Squash Futures IV: Community / Coaches

N.B. This article is the last in a series. The first three articles, “Sense / Leaders,” “Culture / Clubs” and “Network / Probes” were published previously on this blog.

Background

The long-term future of squash in a complex, dynamically-changing world lies in the continuing emergence and vitality of multiple squash communities, many of which will prove short-lived. In this context, traditional ‘static’ methods of sport development – typically based the local provision of standardised, participation-oriented squash programmes – will increasingly need to be augmented by ‘rolling programmes’ of innovative and culturally-sensitive communication and leadership initiatives.

Without these, squash will not be able to sense and respond quickly enough to changes in the socio-economic and cultural  environments within which it’s competing for participation, with other sports and with non sports-related activities.

Dynamic leaders from different age groups and backgrounds will always be required to activate existing squash networks and inspire existing squash communities. But so too will people who can coach new squash communities into existence and squash agents into leaders.

Our understanding of what squash coaching will have to become will have to change.

Sense / Leaders

Squash communities aren’t just local populations of players, nor are they just groups of members of some squash club or institution. They’re dynamic groupings of individuals with shared ‘tribal’ identities, even though they may have their own individual (and shifting) perceptions, preferences and priorities.Active squash agents, including those who govern the sport, run squash clubs or offer squash programmes, fail to sense those shifting perceptions, preferences and priorities at their peril.

Of course, many people who are members of squash clubs may not even behave or wish to behave as squash agents, for example by offering to introduce people to the sport, running competitions, organising social events or even helping to run squash clubs. In fact, many may be happy just to ‘consume’ the occasional squash experience, e.g. by playing a friend or watching from the balcony while others play.

Yet the existence and involvement of active squash agents is essential to sustain living squash communities; and living squash communities are essential to the transmission through time of the squash life story.

Unfortunately, squash communities can’t be built to a blueprint, like machines. Nor do they spontaneously emerge from local populations, whether somebody belonging to those populations is already playing squash or not. However, their emergence can be stimulated and their vitality sustained throughout changes in the demography and interconnection of those whose participation breathes life into them. And while individuals are required to lead squash communities, others will always be needed who can catalyse squash community emergence and vitality. Otherwise, there will be no communities for leaders to lead.

This catalysis role is entrepreneurial rather than managerial or operational in nature. To perform it, individuals are needed who are explorers with a healthy scepticism of ready-made ‘expert solutions’ to squash participation ‘problems.’ The wreckage of many a failed squash development initiative sits on top of a ‘best practice’ blueprint. And the catalysts are also risk-takers who are prepared to encounter failure on the road to success.

Above all, the catalysts are curious, persistent and collaborative. People who are prepared to ask, and help others find answers to, difficult questions. To stimulate networks, generate interest and gain support. To coach communities into life and coach life into unhealthy ones.

There is more than one kind of life coaching, and more than one kind of squash coaching.

Culture / Clubs

How did you come to love squash? I don’t mean when or where did you start to learn the game or even play the game. I mean what’s the story behind how you come to realise that squash was something that you had to be – or already were – actively involved in?

Whatever your answer, it will have something to do with your introduction to and interaction with one or more squash agents, individuals who already loved squash and were happy to share their stories.

What was the context within which you came to love squash? How were your family, friends (or even enemies), work, home location and other life passions involved? What about your background and the background of those who made up the ‘supporting cast’ of squash agents in your introduction to squash?

What identity or identities do you believe that squash has helped to give you, or maybe to strengthen? Which of your values do you feel that it chimes with?

These are all important coaching questions focusing as they do on community and belonging.

Whether we realise it or not, we all play parts in the communities we find ourselves belonging to. Communities aren’t clubs or institutions. You don’t just apply, fill in a form and pay the subscription. You don’t come to love squash just by joining a club.
Squash is a culture and its transmission depends on its agents. It’s that agency that must be nurtured, directed and amplified if new squash communities are to emerge and remain vital.

Vitality must be coached into squash communities; squash agency must be coached into squash leadership.

Network / Probes

A key feature of squash community coaching is the nature of communication, not just between squash agents but between all existing and potential community members. Just because a community appears to be healthy does not mean that hidden changes are not underway.

What is the demographic profile of the community? How is it changing? What are the current perceptions, preferences and priorities of the community and how are they changing? What is the participation demography of community members in current activities and programmes and how is it changing? What new programmes and activities are you proposing to try out? How do current and proposed programmes and activities reflect changing community demographics?

What squash networks enhance the vitality of the community? How and by whom are those networks currently being used? How are they being stimulated? Even the individual members of a single squash club will typically use a number of networks each functioning via its own unique mix of messages, meetings, gatherings, visits, customs and technologies.

The ongoing health of squash communities is vital to their quality of life. Clearly, it’s sensible to give them the occasional check up. But it’s also vital to monitor their day to day well-being.

Emergency treatment is no substitute for the early detection of warning signs.

Summary

The purpose of this series of articles has been to raise awareness of new ways of thinking about the future of squash. These new ways have addressed a wide range of issues such as sense-making, leadership, culture, community, communication and innovation, all of which will affect the vitality of squash in a complex and dynamically-changing world.

The age of measuring the ‘success’ of squash and other sports solely in terms of participation now belongs to a ‘classical’ period which, in many Western cultures in particular, has now ended. We are now in a ‘post-classical’ age in which perceptions, preferences and priorities can not only change in an instant, but be largely unpredictable.

Like global finance, the future of squash will play out in an age of uncertainty.

References

A Leader’s Framework for Decision-making” by David J. Snowden and Mary E. Boone is published in November 2007 issue of The Harvard Business Review.

Squash Futures III: Network / Probes

N.B. This article is the third in a series. The first two articles, “Sense / Leaders” and “Culture / Clubs,” were published previously on this blog.

Introduction

What can squash agents do to contribute to the sustainable development of their squash communities?

A range of methods suited to the sustainable development of communities is now available which complements existing expert-informed approaches. These methods replicate how social relationships form, but telescope the time down to achieve this and, as a result, reduce the degrees of separation between squash community members. They do this in a novel way whilst simultaneously addressing the issues and challenges associated with squash organisation and participation.

The use of these methods results in the development of a denser social fabric within and across squash communities which can lead to significant improvements in overall connection, interactivity and participation. When someone joins a squash community, how long does it take until they are well-connected? Years? What if you could condense that time into weeks or months? At a personal level, what impact could this have on their active involvement in the community? And, at community or club level, what benefits could be realised?

Influential people in squash communities are almost always well-connected socially; and, they’re within a few connections of most people in those communities – particularly those who are critical to what they want to influence. This typically occurs as people spend time together, either in conversation or through shared involvement in activities or initiatives which can benefit the community.

The sustainable development of squash communities is a social issue.

Stimulating: Social Networks

All members of squash communities belong to social networks by virtue of their personal connection to others. This form of community membership differs from that of squash club membership or squash programme membership, both of which involve the interaction of people with formal organisational structures and their administrators.

The purpose of ‘stimulating’ social networks is not to seek agreement on the way that a ‘problem’ (such as a dying squash community) should be ‘solved,’ or even to ‘sell’ solutions conceived by committees or experts. Rather, it is to create a framework within which a network of people can itself identify and solve problems in new and unconventional ways by tapping into their combined knowledge and experience.

Social NetworkOver time, as people interact with each other and migrate from one place to another, they accumulate a collection of residual relationships. Their participation in these relationships is inherently based on trust and reciprocity. Together, these create social capital that can flow – via social networks – through and between squash communities, and be used to help their continuous development.

Exercises in stimulating social networks must be based on the understanding that a squash community needs some form of ongoing problem-solving or ‘threat / opportunity response’ capability – and that new community members (whether they play squash or not) need to be attracted in order to allow new identities and relationships to form. Once this is accepted, one or more “noble purposes” can be meaningfully identified based on the current state of each squash community. These are the purposes that everyone agrees are worthy but that no one person can spare the time or provide the resources needed to investigate.

The uncovering and stimulation of social networks is a key component in the enterprise of building sustainable squash communities.

Exploring: Social Constructs

The involvement of willing members of squash communities in exploring the nature of their communities is essential. Different groupings of individuals exist within all communities and it is important to identify them and to understand how they view the wider community and their involvement in it. Without such an understanding, it is not possible to take effective action in solving problems in ways which will contribute to the sustainable development of the community as a whole.

One method of exploring a squash community is archetype extraction which is typically carried out by a small group of community members helped by a facilitator. The method helps to collect the views of community members and re-interpret them in the form of ‘typical’ characters (‘archetypes’) which are uniformly agreed to be accepted cultural representations of the wider community. These archetypes may be complimentary in nature – or not!

Archetype SetUsing this method, archetypes may emerge which draw on age, gender, playing standard, marital status, club night attendance, parenthood, profession, team membership, ethnicity, committee membership, social reputation – or, in fact, none of these! In fact, the ‘archetype profile’ of every squash community is highly likely to be different from that of every other community and, unsurprisingly will change over time as members come and go.

Methods other than the archetypes exercise can also be used to derive useful social constructs . However, they all have one thing in common. They can be run in parallel with other problem-solving initiatives, or even as part of larger projects, such as:

  • The development of squash communities across regional areas
  • Conflict resolution between different community groups with opposing views
  • Inducting new members into a community or onto an organising body
  • Offering programmes, services and membership options tailored to members with different world-views

Taken together, social constructs provide squash communities with a much more meaningful, up to date and useful picture of themselves – something which is critical if its members want to help sustain them.

N.B. As with social network stimulation, social construct exploration methods are not only teachable, but are scalable. It’s possible to start small and grow.

Experimenting: Safe to Fail Probes

Understanding the nature of a squash community – and how it is changing – can make it easier to successfully introduce new events, new programmes and new forms of membership. But this doesn’t mean that every innovation will be successful. In fact it’s actually desirable to have a few failures (and even to plan some) so that lessons can be learned. What was being assumed that wasn’t so? What problems arose that weren’t anticipated, or that were? What proved more difficult – or easy – than we expected? What archetypes appeared that we didn’t know about?

And there’s another reason for regularly exploring squash communities. In complex societies, there are no repeating relationships between cause and effect. So, in certain circumstances, and at certain times, an initiative may succeed whereas at others the exact same initiative may fail. It may also be the case that an issue (such as falling squash club membership) may be perceived as a solvable problem, whereas it may be a natural consequence of changes in a squash community emerging from a changing combination of demographic and cultural influences.

Hence the need for experimentation – using ‘safe to fail’ probes.

Safe to Fail‘Safe to fail’ probes are small-scale experiments that approach issues from different angles in safe-to-fail ways. The intent of these probes is to approach issues in a small-scale, contained manner which will allow emergent possibilities (things that we didn’t know about) to become more visible. The emphasis is not on ensuring success or avoiding failure, but in allowing ideas that are not useful to fail in contained and tolerable ways. The ideas that do produce observable benefits can then be adopted and amplified when the complex system (i.e. the squash community) has exhibited the desired response to a probe or stimulus. Where the social environments within which squash communities (and organised squash activities) exist become increasingly complex, what is known and what can be planned for becomes less certain.

Introducing and increasing social and organisational tolerance for failure is more crucial than ever. Some squash communities may not have the social fabric, self-knowledge or creativity to survive.

N.B. A safe to fail probe may take the form of a social squash participation or squash partnering initiative. Creative experimentation is the key.

Next time…

In the next post, I’ll take a look at a new form of squash agency which can stimulate the emergence of new leaders: the coaching of squash communities.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Cognitive Edge for the descriptions of the sense-making methods described above.

References

A Leader’s Framework for Decision-making” by David J. Snowden and Mary E. Boone is published in November 2007 issue of The Harvard Business Review.

Squash Futures II: Culture / Clubs

This article is the second in a series. The first article, “Sense / Leaders,” was published previously on this blog.

Introduction

The traditional view of squash is that of a high-intensity racket sport played in  custom-built indoor facilities. Centred on the use of these facilities are squash clubs, organised groups of people typically living within the same geographical area. Clubs are viewed as being ordered, with their members being accountable for their behaviour both to their fellow members and to those of a wider squash community.

Squash in Cairo

Squash in Cairo

Of course, at any one time, a significant proportion of that community may not be actively participating in their sport whether through injury, accident, design, advancing years or a combination thereof. Yet, participants and non-participants alike potentially share one thing, irrespective of their gender, age, sexuality or ethnicity: the identity of squash agents.

Although they may not be aware of it, each, in their own way, is capable of projecting something into the future which will continue to nurture the playing of their sport: squash culture.

Squash Culture

Squash culture can be thought of as something which endures through, and only through, the sustained interaction of its agents (players and non-players alike) and their interaction with potential future agents. As the lives of those agents play out, as they migrate from area to area, age and die, so the nature of their agency will change as, inevitably, will that of the squash culture it nurtures.

Squash culture can exist and be expressed in an almost limitless number of ways. Some forms of expression (such as a squash match) may be common to all squash cultures, whereas others may be uncommon or even unique. In fact, squash culture can vary from population to population, from group to group, and even from person to person.

Crucially, squash culture is not just a by-product of the participation of individuals in organised squash activities. It is, in essence, a shared basis for social interaction shaped by the traditions, beliefs, values and knowledge inherited and transmitted by its agents. It is also dynamic and can mutate to occupy different socio-economic niches – rather than static, requiring individuals to conform to universal norms. And it is COMPLEX, its whole being far greater than the sum of its parts.

In the context of leadership, squash culture occupies the domain of unknown unknowns, the COMPLEX world of unpredictability. It is the domain to which much of contemporary business and Western public policy has shifted.

And it is the world of emergence.

Squash Development

In many Western countries squash culture has, to some extent, been viewed in terms of knowable processes and its ‘delivery’ as a by-product of ‘sport development’ activities. However, sport development, more often than not, takes the form of bespoke initiatives targetting specific populations, club memberships or demographic groups for the purpose of bringing about desired social and economic benefits.

Squash in Hong Kong

Squash in Hong Kong

This kind of approach reflects an ordered ‘cause and effect’ worldview, a SIMPLE world of predictability. This worldview focuses on playing squash (as a teachable skill) and the associated provision of playing-centred ‘participation’ services by squash coaches. In this context, the role of sport development experts is to devise initiatives which have the ‘best chance’ of ‘delivering’ the required participation which will, in turn, (it is believed) result in the desired socio-economic outcome.

The role of the expert assumes that contextual differences will exist from one initiative to another and that an analysis of each situation is necessary before a suitable initiative can be devised. The worldview supporting expert-led sport development also assumes an ordered or ‘knowable’ world of ‘cause and effect’ whilst recognising that context is key – a worldview associated with the COMPLICATED domain of leadership.

This worldview is well-established in the West and can help to shape initiatives which contribute to increasing participation in certain sports within carefully-selected target populations. However, participation levels in squash and other sports are also naturally subject to change over time as socio-economic environments change and the cultural identities (and behaviour patterns) of individuals mutate. Nature is not ordered and people are unpredictable.

In reality, we all live within COMPLEX socio-economic environments populated by competing cultural influences – and cultural agents. In these environments, the ability to detect and act on emerging signs of self-organised squash development is critical. One such sign could be the formation of networks or small groups of individuals to share and discuss ideas for change; another could be the initiation of local ‘social development’ initiatives which incorporate or ‘resonate’ with squash participation. Different signs will inevitably emerge from different socio-economic environments, but they must be sought and, when detected, acted upon.

Sustainable squash development will new forms of squash agency – and new breeds of squash agent – to project squash culture.

Squash Emergence

Squash leadership is one of many forms of squash agency. In COMPLEX situations, others will emerge as squash cultures are explored, emerging situations identified, and opportunities for action exploited.

So what will this exploration involve, and what will these actions look like?

Squash in London

Squash in London

The characteristics of leadership in ordered contexts (SIMPLE and COMPLICATED) are well documented but in unordered, COMPLEX contexts, they are less so. As we have seen above, such contexts are characterised by dynamism and unpredictability, the lack of ‘right’ answers as to how to deal with emerging situations, and the existence of many competing ideas.

They are also characterised by the appearance of emergent instructive patterns associated with creative and innovative approaches to squash participation, and of new forms of squash agency – both arising from interactions between interconnected squash agents.

So, future squash leadership will be ‘pattern-based’ and will involve:

  • The creation of environments and the conduct of experiments that will allow patterns to emerge. These environments will be physical, digital or a combination of both; but, whatever their form, they will support social interaction between squash agents.
  • The stimulation and growth of connection, communication and collaboration activity between squash agents.
  • The opening up of discussions using methods which can help generate ideas. These methods typically work by setting up barriers (to frame discussions), stimulating attractors (ideas which resonate with squash agents), encouraging dissent and diversity, managing starting conditions (to exploit unexpected opportunities), and monitoring for emergence.

As will be obvious, leadership in COMPLEX contexts requires much more interactive communication than in any other context. In fact, many of the methods described above are commonly referred to as large group methods (LGMs) and are proven ways of initiating and hosting democratic, interactive, multi-dimensional discussions.

Using these methods, populations of squash agents will share their experiences on an ongoing basis, and contribute new ideas which feed directly into leadership awareness. This helps leaders to spot the emergence of ‘weak patterns’ which are the first sign of the effects of changing socio-economic influences. It also complements traditional ‘consultation’ exercises (used in SIMPLE and COMPLICATED situations) which, typically, seek opinions about pre-defined courses of action or ‘strategies.’.

Of course, there are dangers in COMPLEX leadership such as the temptation to fall back into habitual ‘command and control’ mode, to look for ‘facts’ rather than to allow patterns to emerge, and to crave the accelerated solution of ‘problems’ or the premature exploitation of opportunities.

COMPLEX leadership requires patience and time for reflection.

Next time…

In the next post, we’ll take a look at some of the methods used to detect the emergent patterns which signal change in squash cultures.

References

A Leader’s Framework for Decision-making” by David J. Snowden and Mary E. Boone is published in November 2007 issue of The Harvard Business Review.

Squash Futures I: Sense / Leaders

England’s squash governing body, England Squash and Racketball, was recently hit by a 20% reduction in its funding by Sport England (another public body) after ‘failing to halt the decline in people playing the sport.’ Along with the reduction, Sport England has demanded “a rapid and immediate improvement in leadership” by ESR which has also been asked to review its “current participation strategy.”

These demands reflect a belief that, if they’re met, the decline in the number of people playing squash in England actually can be halted. Although there isn’t space on this blog to explore the world-view that this belief reflects, one thing is certain. The issue of squash participation in a world of dynamic social change, economic uncertainty and cultural diversity is a complex one. And, to address it successfully, new forms of leadership will need to appear.

To understand why, it’s worth looking at the nature of leadership in complex situations, and at the kind of actions needed if squash is to evolve and occupy the most hospitable socio-economic niches, not just in England but across the world.

The Four Domains of Leadership

Whatever else it is, leadership is about making sense: of social environments and trends; of human behaviour; of cultures; and of situations, current and emergent. Without effective sense-making, it’s not even possible to make effective decisions. And without effective decisions, squash – along with every other sport – can’t respond quickly enough to changes in the complex environments within which it’s competing with other forms of activity.

Fortunately, recent research has led to a deeper understanding of the dynamic  nature of social environments. It’s also led to the emergence of some tools which can help people to make sense of the fast-changing situations in which they find themselves, and respond in the most effective way. One of these tools, a sense-making framework created by Welsh researcher Dave Snowden, is shown below.

Snowden's Leadership Framework

Snowden’s Leadership Framework

Snowden’s framework is used in a wide range of contexts by governments and organisations all over the world. Its purpose is to help decision-makers quickly assess dynamic situations and decide the most appropriate courses of action in responding to them. It also helps them to learn how the social groupings and networks around them are changing by monitoring real-time information fed to them by their members.

The framework comprises four ontologies or domains – simple, complicated, complex and chaotic – which can be used to understand and assess current situations. Of course, all of us have different world-views, experience and sensitivities, and so a situation which is complex or chaotic to one decision-maker may appear to be simple to another. With this in mind, it should be obvious that the framework isn’t a static collection of ‘pigeon holes’ for categorising situations or problems; it’s a dynamic tool for leading conversations, seeking consensus and agreeing actions.

When looking at the framework, it’s wise to remember that leadership isn’t just a skills-based capability which is, or even can be, possessed solely by the occupants of certain positions of authority. It’s a state which any individual is capable of attaining, often at times and in circumstances when they most need to – or when others most need them to.

And leadership takes many forms.

1. Feudal / Bureaucratic Leadership (SIMPLE)

In simple situations, we sense that we’re dealing with well-known issues which can be successfully dealt with using well-known methods. These methods are sometime referred to as ‘best practices’ and tend to be straightforward and easy to learn. Everybody agrees about the right courses of action to be taken which are regarded as ‘obvious.’

In simple situations, our beliefs are based on a strong assumption of order and of certainty that specific actions will lead to predictable and consistent outcomes. When we live in simplicity, we tend to categorise or ‘pigeon-hole’ the situations we’re in and then respond to them in tried and tested ways.

Leadership in simplicity rests on ensuring that reliable methods are in place: methods for performing routine activities; for monitoring for complacency (sloppiness); and for detecting early signs that methods need to be changed. This kind of leadership is often referred to as ‘bureaucratic’ or ‘feudal’ leadership, and is suited to the maintenance and improvement of controlled processes operating within stable environments.

To some extent, living in simplicity is rather like living in the past. It feels comfortable, but previously stable environments can suddenly become unstable or can even collapse into chaos. Think ‘global financial crisis.’

2. Oligarchic Leadership (COMPLICATED)

In complicated situations, we sense that we’re dealing with issues which, although not well-understood, can be understood by experts. As with simple situations, we assume that complicated situations are ordered in some way and that we can forecast outcomes. But we also see that the same outcome can arise after  taking different courses of action. So, we accept that we’ll have to analyse each situation before we decide how to respond to it in the most appropriate way.

This approach requires systems thinking and typically leads to the development of good practice approaches (also known as methodologies) for analysing similar situations and deciding bespoke courses of action. Depending on the nature of the situation, we typically seek the help of experts to support us in navigating through the different methods and courses of action available to us.

Leadership in complication rests on ensuring that the right people and practices are brought together at the right time to analyse and respond to situations. Courses of action are typically planned and carried out in the form of structured projects with feedback being used to monitor progress and change direction, if necessary. This kind of leadership is detached, yet sensitive to deadlines and any issues and risks arising. It’s often referred to as oligarchic leadership in that power over what courses of action are to be taken rests with a small number of expert-advised people.

Living in complication involves a constant search for what we believe are the right experts. However, there’s a risk in always believing the opinions of experts. As they  compete amongst themselves, experts are sometimes prone to believe in their own infallibility, descend into group-think and adhere to outdated and inappropriate approaches.

And in complex or chaotic situations, this can prove disastrous.  

3. Patriarchal / Matriarchal Leadership (COMPLEX)

In complex situations, we sense that we’re dealing with unordered scenarios. We don’t understand what’s happening but we sense that it’s possible to find out. We sense or see coherent patterns of behaviour, but they don’t seem to repeat for any length of time. There appear to be constraints in the system, but if we try to impose rules, people break, ignore or circumvent them. What’s more, any evidence we can find to tell us what’s happening supports multiple, contradictory positions.

Leadership in complexity rests on continuously probing social environments for meaningful narrative information using multiple safe to fail experiments. We know that some of these short, sharp probes will provide new insights into what people are thinking and feeling which can be used to support effective decision-making. Other probes won’t.

To support continuous communication with different social groupings, we acquire the habit of routinely asking for, collecting and responding to rapid feedback about what we’re facing and what we’re thinking of doing. This leads us to the creation of human sensor networks using approaches such as the stimulation of social networks using social media. We try to make sure that our networks are as diverse as possible since people of different ages and from different backgrounds tend to give us different perspectives. This helps us to design different kinds of safe to fail probes.  

Leadership in complexity tends to be patriarchal or matriarchal in nature as it is heavily dependent on openness, trust and reciprocity. If openness and trust are lost, they are often impossible to regain.

4. Tyrannical / Charismatic Leadership (CHAOS)

In chaotic situations, we sense that we’re dealing with turbulent, unordered scenarios in which it’s impossible to understand what’s happening. We don’t sense or see any repeating patterns of activity and, unlike complex situations, there’s no evidence of any constraints in the system. Everything seems to be in a state of permanent transition. Things that we once took for granted no longer apply.

Leadership in chaos rests on fast, authoritative action. We are in crisis and there’s no time to be reasonable. Decisions have to be made and stuck to; going back on them will risk further turbulence and uncertainty. Yet, as we take action, opportunities to reduce turbulence and to innovate begin to appear like shadows in fog.

Effective preparation for leadership in chaos depends heavily on the presence of pre-existing human sensor networks. Not only can these provide immediate feedback in response to requests for information, they can act as a source of members for crews, groups of conscripts who can be rapidly organised to stabilise specific situations. And, as in complex situations, the more diverse the feedback the better.

Leadership in chaos is, by necessity, tyrannical. The power to direct actions must be seized if it is not already held. Time is of the essence. Some tyrants, of course, are charismatic. However, charisma alone does not guarantee leadership effectiveness.

The Fifth Dimension and Leadership Dynamics

A closer look at Snowden’s framework reveals a fifth domain. The domain of Disorder separates the other four, snaking like an abyss between them. It represents leadership paralysis and inaction, the state of not sensing which of the other four domains most accurately describes a situation.

The abyss is at its deepest between the Simple and Chaos domains. Simple situations, if not continuously assessed in the light of new knowledge, can suddenly descend into Chaos. Old habits can die hard.

Snowden's Framework - Simple Cycle

Snowden’s Framework – Simple Cycle

As little time as possible should be spent in the domain of Disorder. Better to cycle through the other four until one is found which feels the closest to current reality.

And that’s the value of Snowden’s framework, along with others which have been developed over recent years. Leadership needs to be felt rather than just done. Different ‘states of reality’ demand different forms of leadership.

And without the ability to sense those states and respond appropriately, leadership cannot survive, let alone serve the evolution of squash.

Next time…

In the next post, I’ll look at the role of culture in shaping leadership.

References

A Leader’s Framework for Decision-making” by David J. Snowden and Mary E. Boone is published in November 2007 issue of The Harvard Business Review.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Squash Mad for its post “England Squash suffer budget slash and are threatened with further action unless new objectives are met” on January 25th, 2014.

The new dynamics of strategy: Sense-making in a complex and complicated world” by Cynthia Kurtz and Dave Snowden is published in the IBM Systems Journal, Volume 42, No 3, 2003.