According to Lee Scott, a dynamic practitioner and educator of leadership, the ‘people and process’ component of the people, process, and technology triangle are still often under-represented or bolted on at the end of technology transformation projects. This is where Scott’s venture, Unleashing Leaders is in a class by itself. Changing the industry narrative, Scott and his practical network of “change agents” embed the people and process aspects directly into the transformations typically associated with large IT system transitions. “Our mission is to inspire an epidemic of leadership and integrity by modeling the way. We do that by partnering with our clients on four levers: strengthen their leadership teams, clarify their strategic vision and values, improve the alignment of their processes and resources, and expand the engagement of their employees,” says Scott, founder of Unleashing Leaders, Inc.
A luminary among its clients, Unleashing Leaders—as the name suggests—has helped “unleash” over 25,000 leaders to “Accelerate the Changes They Seek®”. The company’s suite of services integrates five disciplines: strategic planning, leadership and management development, organizational change management, agile project delivery, and business process improvement.
For many organizations, the business opportunities and individual talents are there, but that potential is blocked by distracting priorities, poor habits, and damaged relationships. “We often find that the largest impediments to success aren’t the technology or the market. Unknowingly or not, the leaders are often blocking themselves. Fortunately, it is also something they have the most direct control of,” says Scott. Getting the leaders to understand and play to their diverse strengths as a team often requires a blend of individual coaching and “executive marriage counseling” between the players.
As the relationships improve, leaders are better able to inspire a clear shared vision of where they want to be. Using their trademarked VOPAR® Strategic Management System, the team conducts practical strategic planning to clarify the exact client strategy, priorities, and technologies to best leverage their given resources. What are the business drivers, how will the people and processes need to change to harness that potential, and how will the technology enable them? Ideally, this is done at the outset of a technology play. Practically speaking, Unleashing Leaders is called in after the fact to recover a challenged implementation. Either way, the leadership debt must get paid up to proceed.
Then they can work hand and hand with the business and IT players to align the existing processes and better redeploy their resources while the technology is being developed. While this is unfolding, front line employees and middle managers are engaged to identify and prepare for both the risks and benefits of the changes. Change is an intensely emotional and personal journey. Too often, the people who are expected to adopt the changes are excluded or treated with one-size-fits-all approaches.
Instead, Unleashing Leaders recognizes that passion flows from making it personal. Seeing how each individual’s natural talents could be better leveraged with the changes forms the basis for deeper and broader engagement.
We honor their freedom with flexibility, and hence, do not fear when the client’s needs inevitably evolve from what they initially asked
This customized approach to change management that focuses on the nuances of clients’ specific contexts is a hallmark of Unleashing Leaders. How do they provide a custom winning formula to diverse clients large and small across industries? Scott considers his company’s success stems from three differentiators—distillation, integration, and agility. “We believe firmly in the 80/20 rule. While other vendors in our space come in with elaborate and complex frameworks, we distill down to the practical 20 percent that is most relevant for that client,” adds Scott. The company gets faster results by blending disciplines into an integrated approach. The company focuses more on client outcomes rather than the academic religions. From the agility standpoint, Unleashing Leaders has been natively embedding agile project principles into their services since the early 2000s. “By using agile methods that embrace learning and change, we ensure our clients get the highest and best use every single day of the contract. We honor their freedom with flexibility, and hence, do not fear when the client’s needs inevitably evolve from what they initially asked,” he explains.
Scott shared a recent use case with a firm that required fast deployment of technology to serve victims from multiple natural disasters. Understanding that their prior methods with existing staff could not scale to meet the volume, the client engaged Unleashing Leaders to outline the strategic outcomes and address bottlenecks in the current processes. Unleashing Leaders paired up the business and IT leaders to use an innovative procurement vehicle to acquire the best vendor and technology. Unleashing Leaders orchestrated the OCM and business process improvements while the IT vendor simultaneously developed the technology. By directly engaging the users from the beginning on both the process and technology fronts, their initial skepticism and resistance were converted to clever ideas and eager adoption. The entire project was completed and successfully rolled out in just eight months, well ahead of the originally estimated 16 to 20 months.
There is no shortage of demand for effective leadership across industries and communities. Fortunately, Scott’s team has found that the talent is usually there, it is just being under-utilized. Practicing what they preach, Unleashing Leaders has a deliberate, two-fold growth strategy to expand their reach to clients both geographically and digitally. This year they began to expand from a regional west coast firm to a national network of change agents. On the digital side, they are supplementing their in-person services with an online library of leadership tools. “We take the most common challenges leaders face and distill them into short videos on specific scenarios with targeted techniques. This puts a leadership coach in your pocket, so you get just what you need, just when you need it.” Maybe this is where Karr’s quote and Scott’s vision converge. While the increasing rates of change create more demand for leadership, there is comfort in knowing the underlying principles remain the same…if we only know where to look.