Fragile Structures: Succeeding in uncertain times, using SixFigureGrid's Leadership Navigation

For 70 years, Western Europe lived with predictable world order, secured by a US defence umbrella, trade deals on their terms, a recognised communist adversary to the east and stable dictatorships in countries in the Middle East and North Africa, who all maintained a stability of sorts. This predictable world order has now unravelled. The business world finds itself a victim of world events. SixFigureGrid's Leadership Navigation will help leaders through this 21st Century maze.

Anyone who has played the board game of Risk, The World Conquest Game, will know that a successful strategy to win the game must include the ability to partner with other players to weaken stronger players. However, once that stronger player is weakened, alliances will change and a partner can become an adversary at the next roll of the dice; for there can only be one eventual winner. The lesson to learn is that over time, alliances change to suit interests.

In the same vein, it was Lord Palmerston, who, when talking about British Foreign Policy, stated, “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” Thus today, national self interests and new alliances are emerging that are a result of a changing Information Age situation, be that the power of the internet to shape fake news, the consequences of uncontrolled immigration, the climate emergency, trade wars, quantitive easing, negative interest rates, Trump doctrine, Brexit, the future of NATO, a mischievous Russia, the Syrian crisis, the Arab Spring, a more authoritative Turkey and Islamic extremism to name but a few. None of these things appeared particularly relevant even 15 years ago, yet they are all examples of why business must adapt to changing circumstances. 

Worryingly, for many business leaders today in the Information Age,  there is a natural tendency to either deny that change is happening, to misinterpret the change for something that it is not, or to stick to a set of out dated principles. Often these behaviours occur because change frightens leaders and it may perhaps threaten their very positions and principles. Sadly, these three ways of handling change are all too common and will doom organisations to irrelevance and decline. The Information Age can be cruel to those who do not adapt. So how can leaders and teams handle and adapt their organisations to the change that is occurring?

Gaining Superior Situational Awareness. Leaders need to know where they are right now and what is going on around them, (there are few things harder than trying to reach an objective, when the organisation is not even at the correct starting point). To obtain the right answers, leaders need to sift through the confusion of information overload and false reporting (fake news). They then need to ask themselves the right questions, ones that may challenge perceived norms and entrenched mindsets.

Curiosity and Imaginative Thinking.  Leadership Navigation teaches leaders to look to the future in a more expansive and objective manner. Leaders need to imagine multiple future scenarios for how things may turn out, not necessarily how they would personally wish things to turn out. Confirmation bias is a dangerous place to find oneself in. To assume that the future is likely to be simply a digitised version of today’s world does not take into account the mass of change and the factors that are starting to effect societies already. In the UK’s military, planning is always tested and war gamed against a ‘Red Team’, an independent body who are trained to think like the adversary, not to confirm the assumptions and fit the plan of the home team. That way, multiple options as to what the enemy may do, are worked through, Thus any given plan can be adapted and changed to suit any changing situation.

Building Effective Teams.  Today and tomorrow's leaders need to build effective teams. Leadership Navigation teaches leaders to use up to date and accurate information, gathered from multiple sources, and uses fresh thinking, collaboration, feedback, trust and delegation, communication and mutual understanding, which can avoid 'group think'. Thus teams should be structured in ways that motivate individuals and encourage innovation.  Boards need to be receptive to alternative thinking and ideas, and should be comfortable with being challenged.

Making the Right Decisions on Time. To make the right decisions, leaders need choices and options. It is unlikely that any one coarse of action will be obvious and there will be advantages and disadvantages to to multiple options. Being able to weigh up options, to test and evaluate them is vital. Only then will the right decision emerge. 

Getting the Tactics Right.  It is all too easy for leaders and boards to set the strategy and leave it to others to deliver the tactics. Yet in a fast moving business environment, it is the attention to detail that so often matters, which often require specific tactics that have been worked out by being 'close to the action' and being aware of the changes in any business environment.

Agility.  Leaders must constantly ask themselves, “since we made the plan, has the situation changed?” - it’s what is known in the military as a ‘Question 4 moment’ (Question 4 being the forth question a commander must ask himself when carrying out his ‘Mission Analysis’ of a task given to him).  Having a culture of agility is vital in the Information Age and changing direction, when it is justified, is a leadership strength.

To do all of this, Leadership Navigation asks a leader the following questions:

  • Where are we? (People, finance, products, organisation, training, information, security)
  • What are we trying to achieve and why?
  • Are we receiving accurate, timely and relevant information, to base our decisions on?
  • What is going on around us now and what may happen in the future?
  • What do we need to think about, now and in the future, so as to make better decisions?
  • Has the situation changed since we started this plan?

SixFigureGrid's Leadership Navigation will help leaders to achieve better outcomes.