Skills Development Scotland

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) were an early adopter of the Intent-Based Leadership (IBL) philosophy, having been inspired by a key note address by David Marquet.  This was the starting point of an ambition of Everyday Leadership within SDS. 

One of SDS’s most forward-thinking directorates - CIAG - was keen to build leadership capabilities to deliver Everyday Leadership across the organisation using an IBL approach and in line with SDS's values.
Introducing IBL presented the opportunity to think longer term to build the Everyday Leadership capability of the wider team enabling a more ‘leader-leader’ approach to their leadership strategy.

Through a pilot programme, Remarkable wanted to help SDS effectively learn, embrace and put IBL into practice.  This would help them understand how their existing leaders currently lead, how they could give up control, how they could build technical competence and how to share organisational clarity.

Intent-Based Leadership in practice

Remarkable has matched the innovation of global thought leader David Marquet’s IBL approach to develop an innovative delivery method. One IBL approach called IBL LIVE presented an opportunity to pilot the appropriate development support for SDS based on their requirement. IBL LIVE looks at leadership development in real time to look at real issues. So, the SDS pilot approach focused on what currently happens within the team’s work place to support the way they interact and engage with their people and stakeholders to deliver growth.

To do so Remarkable undertook a series of IBL LIVE interventions including individual real-time observations, team meetings involving a ‘vertical slice’ from Director Level to Area Manager, feedback and one to one coaching across their Leadership Teams. Adopting, practicing and embedding the IBL philosophy was introduced using IBL language, practices and tools to look at ways to transform the role and expectations of what it means for everyone to be a leader in the organisation – bespoke to the individual, their role and their Directorate.

The outputs for SDS from IBL LIVE were:

A change in language, changed behaviour

The alignment in both meaning and understanding of language between different teams resulted in a common understanding and ownership, thus improving operational priorities. The team began to use ‘I intend to…’ more often illustrating that they were using their intention. As well as this, they sought clarity and the ‘why’ more often enabling them to then better engage their teams.

The release of control

Managers now have more trust in their Directorate and began to actively release the need to micro manage with a less instructional ‘Know all/Tell all’ approach – instead asking their teams for their intentions. Embracing this divergent thinking and diversity ensured everyone was heard and valued. This meant that Managers/Directors were not required to give answers all the time so were able to take on more thinking. Blind spots were identified, quality of questions in team meetings were improved and space was allowed for others to speak to help the teams get to the crux of issues or queries faster and more effectively. Everyone therefore had a better understanding of why and what was going on, how things work, the enablers and blockers to performance – the ‘invisible’ became visible to achieve more effective outcomes in any given scenario.

Quality improvements

Another important outcome for SDS surrounds ‘quality’ specifically quality as a powerful driver of performance for instance focusing often on mindset over a long term rather than just volume. Competence became less about technical competence and more about the quality of thinking and judgement. This allowed the Directorate to understand better the control they held, resulting in improved quality and more accountability in conversations.

Ownership of performance

When front-line teams took greater ownership of performance data, became more involved in decision making and contextualized messaging rather than just passing it on, it was noted there was an improvement in communication back up the line. Senior managers were also more aware of the impact of their personal style to understand how to dial up and down accordingly. In their fast-paced environment, they valued the opportunity to slow down and evaluate what they noticed to enhance their focus and thinking.

"The way forward for SDS to deliver improved organisational performance”

As a result of the IBL LIVE sessions there is now much more of a collaborative action-led approach by the teams, not just the team leader. Participants benefited from personal learnings and highlighted ‘turning points’ in their understanding which resulted in greater clarity in their role and a better ability to resolve issues. It was noted that this learning helped improve the dynamics of the Directorate and overall relationships. The team moved from ‘knowing’ to ‘doing’ by experimenting, learning, and repeating. Teams began to ‘push’ their intentions to their area managers or head of service with advisor-led team work plans rather than leader-led plans which removed the requirement of the managers to allocate responsibilities and encouraged new ideas and better quality practices. Normally this type of change management can take time, however feedback noted the speed of this change and also the ease in which this change improved behaviour.

“Embedding the IBL principles with the Ladder of Leadership model helped SDS create more ownership and accountability to ensure our customers gain full access to the range of services available and the workforce are moving away from ‘knowing it’ to ‘doing it’. The IBL leader-leader approach now informs the way forward for SDS to deliver improved organisational performance.”

- Stephen Findlay, OD and Transformation Manager, Skills Development Scotland


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