Pioneering – How to achieve complex goals in a complex environment

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It gets tricky when organizations want to achieve complex goals in a complex environment. This can often be seen, for example, in the case of digitization or other IT Systems integration, corporate acquisition and merger, cultural change or a growth strategy.

Here are three clear signs of this double complexity:

  • Previous well-proven best practices, project plans and other management tools do not seem to work anymore. Project team members‘ disagreements do not resolve in as constructive a way as usual.
  • Project team members struggle to deal with this, exhibiting previously unseen behaviours and communication styles, surprising one another, trying to exert influence over, or even angering each other.
  • The change implementation stagnates or is too slow. Consultancy or training projects that might been commissioned fall short of expectations.

This double complexity has led the organization to new territory.

Now, working knowledge and know-how, including that of consultants, is of limited validity. It is necessary to act in the pioneering zone (see figure above). What to do?

Here are three concrete proposals:

  1. Right in the middle of a stormy sea, every skipper knows: you must rely on your own team. That’s all there is. Strengthen the team, as common in sports, with coaching. Include all involved teams to create a team of teams, thus covering all parts of your organisation necessary to handle the situation.
  2. Create powerful aha-experiences along the way for all people onboard. „Aha – that’s something new“. It’s the only way everyone can give new meaning to the new territory. This is, in the words of Watzlawick, a solution of the second order, something that’s „groundbreaking“ and that transforms new territory into familiar terrain.
  3. Use the aha-experiences further to detect inherent opportunities and valuable chances. Turn this pioneering cycle of goal-oriented aha-experiences with the subsequent realisation of promising chances, into an organisational habit.

Please contact us for more information. We are happy to hear from you.


Chris Baines, Thomas Schulte & Hans Peter Wimmer