Thinking Politically and Mapping the System

139 views . 24 Sep 2021

Adaptive challenges present situations where no known solutions have been established for the problem. Solving adaptive challenges will involve inclusion and participation of various groups of people in the society and organisations. Adaptive challenge in its nature is complex and solving it may require change in the approach which may touch on issues and values that people in the society hold dear. Understanding organisation political relationships is key in ensuring smooth and successful execution of an adaptive work. 

Thinking Politically and Mapping the System

Hi, Welcome to another session on adaptive leadership. In this session, we take a look at thinking politically and mapping the system. 

Adaptive challenges present situations where no known solutions have been established for the problem. Solving adaptive challenges will involve inclusion and participation of various groups of people in the society and organisations. Adaptive challenge in its nature is complex and solving it may require change in the approach which may touch on issues and values that people in the society hold dear. Understanding organisation political relationships is key in ensuring smooth and successful execution of an adaptive work. 

In his book on adaptive leadership, Ronald Heifetz used the metaphor of vegetable stew to explain the challenges experienced by people of good will when leading an adaptive change. Making good vegetable stew requires cooking different ingredients enough to give up their original color and taste; else one may end up with a pot of crunchy vegetables. Cooking vegetables too much will make each vegetable lose its distinctive qualities. Obtaining the variety of vegetables to make the stew can be an easy process but how do you ensure commitment of each vegetable to the course of making the right stew? 

Thinking politically requires you to think of each vegetable as stakeholders in your good course of adaptive work. Your goal is to get your stew just right. It is likely that you will not get all involved vegetables in one room to discuss your goal. Your team may however comprise of the representative from each vegetable type. For each representative in the change initiative, they have knowledge that they will have to return to their respective land. Thinking of the consequences and the expectations of the society in respective lands may result in a huge collaboration barrier.

Exercising  adaptive leadership requires focus beyond the representatives who are directly involved. Paying attention to the carrot, onion, tomato when they return to their respective lands contaminated with other vegetable juices helps narrow the gap hence influences commitment. Because of this, one is required to look at the society as a web of stakeholders and be required to determine the answers of the following items by engaging various stakeholders:

  1. Values - what does a stakeholder value? What are the beliefs influencing behaviors and also decision-making processes? What are the commitments for each stakeholder? Carrot may value equal opportunity, onions may value reservation of their taste, tomatoes may value representations.  

  2. Loyalties - What responsibilities does the person have to people around their immediate group? Each vegetable will be looking forward to represent their tastes, their color and good representation in making the stew

  3. Losses at risk - Should things change, what does one fear losing? Each vegetable may fear losing their original tastes and colors if overcooked. 

  4. Hidden alliances - What are things in common the person has with other people in other groups? How do those people in respective groups influence the decision making? Close ties between onions and tomatoes may influence collaboration. Decisions that will affect onions will result in opposition from tomatoes whether directly or indirectly. 

 

Stakeholders take various forms depending on the roles the groups play. In our next lesson we will look in detail different types of stakeholders who will influence the success of your adaptive work. Thank you for watching.