Thursday, April 29, 2010

People have to find their own way

At a meeting in Sydney and then drinks on a pub rooftop in the Rocks with my colleagues watching the sunset over the Opera House - and listening to the traffic and trains rumble over the Harbour Bridge just behind us.  

I got thinking about the reminder we had heard earlier in the day of the Cohen Brown 10 Elements of Good Leadership:

1. Vision
2. Goals
3. Plans
4. Actions
5. Results tracking
6. Follow up and feedback
7. Coaching
8. Resource Management
9. Motivation
10. Relationship Techniques

And the summary that Leaders have a vision, Managers follow a process.  Now I am not going to argue with Cohen Brown (CB) - the improvement in sales and revenue in so many organisations that have implemented CB speak for themselves.  The 10 Elements are so strong and obvious we forget them easily!
In the back of my mind though I was reflecting on something I had read earlier - which was an article about  Hans Monderman - the Dutch traffic engineer who was asked to resolve the problem of a high rate of accidents in a busy intersection in the Dutch town of Drachten.  He thought about it for a while and then decided to remove all rules, signs and lines from the intersection.  "Who has right of way? I don't care", he said.  "People have to find their own way, negotiate for themselves and use their own brains".  Accidents plummeted in the intersection and his approach became known globally in town planning management.
Monderman  recognized that increased control by the state actually reduced the  individual and collective responsibility of the citizens.
CB badly applied ignores this element of human nature - which is that people are essentially independent thinkers and don't like following a formula.  The art of the leader is to help people share a vision and then to help them work out how to implement it themselves.  
This particularly applies when your team is young and smart.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Shift from West to East - driven by Cash, Commodities and Creativity

I have just been doing some research on the emerging trends of demand for food and energy commodities in Asia and came across this paper from Standard Chartered Bank (Standard Chartered Research ).

In summary:

  • There is a huge fundamental change is underway in the global economy. 
  • The shift in the balance of economic power from the West to the East will last for decades.
  • There will be winners and losers in this shift. The winners will be those with financial, natural or human resources, or one or more of the three Cs: cash, commodities or creativity

  •  Creativity may be the most powerful of all the resources to be rich in. With vast numbers of people entering the workforce, huge improvements in productivity, and continued globalisation, the rewards for innovation and creativity will become even greater. 
  •  The three Cs are shaping the New World Order, as well as the path of the current recovery. For example, China’s cash has allowed it to inflate its demand and raised Asia’s exports back to pre-crisis levels, despite an uncertain outlook clouded by weak G3 demand and growing protectionism. 
  •  In Africa, the rebound in commodity prices and a growing share of trade with emerging markets have also supported the trade recovery. 
  •  Strong fundamentals and flush liquidity are supporting Asian credits and currencies, especially as USD strength peaks in light of Europe’s improving situation, rising risk appetite and shifting interest rate expectations.

Further developing this thinking - if you don't have cash or commodities - then you need to be creative.

In a context where economic power (the cash) rests with the Chinese and East Asia - access to the food, energy and water based commodity economies will be critical - and if you don't have these - you need to develop cash flow from your THINKING.

Friday, April 2, 2010

5 Big Themes for the next 5 years

5 Big Themes for the next 5 years

A few weeks ago the Australian Financial Review’s Boss Magazine  (10 March 2010, page 22) ran an article on the fads and trends for the last ten years and the expected themes for the next ten years.
1.     The internet
2.     Employee self sufficiency
3.     Spinning off centralised functions
4.     Networking
5.     Globalisation
6.     Customisation  (the whole CRM thing)
7.     Collaboration across sectors
8.     Sustainability
9.     CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)
10. Work /life integration (balance implies separateness).

Fads that had “waxed and waned”:
1.     Paperless, open plan offices
2.     PowerPoint
3.     Free Agents and telecommuting
4.     Hot Desking
5.     24/7 casual dressing
6.     Total Quality Management
7.     Six Sigma (for everything)
8.     Bringing the whole person to work
9.     Knowledge management
10. Positive psychology

And Boss Magazine’s suggested “Buzz Themes” for the next ten years:
1.     Working smarter, not harder – focus on outputs not inputs; put people first
2.     Social capital, connections, within and beyond the organisation
3.     The integrated scorecard
4.     Communityship; collaboration leadership
5.     Diversity (age, gender, ethnicity, skills).
6.     Long life learning
7.     True sustainability – monitoring and measuring the right things.
8.     Team leadership – let everyone get ahead.
9.     Zero Waste.
10. The ambidextrous organisation – simultaneously exploring new frontiers and exploiting short-term shifts and opportunities.

This has been percolating in my mind as I go about my daily business.  I am challenged by the Buzz Themes and I grimace at some of the fads that have waxed and waned.  I remember being part of a committee that commissioned a CRM system – we spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars – and looking back – I’m not sure we really built any more sustainable customer relationships than we had before.  Maybe we did – the company is still a dominant player – but I remember the zeal of the consultants with whom we spent all this money – I wonder if they also grimace! 

I also fight the immediate temptation to switch off now when someone fires up a PowerPoint presentation and reads out their slides.

My 5 big themes for the next five years (ten years is far too distant):

1.     The value of relationships and the relearning of the importance of spending time face to face with people – the promise of the WEB2 and social networking has sold lots of iPhones and created lots of Face book pages – but hasn’t built enduring interpersonal relationship value.  Technology will however drive the re-distribution of power (see 5 below).

2.     The desperate “smarts” vacuum we see in corporate organisations which – after endless restructures - have no skilled middle management left to mentor and guide younger staff – who in the mature economies of the world  (statistically) are most probably without a stable mother or father influence in their home lives.

3.     The relentless focus on cost will accelerate as the Indians, Latin Americans, Chinese, Africans and Central Asians continue to try to drive up their people’s standards of living and undercut existing value chains in everything. 

4.     Food, water and energy will become the critical success factors to sustainable society – control of these three – in the context of climate change – will determine the future global power structures.

5.     Power is distributed:  Twitter users demonstrated this in the recent Iranian elections – elected and tyrannical governments alike will not longer control agendas like they did.  We have too many informed and connected people using information technology to be swayed by the spin doctors.  Are big advertising agencies and the traditional media in big trouble?