Our Leadership Approach

Task, Process, People

At its core, The Action Wheel is based on the simple reality that everything we do is a blend of Task, Process, and People. Each of us – from highest level leader to individual contributor – finds themselves executing tasks, working on or within processes, and interacting with other people throughout the day. Execution, Management, and Leadership have evolved over time as the disciplines that study and improve how we work in each of these domains.

When we are executing, we are focusing on the task at hand. We understand what needs to get done, we have the right training and skills to complete the task, and we are equipped with the tools, technologies, and procedures to accomplish our tasks. Execution is always tightly coupled to the task at hand. Specific tools, software, technical and functional competencies are continuously developed to equip the executer.

Management is the domain of designing, measuring, predicting, and improving processes. From financial budgets to medical protocol development, management seeks to create more efficient and effective processes. When we are in management mode, we need to adopt a process, or planning perspective. Are we on track? What’s the budget? What tasks and activities do we need to plan? Management work requires a different perspective, different tools, and a different approach than task-oriented, execution work. Yet management skills are well-defined and learnable and, with practice, managers develop a strong management lens.

Leadership is the domain of people. Leadership work requires its own perspective. Leadership work asks us to be able to authentically see the people dimension of each situation. Are we in alignment? How is the energy and enthusiasm? Are the goals clear, and supported? Does each person believe in what we are doing? Do we build common ground before launching new initiatives? Are team members vested? Are we taking profound responsibility for our areas of ownership? When the answer to any of these is ‘no’, do we notice it? Do we understand how to address it? Do we address it, or ignore it?

In our experience, of the three kinds of work, leadership skills are the least understood, practiced, or valued. Ironically, of the three domains, only leadership transcends industry, functional, and/or technical area. Leadership – or people – skills, are 100% portable and are relevant to everything we do in our personal, professional, and organizational roles.

Adaptive vs. Technical

We’ve found that every complex problem has adaptive challenges underlying its technical components. Addressing the adaptive challenges requires different tools, a fresh perspective, innovative approaches, different expectations, and new competencies. We believe that building these adaptive skills and developing a new lens to understand and solve complex issues is a critical competency for everyone.

Technical approaches usually don’t work well when it comes to effectively collaborating with and influencing others. Complicating things further, an approach that works well with one person’s style may strongly conflict with another person’s preferences. Working well with others, driving and sustaining change, and solving complex adaptive problems requires a foundation of strong Adaptive Skills. Developing and strengthening Adaptive Skills raises awareness of the differences among people and situations. It builds competence in how well we work with others, and enhances the effectiveness of our team.

The Action Wheel

The Action WheelTM organizes the fundamental dimensions of all human action into an intuitive and practical leadership lens. Practitioners learn, experience, and apply the wheel in their daily personal, professional, and organizational roles in three foundational ways: