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Learning Agility ID: Insight into Successful Leadership, Part One

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Monday, December 4, 2017

When the race goes not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, those that succeed are most likely blessed with agility. That was the reoccurring theme of “The Future Belongs to the Learning-Agile on day three of the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference, “Accelerating Life Science Collaboration: Better Partnering, Better Outcomes,” held September 13-15 in Cambridge, Mass. USA. Presented by Jim Peters, a senior partner in Korn/Ferry International's Leadership and Talent Consulting group, the core message is that the individual and/or organization most adaptable to change is the one best positioned to survive in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world.


Peters is the co-creator of Lominger's proprietary Succession Architect toolset and its Talking Talent process for enhancing executive talent reviews.  He is an expert in strategic human resource management, with a specific emphasis on strategic staffing, development, and succession planning.

“We have a talent problem, a huge talent problem everywhere. Because of VUCA we must move talent faster,” Peters informed attendees. The concept of VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College to describe the more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous multilateral world that resulted from the end of the Cold War. The term has been applied to ideas in strategic leadership in a wide range of organizations, from for-profit corporations to education.

Peters acknowledged that disrupters are a normal part of the business culture. Change is everywhere and coming on fast. Companies cannot rely on past performance to inform them what to do next. “Think, Google’s coming,” Peters said. “Publishing is now self-publishing. Food is now”

“Today you need to change and adjust, to be agile. Disruptors are at work so those at the top must allow for responsiveness, a strategic agility to see over the hill to  the other side. Alliance professionals can move more easily because of their adaptably. But if you don’t have the right people in the mix, what you want to happen won’t happen. You need the right people with the right skills at the right place and time.”  

“Consider air traffic control landing planes in a pattern—a string of pearls. If there is any change, you must change the pattern,” Peters said. “We find talent and create a string of pearls we call the organizational pipeline, the line and number of roles in an organization. To do that effectively, you need to be able to project into the future – to develop a person, starting as an individual contributor, up the line to a managerial role. But first, you need to properly ID the talent. Once you ID talent, you can figure out where they belong in the pattern, the string of pearls,” he explained.

Executives mistake high performance with high potential. Potential is looking forward; competencies look to the past. Think of agile learners as those who step out of their comfort zone. High performers exist on a continuum from depth to breath. Depth is found in functional technical experts who may be superior performers year after year, such as a chief engineer or medical specialist. But when searching for leaders, look for someone who can manage dilemmas effectively. To lead, you need folks that are creative problem solvers. They have breadth of focus in terms of performance. They lead well in first time situations.

We continue with Jim Peters’ session “The Future Belongs to the Learning-Agile in Part Two of this blog post. Check out ASAP Media’s extensive coverage of this and other sessions from the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference in Cambridge, Mass.

Tags:  Agile learners  alliance managers  Complex and Ambiguous)  creative problem solvers  executives  Jim Peters  Korn-Ferry International  Leadership and Talent Consulting  talent  Uncertain  VUCA (Volatile 

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