Working productively the Harvard way

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 3rd June 2019

I recently had the privilege of attending a leadership development program at the Harvard Kennedy Business School in Boston, Massachusetts. It was a seven-day intensive, run by one of the world’s leading thinkers on leadership, Professor Ron Heifetz. If you’re familiar with the analogy of getting off the dancefloor and standing on the balcony to get a more strategic perspective, that is Ron. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life! Amazing.

Much of Ron’s work is in the area of Adaptive Leadership. (You can watch a short interview with Ron here).

He believes there are two types of challenges we need to address as leaders. There are technical challenges that are relatively straightforward, where the issue and its solution are clear. The second type of challenge, where true leadership is required,  is what he calls an adaptive challenge. These are more complex, where issues and their solutions are harder to comprehend.

The timing of this program was perfect for me as I think about the productivity challenges my clients observe when they step off the dancefloor and stand on the balcony.  Issues like the volume of email noise, poor meeting cultures and ineffective collaboration are adaptive by nature. The fact that these issues involve so many people, and the patterns of their behaviour are often so embedded, makes them beyond complex to address. However, this is the adaptive challenge I have embraced and will be focusing my time and effort on over the next few years.

I look forward to blending my new Harvard thinking with my own Smart Teams program and refining even better ways for teams and organisations to transform their productivity culture. I am inspired and motivated, so watch out!

When it comes to your team working productively, what do you see when you step off the dancefloor and view it from the balcony?



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