Being Swamped – Challenges of Organizations in 21st century

In the last year I organized a course on Management in 21st century. I started the course with showing a similar picture as the one above. The participants expressed what they felt when seeing the picture. I used this image and their feeling to demonstrate overwhelmed Managers today.

The words coming up were: nasty, dirty, smelly, messy.

Often I can see how especially middle management are totally overwhelmed of a situation. This happens especially in change management situations such as Agile Transformations. If a teams is supposed to be self-organized, what is the role of a manager?

Overwhelmed Managers

Managers are overwhelmed without knowing. Over the last 6 months, I realized, how a swamp perfectly describes this situation:

  • A swamp is confusing and we easily lose ourselves in it.
  • Swamps are traps. We have no idea how we came in and no idea how to move out.
  • It is very hard to progress in a swamp and we move very slow.
  • The slower we move, the more nervous we get and the more we panic.

I have seen those situations over and over again. We call this firefighting.

3 Leadership Swamps

During the last 8 years helping organizations, I have discovered three different swamps:

  • Complexity & Making sense of environments – The world is so much different than it was 60/70 years. Why do we manage teams still the same way?
  • Innovation & Digitization: The technical advancements over the last years has given a wide array of possibilities. Companies and Organizations need to be adaptable to whatever happens.
  • Millennials & Cooperation with different generations: Motivations of the people we hire are different from ourselves. Millennials are not lazy only because they look or more sense in their job.

Managers and Organizations need to understand, what overwhelms them. How can we adjust our organizations and our system to work towards high performance teams?

There are tools, which help them to navigate in these environments. Management 3.0 gives complexity guidelines. Dave Snowden uses the Cynefin. The Leader’s Dilemma created guidelines on an organisational level, etc.

Nevertheless, in my opinion it starts with our own mindset and how we approach that form our point of reference. Learn in the next blog articles, which these might be.

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