Friday, February 29, 2008

Ambiguity in Organizations

Click on the graph to make it bigger.

Again some interesting comments from Christine

Here are the approximate distributions of the modes of leadership. As you can see mode 4 leaders are in the minority. (modes 0 and 5 are theoretical at the moment as the research hasn’t been completed on these - these are the latest research distributions however only 1 -4 are accurate populations).

In terms of ability to deal with ambiguity, roughly the closer to mode 4 you get the better things get. Like everything in life every upside has a downside. The downside of this is that the closer to mode 4 you get the less methodical people are and they really don’t like stability too much. So at the moments an organisation needs change these are the guys, however the moment an organisation needs to just settle down and have a period of stability then mode one and two are the people to help here. The approach we take is to give people, particularly leaders the ability to operate in every/any mode depending on the situation and the outcome desired. This is what gives the leaders (and their organisations) their agility. Being agile usually means better decisions and more flexible thinking.

The point for me in developing (at least) tolerance of ambiguity in a wider population is that without it people’s decision making is usually impoverished. By this I mean that if they are reacting emotionally in a knee jerk way to uncertainty or risk for example, they are not usually making great decisions. Developing ambiguity acuity equips people to think clearer, make better decisions, behave better, it enhances problem solving etc. particularly, but not exclusively, in difficult and shifting situations. The very situations others spend most of their time avoiding or denying. They certainly outperform colleagues who don’t have much emotional resilience in a wide range of leadership tasks. These are also the people who will take a risk and try new things.

As you start to increase the numbers of people in an organization who can, as a minimum at least, cope with ambiguity the more agile the organisation becomes, the easier it finds it to navigate difficult times and find advantage where others are struggling. Such organisations also adapt to changing conditions quicker and with a better fit. This is why we do the work we do in companies and organisations. It makes them successful right at the time others are having it tough. To come out of a tough time like a recession for example in great shape, being innovative and having found new markets or other advantages during the difficult times, is like having a spring board into a new world, when others are still just looking up at the board wondering how to get up there.

In short - deal with ambiguity better and you and your organization become more agile, competitive, and swift.

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