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The Fractal Intervention Approach to Leadership

Venki Iyer

Venki Iyer

Sr. Partner at Vyaktitva (serious face or else he may get summarily suspended and defenestrated forthwith) he works with organisations in accelerating change in both, people as a Coach and Leadership Teams as facilitator. When he is not coaching, he can be found walking in the hills, buried under a pile of books or humming a Rafi song.

Leadership development needs to be looked at holistically in terms of aligning the softer aspects of human psychology with the desired business results. One of our clients had a major problem – too much escalation from managers at the lower levels. This had two major effects: One, it disrupted the executive leadership teams’ focus on strategic management and, two they got sucked into daily firefighting. The CEO came to the conclusion that they had to train the next level of management to deal with the customer and plan proactively to manage their accountabilities.

A.    Excavation

To unearth the real issue, we used the Tatva ModelTM, a method that allows us to examine each element:
  • Sky: Mission, Vision, Strategies and Goals
  • Air: Culture
  • Water: Processes, Methods and Practices
  • Earth: Structures, Role and Accountabilities
  • Fire: Shared Leadership, EQ and Passion
  • Vyakti: Individual Capabilities
We examined the interdependencies and inter-relationships between these elements to identify the real gap. The real gap lay in the misalignment between the Sky (Mission, Vision, Strategies and Goals) and the Earth (the Organizational Structure and Decision-Making Structures, Accountabilities). If the organization has to grow, the next layer of leadership will have to take greater ownership and accountability for decision making to allow the executive management to focus on strategic aspects and the increasing complexity of the business. However, decision making structures within the organization did not permit this, which was hampering their ability to scale.

B.    Envisionment of the Solution Design

Such a situation is common to clients scaling up their operations as they struggle to get the next line of management to step up and pick the mantle of leadership despite empowering them for the same. Empowerment is a dual-edged sword. Those who have it feel its stress especially if they are ill equipped for it and those who don’t, constantly hanker for it! Our solution thus needed a dual focus; (hard) structures and (soft) modifying underlying behaviours. For the hard part we implemented the Fractal StructureTM which in an organization provides all the components and information required for it to replicate and scale at any level and across geographies. The Triple HelixTM of Leadership Development (the intertwined strands of decision making around self, shared and group leadership) is the primary vehicle through which this is implemented in the organization. A Fractal StructureTM has three components:
  1. Decision Making Structures: This covers all key decisions, their devolution to appropriate levels, identification of support groups along with the decision makers, ring fencing to manage the fears of devolution, deep democracy that enriches the process of decision making and leverages diversity of opinion.
  2. Performance Orientation: The production engine of the organization, it delivers consistent and high-quality value to the customer. This has also to do with ownership, accountability and consequence management.
  • Joyful Community: The energizing cycle of the organization, it encompasses the setting up of structured processes that enable the celebration of achievements and talent and continuous learning around decision making and leadership journeys.

C.    Execution

  1. Co-Create and design the Devolution of Power (DOP) Matrix covering key decisions taken at the leadership level and one level below. Also, ring fence the decisions to manage the fears of deterioration of quality of decision making
  2. Socialize the next layer with these. Bring back any push backs/contrary viewpoints to the leadership team to resolve and finalize the DOP Matrix.
  • Set up and conduct the governance mechanism that in a disciplined manner reviews the progress of the devolution, the quality of the decision circles implemented.
  1. Reform or tweak the PMS to reflect the devolution of powers and consequent accountability.

D.    Evaluation

The Fractal intervention allows organisations to marry the soft side of human psychology and the hard side of business results. Keeping both in focus, they feed each other and learn from each other. We call it a psycho-business approach to high performance. Typically, this approach delivers the first results within three months of implementation. However, it is also true that it might even get worse before it gets better! It is not easy for the various layers within the organization, starting from the top management to adjust to new ways of working. Imagine a situation where I am used to taking a decision from my boss and implementing it and now I have to actually take the decision myself and live with the consequences! It takes discipline, time and confidence for the design to be effective. However, perseverance with the model and commitment to it tends to deliver results.

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