Key Dimensions To Focus On In Disruptive Times

A recent TRANSEARCH survey among C-Level leaders regarding their experiences and priorities in a shift to the "new normal" identified four key dimensions to focus on in disruptive times:

  1. Culture - The adaptation to the "new normal" is reflected in the importance of corporate culture & the understanding of leadership.
  2. Leadership - Servant leadership will be the "new normal": trust, empathy and resilience and the ability to lead virtual teams will be key. Leading virtual teams needs a different skillset.
  3. Transformation - Successful transformation projects require a holistic roadmap, an agile organizational set-up, the alignment of purpose, tools and clear rules.
  4. Innovation - Innovative strength is generally regarded as an indicator of future competitiveness. Therefore, you should hire the smartest people in system-critical positions and let them tell you what to do. Listen well!

The four key dimensions can be tackled successfully with a strategic HR management positioned at C-Level.

Importance of the four dimensions plus enablers:

  • Dimensions
    1. Adapt the culture to the new necessities.
    2. Improve leadership competencies.
    3. Transform processes to enable remote efficiency.
    4. Innovate with a focus on customer success.
  • Enablers
    1. Install strategic HR management.
    2. Recruit and retain the smartest people for key positions.

TRANSEARCH provides a platform to its network of C-Level leaders for discussions on how to come out of the crisis stronger. For further information about the survey or discussion platform please get in touch with Dr. Carlo Mackrodt or Dr. Stefan Schwaenzl.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Leadership And Discontinuous Change

The three scenarios

Agility and its companion, learning, represent a journey, not a destination: a journey covering three Territories, (T1 - instruction, T2 - exploration, T3 - play); a journey dependent upon the right leadership; a journey punctuated by inherent discontinuity.

The three scenarios portray how learning unfolds in virtually every walk of life. Much as one might peel an onion, beneath agility and learning lies individual and, by implication, the team's mindset: how each of us interprets the world - the mental model we access to define reality. Our assumptions about work and organisational success frame our behaviour.

To survive in the white-water we have entered demands culture savvy and, above all else, an ability to quickly appraise and respond to the ever-changing world around us. The new reality? Personal survival is ultimately about how resilient and agile we are as a leader. And resilience isn't simply about "bouncing back." It means coming out of a world shaking event like COVID-19 even stronger.

Traditional hierarchy

The journey from T1 to T2 and then on to T3 is not for every organisation. Those operating within a commodity-type market, where the value proposition is exclusively drawn out of the price of the product or service, often decide that a T1 organisation is an appropriate fit with a business model built around being the low-cost producer. Managing a group of young software engineers on another continent and a T1 approach may be the way to go. Operating a mine in a developing country where the work population is poorly educated and/or where they lack a common language, then T1 may well be a sound decision.

This does not mean that all T1 businesses eschew empowerment and employee involvement. Through an ethos of continuous improvement and employee development (instruction), a number of leaders have pushed the T1 model to the very edge of what is possible ("enlightened" T1). The dilemma being, because such organisations are very slow to change they are ponderous competitively. The very antithesis of agility.

The process organisation and beyond

A good many organisations (e.g., Toyota, 3M, Google) have evolved, what can best be described as, a "parallel structure" - organisation forms where, although the day-to-day work gives little opportunity for initiative (T1), time is set aside to allow front-line teams to redesign the business process that contains the work being undertaken (T2), and/or are given the opportunity to help create tomorrow's product/service (T2/T3).

Other business sectors have little choice but to move to an organisation form dominated by T2 and beyond. Here we start to find a far more engaged and fully contributing employee. Teams who, as the culture moves into T3, start to self-organise. Organisations that embrace innovation and reinvention as an extension of the freedom to act that a T2 or T3 culture affords. Businesses where the design of the organisation (structure) mirrors, given the choice, how people would choose to work together.

Customers vote with their feet

The ultimate arbiter of organisational effectiveness is the marketplace. Where the value proposition is based on a compelling customer experience, where the business model means the product or service must be continuously reinvented, or where access to intellectual capital defines market success, a T1 way of working will not deliver the level of innovation, organisational agility, or speed of responsiveness needed. Artificial Intelligence/robotics will change this assumption in the future but, as a simple economic reality, T1 work, everything else being equal, sooner or later migrates offshore to a low-wage economy.

Not so fast! The need to be close to the market, tax advantages, security, transportation costs, and a host of other reasons often mitigate against moving offshore. The T1 organisation isn't a throwback. It isn't obsolete. Indeed, even in advanced economies, in more than a few business sectors, it is still the dominant form - and from our own work with clients, far more prevalent than you might think. Microsoft, Apple, and Google get all the publicity but, in truth, they are outliers.

The journey being described (T1 to T2 and, where needed, to T3) is not a journey every organisation will want to embark on, and it is equally not a rite of passage that all leaders are capable of charting.

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis", a book series specifically aimed at enhancing the way that leaders respond to times of crisis. Download your complementary copy today.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Agility and Speed of Learning

Riding the crest of change

In a world with a significantly heightened level of uncertainty, business leaders have little choice but to forge, to the extent possible, alignment between the organisation's emerging culture and (1) factors external to the business that cannot be anticipated (ongoing disruption), and (2) what tomorrow's customer will be willing to purchase (business model).

To succeed and even survive, leaders must learn how to ride the crest of change, how to use the challenge in inherent uncertainty to propel the business into a successful future, and how to harness the energy drawn out of creative tension and a compelling purpose.

In terms of day-to-day performance, creative tension involves two organisational imperatives - agility and organisational learning. First, agility and with it, by implication, the need to push decision-making as close to the customer as possible. Agility, meanwhile, no matter the form it takes, draws on the abiding quest for simplicity. That being understood, simplicity and, its alter ego, responsiveness are far more about mindset than, essential though it is, process reinvention.

To be agile you have to program yourself to "think simple". But not too simple. The second imperative, organisational learning, is a topic that has garnered a great deal of interest but is poorly applied. Without an inherent ability within the body of the organisation to learn from experience, reframe established practices at critical points on the journey, develop a heightened capacity to act, and, as needed, reinvent how the business does business, tomorrow is destined to be a replay of the past. COVID-19 is many things but, perhaps above all else, it's a wakeup call for society and business alike.

Make no mistake … tomorrow will be different! The pertinent question becomes, "Will you?"

The leadership journey

Learning is initiated by an experience. An action which, in turn, spawns a question. The quality of the question dictating the nature of the learning. Learning unfolds in one of three ways:

1) Simple learning - striving to do what we have always done, but better (instruction).
2) Learning how to learn - moving down a new path (exploration).
3) Learning how to learn limited by the imagination of those involved - transformation, innovation, creative destruction, and reinvention (play).

Each of those learning approaches shapes not only the outcome but at each stage the speed of learning increases exponentially. Arguably, the only truly sustainable competitive advantage is speed of learning. Without time set aside for meaningful reflection, of course, there can be no learning.

Learning to act and think about the world in a new way is not a linear process. It is much more like climbing a mountain. A base camp is established, and only once the base has been consolidated can the next camp be set up and supplied. Equally important, assumptions about what it means to be a leader have to be redefined at each stage of the journey.

Leadership and discontinuous change

Agility and its companion, learning, represent a journey, not a destination: a journey covering three Territories, (T1 - instruction, T2 - exploration, T3 - play); a journey dependent upon the right leadership; a journey punctuated by inherent discontinuity.

The three scenarios portray how learning unfolds in virtually every walk of life. Much as one might peel an onion, beneath agility and learning lies individual and, by implication, the team's mindset: how each of us interprets the world - the mental model we access to define reality. Our assumptions about work and organisational success frame our behaviour.

To survive in the white-water we have entered demands culture savvy and, above all else, an ability to quickly appraise and respond to the ever-changing world around us. The new reality? Personal survival is ultimately about how resilient and agile we are as a leader. And resilience isn't simply about "bouncing back." It means coming out of a world shaking event like COVID-19 even stronger.

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis", a book series specifically aimed at enhancing the way that leaders respond to times of crisis. Download your complementary copy today.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Hire With Tomorrow's Culture In Mind

Four kinds of change

There are four kinds of change:

1) Transactional change – do what we have always done, better.
2) Transitional change – significant change but we have time to evolve.
3) Transformational change – significant change now.
4) Exponential change – increasingly impactful and unrelenting, continuous step change enacted in a compressed period of time.

Transitional and even transformational change have, for a brief period of time at least, a potential end-state. Exponential change is like compound interest, each step is significantly greater than the one that went before. Success leaves its own fingerprint (or not).

Any form of change that moves beyond improving "what is" implies working on the organisation's culture. Here we have to face the harsh reality: the so-called, "modern organisation" – perhaps the 20th century's greatest innovation – is ill-equipped to deal with the scope, complexity and speed of change we now face.

Re-inventing the organisation

Good intentions and/or edict won't turn a hierarchical, bureaucratic, head and hand way of thinking into an innovative, entrepreneurial, first to market, breakthrough business. Think reinvention … not rework.

In a world where agility, ideas, collaboration and global reach dictate who wins and who fails, tomorrow's organisation will, of necessity, be fast, flat, flexible, focused and structured as a network of networks.

Think of a team of teams … not traditional top-down leadership. Think jazz ensemble … not a marching band. Think work … not employment. Think community … not tribe. Think contribution … not title. Think collaboration … not cooperation. Think ideas … not ideology. Think values … not rules.

As for leadership, the market for talent will put a premium on software savvy, the capacity to leverage big numbers, speed of learning, comfort with ambiguity, personal resilience and the capacity to build community. The dilemma: top talent is going to be more difficult to find than ever.

Think hiring with tomorrow's culture in mind … not hierarchy. Think leading the charge … not being in charge. Recognise that we will need super teams more than we need superstars.

Insights from "If It Can Be Digitalised, It Will Be Digitalised (PDF)".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Leaders Must Lead!

There is no substitute for inspirational leadership, someone who:

  • Takes people where they otherwise would not go;
  • Employs the head, empowers the hand, engages the heart and enriches the spirit;
  • Builds a great team;
  • Creates tomorrow in the room today;
  • Is skilled in orchestrating "change".

To those core attributes add resilience, digital savvy, coaching mastery and all that is implied by the word 'focus'.

Here the waters are somewhat muddied by a past body of work defined as "change management". Its origins lie in a time before digitalisation, before ongoing disruption, before today's blazing speed of change and before the need to continuously reinvent possibility. Still an overriding theme in many organisations and, no doubt, invaluable in the past, it is a body of work that needs to be revisited.

Push technology aside today at your peril. That is not to suggest - as many appear to do - that digitalisation/technology/AI, etc., are, on their own, a source of lasting competitive advantage. Culture is a dynamic system and technology an integral part of that system. Culture is the stage - technology one of the lead players. And sitting in the audience? The ever-vigilant customer.

The resilient nature of culture is that it is essentially a series of deeply enshrined habits. And changing a habit doesn't happen overnight. Culture will thus, especially in the short term, always have primacy. For that reason, launching new technology into a culture that doesn't fully support it is a pretty good way to destroy value. For example, although AI has the potential to move the business to a whole new level, implementation is lagging expectations.

In introducing breakthrough technology, organisations need to similarly start with a rich and compelling 'why'. For an intervention that will, literally and irrevocably, change their lives - higher productivity, faster response times and/or a greater understanding of who buys the company's product and/or service are, on their own, a tough sell to the typical employee. Motivation without meaning is change without commitment.

And what does a great 'why' sound like? A group of young executives in a bionics company were asked why they do what they do. They answered, "To make the wheelchair redundant". Where do I sign up?

None of this takes anything away from the value of a holistic template (model) - one that captures how all of the various elements of change come together. Indeed, the further you venture into the upper levels of management, the greater the degree to which learning how to learn comes to the fore. Provide that map but recognise that leaders must lead. Acknowledge that leaders, real leaders, do lead!

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Coming Out Of The Crisis Stronger - Muthu Kumar Thanu, Group CHRO TAFE

Sangeeta Sant Lal, Senior Partner at TRANSEARCH India, speaks with Muthu Kumar Thanu, Group CHRO, TAFE on coming out of the crisis stronger by building a culture of trust and resilience.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

The Organisation Of Tomorrow?

Although much still needs to be done around organisation design the way forward is clear. The organisation we need to have top of mind as we come down the mountain - enabling us to come out of the COVID-19 crisis stronger - must display five qualities:

  • Fast
  • Flat
  • Focused
  • Flexible
  • Fertile (to new ideas)

We need to add "strong" because agility without strength is fragility - to break easily. "Strength" also implies a strong balance sheet, strong values, a strong brand, strength drawn out of diversity & inclusion and a strong team at the top. Being strong also speaks to the ability, especially in the most chaotic times, to make tough decisions.

Leaders, faced with a new challenge, all too often default into what worked in the past. Our brain is wired to save energy. Faced with a new problem or challenge, the default response is to replay a past behavioural repertoire that was assumed to be successful. We have to train ourselves or be coached to see new issues in a new way (mindset), starting with letting go of what worked in the past.

The need for agility clearly isn't limited to the organisation. And leadership clearly can't simply amount to more of the same. The behaviour we celebrated in the past has to give way to a very different sense of what it means to be a leader.

Optimism, hard work and passion (PASS-Inspiration-ON) as always, are the start of it - in that the more things change, the more some things stay the same. Comfort with ambiguity, tech savvy, resilience, coaching mystery, the capacity to build great teams and cultural adaptability (work concurrently in different cultures) are clearly part of it. But leadership agility (conceptual, practical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and learning agility) is at the heart of it.

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis

"Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis" is a complementary book series, specifically aimed at enhancing how leaders respond to times of crisis.

The books cover concepts such as how to come out of this crisis stronger, culture, leadership agility and learning, what makes great teams. Also included are essential skills to enable us to start having conversations about moving forward while taking appropriate actions.

Read on for more information about the book series:

Or, Download Now

Coming Down the Mountain

Part One, Coming Down the Mountain, looks at how to come out of this crisis stronger:

  • The Three Stages of Crisis
  • Letting Go of Our Past
  • Following a Script From a Different Century
  • The New Normal
  • Coming Down the Mountain
  • Why Culture Matters
  • Next Steps
  • Appendix one: 3 X 3: Crisis, Culture and Change
  • Mindset Assessment: Will You come Out of This Crisis Stronger?

The Culture Conversation

Recognising, as we move forward, how important organisation culture is, Part Two outlines the Culture Conversation:

  • The Culture Carriers
  • Look, Listen, Learn
  • The Building Blocks
  • Culture Is A System
  • Is the Organisation Managing Its Culture?
  • What Makes the Business Special?
  • One Culture or Many?
  • Measurement
  • Strategy Versus Culture
  • A Team of Teams
  • Without Leadership You Ain't Got Much
  • The Orxestra Change Model
  • Culture Assessment

Leadership, Learning and Agility: The Way Of The Dolphin

Part Three explores the need for leadership agility and what that implies: Leadership Agility and Learning - The Way of the Dolphin:

  • Agility is a Way to Think
  • Bass and the Shark
  • Agility and Speed of Learning
  • The Way of the Dolphin
  • Conclusion
  • Assessment: How Good a Coach Are You?

Great Organisations Are Built Around Great Teams

Drawing on the reality that tomorrow's organisation will be a team of teams, Part Four examines what it means to be an outstanding team - Great Organisations Are Built Around Great Teams:

  • Who We Were is Who We Are
  • It's All About Culture
  • Organisational Lessons from Nature
  • The Organisation of Tomorrow
  • Building a Great Team
  • Team Assessment

When the Trees Get Bigger and the Forest Gets Deeper - It's Time To Sharpen Your Saw

Part Five moves beyond leadership as a philosophy and drills down into essential skills - When the Trees Get Bigger and the Forest Gets Deeper, It's Time to Sharpen Your Saw:

  • Are You The Leader They Need?
  • Assessing Your Organisation's Leadership Balance
  • If Ever There Was a Time to Listen - It’s Now
  • The Listening Tree
  • To Lead Is To Care
  • 50 Ways To Say You Care - In a Covid World
  • If You Are Not Living Your Own Story, You Are Living Someone Else's
  • Resilience Assessment

Download your complementary copy of "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis" from TRANSEARCH Downloads.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Tomorrow's Leaders Must Be Resilient

Tomorrow will be different

If it can be digitalised it will be digitalised. No matter what "protectionist" politicians may preach, globalisation isn't going to slow down any time soon. Tomorrow's competition will emanate from a city you have never heard of or business sector you rarely think of. And where organisational capability is widely held, "speed" becomes the basis of competitive advantage. Be bold or become irrelevant. Be tough-minded or tackle a new line of work. Be fast or be last.

In a steady state world, "bouncing back" is an apt way to describe resilience. Unfortunately, we don't live in a steady, consistent, unchanging world. Today's environment is marked by disorder, uncertainty and, where technology is involved, a pattern of change where each step is greater than the step that went before. What was frustrating is about to become even more so.

In any conversation around change, language isn't important … it's everything. With the scope and nature of change likely to become even more turbulent, resilience seen as a way to reinforce/retain the status quo isn't very helpful. Indeed, it's misleading. A more relevant approach presents resilience as adapting to the new state, reflecting on the experience and developing new ways to behave. It's a dynamic rather than a static process. It's about leading and learning … not absorbing and then acting as before.

Being strengthened by the storm

Resilience means not only weathering the storm … but being strengthened by it. In assuming that resilience defines an individual's personal resources - as is invariably the case - we miss an important piece of the puzzle. Context matters and the right network, a support system and being around positive people make a difference. Tomorrow's successful leaders will surround themselves with people who are resilient.

Accepting the plasticity of the brain, we can learn to become more resilient. There is a link, for example, between resilience and the research on positive psychology. Conversely, for leaders who are overly anxious, risk-averse, trapped by yesterday's success, have difficulty facing adversity or are simply overwhelmed by life, resilience is spelt "resistance."

And the difference that makes a difference: Surround yourself with resilient people, provide an opportunity to assess personal resilience, make resilience a central plank in ongoing coaching and help high performers connect with and shape their own story. There is nothing more tragic than those not living their own story … because they are living someone else's.

Insights from "Tomorrow's Leadership Will Be Different".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Five TOP Leadership Competencies (Infographic)

Five TOP (Transforming, Outstanding, Performance tested) Leadership Competencies:

  • A passion to learn
  • Comfort with ambiguity
  • Resilience
  • Leadership reach
  • Culture savvy

Read more in "Tomorrow's Leadership Will Be Different".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Five TOP leadership competencies

"The shortage of talent"

It's a pretty good bet that, as you read this, somewhere in your competitor's camp there is an ongoing conversation about the qualities that describe tomorrow's leadership. Be it talent acquisition, succession, identifying high potential talent and/or shaping the investment in leadership, one thing is assured … tomorrow will not be a continuation of today.

We commonly see references to "the shortage of talent." Paradoxically, there is no shortage of talent. The growing number of business schools around the world, combined with the billions of dollars spent globally on leadership development means that there is actually a surfeit of candidates. The problem? The vast majority of those candidates are a great fit for a business environment that served us well in the past.

TOP Talent

A more integrated, faster and, by a quantum step, more complex business environment demands not just a new way to think and act but a new definition of "leadership success." Exponential change fuelled by ongoing leaps in technology … exacerbated by unprecedented disruption on a global scale … is, indelibly, redefining what is meant by the term "TOP Talent."

As we move into unchartered territory - where only those organisations that are fast, flat, flexible, focused and fertile (to new ideas) will survive - TOP (Transforming, Outstanding, Performance tested) Talent refers to those fully equipped to excel in a, hitherto unknown, level of business and societal uncertainty.

TOP leadership competencies

Other than know-how in technology, which is a given, leadership competencies differ depending upon the role. This emphasises the need to develop "role-specific" leadership competencies. Generic competencies have value, e.g., the broad leadership development agenda, but they are less than useful, however, when making hiring and succession decisions. That understood, five TOP leadership competencies are emerging as having future primacy:

  • A Passion to Learn
  • Leadership Reach
  • Comfort with Ambiguity
  • Resilience
  • Culture Savvy

In a world dominated by ideas, a move from cooperation to collaboration is essential - and inevitable. The environment and a new generation dominating the workplace mean that tribal loyalty will, of necessity, give way to a stronger sense of community. A community mindset, meanwhile, ushers in the dominance of stakeholder capital. How does your team make a difference in people's lives?

Although many are served by a more defused definition, "employee engagement" is about building a culture where opportunity and capability are aligned. To that end, any falloff in the fit between the speed of change in the business environment and a sense of personal growth - a perceived lack of currency in the job market - will quickly disillusion those the organisation most wants to retain. Why do your best people stay?

Finally, the fallibility of strategy means that, rather than being the by-product of a singular, linear direction, the organisation's culture must enable a range of potential future options to unfold. Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable becomes the new norm.

Insights by John Burdett. Orxestra Inc., © 2018.

Insights from "Tomorrow's Leadership Will Be Different".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Critical talent management actions

Talent management is a system within a system: the organisation's culture. Get talent management wrong and the organisation's culture will be misaligned with the customer's emerging needs. Critical talent management actions to turn the organisation's talent management approach into a competitive advantage include:

  • Leadership development
  • Coaching
  • Mentoring
  • Storytelling
  • Performance management
  • Succession and replacement
  • Talent acquisition
  • Team excellence

Tomorrow, of necessity, talent management will be about resilience, reinvention and recognising that the ideal organisation design reflects how, given a choice, people would choose to work together. Investing in the most efficient way to develop talent, putting muscle behind the succession process and, generally, building a cadre of leadership talent, will allow your business to survive and thrive in turbulent times.

Insights from "Future-Oriented Leadership Competencies: Today's Talent Management Lynchpin" by John Burdett, Leadership advisor to TRANSEARCH International.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.