For many businesses, COVID-19 has meant scaling back their operations and navigating their way through the challenges as a matter of survival. For others however, COVID has represented a time for rapid expansion and adaption through an unanticipated demand in their product or service.
For many organisational leaders, the realisation that their existing toolkit did not include the skills to deal with the uncertainty of 2020 has left them feeling somewhat exposed.
There are many things that we can prepare for if we can anticipate them, however we can rarely anticipate the impact of an event such as the global pandemic.
Quintessential was approached by a technology organisation that was experiencing an escalating conflict between the leads of two well performing teams. Both teams were delivering high quality services through the various twists and turns of their business venture. However, it became noticeable over the course of 2020 that tension amongst the team leads had emerged, which created a flow-on disruptive impact on their respective team members. The cumulative effects of COVID had been that proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and they were insightful enough to seek help.
A large part of the problem stemmed from their own inability to identify a root cause of the conflict. Both team leads were highly respected, qualified and experienced professionals, being highly skilled to lead teams. Goodwill was present, yet most roads to recovery led to an impasse.
The Quintessential Process
In situations of conflict there is always a temptation to find what is wrong. Yet the teams’ past performance was based on a solid foundation of cohesion that they had built over time, and a misplaced intervention could have potentially resulted in unintended consequences of undoing the good that had been established.
Therefore, Quintessential adopted an approach of ‘improving’ in preference to ‘fixing’. With COVID affecting many things about our client’s BAU practices, we leveraged the Cynefin framework to highlight ways in which they needed to do things differently – not because their existing practices were incorrect, but because they were simply unsuitable for the current challenges.
Our client realised that what they were doing was not wrong, it was just ineffective. At this point they saw that they were geared around doing things Cynefin ‘complicated’, and they need to approach things in a Cynefin ‘complex’ manner.
- Environmental scan & appreciation. The first stage of the process was to gain an appreciation of the teams’ working environment. Quintessential leveraged Cynefin to change the language, moving away from ‘good/bad’, ‘right/wrong’, and more towards ‘better/worse’, ‘pro/con’ etc. This enabled a different conversation to be shared in a manner less confrontational, which allow the conflict to be more productively discussed.
- Shifting mindsets. The recognition that a different approach was needed in these turbulent times opened up their minds to the possibility of doing things in different ways. There was already a sound basis to work from, so we managed to identify new approaches in accordance with the following principles:
- It is ok not to know – we have confidence that we know how to find out
- Use incremental improvements to progress to a solution – the pathway to the answer is not always linear
- Embrace conflict – it is an effective way to identify and explore possibilities
- Seek “best fit” rather “best” – our world is ‘relative’, not ‘absolute’
- Upskilling. A martial art master I trained with use to say, “…our mind is like a parachute; it works best when open.” Once the team leads and the team members recognised that they needed to enhance their skillset, new conversations were possible in context of ‘upskilling’ in new techniques and different approaches. Note that this was not instead of their existing skills, but rather in addition to their existing skills. Possibilities that were not previously considered were now firmly on the table, and the ideas were starting to flow.
- Coaching. Developing new knowledge and skills is not always best done through training. There are many ways in which was learn, so we adopted the 70:20:10 rule to build a professional development program for the team leads and members that they could undertake themselves. We created this program using a Quintessential model based on the principles of “Intentional Change”.
Quintessential’s process created a team that had upskilled themselves to be able to deal with complex issues. The team leads also realised that their conflict did not have to be avoided, but rather embraced. They learnt to work with conflict and leverage the different perspectives to open up new possibilities that had previously not been considered.
The team language had also change to one of enquiry. Not only were they doing more ‘asking’ rather than ‘telling’, but the questions they were raising ventured down pathways less travelled in order to see things in different ways. They were becoming comfortable in conflict. They learnt to accept the unknown and the anxiety that accompanied it, to be okay during times of discomfort.
I have known Pat for approximately 20 years, initially meeting when working at Boeing, then moving to Eurocopter and staying in contact ever since. I
have found Pat to be one of those rare individuals who uses a personal touch to achieve technical outcomes. Pat’s strengths lay in his broad technical background and experience, coupled with genuine empathy and ability to develop high-performing teams.
I recently worked closely with Patrick during the development and delivery of the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) funded Australia Awards Fellowship Program entitled, ‘Responding to Skilled Worker Demand: Improving Quality, Leadership and Management of TVET’ in Vietnam. Throughout the delivery of this Fellowship Program Patrick was responsible for facilitating training activities in the areas of transformational leadership, personal leadership, leading teams, project management and change management. Patrick did an outstanding job in this position demonstrating his agility in effectively and efficiently responding to emerging challenges as well as contextualizing training content to meet the needs of his audience, in this case senior leaders from Vietnam’s Ministry of Construction.
Patrick Albina is a highly intelligent, insightful professional who has the rare ability to balance a high level of technical capacity with a sophisticated approach to dealing with people at all levels. And because of this powerful dual perspective, Patrick has outstanding influencing and engagement skills.
Working with Patrick Albina on the AIR9000 Ph8 bid was a truly positive experience. Pat’s attention to detail assured the highest quality material was prepared and submitted. His enthusiasm and vigour for the product being offered never waned, along with his determination to ensure all customer requirements were fully satisfied. I wholly recommend Patrick to any organisation looking to engage a dedicated, self-motivated and highly personable team-player.
Patrick Albina is a highly motivated, intelligent professional with keen skills of insight and perspective that are required to be effective in managing organisational complexity. He has the capacity to embrace the technical aspects as well as the people and relational issues which makes him excellent in his influencing and sense making skills to understand and make long term effective change in organisations.
Since mid 2014, Patrick’s coaching has helped me define and develop a values based approach to my career. We consistently meet to discuss my progress and I receive objective feedback from Patrick that I put into our action before our next meeting. This action and feedback loop is the most powerful and effective professional development work I have done to date. For anyone looking to accelerate their career, I highly recommend contacting Patrick.
Patrick has been the lead consultant on a number of projects in recent years for CASG, ranging from a comprehensive tailored learning and development framework, asset management principles adaptation to strategic organisational reform and change management. His skills, experience and capability to communicate effectively and strategically with all stakeholders is outstanding. As well as delivering exceptional value, he is always going above and beyond, delivering ongoing strategic value to the organisation more broadly.
We engaged Patrick to provide subject matter expertise to our Product Management Implementation Project, established to deliver a tailored design and implementation of ISO 55000 Asset Management principles to enhance CH-47F Chinook Product Management. Throughout our 12 month engagement, he provided valuable guidance and practical assistance in all project stages including, problem framing and design; change management; procedure development and practical implementation; observation and feedback; and communication (internal and external). He proved a highly effective enabler to achieving our objectives and ultimately a successful and resilient project outcome.