative to mapping out answers and establishing common ground. That's what this workshop—or adaptive action lab—is about.

Adaptive Action is how you'll combine "being" and "doing" to create an action-oriented pathway that leads to successful agile outcomes across your entire business in these chaotic times. That’s business agility that makes a difference.

During and after this workshop you will:

  • View your organisation as a complex adaptive system (CAS) and understand how this view reveals new options for impactful action
  • Recognise 3 types of complexity—structural complexity, emergent complexity, and exploratory complexity; recognise the ways common "best practice" answers for managing each type of complexity determines the results and level of success you can achieve (as well as limiting the choices and impact of everyone in your organisation)
  • Explore and use adaptive complexity to find what's true and useful about the complexity of your organisation to remove limits on success and choice.
  • Use these 6 interdependant pairs and the tensions they reveal to create renewed energy for leadership, active change and results oriented agility, they are:
    • Certainty and Surprise
    • Individual and Enterprise
    • Fixed and Variable
    • Numbers and Narrative
    • Predictive and Adaptive
    • Command and Invitation
  • Practice talking about Adaptive Action and Adaptive Complexity to your colleagues within your organisation and your industry

We ask you to bring a 3-sentence description of one real wicked issue that's surfacing right now in your business. You will workshop your wicked issue in the lab. When you complete the lab you'll be an adaptive leader who can work within your organisation to tame this wicked issue and others.

In this workshop you will learn about Complex Adaptive Systems from Dr. Glenda Eoyang, one of the recognized leaders in the field of Complex Adaptive Systems. Glenda will be joined by Steve Holyer who has served many organisations as Agile trainer and transformation coach for over a decade. Together they will show  you how to actively ask the questions and explore differences you need for business agility.

The Business Agility Institute says if you want to succeed you must "start thinking of business agility as the common thread. An adaptable and sustainable narrative that binds & guides us into the uncertain future. An operating model that amplifies adaptability and responsiveness in every area of your business. One that acknowledges that an organization is a complex adaptive system and that agility must be everyone’s responsibility."

By the end of this workshop you will be thinking of business agility in this way, and you will be a leader who can take and inspire adaptive actions for your organisation and complex adaptive system.

Thanks Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town
for the video of your flying Rock Hopper Ambassadors

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