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Practice makes perfect: Testing business strategies for change in a safe environment

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Ever wondered what the difference is between good management and good leadership?

For Kevin Lowe, Professor of Management in the Graduate School of Management at the University of Auckland’s Business School, the answer is simple:

“Management is about delivering on the present. Driving change is the essential function of leadership.”

The answer may sound clear-cut. But becoming a good leader – someone who can identify and solve complex business issues while effecting organisational transformation – takes time, commitment and, ideally, plenty of practice.

Which is why the University of Auckland Business School’s upcoming Executive Education course is the ideal programme for business executives and their colleagues to develop and hone their skills and bring about change that is meaningful and specific to their organisations.

The course, Leading Change: Ideas to Execution, is co-facilitated by Professor Lowe and Dr Lester Levy (CNZM), both of whom are world renowned for their leadership research, thinking and practice. In addition to being acclaimed academics with vast industry experience, Kevin and Lester are also New Zealand’s only certified academic trainers of a computer simulation programme that enables participants to practice mobilising and implementing change under the pressures of real time and budget constraints.

The benefits of working within a simulation environment are manifold, says Kevin, who moved from the United States to New Zealand three years ago to join the University and take up the Fletcher Building Education Trust Chair in Leadership.

“Our course participants learn by doing, in a hands-on environment that is authentic and safe. They spend time and money, make strategic decisions, identify the best processes – all within a safe space. That enables them to learn best practice when it comes to different approaches to change.”

Course participants interview a number of key internal stakeholders in the virtual organisation and are offered a variety of tactics, which are presented as a virtual deck of cards. Each tactic has a cost, in both time and money – and just like in the work environment, the judicious use of time, money and tactics are critical in determining success or failure. The most common reasons for change failure, says Kevin, are rushing to action, having too few people on board to create momentum for change, and failing to get buy-in and sustained commitment from the top.

The beauty of the simulation environment is that they get to try again.

“The course offers big learnings, and that’s the key: everyone enrolled wants to be successful, and to learn how to be more successful in leading change,” says Kevin.

How, then, to be successful in the 21st century world of business? Kevin maintains that while our fundamental human behaviour has not changed significantly, the pace of business, and the risks that come from mismanaging change, are greater than ever.

“The working environment is less forgiving than ever before,” says Kevin. “If you get change wrong, your competitors might be two iterations ahead by the time you get back on track. Shareholder markets and expectations are also more pressured. The cost of getting behind is high.”

For those daunted by the complexities and pace of contemporary business, take heart: current research shows good leadership is more made than born. While 30% of leadership skills may be innate, neuroscientific data shows people can be rewired and trained in traits formerly considered unchangeable or “hardwired”.

While that’s good news for anyone facing the challenge of instigating meaningful change within their organisation, there’s no getting past the proven adage, practice makes perfect.

“The Executive Education course is highly engaging; the atmosphere is interactive and dynamic,” says Kevin. “Learning within this environment is safe yet challenging, and the results are frequently deeply and powerfully learned because they are experienced.”

To learn more and register Leading Change: Ideas to Execution


          

       

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