Put events in perspective so as to succeed in a complex system

« When awake, men have a single world, but when asleep, each man has a world of his own. »

Heraclitus from Ephesus,
VI century B.C.

Nowadays a company that wants to succeed in the world of the future must learn to perceive weak signals, harbingers of change, and project them into a future perspective, widening their scope beyond what is visible and tangible.

Collective level: find a new strategy when interests diverge

In collective work, when a new strategy is defined, putting in perspective means encouraging executive teams to have a larger and more far reaching outlook on markets, obstacles and possibilities.
An international Executive Committee asked us to help them find the key strategies for the future 10 years. When we first met, they were in a very delicate position because they had been asked to reduce costs by 20% and increase profitability. At the same time, they needed to explore new possibilities so as to ensure a prosperous future to their company. How were they to reconcile short with long-term strategies?
The group was split vis-à-vis this dilemma.
Senior executives, who worried about their retirement income, wanted to solve the profitability problem while the younger members preferred to explore future opportunities over a 10 year span. They felt, however, that their wish to reorganize the company was not heeded.

We listened to the motivations and points of view of each committee member. We then analyzed their ideas and projected them into the future so as to bring out possible effects. Finally, we accompanied them in a decision-making process meant to motivate and satisfy both sides.
The final strategic plan took into account the points of view of young employees as well as the concerns of senior members. This procedure gave a new boost to the company, which became, and still is, one of the leaders in the market.

One must also consider the “time” dimension of the perspective.

Because of stress, the rapid spreading of news, the necessity to react quickly on the working place, leaders usually prefer the here and now.
To look in perspective means to look at actions and objectives in a more distant time frame: one month, one year, ten years, and, if necessary, the company’s life span. Suddenly, what seemed essential, urgent, is seen under a new light: i.e. an event among others, less vital than we thought.

Looking at issues in perspective sometimes makes us see essential things that we had “forgotten”.
On an individual basis, stepping back to look at the overall picture enables us to have a different outlook on a complex present. One must take time to reach a decision and should give it deep and careful thought.
While coaching an important insurance company, we met Jean, a leader whose road map was to proceed to a radical change in his human resources department as well as in the computer science department. Because of his position in the company, he had to make strategic changes in a highly political environment where a faux pas could have negative consequences on him, as well as on his entire professional environment. Jean asked the coach to help him deal with this complex, and emotionally charged, situation. In his professional life, he is often overwhelmed by emotion and has uncontrolled reactions. In his personal life he regrets not being able to reconcile his family life (he has two young children) with his busy professional life.
To quote Heraclitus, the difference between a “sleeping” man and a man who is “awake” is that the last can see his actions in a wider worldwide perspective, quite separate from his own beliefs and personal perspectives. As a result, he can act appropriately and creatively in complex situations.

Reconsider one’s personal and professional organization to succeed

We worked with Jean to sort out the challenges and analyze the role of different actors in his professional and personal areas. Thanks to a visual representation of the actors’ game, he quickly understood which actions had priority and the timing for such actions. He also realized that he would have to stay away from certain projects, since they could be destructive for him and his equilibrium. This analysis enabled him to approach the basic issues both at work and in his private life. Jean also understood that in his professional environment, which was constantly changing, events that might at first seem important, would become insignificant in the long run. All this enabled him to achieve control over his emotions at work and to make significant changes both in his company and in his personal life.

We confront our clients when we realize that they do not dare project their ambitions into wider and more distant horizons, even though the world prompts them to do so.
It is an illusion to think that coaches are “neutral” actors, first because coaches, like other human beings, act through perceptions; and secondly, because the added value of a coach also consists in presenting his client with perspectives and points of view that the client ignored, precisely because he finds himself in precarious situations.
It is easier to “see” from the outside, particularly since our vision has been sharpened by a 15 years experience within and around organizations, and by our appreciation of strategic challenges.

To sum-up, our objective is to offer an additional, winning perspective. It is up to the client to decide whether he will adopt it or prefers to simply use it as a support on which to build his final strategy.

Our clients tell us that, after sessions with us, they are surprised by the discovery of possibilities they had not previously thought of, and, at the same time, satisfied after finding within themselves a potential they had “neglected”.
They are bursting with energy and eager to act for their own benefit and for the benefit of their environment.