Leading Complex Systems and Facilitation

Traditional, hierarchical views of leadership are less and less useful given the complexities of our modern world. New emerging patterns of leadership are developing in response to the complex adaptive needs of organisations.

In today’s digital interconnected and interdependent world, where turbulence cannot be controlled and the unpredictable cannot be predicted, the most effective organisational leadership is the product of dynamic interaction between individuals and groups which enables the exploration of diverse perceptions and understanding.

This leads to innovation i.e. the commercial application of an idea which adds value or differentiates the organisation leading to emergence of new business solutions.

Complex systems are characterised by:

  • Problems are multi faceted
  • Many different organisations addressing the same problems or issues
  • Cause and effect may be only known in hindsight
  • Context is a key determinant of behaviour
  • There are multiple views of “reality”
  • Interactions between people are dynamic and always changing

We help leaders to move into a relationship with uncertainty and chaos, with confidence in their ability to find new solutions and strategies. Developing leaders who can do this is essential.

Anne McMurray is a licensed practitioner with Cognitive Edge, an international knowledge network specialising in working with complex systems. We have been using a range of effective methods to enable leaders of complex systems to understand and make sense of what is going on and to plan positive interventions.

These methods include

  • Social network mapping and network stimulation,
  • Qualitative mass narrative capture methods e.g. sensemaker
  • Collaborative working tools and approaches
  • Intractable problem solving methods
  • Design and expert facilitation of large or complex whole system events

These methods tap into the “wisdom of crowds” by facilitating large scale staff and stakeholder engagement, knowledge transfer and intelligence gathering to support decision making and strategy development.

Recent examples

Invest NI Pathclearing Programme, Extern, Health and Social Care Board NI, National College of School Leadership