- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 1816 KB
- Print Length: 190 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0730328279
- Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (20 January 2016)
- Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01AXTFBKG
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Customer Reviews: 17 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #364,733 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
The Light and Fast Organisation: A New Way of Dealing with Uncertainty Kindle Edition
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From the Inside Flap
In the summer of 1938, a team of four young men for the first time successfully climbed the North Face of the Eiger, a notoriously difficult mountain face in Switzerland. On the long ascent, the team survived rockfalls, storms, and near-death experiences on this mountain face that had already claimed six lives in the preceding three years. The climb took the team a grueling 96 hours.
In the winter of 2008, Ueli Steck, a leading Swiss alpinist, made the same ascent up the North Face of the Eiger. He climbed alone and carried little more than two technical ice axes and a small backpack. He reached the summit in less than three hours.
Steck's approach was simple: he climbed light and he climbed fast.
In business, the stakes may be different, but the difficulties are the same. With volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) everywhere, successfully reaching the summit depends on how you approach the mountain.
From the Back Cover
On Wednesday 13 February 2008, Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck made history by climbing the North Face of the Eiger, a notoriously unpredictable and storm-prone mountain in Switzerland, in a record time of two hours and forty-seven minutes. On the surface, Steck's approach was staggeringly simple: he climbed light and he climbed fast.
The North Face of the Eiger provides the perfect metaphor for the world we live in today. We are experiencing our own unpredictable and violent storm, caused by complex interactions between people, places and technology. This storm is creating an increasingly confused landscape of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, and most of today's workers and organisations are not appropriately equipped to respond.
Although business and mountaineering share many parallels, they are rarely explored beyond superficial colloquialisms about 'dreaming big' and 'never giving up'. In this book, Patrick Hollingworth introduces the 'light and fast' approach, a refreshingly new and insightful perspective that arms you, and the organisation you work for, with the right mindset and skills to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.
You will learn how to:
- flip business convention to prepare for an uncertain future
- understand change and unearth opportunities
- see uncertainty and complexity as opportunities to be embraced
- create a 'light and fast' organisation that is truly agile and innovative
- get comfortable with uncertainty and discomfort, to achieve more, faster.
The Light and Fast Organisation offers a unique approach for overcoming the world's most perplexing business challenges and reaching the summit before the storm arrives.
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Top international reviews
Having said this, I think VUCA nowadays is bit of a cliche and over-hyped. One reason is that, having spent thirty years in the Army, VUCA is nothing new. The author himself notes this saying that VUCA entered the military's lingo in the early 1990s. But the military has always understood the world as VUCA (even if we never used the term before the 1990s). In fact, one of the first things I learned as a brand new lieutenant is the battlefield, and by extension the world (and even life) has always been VUCA.
So if VUCA is cliche, then what makes the book so good? Well, for me it's the author's comments about people, places, and technology. More people are connected than ever before; these connections bring people closer together than ever before, and technology continues its breakneck pace of connecting more people faster and closer than ever before. So while VUCA has always existed a manager's ability to react to VUCA has been both curtailed (in time) and made more complicated (local events are simply no longer local). This is a daunting challenge.
Part of Hollingworth's solution is the "light and fast" manager and the "light and fast" organization. Good, but not great; again, the military has worked to be "light and fast" for years. Where the military has fallen down (as with other organizations) is that while doctrine calls for "light and fast" in organization and position it often fails in filling leadership positions with people who think "light and fast." In fact, this paradox (asking leaders who don't think "light and fast" to be "light and fast") is a perennial discussion within the DoD. (And let's not forget that we need to ensure "light and fast" fits the situation: Ueli Steck would certainly have been "light and fast" ascending the North Face armed with an umbrella and a copy of this book, but he wouldn't have been properly "light and fast.)
The solution though isn't really all that tough to figure out (implementation is the problem). The military (like many big businesses) is beholden to various stakeholders who exercise leverage to protect their equities. Promotion board members are notorious for promoting those who "look" like them, thus perpetuating "old school" approaches (even if "old school" means only a few years). The MIC ("military-industrial complex") also has quite a bit invested in the status quo. This is why the common complaint is that generals always fight the last war (they think that way and they have armies that are equipped that way). And this is why the best thing for a military that needs "change" is to suffer some amount of defeat; old ways of thinking (and thus, leaders who embrace the old ways) are urged and new ideas solicited. Forget modern examples (still too political to be of value), think World War II. Pearl Harbor was a tragedy, but it also paved the way for the pushing aside of the battleships and the ascendancy of the aircraft carrier. The Kasserine Pass debacle opened the door for Patton to demonstrate that tanks were weapons in their own right and not just infantry fire support vehicles.
Hollingworth obviously hopes his book will be well-received by senior leaders. I just don't see it as possible (for reasons suggested above: stakeholder equities). "Light and fast" is, in the end, a mindset first and foremost. So perhaps the best he can hope for (and I will too) is to get this into the hands of junior leaders (military, business, etc.) with the hope that some of this sticks. If I were still in the Army I would certainly put this on the reading list of my junior leaders. I wonder what the USMC's leadership thinks of this book as they generally do a better job of stocking the USMC professional reading lists with good stuff like this.
In the end, a 5-star effort. Not because it's perfect (it's not), but because it's close enough (substitute "mindset" for "organisation" in the title and I think it works better). Anyway, it's also a "light and fast" read put together (physical layout of the book: built-in book marks) to facilitate "light and fast." And any book that brings in Nassim Taleb (in this case, "anti-fragility" - BRILLIANT!) in a meaningful way has to be good, right?
There is a new term that captures the current conditions in so many companies: VUCA. VUCA stands for: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.
Patrick Hollingworth, author of The Light and Fast Organization, advances the argument that to deal with VUCA, you need a light and fast organization. Mr. Hollingworth is a mountain climber. In order to contrast the old style of management with what the more agile style he proposes, he contrast the old style of mountain climbing – the expedition approach - with the new Alpine approach.
The book is divided into three parts. In part 1, the author describes the current landscape – giving background and history of the old management style. In Part 2, he contrasts the expedition style with the Alpine style. In Part 3, he describes the skills, insights and traits necessary to operate a lean and agile company.
The book is an interesting and insightful read. It is relatively short and a quick read.
Mr. Hollingworth provides some excellent insights. Taking his comparison, if you are a member of an expedition team – as opposed to the organizer – you have little control or influence on what the expedition does. Likewise, if you are a middle manager in an organization that is trying to hold on to the old way of doing things, your options are limited. Your best course of action may be to abandon the “expedition style management” and seek out a company that understands the VUCA world and is prepared to adopt a more agile approach to management.
It is much easier for start-up or small companies to adapt to the Alpine Style. Old style companies have so much culturally ingrained that changing is a real challenge.
I’m not a mountaineer or rock climbing. My most serious climbing challenge is climbing into bed, so many of the analogies to those sports fall somewhat flat for me.
But the basic lessons of the book – adapting the organization and the people within it to a constantly changing environment – are well taken.
The author has a lean, kind of sparkly writing style and he keeps the language simple and, in some cases, a little too general.
While this book should provoke thinking in every business-oriented reader, I don’t know how valuable it will be to those in small and medium sized organizations. These constitute the bulk of all business entities in the United States. All too often, they lack capital and are perpetually under-staffed. Mere survival is a daily challenge and planning for tomorrow often means reacting to what someone else did yesterday – literally something on the order of keeping up with the Joneses.
I wish it were otherwise, but it is the rare small business that grows to be large and it is often a lack of resources to throw at a problem like planning and adapting to the future.
Still this is a good read for anyone in business because it is a reminder that flexibility and adaptability have never been as important to survival as they are in today’s environment.
He does so in a very logical fashion with interesting mountain climbing examples (some more relevant than others) interspersed as well as useful diagrams and tables to ensure understanding. It's a fairly quick read (approximately 200 pages total) and easy to re-reference the more useful components. I found the emphasis on a growth vs fixed mindset, emphasis on taking risks and learning from mistakes, interdependence, as well as the need for continual learning to be the key takeaways. There is a lot to like about this book and it's a worthy read for anyone interested in finding success in today's increasingly uncertain workplace.
Hollingworth offers up some suggestions. He says there are three skills we need to learn, three insights we need to have and three traits we need to possess to function more effectively in this VUCA world.
Some concepts I found stimulating in reading this book:
* we all need to be futurists
* design teams consciously - as PayPal did
* use appreciative inquiry instead of 360-feedback
* be aware of our risk attitude
* have more infinite models
* have a get better mindset
* learn to love randomness and uncertainty
The author describes the problem of VUCA very well, the solutions seemed a little nebulous to me, but perhaps that's the nature of solutions in VUCA. I think I would have liked MORE examples of companies grasping opportunities in the VUCA environment, or examples how someone was practicing it in their approach to work and life more. Maybe a sequel is in order as we're just at the beginning stages of this VUCA adventure.