A person, viewed from behind, looks into a fire

Sharing Context and Purpose at Work

By Sam Robinson

We’re revisiting our blog archives and republishing pieces that remain as timely as ever. This post was originally published in September 2015.

Karl Weick’s 1993 paper The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster is an analysis of a notorious incident in 1949 in Montana, USA. The disaster centred on a team of firefighters attempting to contain an out-of-control forest fire in a gulch located along the upper Missouri River. Tragically, the fire claimed the lives of 13 firefighters.

Reading through the story, I can’t help but be affected by the torment that would have been faced by those people in fighting the fire. While it’s possible to read through the events dispassionately in the safety of a cosy office, a historic anecdote from the dim past, for some reason tragic events like these can stick firmly to our consciousness. This particular tragic event is one of those for me.

Not all of us will directly experience a crisis like this, but all of us will experience a crisis of some kind from time to time. Crisis stories are part of the shared language we use to make sense of the world.

Recently I had the good fortune to talk to people working in an organisation and affected by a crisis, within days of it happening. A serious road accident involving a number of vehicles, lives being threatened and impacts on a major arterial road – the organisation was called to coordinate the immediate response. Talking to the people involved, their overriding sense was that the teams involved, from very different parts of the organisation, worked together “like clockwork”. But there was also a frustrating and lingering question: “why isn’t it always like this?”

What is it about a crisis that focuses our attention so fully for a short period of time?

The words "do something great" are displayed in blue neon on a black background

What Makes Us and Our Leadership Development Programs Different?

See our recent series on a series on LKS Quaero’s leadership development programs.

In short, our programs are different because they are relevant, practical, sustainable and proven.

Lots of organisations have previously invested a lot of time and money on leadership development. That programming might have given people a good set of skills and it might have built team cohesion – or the results might not have been commensurate with the investment. There’s nothing wrong with cohesive teams and improved skills, but these things aren’t that useful if the leadership development wasn’t ultimately geared towards improving results. Without a common language, toolkit, and framework for leadership that everyone uses and knows works, the results will fall flat.

We work to genuinely help our clients solve their problems and we tailor our programs to meet their specific needs. The programs are different to anything else available as they are very tightly connected to what the organisation wants to achieve. Each program begins with the senior leadership presenting the context of what’s happening in the organisation at the moment and how the program is connected to what our clients want to achieve as a whole.

We help our clients to succeed by looking at the impact of how they’re leading. What we do doesn’t just fall out of a textbook or a pet theory: every model is based on our hands-on experience in industry. We equip participants with problem-solving tools that work and show them practical examples of success.

A painted arrow points forward along a streetscape

How We Help Clients Design and Reach the Desired Future State

This is part of a series on LKS Quaero’s leadership development programs, published in advance of our 2018 Public Program in Newcastle. You can book your ticket for our Leading for Change (Advanced) Diploma program or book your ticket for our Leading for Change (Essentials) Certificate IV program now.

Once the organisational problem has been identified and the current state analysis has been undertaken, our clients have a clear picture of what’s going well and what’s not. How do we help them turn that knowledge into concrete change?

It’s tempting to go and tackle lots of little changes. However, without a clear plan, those changes don’t cohere or stick. We work with clients to clearly map out where they would like to be by helping them to design the desired future state for their organisation.

A group of people collaborate around a table

What Clients Get Out of Our Leadership Development Programs

This is part of a series on LKS Quaero’s leadership development programs, published in advance of our 2018 Public Program in Newcastle. You can book your ticket for our Leading for Change (Advanced) Diploma program or book your ticket for our Leading for Change (Essentials) Certificate IV program now.

What do organisations and individual participants get out of our leadership development programs?

At the start of the program, we ask participants what their expectations are. For many people, expectations are pretty low – they’re just there because their boss has sent them, they’ve done training before, they don’t think they’ll get much out of this. These participants, without exception to date, have a completely different response at the end.

Our programs are unique because we don’t just teach theory and send participants back to the workplace to find their feet. We actually won’t pass or accredit someone unless they’ve made improvements in their area of accountability at work, demonstrated against specific targets that are aligned with the organisation’s business plans. As a result, we’re being inundated with requests from previous clients to come back and run more programs.

In financial terms, one participant in one course alone has saved $1.5M in the first year as a result of better inventory management.

Diagram representation of the 5 Tier Leadership Program

The 5 Tier Leadership Development Program

This is part of a series on LKS Quaero’s leadership development programs, published in advance of our 2018 Public Program in Newcastle. You can book your ticket for our Leading for Change (Advanced) Diploma program or book your ticket for our Leading for Change (Essentials) Certificate IV program now.

We’ve developed a 5 Tier Leadership Development Program. What are the tiers, how do they work, and how do they connect?

Organisations tend to have several leadership tiers, with different needs, challenges, authorities, and accountabilities. We don’t believe in ignoring these differences recycling generic, inapplicable programming. We believe in meeting people where they’re at and providing practical help and learning. Just like an organisation has several levels, our program is pitched and tailored for different organisational levels.

Each level increases in complexity in terms of understanding an organisation:

  1. Leading in the Frontline (Essentials) is designed to develop more effective frontline leaders by providing some basic training in terms of leadership and expectation-setting
  2. Leading in the Frontline (Advanced) is designed for current and potential frontline leaders believed to have the capacity, capability, and desire to progress to higher organisational levels. It addresses the expectations of a leader and basics of management processes, with the opportunity to gain some accreditation towards a Certificate IV in Leadership and Management
  3. Leading for Change (Essentials) is geared towards the current middle management group, team leaders, and supervisors, with the opportunity to gain the Certificate IV Leadership and Management. It focuses on driving sustainable improvement, validating skills and utilising targeted interventions to build an engaged and energised team
  4. Leading for Change (Advanced) is most suitable for senior managers and is focused on creating a constructive culture in which team members can work to their full potential. There is the opportunity to gain a Diploma Leadership and Management
  5. Leading Transformation is designed for senior leaders, focusing on whole of organisational transformation and long term business improvement. Participants have the opportunity to gain an Advanced Diploma Leadership and Management

The program goes all the way from picking different units of competency that go towards making up a qualification to an Advanced Diploma. The Certificate IV, Diploma, and Advanced Diploma in Leadership and Management are all nationally recognised qualifications and there are a number of units that are mandatory for each.

There is flexibility built into the program to tailor it specifically to an organisation’s needs, with electives that we help clients choose to tailor the programs towards specific areas of focus, such as financial aspects of the business or more diagnosing issues with productivity and performance.

A jumble of puzzle pieces

How We Help Clients to Solve Problems

This is part of a series on LKS Quaero’s leadership development programs, published in advance of our 2018 Public Program in Newcastle. You can book your ticket for our Leading for Change (Advanced) Diploma program or book your ticket for our Leading for Change (Essentials) Certificate IV program now.

It’s hard to see all the way around a problem when you’re in the middle of it.

Organisations come to us with various levels of understanding of what their problem might be. Whether or not you have a solid idea of what the problem is in your organisation, clear and impartial analysis is crucial for getting the full picture. It’s vital to identify the problem and understand it properly before constructing any solutions. At LKS Quaero, we start with defining the problem really well, in useful context.

Clients approach us with a number of different ideas about what’s happening. Perhaps they’ve identified the culture as a problem, or safety, or something else entirely. We keep digging down and asking “how do you know that’s the problem?” Often, this process leads to our clients realising that at the bottom they actually have a leadership issue. We say that leadership creates the culture and it’s the culture that delivers the results – good or bad. If you want to improve the results or tackle the symptoms of the problem, you need to look at the impact of the culture and the leadership.

A hot hair balloon rises above some trees

Why We Do It

This is part of a series on LKS Quaero’s leadership development programs, published in advance of our 2018 Public Program in Newcastle

We run our leadership development programs because we enjoy helping people to become more deliberate and effective leaders.

It’s an old standby to say that you’re passionate about making a difference, but there’s little more satisfying then helping create positive change and helping others to do the same. It’s a wonderful feeling when clients come back to us and tell us that they’ve been implementing changes themselves. We’re keen on organisational improvement, not just ticking a box. As Sam Robinson says, ‘we want the organisation to succeed and we want people to succeed’.

We enjoy working with people and are fascinated by the intricacies of organisations, especially improving them. We come from a number of different sectors (such as law, manufacturing, and safety). We also work across a number of sectors, such as resources, manufacturing, local government, heavy industry, and not for profit, ranging from small to very large. There’s no limit to the sort of organisations we work with.

Peter White worked for many years in manufacturing and saw lots of money spent on training without delivering a significant return. He wants to make that ‘a positive experience with a positive return for each client’. Sam likes to foster ‘organisations that help and support people to achieve their best’. We’ve all been in organisations where the leadership was not very good and the culture and results suffered: we like helping people discover why leadership is so critical to that equation, positively or negatively. Here’s what our clients are saying:

Boardroom with empty chairs and class full length windows

How Do You Know If You Have a Problem?

This is the first post in a series on LKS Quaero’s leadership development programs, published in advance of our 2018 Public Program in Newcastle

Organisations tend to contact us when something’s going wrong – and it’s usually a pressing problem.

Sometimes it’s something that crops up time and again. It might be a matter of safety. They might be concerned about performance as the organisation is not achieving the results that they think the should given the people they have in place. It could be about the culture; motivation isn’t there or people aren’t putting in as much effort as they should. These organisations have tried implementing improvement programs or sending staff to leadership courses before. The improvements haven’t stuck afterwards or else nothing ever changed. Ultimately, the organisational culture remains resistant to change.

For other organisations, it’s clearly a problem of leadership. Often, it’s about someone from a technical background who has been moved into a leadership position, often for the first time. They’ve brought across their excellent technical skills, but are don’t have the necessary grounding in leadership. Leadership skills – motivating people, setting expectations, and seeing that the work is done – are a completely different skillset to completing that work yourself. This common problem is sometimes just for one person, but is often the case among a whole leadership team, particularly if there has been no leadership development before.

And sometimes it’s the nagging knowledge that something in their organisation is not right. It’s draining resources and morale, not to mention the impact on results, but the organisation can’t quite find the bottom of it.

Pervasive problems like these tend to come down to the same thing.

A figure (head hidden by frame) sits at a table, holding a pen and a paintbrush, with hands and surroundings covered by paint.

Overview: LKS Quaero’s Leadership and Culture Programs

We believe that leadership creates an organisation’s culture and it is the culture that ultimately delivers the results – good or bad. That means that if you’re not happy with your current results, then something needs to change in the leadership of your organisation, your organisation’s culture, or both. For sustainable change, an organisation must have a constructive culture and this can only be achieved through capable and competent leaders at all levels.

We offer a suite of related programs to transform your culture comprehensively, rapidly, and sustainably by building leadership capability.

  • Each program is tailored to your specific needs based on the understanding of your current state as well as the maturity and effectiveness of your leadership teams.
  • We demystify leadership through a robust and practical toolkit for all leaders that is applied and practised for real so that it sticks
  • We apply powerful diagnostic tools and methodologies in unique ways for each engagement to identify the actual problem using our suite of performance scorecard tools. This approach identifies the most cost effective and sustainable solutions