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The Light and Fast Organisation: A New Way of Dealing with Uncertainty

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Cut the organisational and operational dead weight to climb higher, faster "Light and Fast"presents a blueprint for organisations looking to thrive in today's rapidly evolving business landscape. VUCA--Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity--has become the dominant mode of modern business, and leaders are overwhelmed. Competition and instability has increased while barriers to entry have fallen, chronic employee disengagement is on the rise and the global economic recovery is incredibly fragile; business leaders are uncomfortable, with threats to their business looming on all sides. This book proposes an alternative to the VUCA paradigm, one in which we learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and a model for helping your organisation climb above the fray. Case studies from both business and mountaineering illustrate the benefits and practicalities of becoming light, fast, and agile and underscore the importance of self-awareness and self-reliance in minimising your exposure to risk.

Business and mountaineering share many parallels, including frequent operation outside of the comfort zone. This book shows you the strong skills and effective strategies you need to reach the summit. Get comfortable with discomfort Adopt an 'Alpine Style' approach to business Operate outside of the VUCA paradigm Stretch outside your comfort zone to achieve more, faster

Leaders must accept the current VUCA state and assess their preparedness, but it's possible to move beyond it by ingraining a 'light and fast' approach at the core of their organisations' values and operations. It's only through reaching beyond the 'safe' zone that we learn what we're made of, and build the foundations for successful leadership and teamwork. "Light and Fast" is your practical coach for climbing the mountain, and your guide to the quickest route to the summit.

200 pages, Paperback

First published May 16, 2016

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Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews
Profile Image for Michael Percy.
Author 5 books8 followers
December 2, 2016
Patrick Hollingworth signed my copy of this book after his presentation at the NSW Taxi Council Annual Conference. In his presentation, he mentioned the old-style website where the developers controlled everything, changes took months, and results were professional but poorly-timed and laborious. This resonated with me so I decided to give the book a go. While reading it, I was disappointed by the journalistic-style short paragraphs, use of contractions, rather shallow references to other work I was mostly familiar with, and I had to become comfortable with the TED-style approach (I am not a fan of TED talks). But his approach to understanding the contemporary world fits with how I try to think and act, and it was only as I entered the second half of the book that I began reflecting and learning, taking notes, ordering other books, and began to see how my other reading fits in with Hollingworth's theme. In particular, the concept of antifragility, gleaned from my regular reading of The Art of Manliness, struck a chord. One area that I am grappling with is the concept of the anti-alpha. I have been alpha for so long it is second nature, but my MBTI scales have slowly centred from extreme ENTJ to now flicking between INTJ and ENTJ depending on my mood. I once scored ISTJ when I was particularly tired. So maybe there is hope for me yet. This book has set me off on further reading, but it parallels many of the concepts i have been teaching in my undergraduate leadership course, which I have changed significantly based on Clawson's ideas about Level Three Leadership. I read this while conducting my annual reflection on the year past, and it was quite timely. Truth be told, I focused on this as a quick way to reduce the number of books that I have half-finished so that I can clear the decks for a more focused reading schedule in the new year. Nevertheless, I gained much from Hollingworth's approach, and having heard him speak, and observed the audience's reaction to his approach, to borrow from Ryan Holiday, only my ego can get in the way of what I can get out of this work. A very timely read, and while my own ideas about good work cloud so much of what I read, it is clear that Hollingworth does his fair share of reading, and I daresay the influence of his wife (who was completing a PhD while the book was begin written) kept the work honest, and therefore a worthwhile addition to the literature on leadership and change in uncertain times.
Profile Image for Simon.
45 reviews2 followers
February 10, 2018
I was lucky enough to hear Patrick Hollingworth speak at my company's 2017 conference, and even luckier to talk with him afterwards. He is a passionate, articulate, well-read, deep-thinker with a tale to tell of a new world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (the 'VUCA World'). His disparaging view of goal-setting struck a chord with me, while his VUCA world and call for change to cope in this new future left me a little skeptical and underwhelmed.

His book explains that the old world organisational design traits of robustness and scale will not allow companies to survive in a VUCA world. Modern organisations must redesign themselves to be agile, adaptive and not just resilient but anti-fragile.

He pokes some fun at (and holes in) consultants who have made it their life's business to build robust, resilient organisations, but then does quoting some wise old men (including Peter Drucker and John Kotter). Mid-way, I couldn't help wondering whether, in a moment of self-reflection, Patrick may contemplate how long it'll be before some young, VUCA world-based whipper-snapper is poking holes in his own theories (after all, we once used to remove teeth with pliers and think that was 'normal').

Throughout he paints an analogy from his mountaineering life, between Expedition Climbing (steeped in strategy, planning, goals, and considered heavy and slow) and Alpine Climbing (geared around agility, responsiveness, adaptability, and considered light and fast).

I eventually and reluctantly moved my feelings of 'underwhelm' and skepticism to cognitive dissonance, which he explains is natural when making sense of the VUCA future. But I still have some resistance to accepting his claim that "Prediction and forecasting are becoming increasingly difficult and essentially a waste of time", when there were experts in the 50s who said things like "In the future, computers may weigh no more than 1.5 tonnes". Hasn't it always been difficult if not a waste of time?

Whether you buy the VUCA hype, simply enjoy the mountain themes, or just want to discover some ideas to help you become a better professional, stick with the book to the end. The final chapters are where it all comes together, and also where there are some useful nuggets (as well as some interesting references to more modern wise men in Tim Brown and Tom Rath, as well as [finally] some women in Carol Dweck and Heidi Grant Halvorson).

Rob Hall and Ueli Steck were amazing individuals who both lost their lives far too early. And in both cases, for me, it wasn't because they used the wrong climbing approaches to their efforts. It was because they took some risks that became issues, and they paid the ultimate price. RIP Rob and Ueli.
Profile Image for Vinod Peris.
233 reviews8 followers
August 10, 2017
This book makes a comparison between organization structure and styles of mountain climbing. The traditional style of mountain climbing is with large expeditions that are epitomized by the commercial ascents to Mount Everest. They involve large teams carrying lots of gear and supplies that a few of the climbers will use to make the ascent. This becomes a logistical nightmare and is not something you can modify in the middle of your journey. The weather and conditions on the mountain can change dramatically and if they are outside the bounds of the expeditions plans, things can get real ugly.

Patrick contrasts this with an alpinist style of mountain climbing which is light and fast. He gives the example of climbing the North Face of the Eiger mountain in Switzerland. This is a very technical climb that is extremely difficult and many groups have been unsuccessful at reaching the top. In 1938 a team of 4 climbers took 90 hours after surviving some really close calls. In 2008 a Swiss Alpinist named Ueli Steck climbed the North Face alone with just a small backpack. He made the ascent in less than 3 hours.

He posits that the traditional expedition-style is similar in nature to a large hierarchical organization. The alpinist style is a lean organization embracing agile principles. Patrick is himself an accomplished mountain climber and you can feel the authenticity with which he brings out the comparison. The premise of the book is to embrace the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) that is intrinsic to every organization and adapt your strategy to it. Don’t try to plan every dimension of a 3 year plan and expect to win in the market. Things are changing really fast much like the weather on the mountain.

I liked the premise of the book and the education on mountain climbing. Once you get past the comparison, most of the advice seemed rather obvious and was not particularly enlightening.
Profile Image for J Crossley.
1,719 reviews11 followers
October 10, 2018
This book is full of special terms. “Light and fast” is a mountaineering style that quickly adapts to a changing environment. “Alpine style” requires you to let go of your need to control, and instead respond to changes as they happen. It is intrinsically motivated and focuses on the task at hand. The reward is learning from the journey as a whole rather than the momentary goal. VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

Something that I liked in this book was The Transformation Model. This has five stages.
1. Unaware: In the beginning, you don’t know what is around you.
2. Reactive: Your focus is only on yourself and how the world affects you. If things go wrong, you blame something tin the outside world.
3. Dependent: Although you have self-focus, you realize that others can help you achieve the goals that you seek.
4. Independent: You develop self-reliance and responsibility and understand that you must adapt to the world in order to be successful.
5. Interdependent: Your focus moves toward collaboration. You work with others to achieve goals.

The Transformation Model can lead to profound changes. This can help you move toward The Alpine Style Model easier. The Alpine Style Model requires that you harness your emotional intelligence and your subconscious thinking as aspects of your decision-making. Question your previous assumptions. Learning about your strengths and weaknesses can help team members work together in a stronger way.
Profile Image for Daniel Taylor.
Author 4 books82 followers
November 20, 2016
Hollingworth uses a mountaineering metaphor to show how businesses can succeed now -- and into the future! While mountaineering often gets mentioned in business literature, it's usually to make a shallow point, 'Take your team to the top of the mountain.' In 'The Light and Fast Organisation
', however, Hollingworth goes deep with his mountaineering metaphor. He likens the traditional business approach to the expedition-style of mountain climbing. Those organisations will fail in the current and future global business environment. In contrast, successful companies will be like extreme alpinists, who climb light and fast. 'The Light and Fast Organisation' is a thought-provoking book and is recommended for all leaders.
1 review
August 29, 2021
There is very little original material in this book, rather there are many references to other writer’s content in similar fields. I was disappointed with the lack of practical advice, the over use of climbing stories to explain the parallels between mountaineering and adaptive organisations. As someone who is trying to enable faster and lighter organisations in volatile markets, I finished the book feeling frustrated rather than inspired.
January 14, 2019
An interesting comparison of successful business models with 'light and fast' mountaineering. A different style of business book and some good takeaways for considering how to adapt your organisation to be anti-fragile and adjust to constant change.
Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews

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