Global Forum on Action Learning, Leadership & Transformational Change pågår just nu i Stockholm. MiL Institute medverkar tillsammans med Volvo Cars med ett case. ”Leading transformation and learning in a complex organization - product development transformation 202020 in Volvo Cars R&D.”

Medverkan i konferensen är en del av Forskningsstiftelsens i MiLs satsning för att öka lärande kring långsiktiga effekter av verksamhetsintegrerade insatser baserade på ARL®.

Bilden är från seminariet som genomfördes av Ekkehard Schwartz, VCC R&D (t.h.) och Göran Alsén, MiL Institute (t.v.)  och Jonas Janebrant, MiL Institute.

Läs mer om Global Forum →




Respektfulla konfrontationer mellan olikheter är en förutsättning för utveckling. Ett förtroende som bygger på ömsesidighet är överlägset ensidig kontroll.

Delägarskap i idéer frigör entusiasm och kreativitet vilket skapar kvalitet och effektivitet. Allt detta går att påverka.

Varje människa bär på ett ansvar för sina val. I ett ledarskap innebär detta att varje ledare har ett ansvar för att utveckla sina egna synsätt och sörja för sin egen utveckling. Varje människa har utöver det också ett ansvar gentemot sina medmänniskor och vår gemensamma omvärld.

Ett gott och framgångsrikt ledarskap bygger på att i handling och reflektion tillägna sig de värderingar och förhållningssätt som gör att man med känsla för situationens förutsättningar och möjligheter gör rätt saker, på rätt sätt och i rätt tid.

Den viktigaste grunden för ett gott ledarskap är förmågan att med inlevelse förstå människor, verksamheter och affärer.

Vi utgår ifrån att ledarskap först och främst är ett aktivt förhållningssätt och att det skapas i samverkan med andra.


– Ur MiL Institutes idégrund ...


by Katarina Billing, MiL Institute

How do we develop managers that lead with the end in mind?

Lars Cederholm, MiL Institute at Global Forum Lars Cederholm, MiL Senior Partner, was also this year’s Dilworth Award recipient for ”Outstanding professional achievement in the field of Executive Education and Action Learning”.

This was one of the many challenging questions raised at the start of The 17th Global Forum on Action Learning in Yokohama. The theme of the year is: ”Global Leadership: Greater Understanding, Sharing and Solidarity”. Present in Yokohama were a team of representatives from MiL Institute, consisting of Katarina Billing, Jonas Janebrant and Lars Cederholm hosting a seminar on ”Action Reflection Learning and Leveraging the Space In-Between”.

One of many noteworthy contributors was General Electric’s Senior HRM Asia Pacific, Nina Nijs Dankfort, who shared GE’s way of working with Action Learning and Business Driven Leadership Development. For Nina Nijs Dankfort, one of the objectives of their development initiatives is for the leaders to realize that one of their tasks is to leave a real legacy behind. This, at a conference, taking place in a country where the Fukushima accident still has an immense impact on the nation and its people. Sustainability issues are really at the core in Japan, presently struggling with a shortage of energy of at least 30 % .

One of the most thought provoking moments of the conference, was Unilever’s Jacqueline Yew’s seminar on ”Common Dilemmas of Executive Development”, where for example the term VUCA-world was introduced. A Volatile world of Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. That is the environment where the leaders will have to be able to lead today in Asia and elsewhere. Looking at the first follower and not only at the leader was one of her recipes for leadership development.

It has been four days with lots of concern for our common future and for the great tasks that are in front of us which need to be led, and that there are no perfect solutions more like a lot of really demanding questions.

The Shunmyo Masuno, Zen Priest at the Kenjio Temple and a renowned Landscape architect really captivated it beautifully at the session in the lush Japanese Sankeien Garden: If we seek for perfection where will spirituality and humanity find its place?


By Katarina Billing, MiL Institute

Why Reflection is Needed So Badly and Why it is So Scarce in Supply

[caption id="attachment_392" align="alignright" width="300"] Sculpture of Confucius by Zhang Huan at the Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai. In the “Q Confucius”-exhibition the artist raised questions like “What does it mean to live in a Confucian way today?”. One of Confucius sayings was for example: “A good horse is praised not for its strength but for its virtue.”

The other day I was talking to the regional Asia-Pacific-HR- Manager of a major global company here in Shanghai. The picture he painted of the state of the organization was a grim one with a large management team meeting very seldom, with little trust in the team and no chance of support and empowerment and at the same time huge business challenges, barrier breaking goals and KPI:s in focus. A picture of an organization with high retention and a sense of frustration and severe stress among the employees, feelings of solitude, absent management and lack of talents wanting to take on larger responsibilities further down in the organisation. Business results: inadequate quality, loss of speed and innovative new business practices and solutions in short supply. In the long run, loss of direction, competitiveness and money.

—We really believe in reflection, but to tell you the truth I have very little time and resources ever working with it or promoting it, the HR manager confessed .

We all keep running
This scenario is by no means exclusive neither for this company, for this industry, for China nor for any other part of the world. I hear it over and over again, from Danish, American, Swedish, French, Swiss, Chinese companies etc. And in all kinds of segments: social media, manufacturing, retail, distribution, banking, telecom etc. The tale of the short-term focus, business as usual, action oriented, result- and KPI-driven approach. Most of us in business know the drill. We are awarded for being complacent and playing by the rules. Although we are convinced of the power of trust building, involvement, humanistic values and reflection as means to increase listening, learning and future creative solutions. We tend to go on running.

A quest for resilience
I think it is time to start focusing more on resilience. It refers to the idea of an individual's tendency to cope with stress and adversity. Many of the employees in the organisations I meet are stressed and one way of coping with it is shutting off and finding individual motivation when few alternatives exist due to lack of value based leadership, engaging visions and sound values being lived (and not only stated) in their respective companies on a day-to-day basis. Adding to that the multitude of information, the constant expectation and need to be “logged on” at all times and the matrix organisations where a confusion of loyalty often pervades leaves the concept of resilience and people practising it quite abandoned.

How to become resilient?
Some teams and organisations have the energy and faith though. I worked with a large Chinese organization some time ago. Their management school wanted to learn more about Action Reflection Learning, ARL ®, i.e. the MiL Institute learning philosophy and how to apply it in their business.

Concepts in ARL® like Presence (shutting out all irrelevant stimuli and focusing on the here and now), Connection (building trust and respect between us), Holistic involvement (seeing the team participants as persons not as roles, further not as a means but as ends in itself), Guided reflection (stopping to think, feel and share in order to learn for continuous improvement and increased life meaning) and Feedback (supporting the reflection as a means to create fresh air and breathing within a system) suddenly came alive and started to spin its threads tightening the team together. The team did not at any time leave their task but instead worked consistently with their goals and missions through ARL®.

This was a rewarding and energizing experience and the team is now busy living the ARL® philosophy in their development efforts within their organization but also in their own team life on a daily basis.
—We are now co-creating more. I have learnt to listen better and to increase my patience. And my co-workers show higher degrees of confidence, involvement and trust, the manager testifies happily.

This example shows some of the ways to build resilience, all of them thoroughly supported in psychological research. The ARL® philosophy supplies the organisation with a method and tools to make it happen.

Why do we resist practising reflection and building resilience?
Then why is it so difficult to “Just do it”? Two of the reasons are highlighted in the research on the negative social effects of excessive use of mobile phones that gets high attention in the media at the moment.

First of all, we are all psychological animals in need of social gratification, recognition and appreciation. Many of these needs are today satisfied through constant online access to e-mail, Facebook and other social network channels. Shutting them off (even for a short while) is perceived as a loss for the individual. It is consequently hard for an employer (or any other outside stimuli the report shows) to compete with these. Secondly this behaviour also fosters a lack of impulse control, i.e. we are used to getting what we want instantly, e.g. contact with our friends, a pair of new shoes through online shopping etc.

How can a manager “sell” reflection?
The list of explanations could become much longer. But if we look at only these two factors it is not hard to see why an employee from a work environment with low support, energy and involvement (like the one mentioned first in this text) could have some resistance to entering into a development process of any kind, say for instance of team development through ARL ®, working with connection and reflection. This need is already taken care of somewhere else and the organisation already has showed low credibility here.

As for the managers — “selling it” needs commitment and trust, something that is not present at the first place. Secondly, this development effort will reduce the speed not only of the work being done, since reflection takes some time at first (but is shown to improve results and speed long term) but also will be felt quite vividly in the room as a slow way of working (requiring attentive listening for example). Research has shown that stressed people are like drug addicts (Drugs, Stress Cause Similar Brain Changes – Malenka, R, Neuron, Feb 2003). Speed is like cocaine to them. If you take away speed you need to be able to sustain the individual with something else. To achieve this, MiL Institute often uses powerful tools coming close by tapping on emotions and relationships ensuring the involvement of each individual. But since we are also talking about a change process, altering people’s behaviour and ultimately the team/organisational culture, it also requires some time. Because as the dictionary Wikipedia accurately states:
“Resilience is most commonly understood as a process, and not a trait of an individual”.

It is something we do together and in a reflected process over time. Time, neither of us has, right?

Reflection is indeed an endangered species in today’s business world. And it is certainly initially a slow and time-consuming companion. But hey, do you know of any other salvation? I am all ears.
Katarina Billing, MiL Institute
Certified psychologist, journalist, MiL Senior Partner and co-author to several books, among others: Earning while learning in global leadership. Heads the MiL research foundation and has the last four years been the programme director for the MiL programme for experienced managers. Is passionate about art and personal leadership. Responsible MiL China.


From January 1st, 2011, MiL Institute has a Shanghai office and from there we design many kinds of Action Reflection Learning® experiences.  Out-of- the-box and mini projects are two examples.

—MiL Institute has been taking managers to China for more than 10 years now and the leaders tend to value this out-of-the-box experience as one of their most important in our programmes for their long-term development, says Katarina Billing, responsible for MiL in Shanghai.

Through those weeks the managers confront themselves and their own abilities and values in an unfamiliar environment.  This enables them to make their own predispositions clearer and move towards a more listening and open management approach, finding solutions to new challenges that are indeed innovative and out-of-the-box  – making the goal to become a true global business leader easier to reach.

They also get a greater understanding of China, the second largest economy of the world today, its customs and business environment and the opportunities and challenges that companies and leaders confront from a wide range of perspectives.

The week consists of visiting companies and people, handpicked to match the purpose of the programme. It also entails cultural experience of a wide range and visiting Chinese families in their homes, a highly valued event during the week.

Improved organisation and leadership as a result of MiL project at the World Path Clinic

The mini organisational project, for a day and a half, tends to be the most appreciated event during the Shanghai week in the MiL Programme for Experienced Managers. Not only does it make the leaders use many of the skills they have acquired during the programme but it also puts them far out of their comfort zone in their quest to deliver a result that actually makes a difference to the organisation who has asked for their help as free-of-charge consultants. Moreover, it also challenges the group and their communication and leadership skills in many ways.

—We really appreciated having MiL Institute’s group here. The group’s recommendations made us amongst other things change our organisation, and it now works much better, says Dr Kou, Physician and Managing Director of The World Path Clinic, commenting on the project conducted at his clinic by one of the smaller groups of the MiL Programme for Experienced Managers, who visited Shanghai for a week in May 2010.

The World Path Clinic is a health clinic for Chinese residents and expats in the Pudong area of Shanghai that opened two years ago. It is a comprehensive multi-disciplinary medical center with a wide range of healthcare services from primary prevention to disease treatment. It has about 100 employees.

The two questions that the group had to address were:
—How can we market ourselves in a better way?
—How can we improve our organisation in order to become more effective?

—I loved this task! Had someone told me beforehand that I could apply my knowledge from 15 years as a manager in the chemical industry in the Health Care sector in China I would have doubted that, but now I know that I have a competence that is widely appreciated outside of my field and that strengthened me and my identity as a leader, says Kerstin Lindell, CEO of Bona, a company producing and selling sustainable solutions for fastening and finishing wooden floors, and participant in the MiL Programme for Experienced Managers.

She continues:
—The project was great because it was for real. We had to deliver at the end of the day and it really tied together many of the things we had touched upon during the programme, like team work, appreciative inquiry, strategy and communication skills. It also forced us to think and act outside the box and see things from a different angle.

—And then there was the time pressure. We just about made it on time and that made us learn a lot about each other as a team and as individuals and our personal leadership skills, which was really interesting. It also was a great example of that diversity is good for excellence, since we all contributed with our different skills and experiences from many different businesses.

Dr Kou was the project host for the day and he and his senior colleagues were all present at the end of the day, when the group presented their solutions/new perspectives on the two questions. As a result, each floor now has formed a team with an independent team leader and the rotation between the floors have stopped in order for the people to build their competence in a secure way in their new group. The number of leaders has increased. Before Dr Kuo himself was the sole manager for all the professional personnel, now he has about five team leaders that report to him.

— My work load is now much smaller and I can focus on the things that are important in my position. The group also gave very valuable solutions on marketing for the clinic which has made us reach a point where we are very close to break even – very close to our target.

—For people who are used to deliver always, this kind of task is very motivating. The comfort zone gets narrower and it is impossible to pull back and refuse leaving it. Instead the group has to have an open mind, towards the new environment but also towards each other and one self. In order to deliver you have to really open up and listen, get close to other people and find a way of using your skills in the most productive way in this new setting, Katarina Billing, Programme Director for the MiL Programme for Experienced Leaders, continues.

—If you use this experience back home you will be a much better leader also in your familiar setting, since it is never as familiar as we often tend to think.

Mini Projects
Action Reflection Learning®
Tagged in: ARL out-of-the-box
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