Collaborative leadership can boost the productivity of your company

4 January 2016 by in Business and finance

One usually thinks about leadership as an individual position, assigned to one person only. However, Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove, authors of What we mean when we talk about leadership, have discovered that in certain situations, teams that collaborate can be leaders in their fields and can be more powerful than one individual overseer. If your team has honed cognitive skills, it may be that it is made up of many leadership candidates.

The chef Vivek Singh arrived in London – for the first time – with his small team of chefs in December 2000. ‘All of the people who worked with me moved. It was a journey, an exciting change from doing a certain kind of cooking that everybody else was doing, to something that only we would be doing.’ On 21 March 2001 the Cinnamon Club restaurant opened its doors to the public with Singh and his team at the helm.

Prior to accepting the job, Singh had never previously visited the UK. Suddenly, he was involved in the launch of a restaurant right in the heart of London and one which was making claims to revolutionize the eating experience. ‘In many ways ignorance is bliss. I never really thought about whether it would succeed or not. Naivety! I had nothing to lose,’ says Singh. ‘I wanted to cook, I wanted to do more, and more. And the more you do, the more you want to do.’ In three months Singh had to figure out the groundbreaking food to accompany the groundbreaking customer experience. He had to discover suppliers in a strange city and much more.

Vivek Singh arrived in London with a team of five chefs. Two more were added for the Cinnamon Club’s launch. That team now is twenty strong. Of the eight people in the original kitchen, six are still with the group. In an industry famed for its high staff turnover, the 125 Cinnamon employees remain exceptionally loyal.

Leadership is inextricably caught up with individualism, but the reality is that leaders need teams. Leadership is teamwork.

Wharton’s Katherine J. Klein spent ten months studying medical teams in action at the Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Her close up view of leadership in action led her to adopt a unique perspective on leadership ‘as a system or a structure – a characteristic not of individuals but of the organization or unit as a whole’. Leadership is reconstrued in this world view as a dispersed activity rather than the monopoly of individuals. Trauma unit

In the fraught, pressured conditions that the trauma unit worked in, where poor decisions or wasted seconds might mean the difference between life and death, leadership was ‘a role – or, more specifically, a dynamic, socially enabled and socially constrained set of functions which may be filled by the numerous individuals who, over time, occupy key positions of expert authority on the team’.

In such a situation leadership was the product of the organization or unit’s ‘norms, routines and role definitions’. The function of the leader existed separately from the many different people who fulfilled the role depending on the circumstances.

Klein identified four key leadership functions: providing strategic direction; monitoring team performance; instructing team members; and providing hands-on assistance when required.

Based on Klein’s findings, organizations should put in place the structures needed to support whoever steps into a leadership position – have well established roles and clearly identified norms – rather than concentrate on selecting brilliant leaders.

Truly dispersed and fairly distributed leadership is unusual. More obviously attainable, perhaps, is the notion of collaborative leadership which Herminia Ibarra and Morten Hansen of INSEAD have looked at. ‘No company has all the resources that it needs in-house, so we have to work across boundaries. That is the essence of collaborative leadership, simply mobilizing and inspiring people to get great results working across boundaries,’ says Ibarra (who won the Leadership Award at the 2013 Thinkers50). ‘What kind of leadership allows organizations to identify interesting collaborative opportunities, to bring the best talents to those opportunities, and then to lead the process so that it gets to an effective result? Collaborative leadership is far removed from the traditional command and control model.’

Ibarra identifies several areas that leaders need to focus on to become good collaborative leaders. To start with they need to build networks that allow them to add value collaboratively through connections. Leaders should also engage diverse talent from a broad range from the periphery. ‘That periphery could be other geographies, other nationalities, generational, bringing other people into the discussion, gender diversity, it could be many things,’ she says.

Establishing conditions conducive to the collaborative process comes next. That includes eradicating any politics and turf wars that might obstruct collaboration. ‘You have to role model that from the top; if you don’t have your collaborative potential at the top it just does not happen.’

And lastly, says Ibarra, show a strong hand. There is no call for collaboration on everything. A constant need for consensus can kill collaboration. Instead, the collaborative leader knows when to step back and when to take action to keep collaboration moving forward and adding value.

And, in order to master collaborative leadership, leaders will have to disavow themselves of some commonly held on views on leadership. Take situational leadership, and the need for command and control leadership in certain situations, for example.

‘This idea of situational leadership is really ingrained,’ says Ibarra. ‘People believe that when times are good they can do all the good things, they can let go, they can collaborate infinitely. But when times are hard, it is time to close ranks, now you have to direct and control. That is not true. When times are tough, that’s when we need ideas, that’s when we need to reach out further. I think that is the real barrier, the sense that there is time for each, and command and control is still the answer to tough times.’

Herminia Ibarra and Morten Hansen’s article ‘Are you a collaborative leader?’ can be found in Harvard Business Review, July–August 2011. WWM order now

Game of thrones on business is an excellent stocking filler

22 December 2015 by in Business and finance, Game of Thrones on Business

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock these past few months, there have been speculations running wild about the new series of Game of Thrones and, um, well…yeah, turns out that Jon Snow might still be alive. I mean, we certainly didn’t ever think this, we know nothing after all. We definitely didn’t believe it when we saw Kit’s luscious locks at Wimbledon, nor were we swayed when we saw pictures of him on the set. No, sir. If you tell us he’s dead, George Martin, then we believe you.

Game of Throes season 6And then HBO released the new poster for season six. Well, we were perhaps taken unawares. Not for a second did we ever believe the conspiracy fan theories that suggested Jon would come back and then we are thrown a curve ball.

So it turns out we really do know nothing about season 6. And as 2015 draws to a close, we’re thrilled that it will only bring us closer to what is promising to be an almighty instalment in the Game of Thrones series. If, however, you are struggling to come to terms with this shocking news, and are wondering what to get Steve from HR for Secret Santa, perhaps you should look no further than our very own Game of Thrones on Business by Tim Phillips and Rebecca Clare, shortlisted for the CMI Management Book of the Year, it provides excellent tips on how to use tactics and strategies from the show in the workplace. Did we mention that it fits in a stocking as well? We’re pretty sure that there is just enough time to order a copy for your colleague, loved one, Grandma, neighbour and mortal enemy.


What do leaders really do?

17 December 2015 by in Business and finance

The C-Suite is the goal for many budding entrepreneurs who are rising through the ranks of businesses, leadership is a position that so many people aspire to. But what does leadership actually mean? And, more importantly, when you reach the position of leader, what do you really do? Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove, co-authors of What we mean when we talk about leadership seem to have the answers…

Mid-way through the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final the television cameras scanned the crowd in the royal box. There were past winners, sporting greats, politicians and celebrities of various degrees of permanence. Among them was a single figure who appeared less intent on the irresistible rise of Novak Djokovic and more on the smart phone in his hand. He was Sir Martin Sorrell, the CEO of WPP.

For the modern leader there is no rest from the steady stream of emails, the demands on their time. There is no hiding place. Sixty percent of CEO time is taken up by meetings; CEOs spend 25 percent of their time on phone calls and at public events; only 15 percent of CEO time is spent working alone. It has been estimated in the California Management Review that managers can spend two to three hours each day reading, sending and responding to emails. And then there are mundane traditional tasks – more research suggests that, on average, paperwork and related tasks consume 11.6 hours per week or approximately 25 percent of a manager’s time, with senior managers both spending more time on these tasks and finding it more disruptive than middle managers.

At the very top, there appears a relish for such demands. Sir Martin famously promises to reply to anyone in WPP who emails him within twenty-four hours. He calculates that for anyone to bother the CEO it has to be something important. (We have emailed Sorrell and he is true to his word.)

Sir Martin Sorrell leadership

Talking with one CEO, he summed up his modus operandi: ‘The reality is that every time I am on the move, I make a call; every time I have a break I call someone. I go through a mental list of who I haven’t spoken to for a while or someone who I know has a new piece of work on, or family news – they’ve just had a new baby or something.’

And yet, here was a man clearly happy in his work. ‘The life of a CEO is not for everyone,’ he told us. ‘It is a grueling, stressful and often lonely, existence. It is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. And, of course, there is no guarantee of success or even survival in the post. So why do it? Because, on a good day, it is also the best job in the world.’ (We should note that for this individual the best job in the world was his for only a couple of years before an internal spat saw him ejected.)

Most jobs come with a job description, a lengthy list of the exact parameters of responsibility. But when you reach leadership roles, the job descriptions come to an end. You are left alone to make it up as you go along. The only sure thing is that you will be expected to deliver results.

The loneliness can be oppressive – and partly explains the rise of the executive coaching industry. Not knowing what it is you should do or when or with who, offers more freedom than most executives have usually experienced in the corporate cocoon. In their previous incarnations executives have often been purveyors of certainty; as leaders they find that uncertainty rules. It can bewilder even the best prepared.

Little coherent research has been done as to how leaders do and should manage their daily working lives. (‘Filling out a six-page academic survey is rarely high on a CEO’s daily to-do list,’ reflects London Business School’s Rajesh Chandy.) Indeed, the reality largely went unexplored until Henry Mintzberg’s The Nature of Managerial Work, was published in 1973. Instead of accepting pat answers to perennial questions, Mintzberg went in search of executive reality. He simply observed what a number of managers actually did. The resulting book blew away the managerial mystique.

Rather than spending time contemplating the long term, Mintzberg found that managers were slaves to the moment, moving from task to task with every move dogged by another diversion, another call. The median time spent on any one issue was a mere nine minutes – remember this was nearly a quarter of a century before email. In The Nature of Managerial Work, Mintzberg identifies the characteristics of the manager at work. The manager:

  • performs a great quantity of work at an unrelenting pace;
  • undertakes activities marked by variety, brevity and fragmentation;
  • has a preference for issues which are current, specific and non-routine;
  • prefers verbal rather than written means of communication;
  • acts within a web of internal and external contacts;
  • is subject to heavy constraints but can exert some control over the work.

This may sound familiar.

Over thirty years later in Managing, Mintzberg revisited the subject of the 1973 book. He argues that the nature of managerial work hasn’t actually changed:

The content of managing changes all the time – what you’re dealing with, how your industry is structured – but the process hasn’t changed. The one big thing is the Internet and especially email, but I think those forms of communications just reinforce problematic behavior. So I think they’re just making it worse, but I don’t think they’re changing management fundamentally. One thing that I admit has changed is that management has been ignored in favor of leadership.

(The relationship between management and leadership is often discussed. We regard leadership as management on steroids, heightened and intense, but from the same essence.)

Mintzberg contends that though communication is a huge part of the job of management – managers spend 50 percent of their time, in some cases, on communication – this is nothing new. He cites a 1940s study of Swedish managing directors which found that they were inundated with reports and couldn’t keep up. The world has changed, but the essence and frustrations remain largely consistent. Leadership is a 24/7 job.


Henry Mintzberg was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at Thinkers50 2015. More of his sometimes trenchant, often entertaining and usually illuminating views can be found at

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Risk and opportunity go hand in hand when updating to the new ISO standard

4 December 2015 by in Business and finance, Implementing ISO 9001:2015

Paul Simpson, co-author of Implementing ISO 9001:2015 looks into how taking risks and opportunities is key when building a business but can the updated ISO standards help to deliver that elusive ‘pot of gold’?

One of the big new ideas in the 2015 edition of ISO 9001 is ‘Risk Based Thinking’ and if you are to believe the Twitterati the concept is akin to the subject of Edvard Munch’s painting ‘The Scream’ as the quality management landscape turns vibrant orange behind them. But before the hysteria needle hits 11 let’s think back to the real world outside the quality manual.

The ScreamAll people running organisations look at risk and opportunity, they are two sides of the same coin; when an entrepreneur starts their business risk and opportunity are always front and centre in their mind. Wherever they have come from, they have identified an opening to start a business, make a living, and grow it to the point where it gives them an income with the opportunity of a pot of gold for their retirement. This future is, however, not certain; there will be difficulties along the way and these risks, left unmanaged, could lead to a loss of income and, ultimately, to their business failing. The entrepreneur recognises these risks come in many forms and many are related to quality: do I have the right products and services for my target customers? Can I control production and service delivery to consistently meet those customer needs? Can my suppliers keep up with my demands and maintain quality levels I need? If I can manage those risks at that level then the business will succeed and I can grasp all the opportunities, including that elusive pot of gold.

Moving forward in time as the business continues to thrive and has grown, our entrepreneur has moved upstairs to the board room as CEO and has managers and teams dealing with day to day business while she buys in high priced consultants to lead some blue skies strategy sessions. Strategic risks haven’t really changed; an incorrect strategy still has the capability to bring down our grown-up start-up. Tactically the business can cope more easily with risk as it has multiple customers buying a range of products. On the down side tactical errors can lead to an erosion of hard earned brand reputation as all our customers inhabit the same system and talk to one another – see the earlier blog on organisational context (hyperlink) for examples.

Moving out of the board room along to the shop floor and offices where ‘business as usual’ happens risk looks a little different but it is just as important it is recognised and managed. With every order comes a risk the organisation will misunderstand their customer’s needs so, at this process level, there have to be checks and balances. Individuals working with their CEO’s delegated authority accept orders and enter into contracts including the inherent risks a legal contract carries. At the same time on the shop floor all employees are involved in managing risk. Some develop specifications and standards (perhaps in a separate design office); some manufacture products or deliver services that they believe meet those standards. Throughout the process managing risks leads to delivered products and services meeting specification, satisfying customer needs and customers paying their bills, thereby allowing the organisation to realize the sales opportunity and contributing to our entrepreneur’s vision of a pot of gold.

If the above risks and opportunities are present in daily organisational life why do we have concerns for the quality professional’s ability to inhabit this space and over what our certification body auditors are going to ‘do to us’? The revised clauses of ISO 9001 create an opportunity for us to revisit and realign our processes to ensure our systems deliver what our customers and stakeholders want. There are, of course, risks with changes to the standard but perhaps we can focus on the opportunities presented and maximize them instead.

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Context is king when implementing the new ISO 9001 standard

26 November 2015 by in Business and finance, Implementing ISO 9001:2015

Paul Simpson, co-author of Implementing ISO 9001:2015, argues that while all organisations understand the markets they operate in, it’s through using the example of a corner shop that we can gain insights into how to apply this knowledge to satisfy the ISO 9001:2015 requirements.

The 5th edition of ISO 9001 contains significant requirements for organisations to assess and take actions on information in their working environment.

In a small number of words the standard creates huge responsibilities for the organisation’s leaders and the only effective way to demonstrate those requirements are met is to look at the organisation as a system and understand the processes that interact with others in the operating environment.

So, what does that mean in practice?

Thinking of my local corner shop to test out a concept
I live in a village where my local shop owner has a very good idea about who her customers are, and their buying patterns. She knows her regulars and those who pop in once a month for a pint of milk late on Sunday. Each time a customer purchases something it is scanned and goes through the till and she gets sales reports as often as she wants. Her staff make a note when someone asks for something not in stock and, periodically, she sits down and decides whether the current stock holding needs to change.

Corrie fans on the Manchester studio set, Sept. 2000

She has supplier reps and multiple mail shots from suppliers to give options and alternative products to stock. Her stock deliveries take place twice a week and an emergency delivery can be called up if needed. She knows her regular sales team, their strengths and weaknesses and sickness patterns and meets each of them daily and talks about what is happening currently and what she plans to do.

In the village the Parish Council is fairly active and occasionally she meets one of the councillors and they talk about village traffic, problems with parking and litter. All in all the relationship is amicable. In surrounding villages there are similar shops and recently one of the majors opened an express outlet.

In all of the above there are risks and opportunities that can affect the sustainability of her business so she has a plan that attempts to deal with the risks and maximise the opportunities. The plan is in her head and is occasionally discussed with her husband and some ideas are tested with selected customers. The plan adapts in the light of changes to the operating environment of the store.

In the spirit of ISO 9001:2015
So, in my example, we have a system (corner shop) operating in a range of wider systems (village, local area, grocery supply network). The shop is part of a range of processes that take food from farm to fork and news from event to the reader. Each process is operating in real time and competes for time from members of staff and space in the owner’s head in terms of developing plans and strategies.

I’ll put my neck on the line here and state that not only is my local shop owner doing a good job of running her business but her practices are in line with The Deming cycle and meet the spirit and letter of the requirements in ISO 9001:2015.

For larger organisations context assessment is a much more complicated process, part of strategic management but, if done well, requires no further effort to comply with ISO 9001:2015.

If, however, you haven’t done this piece of work effectively not only are you in serious danger of failing to meet your system objectives of being a sustainable, profitable business but you cannot hang your 2015 certificate on the wall in reception with a clear conscience.

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Fons Trompenaars and the power of publishing

23 November 2015 by in 100+ Management Models, Book publishing, Business and finance, Current events, Nine visions of capitalism, Publishing for business

Last week celebrated cross-cultural management guru Fons Trompenaars rose in the influential Thinkers50 global ranking of business thinkers. Trompenaars climbed to 33rd place partly due to his recent book, written with Charles Hampden-Turner, Nine Visions of Capitalism but mainly, according to Stuart Crainer who created Thinkers50 with Des Dearlove in 2001, due to a significant increase in citations of his work during the last two years.

The Thinkers50 ranking, often described as the Oscars of management thinking, is a celebration of the very best new management thinking as well as those ideas which stand the test of time. Crainer says he is looking for “ideas with a potential impact that extends beyond the business world to address issues ranging from reducing poverty to building a sustainable model of capitalism.”

Trompenaars’ success shows the value to consultants of publishing paradigm-shifting content in an accessible, peer-reviewed context. Self-publishing seems not to have the credibility of commercially published works. Barry Gibbons, former Global CEO of Burger King and author of ten acclaimed business books says: “A published book (accent on ‘published’) can bring a string of powerful indirect benefits. It can boost a CV. It can take the place of a business card, with 1000 times the impact. It can open up lucrative speaking or consulting opportunities. It can enhance an author’s reputation in a defined target market.”

Trompenaars’ ideas on cross-cultural development have been published widely in reviews such as Harvard Business Review and Intercultural Management Quarterly but he has also had a major impact with books like 100+ Management Models: How To Understand And Apply The World’s Most Powerful Business Tools, Servant Leadership across cultures and The global M&A tango: How To Reconcile Cultural Differences In Mergers, Acquisitions And Strategic Partnerships. Most of Trompenaars’ books are jointly published by Infinite Ideas in the UK and McGraw-Hill in the US.

Trompenaars and his team have developed a unique resource in the cross-cultural and other databases they have developed over thirty years. He adopts a measurement and data-driven approach to benchmark, inform, advise and diagnose client problems and provide practical solutions. He maintains that organizations need stability and growth, long-term and short-term decisions, tradition and innovation, planning and laissez-faire. The challenge is to integrate these opposites, not to select one at the expense of the other. You have to inspire as well as listen, to make decisions yourself but also delegate and you need to centralize your organization around local responsibilities. Trompenaars’ work is unique in that his focus has been to use his research on culture to find reconciliation of differences rather than simply identifying them.

John Naisbitt, author of Megatrends, described Nine Visions of Capitalism as “an important and brilliant book. With deep insights on China, it helps us understand a world undergoing extraordinary change.” Trompenaars recently sold his business, Trompenaars Hampden-Turner, to KPMG for an undisclosed sum. It is impossible to calculate the effect of these deep insights in the books and articles on the sale price but it’s fair to say that Trompenaars’ global Thinkers50 ranking which itself depends so heavily on publishing gave it a significant push in the right direction.