Asymmetric Leadership: supporting a CEO’s response to turbulence

Title: Asymmetric Leadership: supporting a CEO’s response to turbulence
Authors: Philip Boxer and Dr Carole Eigen
Category: Published
Where published: Karnac BooksTwentieth century approaches to enterprise assumed that leadership had to be exercised ultimately from a single position at the top of a hierarchy. A new challenge is emerging for leadership in the twenty-first century created by the need to respond to increasingly differentiated individual client demands. The asymmetric nature of these demands requires leadership to be exercised from the point of contact with the client, that is, from the edge of the enterprise. The term asymmetric leadership describes the nature of the leadership required to hold the client’s demands as a central focus and to be able to identify, tolerate and ultimately address the anxieties that arise as a consequence of the necessity to engage with these asymmetric forms of demand in order to move the goals of the enterprise forward. Such leadership must be exercised by managers collaborating across niche hierarchies in order contain the significant disturbance created for the enterprise in its attempt to maintain a dynamic alignment with its external environment.

Download the full paper here

The Double Challenge: working through the tension between meaning and motivation in a large system

Title: The Double Challenge: working through the tension between meaning and motivation in a large system
Author: Boxer, P.J.
Category: Published
Where published: ISPSO Conference proceedings

An enterprise is made up of a number of systems of practice within which its work is organized, whether the enterprise is public or private, virtual or not, or for profit or not. Such an enterprise faces a double challenge in the way it elaborates its systems of practice: this challenge places it between what it knows how to do, and the demands made on it by turbulent environments that take it beyond what it knows. A case study of a large system, the US wildland fire service, is used to exemplify these ideas, and the implications for considering the kinds of leadership that are needed to meet this challenge. Motivation is defined as that which emerges where there are gaps in the ability of the enterprise to do what it needs to survive and prosper, that is gaps in its systems of practice. These gaps are understood as ‘driving’ the enterprise, and show themselves as dilemmas that are symptomatic of these gaps. The double challenge presented by these dilemmas are relate to vertical and horizontal kinds of leadership. Horizontal leadership is then linked to the need for a consulting ethic that is reflexive.

Download the full presentation

The Double Challenge: working through the tension between meaning and motivation in a large system

Title: The Double Challenge: working through the tension between meaning and motivation in a large system
Author: Philip Boxer
Category: Working Paper

An enterprise is made up of a number of systems of practice within which its work is organized, whether the enterprise is public or private, virtual or not, or for profit or not. Such an enterprise faces a double challenge in the way it elaborates its systems of practice: this challenge places it between what it knows how to do, and the demands made on it by turbulent environments that take it beyond what it knows. A case study of a large system, the US wildland fire service, is used to exemplify these ideas, and the implications for considering the kinds of leadership that are needed to meet this challenge. Motivation is defined as that which emerges where there are gaps in the ability of the enterprise to do what it needs to survive and prosper, that is gaps in its systems of practice. These gaps are understood as ‘driving’ the enterprise, and show themselves as dilemmas that are symptomatic of these gaps. The double challenge presented by these dilemmas are relate to vertical and horizontal kinds of leadership. Horizontal leadership is then linked to the need for a consulting ethic that is reflexive.

Download the full paper

SoS Navigator 2.0: A Context-Based Approach to System-of-System Challenges

Title: SoS Navigator 2.0: A Context-Based Approach to System-of-System Challenges
Authors: The SEI SoS Navigator Team
Category: Published
Where published: SEI Technical Note

Organizations struggle with many problems in complex systems of systems for which solutions are not codified or even conceived, such as a mutual understanding of “common” terms and concepts across participating enterprises and the lack of a global view by any single system-of-systems participant. System and software purchasers and suppliers need a different set of approaches and techniques than are typically in use today to satisfy user demands that reflect turbulent operational environments. Beyond purchasers and engineers, all participants in a complex, systems-of-systems environment need a different set of perspectives and expectations about user demands than those typical in product-centered engineering.
The SoS Navigator approach provides leaders participating in complex systems of systems with
(1) novel insights into critical aspects of the demand and supply sides of their situation and
(2) criteria on which to decide whether their systems-of-systems context requires the adoption and sustainment of a different business model than ones that are typical today.
This technical note introduces the fundamental concepts, processes, and techniques of the evolving SoS Navigator approach. It also summarizes case studies that illustrate the use of SoS Navigator processes and tools in healthcare, military, and civilian government systems-of-systems contexts.

Download the report

The Double Challenge: working through the tension between meaning and motivation in a large system Author: Boxer, P.J.

Title: The Double Challenge: working through the tension between meaning and motivation in a large system
Author: Boxer, P.J.
Category: Published
Where published: ISPSO Conference proceedings

An enterprise is made up of a number of systems of practice within which its work is organized, whether the enterprise is public or private, virtual or not, or for profit or not. Such an enterprise faces a double challenge in the way it elaborates its systems of practice: this challenge places it between what it knows how to do, and the demands made on it by turbulent environments that take it beyond what it knows. A case study of a large system, the US wildland fire service, is used to exemplify these ideas, and the implications for considering the kinds of leadership that are needed to meet this challenge. Motivation is defined as that which emerges where there are gaps in the ability of the enterprise to do what it needs to survive and prosper, that is gaps in its systems of practice. These gaps are understood as ‘driving’ the enterprise, and show themselves as dilemmas that are symptomatic of these gaps. The double challenge presented by these dilemmas are relate to vertical and horizontal kinds of leadership. Horizontal leadership is then linked to the need for a consulting ethic that is reflexive.

Download the full paper

The Double Challenge: working through the tension between meaning and motivation

by Philip Boxer
This was a presentation and a paper given at a 2008 ISPSO Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

An enterprise is made up of a number of systems of practice within which its work is organized, whether the enterprise is public or private, virtual or not, or for profit or not. Such an enterprise faces a double challenge in the way it elaborates its systems of practice: this challenge places it between what it knows how to do, and the demands made on it by turbulent environments[1] that take it beyond what it knows. A case study of a large system, the US wildland fire service, is used to exemplify these ideas, and the implications for considering the kinds of leadership that are needed to meet this challenge. Motivation is defined as that which emerges where there are gaps in the ability of the enterprise to do what it needs to survive and prosper, that is gaps in its systems of practice. These gaps are understood as ‘driving’ the enterprise[2], and show themselves as dilemmas that are symptomatic of these gaps. The double challenge presented by these dilemmas are relate to vertical and horizontal kinds of leadership[3]. This double challenge provides a way of understanding both the competitive pressures on the organization, and the way the individual experiences those pressures. And it is the horizontal axis and the relationship of the person in an edge role to authorization that makes the difference. We can summarize this difference in terms of different approaches to leadership. In “Bipartite Leadership” we have leadership organized around the vertical “authority” axis. This leadership involves both the leaders at the top of the organization, and those working within the organization, whether its professionals or its organized labor. The leadership comes from the way the tension between these two perspectives are held (‘1’ and ‘2’ below).[4]
It is a tension because while the ‘top’ must concern itself with the direction of the organization as a whole, it is the professionals/unions who are dealing ‘bottom-up’ with the impossibilities embedded amongst the organization’s systems of practice. When we introduce the horizontal “authorization” axis however, we introduce “Tripartite Leadership”. This is the ‘edge-driven’ axis presenting the interests of customers that the organization is seeking to respond to individually within the context of their lives, for example doctors’ patients, or service engineers’ clients (‘3’ below).

In the case, those representing the interests of the horizontal axis were the incident commanders who had the job of mitigating the risks of wildland fires that had become too big to contain locally. The need for tripartite leadership will only arise of necessity in facing turbulence in the environment, and it introduces a new tension with both ends of the bipartite leadership. Used positively, these new tensions can generate demand for change[5], but used negatively they marginalize those in edge roles while insulating the organization itself from the need to change.[6] The different kinds of anxiety created by working on these different axes helps us understand the different kinds of
leadership needed in response.

Notes
[1] Emery, F.E. and Trist, E.L. (1965) “The causal texture of organizational environments”, Human Relations, Vol 18, pp21-32
[2] Lacan, Jacques (1964) Le séminaire, Livre XI: Les quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse. French: (texte établi par Jacques-Alain Miller), Paris: Seuil, 1973. English: Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (edited by Jacques-Alain Miller), New York: Norton, 1978
[3] Armstrong, D. (2007) “The Dynamics of Lateral Relations in Changing Organizations Worlds”, Organisational & Social Dynamics 7(2) 193-210.
[4] The format of the dilemma is explained in the blog on dilemmas as drivers of change.
[5] Beer, Eisenstat and Spector – “Why change programs don’t produce change” Harvard Business Review Nov-Dec 1990
[6] Boxer, P. (2004) “Facing Facts: what’s the good of change”, Socio-Analysis, 6:44