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Dr Elizabeth Eppel - workshop presentation


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How to lead in the face of uncertainty and surprises presented by Dr Elizabeth Eppel, (PhD) Research Fellow, School of Government, Victoria University and education and public policy consultant. Creative Commons copyright which acknowledges Dr Eppel authorship of this presentation.

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Dr Elizabeth Eppel - workshop presentation

  1. 1. Do you ever find yourself<br />Are you sometimes surprised by changes that happen in your world?<br />Things you had never thought about before because they were unknown until they happened?<br />
  2. 2. Let’s start with a story that illustrates your <br />everyday professional world<br />
  3. 3. Is it just complicatedor is it complex?<br />Do we just need more experts? <br />Or is it something else?<br />
  4. 4. Does this sound like the world you live in?<br /><ul><li>Many interacting actors
  5. 5. students, teachers, principals, parents, employers, other education institutions,</li></ul>government agencies, ministers, and more<br /><ul><li>Interdependent
  6. 6. each actor makes decisions and acts on their own interpretation </li></ul>of the actions of others, what is happening now and <br />what they think will happen next <br />(it can be a bit like theatre sports – each actor does not know what the other actor <br />is going to do or say next, and the whole story takes many unexpected turns)<br /><ul><li>Unpredictable
  7. 7. responses to actions unpredictable and sometimes </li></ul>way out of proportion to the initial action<br /><ul><li> sometimes nothing seems to be happening no matter what you do
  8. 8. suddenly things take off by themselves, and </li></ul>not necessarily in the way you expected<br /><ul><li>new stuff just happens
  9. 9. What happened in the past matters and keeps affecting what happens today</li></li></ul><li>Implications of complexity for leaders<br />Talk with lots of different people <br />Value difference and diversity<br />Talk about visions, goals and directions <br />engage with others who might share them<br />Create narratives (stories) of what you think could be<br />Indulge in sensemaking about now and the future with diverse groups<br />Listen to the stories others tell<br />Use any the other tools that are consistent with a complex world e.g. appreciative enquiry<br />
  10. 10. Kurtz and Snowden (2003)<br />
  11. 11. Forget about detailed plans <br />– they are never going to turn out exactly the way you intended and something better is likely to emerge from your interactions with others<br />Beware of boundaries<br />They are constructed by you and others<br />They can be moved (carefully)<br />Allow space for others to contribute and lead<br />Complex ≠ despair, do anything or, do nothing<br />
  12. 12. Guide to action<br />Keep testing all assumptions<br />Expect the unpredictable <br />Actively monitor for signs that assumptions are flawed<br />Indulge in sensemaking about now and the future with diverse groups<br />Listen to the stories others tell<br />Use any the other tools that are consistent with a complex world e.g. appreciative enquiry<br />Be prepared to, and help others, reframe issues<br />Know when to ‘fast fail’ and change tack ₌ disrupt changes that are going in the wrong direction, early<br />Sometimes you just need to encourage the actions that others are taking<br />
  13. 13. Some things to remember:<br />The number of actors is large, and constantly changing. <br />Actors other than the formal decision makers influence processes.<br /> Each actor brings his or her past experiences and perceptions of what is or is not, and should or should not occur.<br /> Each actor also brings a prior knowledge, and expectations of other actors. This knowledge affects how the individual acts and responds to others.<br /> The experiences and perceptions of actors can be as varied as the number of people participating.<br /> Some individuals act as ‘policy entrepreneurs’ – creating arranged marriages between problems and solutions – but their effectiveness is constrained by their understanding of both the public management world and the policy-in-action world.<br />Common ground and agreement are subject to ongoing reinterpretation.<br /> <br />
  14. 14. 2<br />Actors interact with each other in (policy) processes in ways that could not have been predicted at the outset, and they modify each other in the process. Changes result from of this interaction (without any exogenous cause).<br />The interactions between actors, and the change dynamics they trigger, are ongoing. <br />The individuals in each organisation are only loosely bound together. <br />There is some shared sense of mission and purpose through which the people in a particular organisation, and those outside it, create the boundaries of the organisation.<br />Although there might be some common aspects of mission and purpose shared with other organisations, each organisation tends to emphasise the differences between their organisation and others, thereby strengthening the artificial boundaries between the organisations.<br />10<br />
  15. 15. 3<br />The people inside each organisation appear shaped and bounded by their organisational context and therefore approach policy processes from organisational perspectives rather than a problem solving perspective. These organisational perspectives help shape policy processes.<br />There is an interplay between the rule or policy setting processes of government decision making and the organisation; also between the operational level of the organisation; and the organisation’s management and governance frameworks. All of these levels and the interactions between them affect policy processes.<br />Organisations expend more energy and time emphasising differences of view or perception than breaking down those differences and working together towards common goals.<br />Any one idea usually has multiple forms, and means different things to different participants.<br />The ideas (and assumptions) influencing (policy) processes change over time. <br />Problems and solutions are also understood in different ways by different actors.<br /> <br />11<br />
  16. 16. Some references:<br />Eppel, E. (2010). The contribution of complexity theory to <br />understanding and explaining policy processes: A study of tertiary <br />education policy processes in New Zealand. <br />Unpublished PhD Thesis, Victoria University Wellington. <br /><br />Eppel, E., Turner, D., & Wolf, A. (2011). Experimentation and learning <br />in policy implementation: Implications for public management.<br /><br />Kurtz, C. F., & Snowden, D. J. (2003). The new dynamics of strategy: <br />Sense-making in a complex and complicated world. <br />IBM Systems Journal, 42(3), 462-483.<br />Weick, K. E. (1995). Sense making in organisations. Thousand Oaks, CA: <br />Sage Publications.<br />Weick, K. E., & Sutcliffe, K. M. (2007). Managing the unexpected: <br />Resilient performance in an age of uncertainty (2nd ed.). <br />San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.<br />Westley, F., Zimmerman, B., & Patton, M. Q. (2007). Getting to maybe: <br />How the world is changed. Toronto: Vintage Canada.<br />