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John Shibley

For leaders

Are you where the buck stops? Then you're a leader. 

You work on things like strategic planning, organizational design, process improvement, organizational culture, diversity, equity, and inclusion… all projects designed to close the gap between the ways things are now and the way you need them to be. 


These projects are not rocket science.  


They are harder. 


Ask fifty rocket scientists how much fuel a certain rocket needs to reach orbit, and you will get fifty identical answers, and they will all be right.  There is a recipe to follow. It's a complicated recipe, and you need to be a rocket scientist to do the math, but the recipe’s there and it works every time.


But there is no recipe that will work every time to make a successful strategic plan or redesign a division. For these projects to succeed you must deal with many elements and stakeholders, and every element or stakeholder impacts every other element or stakeholder, and your elements are different from anyone else’s.  


Timelines change. Budgets change. What success means changes. There are surprises. 


People who study complex systems have a very scientific name for these kinds of situations.  


They call them “wicked messes.”  Recipes don't work in messes.  


If you are a leader most of the things you lose sleep over are messes.  Messes is where my consulting practice has lived for decades. I’ve been in lots of them.


I’ve led strategic planning processes. I’ve led organizations in innovation projects to develop new ideas and test those ideas in the market. I’ve led seminars where leaders implemented systemic solutions to persistent problems. I’ve designed performance management systems to embed organizational cultural values. I’ve led projects that take ninety degree turns half-way through because of what we all learn. 


I know how to move in messes with purpose and caution and with occasional grace.  I know how to learn about them, and how to relearn about them in the face of new information. I know when to act and when to wait, and when to not wait anymore. 


Our work together will be appreciating and understanding your mess and designing the next one or two good moves. We may make long term plans, but we will hold them lightly, because the more we do, the more we will learn about your particular mess.  


We’ll learn as we go, and we’ll go as we learn.

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