Leading in ambiguity

Leading in ambiguity

Posted: May 22, 2012 in Case Studies


An established and credible HR professional, our client was rewarded with the stretch of ‘Acting’ as head of regional function as the Global organisation implemented strategic, technical and operational changes that would significantly affect the local business as well as the HR function.

As an ‘Acting’ role, the assignment was for a contracted period and would cease upon the project completion. The incumbent had been seconded to a role in the project but was physically present at the local site ANZ was to be one of the ‘test’ locations for the program and therefore had little previous experience from which to draw.

The Challenge

There were multiple layers of challenge in this assignment. At the leadership level, the client’s challenges were establishing credibility with her previous peers (now her direct reports); local leadership team; regional and international functional team members; the local business. All of these were within the context of having the previous incumbent present and blurred boundaries.

At the operational level, the client needed to ensure delivery on functional business as usual activities while stewarding a significant change project. This involved the need to understand, design and implement the global changes that will result in offshoring of transactional support; introducing new ‘user’ technology and systems.

Gaining clarity about various stakeholder expectations was pivotal in determining the pathway forward.

At the same time there was also the need to lead a team responsible for the implementation of these changes but who would all be potentially personally adversely affected by the changes, including loss of job.

the edge Approach

The first step was to gain clarity about who were all the stakeholders in the system and what was it that they were asking of the client. These perspectives where then compared to the personal goals of the client. From these multiple perspectives we established what “a great outcome” for this assignment would look like.

Using this as the corner stone, personal and operational strategies were developed. Various ‘events’ in the organisation calendar were used as opportunities to apply learning. Pre planning was undertaken about what was to be executed, why and how the client needed to ‘be’ and enact to make this a success. Coaching sessions provided the space to unpack the issues and challenges for the clients personal, leadership and operational agendas. This included challenging the client’s self limiting beliefs and mindsets that were manifesting as reluctance to fully assume the leadership role. The sessions also provided a safe container to strategise, explore options, test thinking and develop plans.

The Successful Outcomes

The outcomes achieved were at all levels. For the individual there was clarity about their learning goals and an increased confidence in their capability to do what was required. They continue to operate as a trusted and valued business, change and people leader.

Now they had been stretched it was impossible to return to their original shape.

The experience had achieved its aim – the client had been successfully stretched but as a result it was impossible for them to return to their original shape. They are negotiating with the organisation about what the next role may look like. The project was not without its hiccups but it was delivered within budget and timeline.