by Jack Martin Leith, Canaveral founder and mission director

Our broad approach is problem transformation, a methodology-independent practice involving a shift in how you perceive and respond to tough problems.

Read more about problem transformation

The transformation is accomplished by means of a programme of collaborative work called a Canaveral Mission.

Indicative programme of work

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I meet with the problem owner or problem identifier to receive a provisional briefing.

Canaveral’s ultimate client is always a member of the senior leadership team. This is a critical success factor and therefore non‑negotiable.

In response to the provisional brief, I select members of the Pathfinder Group and the Canaveral Talent Network to form a bespoke team possessing the right blend of generalist and specialist capabilities. My role is mission director.

In parallel, the problem owner forms a client-side team composed of key stakeholders. The joint client/Canaveral team is called the mission team.

The composition of the bipartite team may need to be modified as the mission proceeds.

The teams first task is designing and planning the probe.

Helen Sharman OBE

“The Moon is certainly achievable, we have been there already, but from what I can see there is no vision there – you need a vision of going somewhere, doing something that is hard, going further than humans have ever been before. You may need to go to the Moon in order to get there, but I think that is a means to an end. Mars is the vision, and that is where humans need to continue to be exploring to.”
– Helen Sharman OBE, the first Briton in space, The Guardian, 27 April 2018 (view source)
A Canaveral probe is an exploratory mission, a voyage into the deepest recesses of the presenting problem.

The purpose of the probe is:

  • Exposing and challenging the assumptions implicit in the provisional brief, and identifying any phantom constraints — ones that appear to be real but vanish the moment you turn the light on.
  • Investigating the true nature of the problem and the context in which it exists.
  • Acquiring whatever additional information may be needed.

The probe enables the mission team to arrive at a common understanding of the problematic situation in all its messy complexity.

The team’s next task is to answer two questions:

“How will everyone know the problem has been resolved?”

“What will they see, hear and feel?”

The answer to these questions is the interim desired outcome.

I challenge the client-side team to raise the stakes by asking:

“If that outcome represents going to the Moon, what would be the equivalent of going to Mars?”

Photo credit: Andrew Chaikin

Photo credit and copyright: Andrew Chaiki
The answer to this question is the ambitious desired outcome, which is expressed both in words and pictorially.

The first degree of transformation has now occurred. People are no longer facing a problem. They are now on a mission to generate significant value for clients or customers, other stakeholders, and wider society.

The work carried out up to this point informs the creation of the mission specification.

Strategy matrix
In response to the mission specification, the mission team uses the strategy framework shown in the graphic to help determine a broad course of action that will bring the desired state of affairs into being. This course of action is not necessarily an extended programme of work. In come cases, it will be a brief intervention such as a series of action learning sessions, a multi-stakeholder collaborative gathering, or a skilfully-designed remark made to the right person at the right moment.
The mission team devises the mission plan and makes preparations for persistent collaborative action.
The mission is launched.
Throughout the mission, I monitor progress and, drawing from the Pathfinder Group and Talent Network, provide whatever guidance and additional support may be needed to keep things on course.

The secondary purpose of the mission is serving as a learning laboratory for the wider organization, thereby increasing its value generation capability.

At each stage of the mission, we foster organizational learning using a variety of methods such as communities of practice, individual and team coaching, action learning programmes, retrospectives, Open Space meetings, and Knowledge Cafés.

When the mission has been accomplished and the ambitious outcome has been realized, an after action review is conducted to harvest the lessons learnt and discuss how the new knowledge and know-how can be propagated.

I ask the client team:

1. “What value has been, is being, generated for each stakeholder, at a personal and corporate level?”

2. “To what extent is the company now better equipped to bring the new into being? How can you best use this additional creative power?”

This is the second degree of transformation. As a by-product of generating significant value, the agency is now more capable of surviving and prospering in a turbulent and unpredictable operating environment — one that demands constant innovation, reinvention and renewal.

The third degree of transformation occurs when problem transformation practice spreads throughout the company, its power to create the new expands to a great extent, and this creative potential is being fully harnessed in service of clients or customers, other stakeholders and wider society.

The business is now living its purpose to the full.

Contact Jack Martin Leith and get the conversation started