mapping the terrain
Chapter 13. Joan V. Gallos. Making Sense of Organizations: Leadership, Frames, and Everyday Theories of the Situation
A look at the processes of sensemaking and everyday theory building offer insights into the challenges faced by all leaders. Bottom-line, leaders must be accurate in making sense of the ambiguities and challenges in organizational life in order to take appropriate action. Effective leaders avoid simplistic or myopic interpretations, build sound “everyday theories” that accurately explain the situations they find themselves in, and use those personal theories to facilitate the larger good. Leaders can be helped by books on leading and on understanding organization, but it can be difficult sifting through the plethora of expert advice. Leaders serve their organization best when they are informed, discriminating consumers of leadership theories and skilled translators of that learning into everyday theories that fit their situation. What helps leaders learn all that they need to know?
A first step is to understand the processes of sensemaking and everyday theory building so as to slow the process down both for the sake of accuracy. Sensemaking involves three fundamental steps: noticing something, deciding what to make of it, and determining what to do about it. Sensemaking and everyday theory building are intricately connected. Everyone is an everyday theory builder – it’s the only way to make sense of the world. Over time, people’s experiences lead to new ways of understanding that world and to possible revisions of their personal theories.
Leaders at all levels need good theories – homegrown, borrowed from others, or some combination of the two. A good theory simplifies complexity, clarifies ambiguity, and enables us to explain and predict. Good theories fit the reality of the situation and avoid the common traps of distorting the situation, over simplifying it, or taking an incomplete or myopia view. Organizations are naturally complex and diagnosing their inner-workings without falling into one of these traps requires a good analytic lens and “multi-pronged approach.” Gallos creates a model to accomplish this by building on the four frames
in the work of Bolman and Deal (see chapter 4 in Business Leadership
) and proposing the importance of reframing
—deliberately and systematically examining a complex situation from multiple perspectives.
Every organization operates simultaneously on four levels: (1) organizations need attention to their structure and appropriate rules, roles, and policies to functional effectiveness
; (2) organizations must attend to the human side of enterprise and foster the relationships and development of human capital needed to accomplish its mission and goals; (3) organizations are systems with scare resources, characterized by diversity of needs, inevitable conflict, and the political maneuvering of those seeking their piece of the pie; and (4) organizations are most successful when they create and maintain a culture and values that give meaning and purpose to work and offer opportunities for individuals to productively channel their passions and talents. Each of these four areas can be thought of as a frame or slice of organizational life with its own priorities, assumptions, focus, a priori
values, and guiding action principles. Leaders best serve their organizations when they have knowledge and comfort working in all four areas – that is, they can view organizations through a (1) structural frame
, (2) human resource frame
, (3) political frame
, and (4) symbolic frame.
[The chapter provides charts that summarize the content, emphasis, assumptions, action logic, definition of organizational effectiveness, and central tensions for each frame.]
Each frame, Gallos warns, presents a unique array of tensions which must be resolved for an organization to balance competing frame pressures. [A chart in the chapter summaries these tensions.] Successful leaders use the frames to diagnosis situations accurately and completely and to expand their options by looking at structural, people, political and symbolic issues.
Chapter 14. Michael J. Sales. Leadership and the Power of Position: Understanding Structural Dynamics in Organizational Life
Sales explores leadership and the power of position. He asserts that underlying system structures can be used to either maintain organizational status quo or as a springboard for vibrant change. Building on the work of systems theorist, Barry Oshry, the author explains system patterns that make organizations predictably frustrating and seemingly wedded to suboptimal performance.
The chapter is divided into three parts. Part I describes organizations on automatic pilot where people operate reflexively and without awareness of how their organizational roles impact their choices and responses to everyday events. Organizations have four fundamental system actors: tops, bottoms, middles, and environmental players. Individuals in each role behave and experience the world in predictable ways.
have overall responsibility and they feel it. Tops live in a world of “overload,” and handle unpredictable, multiple sources of input. The more turbulent the environment
, the greater the overload.
do the specific work of the organization. They live in a “disregarded” space.
They see things that are wrong, but feel powerless to do anything about it. Bottoms are frequently invisible to Tops. The more Tops overload, the greater disregard for Bottoms.
stand between Tops and Bottoms. They are the managers and supervisors. Middles live in a crunched, torn, and “disintegrated” space. They live between Tops and Bottoms who want different or conflicting things from each other. Both want Middles to handle their issues, frequently without regard for the impact on others. Middles spend their energy running back and forth between Tops and Bottoms, often torn in their loyalties and obligations – and thus frequently seen by others as nice, but ineffective or as defensive, bureaucratic, and expendable.
need the organization’s goods and services. They are “customers” or stakeholders. They live in “neglected” space. In a world where Tops are overloaded, Bottoms are disregarded, and Middles are torn, who has energy to focus outside?
Part II discusses an alternative: “robust” organizations that actively prospect for opportunities and break out of these predictable system dynamics. The key to robustness is for individuals to focus on the four elements: (a) opportunities to appreciate and make good use of differences (differentiation); (b) increased homogenization (commonality achieved through enhanced communications and cooperation); (c) greater integration (team- and relationship-building); and (d) individuation (opportunities for personal empowerment and individual expression).
Part III examines leadership strategies that can move organizations from reflex to robustness:
1. Strive for true partnership
2. Take leadership stands to guide behavior beyond the blind reflex of position
3. Step into the fire of conflict
4. Look for valuable enemies
5. Don’t stop thinking structurally/holistically about the system.
understanding unique features of the challenge
Chapter 15. Ron Ashkenas, David Ulrich, Todd Jick and Steve Kerr. The Boundaryless Organization: Rising to the Challenges of Global Leadership
There has been a paradigm shift among organizations that has increased the free movement ideas, information, decisions, talent, rewards, and action across organizational boundaries to where they are most needed. Today’s fast-paced, global business environment requires a unique global mind set and strategies to succeed where traditional boundaries of space, time, and nationality have been heavily eroded. The authors present a set of boundary-breaking techniques and practices to help in the development of today’s global leaders.
The authors identify four organizational boundaries, as well as corresponding strategies to reshape those boundaries for the modern marketplace:
1. Vertical: between levels and ranks of people
Reshaped: be willing to listen to ideas from all levels in the organization
2. Horizontal: between functions and disciplines in an organization
Reshaped: horizontal boundaries should be subservient to integrating faster-moving processes and procedures
3. External: between the organization and its suppliers, customers and regulators
Reshaped: listen to the advice and suggestions of outsiders, as they have an interest in the success of the organization as well
4. Geographic: between locations, cultures and markets
Reshaped: use learning from specific countries and markets to increase the organization’s overall success
Creating the boundaryless organization enables businesses to become fluid, responsive, flexible and innovative during times of significant change and global competition.
Chapter 16. Marc S. Effron. Knowledge Management Involves Neither Knowledge nor Management
Knowledge Management (KM) is neither a process dealing with knowledge nor management, and its current practice in most organizations is bound to fail. Effron suggests an alternative: organizations focusing on the intellectual capital of their workers. Knowledge exists in people: it is only gained by experience and by understanding information in the context of that experience. Effron argues that managers must, therefore, pay attention to how people acquire knowledge and how they can best transfer it to others.
Effron lists nine reasons that KM in its current practices does not work:
No accountability – who will be rewarded or punished for what is entered or not into the data base? That is a difficult question for organizations to answer.
No quality control – who will screen and make decisions about the quality of every piece of data? It’s a massive job.
It’s not really knowledge – it’s information unless tied to personal experience
It’s push, not pull – information will only get into a database when someone puts it there. It’s hard to be consistent even with the best of intentions which not everyone has. Information can be power and hoarded by those who have it.
There is no incentive to share – rewards are rarely, if ever, tied to data banking
ROI is difficult to prove
There is nothing for a Chief Knowledge Officer or Chief Learning Officer to do – the jobs are ill-defined and the tasks that fall under them tough to accomplish
It’s cultural – overcoming the barriers to sharing information requires changing most corporate cultures and overcoming natural aversions to doing so
It’s a fad – perhaps a relic from the dot.com era.
Effron also identifies seven ways true KM can work:
Chapter 17. Andrew W. Savitz and Karl Weber. The Sustainability Sweet Spot: Where Profit Meets the Common Good.
Realize its limitations – KM may marginally improve your firm’s capabilities, but is highly unlikely to revolutionize it
Hold on to your best – keep knowledge from walking out the door by strategies to keep your best employees
Use apprenticeships – transfer knowledge through meaningful experiences
Anoint experts and set expectations – identify “go to” people
Rely on human interaction – people share stories and experiences
Put accountability where it belongs – line managers must get quality information into the organization and ensure that their teams get the experiences they need to learn
Sure, have a database – but have someone screen every piece of information that goes in and reward people for sending that information along.
Sustainability is not philanthropy. It is a company’s ability to use daily operations to support and enrich the larger world. Organizations can “do good” and “do well” at the same time. Savitz and Weber call this the “sustainable sweet spot” where the pursuit of profits is synonymous with the pursuit of a larger common good. The “sweet spot” also leaves the company viable in the long run by strengthening its roots in the community and its contributions to the environment. Sustainability is not risk-free nor does it guarantee financial success. It requires commitment, resources, and a change of direction within the company which can entail costs and risks.
Savitz and Wheeler list three ways sustainability enhances business:
Chapter 18. Paul Glen. Leading Geeks: Technology and Leadership.
Protecting the business (reducing harm)
Running the business (reducing costs)
Growing the business (opening new markets)
Glen writes that geeks – the workers who create, support, and maintain technology – are essential to any organization that wishes to stay innovative and viable. Companies need to respond to constant change from the competitive marketplace, and geeks are the people who can help. They can participate as partners in designing innovation and change – or at least they can help to support that. Anyone in an organization can generate new ideas; however, geeks are always needed to develop and implement the technological side of those projects.
Because technology is an essential component of every organization, managers must know how to lead geeks. “Geek work” is different from other work, and by training and orientation, geeks are different from other workers and must therefore be handled differently. Power, for example, is useless with geeks.
The author offers two models to clarify geek leadership: the Context of Geek Leadership
which describes the characteristics of the environment for effective geek leadership, and the Content of Geek Leadership
which describes the tasks and responsibilities of a geek leader. Geek leadership must provide internal facilitation, furnish external representation, nurture motivation, and manage task ambiguity. Finally, the ultimate goal of geek leadership is to facilitate the productivity and creativity of an invaluable set of organizational workers.
Chapter 19. Ancella B. Livers and Keith A. Caver. Leading in Black and White: Working Effectively Across the Racial Divide
Blacks in the workplace face dynamics unique to being African-America in a traditional white, male-dominated world. White managers are largely unaware of these differences, and that can lead to distorted communications and get in the way of effective performance. The authors explore this set of dynamics which they term as miasma
The effects of miasma are easier to see than the phenomenon itself. Miasma has three effects on African American workers: it reduces trust, fosters beliefs that they must work twice as hard as others to succeed, and prevents African American workers from letting down their guard at work.
An important goal for black leaders and managers is to discover how to work through miasma and not be impeded by it. The goal for organizations and for non-black colleagues who work in them is to understand the dynamics miasma creates for black leaders and to determine how to reduce miasma so that organizations can support and benefit from the efforts of all their workers.
To remove or lessen miasma and its negative organizational consequences, Livers and Caver offer suggestions for self development, education, and behavior.
Understand that difference does matter – equity is not sameness and difference affect every corner of our lives
Be willing to broaden your outlook – learn about others who are different from you
Don’t over-assume similarities – assume similarities and you deny an individual’s uniqueness
Keep issues in perspective –distinguish between individual differences and general matters of race. One person cannot represent or speak for an entire race of individuals
Don’t expect blacks to fail – check your assumptions
Stretch your own comfort zone
Keep mutual respect paramount
Educate yourself about different groups of people:
1. Learn about blacks and miasma
2. Question your own perspectives
Seek feedback about your behaviors
Beware of your context – learn about the written and unwritten rules of your organization and think about what they mean for African American colleagues
Finally, use behavior to create, enhance, or maintain a relationship:
Chapter 20. Robert Morison, Tamara Erickson, and Ken Dychtwald. Managing Middlescence
Communicate openly and provide feedback
Don’t limit interactions with black colleagues
Allow for differences
Don’t be afraid
Demand and enforce equitable treatment for all
Be a change agent
Many mid-career employees are searching for new ways to balance work, family, and leisure and to infuse new passion into their work – and many of their organizations are unaware of their frustrations or preparation to exit. Morison, Erickson, and Dychtwald identify this phenomenon as the problems of middlescence
. Too many mid-career employees are “working more, enjoying it less, and looking for alternatives.”
Middlescence affects a large group of workers – adults age 35-55. It flows from individual, social, and cultural changes such as increased health and longevity of workers, delayed and multiple marriages, and family challenges from longer work hours and two-career households. Many mid-career employees also feel dissatisfied with the impact they have had on the world and with their current careers: they want more meaning and purpose in their lives and contributions. It is important for employers to recognize and do something about this to retain talented and valued employees.
The authors identify six ways to reignite the careers of middlescence employees.
1) Offer fresh assignments – opportunities to try something new
2) Offer attractive internal career change options to employees
3) Offer the employees opportunities to mentor and teach co-workers: new and old employees who can learn from each other
4) Offer mid-career employees training and opportunities to learn
5) Offer sabbaticals: a year off, either paid or unpaid
6) Offer expanding leadership opportunities.
PART IV Making It Happen
getting things started
Chapter 21. Michael Watkins. The First 90 Days of Leadership.
Entering a new job is always difficult. Watkins asserts that new leaders get 90 days to prove themselves. Actions taken during those first three months largely determine a leader’s success or failure. Fail to build momentum, and leaders face an uphill battle.
Watkins offers a blueprint for getting on top of a new job quickly – guidance that few organizations give to new employees. Five propositions underpin his recommendations.
Failure is never about a flaw in the leader. The root causes always lie in the interaction between the situation and its opportunities and pitfalls, and the individual with his or her strengths and vulnerabilities.
There are systematic methods to lessen the likelihood of failure and reach the breakeven point faster. Certain transitions that share common features and traps; and there are principles, like securing early wins, that underpin success across all situations. Leaders must match their strategy to the demands of the situation.
The overriding goal for new leaders is to build momentum through actions that create leader credibility and avoid those that damage it.
Transitions are opportunities for leadership development and should be managed as such. They strengthen diagnostic skills, demand new learning, and test personal stamina.
A systemic way for organizations to accelerate transitions yield big, bottom-line gains.
Watkins has found that outsiders moving into new organizations characteristically have more difficulties than those promoted from within.
Ten strategies can help leaders reach the point of effectiveness quickly.
Chapter 22. Peter F. Drucker. What is Our Mission?
Promote yourself – make a mental break from your old job and things from the past that made you successful. Delve into the new job and its specifics with vigor.
Accelerate your learning – be systematic and focused on deciding what you need to learn and how you will learn it
Match strategy to situation – diagnose the business situation accurately and clarify its challenges and opportunities
Secure early wins – it builds credibility and momentum
Negotiate success – nothing is more important that building a productive working relationship with your new boss in order to manage his or her expectations
Achieve alignment – your job as leader is that of an organizational architect: figure out whether the organization’s strategy is sound, bring structure into alignment with the strategy, and develop systems and talent to implement strategic intent
Build your team wisely – make certain you have the right individuals and talent
Create coalitions – your success depends on your ability to influence others
Keep your balance – don’t let yourself be shaken by inevitable challenges
Expedite everyone – help everyone get up to speed.
Drucker emphasizes the importance of organizational mission statements. They influence how employees perceive the organization and affect their every action. A mission statement should be short and sharply focused – should fit on a t
-shirt, says Drucker. The mission needs to communicate clearly why an organization does what it does
, not just restate what it does or the means by which it does it. A good mission statement, no matter how broad, should direct everyone to do the right thing.
Effective mission statements come from matching an organization’s opportunities, competence, and commitment. Start first by understanding the outside environment, according to Drucker. Organizations that start by looking internally can fritter away their resources and stay focused on yesterday. Leaders help their organizations when they anticipate and mold the future.
Defining the mission can be difficult, painful, risky, but essential: it enables an organization to set its goals and objectives. And when explicit, clearly understood, and supported, a mission supports common vision, understanding, and unity of direction. Drucker cautions: never sacrifice mission for money. The organization risks losing its integrity and soul.
Chapter 23. James MacGregor Burns. The Power and Creativity of a Transforming Vision
Was Hitler a leader? The question – and debate it guarantees – goes to the essence of leadership. Transforming leaders define public values that embrace the supreme and enduring principles of a people, according to James MacGregor Burns. Their behavior is guided by three sets of standards: virtue, ethics, and values. Virtue
refers to the old-fashioned codes of conduct, or habits of acting, such as chastity, honesty, self-control, sobriety, and cleanliness. Ethics
reflects modes of more formal and transactional conduct – promise-keeping, integrity, trustworthiness, accountability, and reciprocity. Values
include public principles such as order
, liberty, equality, justice, and the pursuit of happiness. Using those standards, Hitler ruled Germany, but he did not lead it.
Creativity is the vehicle for leaders to break through the restraints of conventional thinking in order to create a transforming vision. Often, crisis is the source of that creativity, and the unthinkable suddenly becomes the thinkable. MacGregor Burns argues that sensitivity to deep conflict between “accepted meanings and actualities” – what people believe about a situation and what actually exists and their frustration at the inability to reconcile the two – is creativity’s precondition. The creative insight is, in short, transforming. It might raise a fundamental challenge to an existing paradigm or system, calling for its overthrow and replacement. It might also call for a deep restructuring or the inclusion of significant excluded elements, or perhaps a revitalization, a new birth of “founding principles.”
The author writes that creative leadership reframes meanings to close gaps – and in the process transforms values. He cites Thomas Rochon’s three ways of values-change: value conversion
where the new beliefs of what is important, just, or legitimate contradict and replace the old; value connection
meaning the creation of a “conceptual link between phenomena previously thought to be unconnected”; and value creation
as with the emergence of conservation as a new value during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency.
Creativity requires leaders to put their ideas and beliefs to the test. Bringing a new idea to life is the ultimate test of creative leadership. To do so, the would-be leader must reach out to others. Would-be followers will respond only if the leader’s new perspective speaks directly to them and to their underlying wants, discontents, and hopes.
Chapter 24. Burt Nanus. Finding the Right Vision
A vision, according to Nanus, is a mental model of an idealistic organizational future that exists only in the imagination. A vision is, in essence, a world built from hopes, reasonable assumptions about the future
, and personal judgments. A vision may never become reality and is therefore a fundamental act of organizational faith. A vision with power to inspire, energize people, set new standards, and attract commitment always offers a view of the future that is clearly and demonstrably better for the organization, for the people in the organization, and/or for the society within which the organization operates.
It is the role of the leaders to help the organization find that special vision to focus efforts in the right direction while conserving institutional energy and effort. That is not always easy. The right vision, however, inspires and motivates employees to achieve excellence.
Powerful visions share common features:
They are appropriate for the organization and for the times
They set standards of excellence and reflect high ideals
They clarify purpose and direction
They inspire enthusiasm and encourage commitment
They are well articulated and easily understood
They reflect the uniqueness of the organization, they reflect what the organization’s purpose, or overall mission
They are ambitious
Visions with these properties, says Nanus, challenge and inspire people, help align their energies in a common direction, prevent people being overwhelmed by immediate problems, and enable people to distinguish the truly important from the merely interesting. Good visions program the mind to selectively pay attention to things that really matter.
A vision is not:
a prophecy – although after the fact it may seem so
a mission – vision is a direction, not a purpose
factual – a vision represents possibilities
true or false – a vision can be assess only as relative to other roads not taken
static, enunciated once for all time – visions must be alive and updates
a constraint on action – unless the actions conflict with the vision
Advice for leaders setting out to create a new vision:
Chapter 25. Loizos Heracleous and Claus D. Jacobs. Developing Strategy: The Serious Business of Play
Learn everything you can about your organization and others like it and about the industry
Ask major constituents in the process. Involvement builds commitment and understanding
Keep a playful open mind and explore multiple possibilities
Avoid the trap of making the final vision solely your own
If new to an organization, recognize, appreciate, and build on the previous vision and leadership.
An organization that plays together creatively determines its future success together. The authors assert the importance of more play-filled ways to develop organizational strategy as a replacement for traditional, top-down, rational approaches. “Playing with serious intent” inspires innovation and for good reasons.
Serious play enhances critical cognitive and interpersonal skills – and is enjoyable. Those who engage in play-related activities develop shared language and deepen their identification with and commitment to the organization and its mission. Playing with serious intent provides a safe environment to open up and address tensions and problems that may surface – and may be difficult to surface in more traditional activities. It also enhances team building.
Serious play is not a substitute for brainstorming or other structured strategizing. Serious play is intended as a complement. It can inspire and motivate innovation, as well as develop a sense of camaraderie among the employees, or team players. However, this approach is not to be facilitated by inexperienced individuals. The benefits require skillful management of the process and of the information generated from it. Facilitators must engage interaction and know how to find hidden meanings in the groups’ playful presentations. Serious play also requires that the senior leadership engage in the process and remain open to all its outcomes including undesired feedback. Under these considerations, serious play brings significant organizational benefits.
staying on track
Chapter 26. Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal. Navigating the Political Terrain
Organizational politics has a bad reputation but it need not. Leadership effectiveness depends on the effectiveness of leaders’ political skills and savvy: their capacity to manage power and influence and to empower others in service of organizational goals. Positive political skills raise practical and ethical dilemmas for leaders: when to adopt an open, collaborative strategy or when to choose a tougher, more adversarial approach. The potential for collaboration, the importance of long-term relationships
, and values all come into play.
The question is not whether organizations are political but rather what kind of politics they will have. In a world of chronic scarcity, diversity, and conflict, the astute leader is a constructive politician who exercises four key skills: agenda setting, mapping the political terrain, networking and forming coalitions, and bargaining and negotiating. Effective leaders create an “agenda for change” by designing both a vision and a strategy for achieving the vision. Leaders need an ethical framework: the authors suggest mutuality, generality, openness, and caring as the foundation for one.
Chapter 27. Jeff Weiss and Jonathan Hughes. Want Collaboration? Accept B and Actively Manage B Conflict
Collaboration is a challenge for organizations, and companies most often respond to the challenges in the wrong way. They focus on symptoms rather than on the root cause of the failure in cooperation – conflict. Organizations can't improve collaboration until they've addressed conflict: how to respond to conflicts in a proactive manner and use them to the company’s benefit. Conflict in organizations is inevitable. And the authors assert that it is important for an organization’s long term success. Conflict surfaces differences in perspectives and can be crucibles for individual and organizational learning. Until leaders understand and act on this, they cannot train their staffs to do so.
Weiss and Hughes offer several suggestions for addressing conflict in a healthy manner at either the point of conflict (the first three listed) or upon escalation (the final three). Conflict management works best when the parties involved in a disagreement resolve issues on their own through processes that improve – or at least don’t damage – their relationships. The following strategies help:
Chapter 28. Edgar H. Schein. Creating and Managing Culture: The Essence of Leadership
Devise and implement a clear companywide process for resolving disagreements – common methods and language can help
Provide people with criteria for making trade-offs – even when companies provide people with common methods for resolving conflict, employees often will still need to make trade-offs between competing priorities
Use the escalation of conflict as an opportunity for coaching
Establish and enforce a requirement of joint – let all the parties jointly present the scenario to boss or bosses to eliminate suspicion, surprises, and damaged personal relationships
Ensure that managers resolve escalated conflicts directly with their counterparts -- it's not unusual to see managers respond to subordinate conflicts by passing the conflict up their own functional or divisional chains to a senior executive
Make the process for escalated conflict resolution transparent – make the process as well as the resolution of the conflict public. A frank discussion of the trade-offs is important learning for the future.
Leaders, according to Schein, have one fundamental role: creating and sustaining a healthy organizational culture. That culture should be one of learning: adaptive, flexible, and easily and quickly responsive to an ever-changing environment.
Schein examines the essential elements of a learning culture:
A learning culture must be proactive in its approach to problem solving.
There must be a commitment to learning for the sake of learning.
This culture requires its leaders to hold positive assumptions about human nature.
The culture must assume that it can survive and override any other culture that does not support active learning.
The culture must demand and constantly search for the truth.
This culture must be future-oriented, while still being able to assess the present situation.
A learning culture must be focused on sharing all pertinent information and maintaining and keeping open the lines of communication.
There must be a commitment to diversity by all members of the culture/organization.
There must be a commitment to systemic thinking.
There must be a commitment to cultural analysis for the purposes of understanding and improving the world.
A learning culture requires support from organizational leadership who seek new insights into self and the surrounding world; and who bring high levels of motivation, emotional strength, ability to analyze and change cultural assumptions, and a willingness to involve others and to inspire participation.
Chapter 29. John P. Kotter. Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail
Kotter sets out in his article to explore why a small percentage of business transformations lead to organizational improvement. He insists that successful change must be gradual and planned: more often than not, “skipping steps” and rushing to implement change leaves companies dissatisfied with the end results. He also points out how costly mishandling even a single step can be.
Kotter’s eight essential steps for effective change are:
1. Establishing a sense of urgency
2. Forming a powerful guiding coalition
3. Creating a vision
4. Communicating said vision
5. Empowering to create/enable implementers for the vision
6. Planning for and creating visible performance improvements
7. Consolidating improvements and continuing the change effort
8. Institutionalizing new approaches
Chapter 30. Douglas A. Ready. Leading at the Enterprise Level
Organizations often embrace decentralization as a strategy for fostering employee involvement, decision making close to the information, and quality. Promoting departmental autonomy, however, can lead organizations to forget to train leaders to see the big picture. In Ready’s language, they fail to create enterprise level leaders.
Effective enterprise leaders excel at four tasks. They
Focus organizational attention on the customer, setting priorities and driving out distractions.
Build multiple organizational capabilities simultaneously, especially in the areas of strategic competence and organizational character.
Reconcile the tensions -- between growth and stability, for example -- which are embedded in any organization.
Create alignment by building consistency between an organization's statements of purpose, its processes, and the skills and behaviors required of its people. They fulfill this alignment by managing the “five M’s”
Mechanisms for renewal
Why is developing such a leader is so difficult? Ready offers three explanations: (1) organizational cultures that acknowledge and reward departmental or individuals; (2) the widespread emphasis on specialized expertise in many companies; and (3) reward systems that favor individual and unit accomplishments at the expense of corporate success.
Organizations can identify and develop enterprise leaders by changing culture, creating opportunities, and installing HR processes that foster and empower enterprise leaders.
Chapter 31. Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan with Charles Burck. Execution: The Gap Nobody Knows
The execution of plans, goals, and strategies is essential to organizational short- and long-term success. Bossidy, Charan, and Burck assert that organizations pay too little attention to issues of execution. When companies fail to deliver, the most frequent explanation is the wrong CEO’s strategy. But the strategy is not often the cause. Strategies often fail because they are not well executed: things that need to happen just don’t. Either the organization isn’t capable of making them happen, its business leaders misjudge the challenges in the business environment, or both.
Leadership without the discipline needed for execution is incomplete, ineffective
, and hollow, the authors conclude. Three essential understandings for getting execution right:
1) Execution is a discipline and integral to strategy. It is not just tactics. It is a systematic process to rigorously discuss the how’s and what’s, to question, to tenaciously follow through, and ensure accountability at all levels. Execution includes mechanisms for testing and changing assumptions as the environment changes and for upgrading a company’s capabilities to meet its strategic challenges. In its core, execution is a systematic way to expose reality and act on what is learned. It involves making assumptions about the business environment, assessing the organization’s capabilities, linking actions to outcomes, ensuring smooth and collaborative working relationships among all departments, and rewards for a job well done. The heart of execution, the authors tell us, is in the three core processes: HR, strategy, and operations. These processes are tightly linked so that strategy takes account of people and operational realities, people are rewarded in light of strategic and operational contributions, and so on.
2) Execution is the major job of a business leader: it will only execute if its leader’s heart and soul are immersed in the company. The leader has to be engaged personally and deeply in the business, understanding fully the business, its people, and its environment. The leader has a unique perspective – and the authors assert is the only person in a position to achieve that level of understanding. The leader must run the three core processes—pick other leaders, set the strategic direction, and oversee operations.
3) Execution has to be rooted in an organization’s culture – embedded in the reward systems, policies, and norms of behavior that everyone follows; the reason for promotions and advancement.
Execution is not highly visible or sexy, the authors agree. However, successful business leaders must accept their role of assessing the external environment and identifying if the internal environment and employees are capable of matching strategic needs. If they or the current strategy are not
, it is the leader’s job to guide the ship back on course. The responsibilities of execution are at the core of CEO and organizational success.
avoiding the pitfalls
Chapter 32. Peter Frost and Sandra Robinson. The Leader as Toxin Handler: Organizational Hero and Casualty
Toxin handlers are an under-appreciated and under-acknowledged asset to organizations. They take on the often thankless role of absorbing and ministering to the frustrations and pain of subordinates, superiors, and peers so that work can get done. They act as counselors and coaches, and are integral to bottom line success. Organizational pain is a reality, but too few organizations have systems or strategies in place to deal effective with it.
Toxin handlers step up in the void. They:
Work behind the scenes to prevent pain
Carry the confidences of others
Reframe difficult messages
Help employees work through the emotional reactions to organizational change or downsizing
This work takes its toll on toxin handlers. These include professional and psychological burnout; illness and other physical embodiments of stress such as stiff necks, nausea, headaches, depression, more or less serious heart problems, chronic sleeplessness, and so on.
Organizations who understand that toxin handlers are their unsung heroes can develop policies and practices to minimize the burden on individual handlers. These can include:
Chapter 33. Barbara Kellerman. Bad Leadership B and Ways to Avoid It
Acknowledging work place emotions
Developing systemic strategies for handling workplace pain, especially during periods of major change, such as temporary handlers, consultants, and so on
Offering support groups for toxin handlers within the organization
Building in breaks, like a short sabbatical or conference, for those in the middle of an intense toxic fray
Reassigning toxin handlers to “safe zones” for short term rejuvenation
Offering stress management class and stress reduction programs, like lunch time yoga, workout facilities, etc.
Kellerman had created a typology of bad leadership and identifies seven kinds: incompetent, rigid, intemperate, callous, corrupt, insular, and evil. Kellerman is quick with cautions: the groups are formed my human judgment, one are no purer in intent or impact than another, the range of bad leadership is wide, opinions of leaders change over time and audience, and having one’s leadership fall into one of the seven leadership type is not the same as having an enduring personality trait. With that in mind, the chapter enables readers to know better and more clearly what bad leadership is.
The incompetent leader
lacks the will or skill (or both) to sustain effective action. In at least one major important leadership challenge, they did not create positive change. A rigid leader
is stiff and unyielding. Although they may be competent, rigid leaders are unable or unwilling to adapt to new ideas, new information, or changing times. Intemperate leadership
is defined by the leader who lacks self-control and is aided and abetted by followers who are unwilling or unable to effectively intervene. Callous leaders
are uncaring or unkind. The needs, wants, and wishes of most members of the group or organization, especially subordinates, have been grossly discounted. Leaders defined as corrupt
will lie, cheat, and steal. To a degree that exceeds the norm, they put self-interest ahead of public interest. Insular leaders
minimize or disregard the health and welfare of the “other” – that is those outside the group or organization for which they are directly responsible. Finally, the evil leader
commits atrocities. They use pain as an instrument of power. The harm done to men, women, and children is severe, and can be physical, psychological, or both.
Kellerman asserts that bad leadership will not, cannot, be stopped or slowed unless followers take responsibility for rewarding good leaders and penalizing bad ones.
Therefore, this chapter concludes with suggestions for both leaders and followers. Leaders can strengthen their personal capacities to be both effective and ethical by the following twelve choices and strategies:
Limit your tenure
Share the power
Don’t believe your own hype
Get real and stay real
Compensate for your weaknesses
Remember the mission
Develop a personal support system
Know and control your appetites
The following are five suggestions for followers to work with each other and with their leaders:
Chapter 34. Kim Cameron. Good or Not Bad: Standards and Ethics in Managing Change
Develop your own sources of information
Take collective action
Be a watchdog
Hold leaders to account
The post-Enron and WorldCom business world calls for improved ethical decision making standards. However, according to Cameron, while most would agree that this is true, there is little agreement about what setting a new and clear ethical direction really means. Placing rigid restrictions on businesses that are bound to be broken is ineffective, and, more importantly, just avoiding the bad is not the same as pursuing good.
Cameron discusses virtuous thought as a possible alternative path. This promotes social responsibility and positive thinking. Focusing on virtuousness, says Cameron, produces positive energy, fosters growth and vitality in people, builds social capital, and enhances the probability of employee commitment to extraordinary performance.
Cameron argues that virtuousness amplifies itself and can become contagious. Virtuousness also produces an interesting buffering effect: individuals who practice virtuous acts suffer fewer physiological and psychological illnesses. Consequently, organizations with a virtuous focus recover more quickly from downturns and have greater customer retention than organizations that do not.