Written by: Makheni Zonneveld
In 2016 I was most impressed when I received a pamphlet from the organization that handles recycling in my neighbourhood. The ‘good news’ was that we could add other materials to the plastic recycling container. The long list includes milk and and other cartons, yoghurt and other cups, cans, bottles and metal lids.
This was introduced with bells and whistles with a promise of doing something good for our planet. ‘The beginning of something beautiful’ (Translated from Dutch) was and is still the name of the project and not just a payoff line. I took this so seriously that I still have the 2016 pamphlet.
Some months ago I saw a TV report that was an extension of the national news. This efficient separation project does not have the desired impact. Yes, the separation of the different materials works perfectly but we are not saving the planet and most of the plastic that is recovered is useless and unrecyclable.
The recycling example is not unique. This happens daily in most organisations. The question is, what went wrong here and how could this be prevented by using PALH™ approach.
All organisations are faced with the need for transformation, renewal and new solutions. This requires good thinking skills. A crucial aspect of thinking skills is agility. The PALH™ model helps us to focus on different aspects of agility.
Outcomes agility inspires you to constantly better yourself to excel to the next level and constantly strive for better outcomes in any venture. With the help of the PALH™ method, the people who invested in this project would have started with asking the right questions with the desired outcome in mind. Their desired outcome was to have an impact on the environment by collecting good recyclable plastic but they invested in equipment that separates different materials perfectly. The solution is to ask the right questions like; what problem does equipment X solve?
It is reasonable to assume that the starting point was the solution itself and not the problem. When you have outcomes agility your thinking does not get locked into the product on offer or into any suggestion.
That takes us to change agility. Most organisational change interventions are driven the same way as we see in this example. We do not look at where we want to take our organisation to, what our vision is, where we want to get to and what possible options are available. As a consultant, one of the many management hypes is as long as the option promises cost-saving it is adopted without asking, ‘If this is the answer, what was the question?’ In this example the equipment does a great job of separating plastic from tin and glass but is that the desired outcome? That kind of thinking reflects agility.
As long as there is more than one person in any situation, politics are inevitable. Political agility helps you to survive organizational politics. When external stakeholders like service providers are involved, the relationships between internal stakeholders may be affected because the person who introduces the external stakeholder may either have personal interest or take the objection to the idea as a personal attack. Political awareness and cautiousness helps you to win the other person not to your side but to the side of the interest of your organization.
This takes us to education agility. Developing political agility is part of learning to be a good team player. Being flexible in dealing with others goes hand in hand with being flexible in developing educational skills that help you to excel in your work.
We cannot wish away the fact that the whole person, emotions and all, comes to work. Emotional agility helps us to be flexible in dealing with our own emotions and with the emotions of others. Situations like challenging the person who introduces the equipment that separates paper from glass when that is not the desired outcome will lead to friction and that is where emotional agility stands you in good stead.
Emotions always involve the brain and the mind. That is where cerebral agility comes in. You achieve results when your brain and your mind work in an agile manner. This takes effort. We need to constantly train our minds by being curious, finding out more, reading more and learning to generate new ideas.
Leading the way now is learning agility. In the new economy formal learning no longer plays a major role. The only way to survive the ever-changing environment is the readiness to learn and adapt. Accepting that you do not always know everything, having no fear of change and openness to learning are key.
In the 19 years that I have helped organizations, entrepreneurs and individuals with transformation, I have always firmly believed that you can transform any organization one team at a time and transform any team one mind-set at a time. I believe that the PALH™ model solves the problem of solving the wrong problem.
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