As Australia enters the summer season, the unfortunate reality of bushfires again leaps into our consciousness.

All too often, the tragedy of these fires is compounded by how they start – at the hands of the very people who are supposed to prevent and extinguish them: volunteer firefighters.

In the business world, situations analogous to this – fortunately with not the same consequences – happen with disturbing frequency.

Let's say a manager takes on one of his or her people's problems (as they do regularly!). They quickly solve it... they're good at solving problems, that’s why they got promoted into management. But competence can be a double-edged sword as more people bring their problems to them. And sure, these are also mostly handled with ease. It makes them feel good; validates their existence and makes them feel needed as they see themselves as a 'super' problem solver.

What's happened here? The manager feels good, yes. Their people feel good, maybe. But what are the consequences of the manager's actions, especially longer term? Why is this a problem, and such a widespread one?

In 13 Fatal Errors Managers Make, Steve Brown makes the point, "Those who cannot conquer the need for affection never build strong productive people; consequently, their teams remain weak. You cannot build a strong team on weak individuals. The test of a manger is not how much their people need them but rather what can they do without the manager."

As a manager, think about your organizational development by ensuring your people are better able to fight their own fires. Not only does it build the team, it builds the future of the business.
 

Posted: 12/22/2009 10:47:32 AM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
Bookmark and Share

The traditional model for strategy development is dead. No longer can a company's executives take a week off to go on a retreat and come back with some tans and a five-year plan.

Or at least so says Stefan Stern, who has backed the idea of "adaptive advantage" from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG):

"Organisations with adaptive advantage recognise the unpredictability of today's environment and the limits of deductive analysis," [BCG writes]. New problems are constantly emerging. Well-run businesses respond effectively to them.

In our frenetically-paced world, Stern argues that the last four years and 364 days of a five-year plan are irrelevant.

It's a compelling argument. And I'm sure that adaptive advantage makes great business sense for many companies. But before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, look at the companies that Stern cites as effectively implementing adaptive advantage: Google, with online advertising. Amazon, with the Kindle. Toyota, with the Prius. Proctor & Gamble, with the trialling of products. And Red Hat, with its new software.

All but one of these examples showcases a company employing a new technology.

Which doesn't mean adaptive advantage is wrong. Anything but, in fact. But we also shouldn't write the obituary for "traditional" strategy planning just yet. Because plenty of companies still operate and thrive under it today.

In Fortune's leadership development programs, Steve Brown consistently makes the point, 'if it works it's good; if it doesn't work, it's bad'. And by "it", he means any change, any initiative, any action that a business or manager takes. He emphasises the need for management teams to schedule regular CREATIVE TIME (very few do), to reflect on the history of the business, how it has performed and how it's performing now, so management can continuously adapt to an unpredictable future. 150 years ago Darwin saw that it was not simply about 'survival of the fittest'; he was clear that it was about 'survival of the best adapted'.

If the five-year plan works for your company, stick with it. If your business is not cutting then try something different... establish an inclusive process for discovering new strategic creativity and adaptability in your business.

That's the key to creating business strategy that works.

Posted: 12/15/2009 9:50:07 AM by Nick Morris | with 0 comments
Bookmark and Share

Leadership Development CarnivalThe December Leadership Development Carnival is now up at the Inflexion Point Blog. Please have a look, as it contains all sorts of fantastic content on topics such as management development, business coaching and organisational development. We'll also shamelessly add that our post 'Why Leaders Must Hold People Accountable (or deserve their failure)' has been chosen for inclusion!

For the uninitiated on blog carnivals, they're a collection of posts on a specific theme. There are carnivals for just about any topic – you can browse through more at the main Blog Carnival website – and they provide a great opportunity to learn about an area of interest.

So to read up on the best leadership material from the blogosphere in the last month, have a look at this month's posts.

Posted: 12/9/2009 9:53:32 AM by Nick Morris | with 0 comments
Bookmark and Share

Part 1 of this series of posts on leadership development illustrated how more and more of today's leaders are neglecting to develop their next tier of managers and thus failing in one of their primary duties to their organization. Part 2 touched on how we can avoid this problem altogether: in short, treat that next tier of managers like strawberries, not mushrooms.

Now we look at the third and last example for how we can treat middle management like strawberries.


Immersion

The ultimate example of treating management like strawberries may come from Brazil.

At just 21 years old, Ricardo Semler took over Semco, his family's business, with a determination to change its traditional and autocratic management structure. The below excerpt from an article/interview in CIO Insight illustrates how he did that, by instilling a system of complete immersion, in which management responsibilities were disbursed to all employees. It picks up right as Semler was struggling with the business and had suffered a severe fainting spell.

 

Semler determined to balance his work and personal life more carefully, and to do the same for his employees — all while improving Semco's fortunes. To his great relief, he discovered he didn't have to reconcile these two goals: The more freedom he gave his staff to set their own schedules, the more versatile, productive and loyal they became, and the better Semco performed.

Nor did he stop with flex time. He did away with dedicated receptionists, org charts, even the central office — it now resembles an airlines' VIP lounge, with people working in different areas each day. He encouraged employees to suggest what they should be paid, to evaluate their bosses, to learn each other's jobs, and to tolerate dissent — even when divisive. He set up a profit-sharing system and insisted that the company's financials be published internally, so that everyone could see how the company was doing.

Semco hit some bumps and yet, despite a recession and staggering inflation in Brazil, the company grew, and, by 1993, Semler had a spirited turnaround story to tell.


This story has it all! Empowerment, transparency, ownership, you name it. Semler put it all together by allowing his employees to fully immerse themselves in the business, with a faith that they had (or could capably develop) management skills, and the company has grown beyond anyone's wildest expectations.
 

Posted: 12/8/2009 9:35:25 AM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
Bookmark and Share

Part 1 of this series of posts on leadership development illustrated how more and more of today's leaders are neglecting to develop their next tier of managers and thus failing in one of their primary duties to their organization. Part 2 touched on how we can avoid this problem altogether: in short, treat that next tier of managers like strawberries, not mushrooms.

Now we look at the second of a few examples for how we can treat middle management like strawberries.


Empowerment

Last time we discussed Sam Walton and his Ten Rules For Business Success. One rule not mentioned, because it didn't apply to that post's theme of transparency, was #10: Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. However, it's very applicable to today's theme of empowerment.

After General Motors fell victim to the global financial crisis last year, its new CEO, Fritz Henderson, was tasked with quickly turning around the automotive giant.

Henderson saw that the organization's highly bureaucratic structure had allowed it to become sluggish, complacent and out of touch with the market. So he immediately devised a new company culture, with four key pillars at its foundation: risk-taking, accountability, speed and customer/product focus. These pillars – and especially the first three – directly addressed the very bureaucracy that had brought the organization to its knees. And they did so by empowering GM's employees.

At all levels, managers are now encouraged to make decisions in their area of expertise. No approvals, no big meetings, no deliberations required. Just do it.

Maverick managers within the company who know how to game whatever remnants of bureaucracy remain are actually being encouraged! Whatever you need to do to get the job done, however you need to get the job done, just do it.

Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. By abandoning the bureaucracy and embracing a new set of leadership skills, GM is taking a calculated risk that it can regain its stature by empowering management.

Do you think this new culture of empowerment will help GM turn around?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Posted: 12/1/2009 11:21:28 AM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
Bookmark and Share