CUTTINGS archive…
These are the leading articles from editions prior to Cuttings 50. For the text of the article, scroll down the page

Lessons from a Principled Leader - A story from the US school system on leadership
What Really Works - Results of a Harvard study into the practices of successful organisation
The Cosa Nostra Consulting Group - an announcement of this new force in organisation consultancy
The 13 Characteristics of Successful People - Yet another list, this time relating to personal characteristics
Performance Management Again - More surveys and comments on performance management principles and practice
Free return tickets to Cape Town... - Mathew Parris' salutory tale from South Africa on the need for personal priority setting
A lesson in linguistics - A cautionary story from academia
Performance Management in Crisis? - Organisations are not getting the benefits of performance management
The Seven Habits of Successful Employee Satisfaction - 7 factors for creating satisfied employees
Collaboration is the key to organisational change - An interview with Peter Senge
Learning from the best employers in Europe - A survey of the employment practices of the most successful European companies
The Power of Postitve Thinking - Two recent scientific research findings on thinking positively
Storytelling - A storytelling story from the world of IT
Ethics for Everyman - A poem written in 1917 which is surprisingly relevant today
Work and Life - Enabling choices - Thoughts and ideas for creating a better work - life integration
Acronymania - Abbreviations Rule OK!
The biggest "Town Hall" meeting yet - A report on the 5000 New Yorkers who met to participate in a participative dialogue
Coaching - for corporate success - Some results of research that shows coaching works and is in demand
Think Internal in times of Crisis - The need for good internal communications
Leadership - The end of management?- Management is an idea whose time is up; so say recent articles and books
Management Agenda 2002 - The results of the annual survey by Roffey Park Institute
Fixes that fail - Quick fixes are usually more expensive
A Different Negotiation - An interesting switch to the traditional view of bargaining
Sources of Sustained Success - An extract from Competitive Advantage Through People
High Value Management - Core competencies for managers
The Competence Gap - Worrying research about the growing gap between managers competence and needs.
Asking questions - Some tips for effective questioning
Three Challenges: Who are your customers? Adapt or die. A new world view. - Three challenging views of the world of work.
Lessons for managing remote workers - Overcoming the reasons that remote workers often 'switch-off'
People Matter! - Motivation and jazz bands!
1000 Questions - The results of Joyce Wycoff's challenge
Learning from Crisis: Closing down can be inspiring ! - Lessons from C&A and the Dome in motivating employees who are losing their jobs
Flexible Pay - Semco's eleven options for flexible pay
People Power - The Global Most Admired Companies focus on people
The Flexible Executive - Work-home balance for executives
A Living or a Life - Investigating the evidence for reorganising work to suit people
Good Days and Bad Days - Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Psychology
Negotiation is at the heart of civilisation - Quotation from Nelson Mandela
Leadership that gets results - Damiel Golman's six leadership styles
Something to think about...- A quiz to make you think
Where Radical is Routine - A case study of a GE factory
More Questions - Questions that cause us to think today as if tomorrow mattered
The Practice - Wise words and actions from the Dalai Lama
The Value of the Question - Continuing the theme on the importance of questions
Merger Mania - Making mergers more successful
Processes for the Millennium - The outcomes of an Open Space conference in Valbonne, South of France
The Future of Strategy - Michael Porter and Gary Hamel do battle over strategy
e-commerce the Cisco way - Learn from a leader
Does your Organisation Flock? - Lessons for the learning organisation from study of bird behaviour - Arie de Geus
Have fun at work & The jester - Two ideas to inject more humour at work
Hierarchies are here to stay
Moving and recruiting
Dilbert is alive and working near you
The Spelling Chequer
Themes for the 21st century
Knowledge management
The customer comes second
Coaching beats training
Key to success: people, people, people
Motivating people
Leading people
7 survival skills for a reengineered world
Timing is the key to effective training
Are you being served?
Accentuate the positive
All change at work
Mintzberg's management muses
Change management isn't working
Dilbert's great lies of management
Surviving in the new economy
The learning organisation
Eight steps to organisational change
The project manager is the new leader
Future search
Valuing differences
Survivor sickness
Inplacement or outplacement?
The marathon effect
Losing and finding jobs
Suppliers as partners?


We learn enormously through stories, especially when we apply some of the principles to ourselves.

This is the story of Fred Burton, principal of Wickliffe Elementary School in Arlington, Ohio. Many in the school system would recognise Burton’s description of his typical workday as “a little like holding hands with a tornado.”

The school is home to last year's Ohio teacher of the year and music teacher of the year. It has been recognised as an Ohio BEST school, and National Public Radio spent an entire day on site, interviewing students and staff for an expanded feature on progressive education.

The story is about a principal and a school, but the lessons apply to anyone who leads in a hectic, demanding work environment with too many tasks, too many stakeholders and customers, and too few hours in the day.

Stepping Out Of The Rush
As children head straight for the door to the playground, Burton stands in the middle of the hallway, watching, listening, saying hello and smiling warmly to all who pass him.
He notices a small child picking up a student picture that has fallen off the wall in the rush and carefully places it back in position. And a few days later, at the weekly school ‘town meeting,’ he tells all the students about it.

Being Present
Burton's leadership style can be summed up in two words: being present. No matter how hectic things get, he makes a point of reaching out to absorb all that's happening.
He routinely leaves his office to spend time with students and teachers. He's constantly looking for positive stories (like the one about the artwork rescuer), and he makes a point of telling them again and again. He devoutly follows what he calls the 95% Rule: Spend 95% of your time trying to understand people and 5% making judgements.

The Power of Positive Questions
When a parent is concerned about their child, the resulting investigation and strategy is not a confrontational inquest, instead Burton listens, asks questions, listens some more. He becomes a coach, getting the teachers to visualise a meeting with the parents with a positive outcome and rehearsing the meeting.

Efficiency Vs. Effectiveness
“Organisations are not machines with precision parts,” Burton says. “They involve people and relationships.” When we hurry our conversations or avoid conversations altogether, people feel dismissed - and might be back with bigger issues and deeper problems. “We pay for our speed later on.”

Technology doesn't help.
While it's tempting to dash off several quick e-mail messages instead of calling or meeting someone, e-mail gives the sender no opportunity to read non-verbal cues, pose questions, engage in conversation, or make discoveries. “Technology as a whole has increased speed,” Burton says. “And speed is the enemy of quality.”

He recalls a visit from a Russian education administrator who seemed stunned by all the beepers, laptops, and cell phones. “You're too accessible,” the visitor said, shaking his head. “You can never focus on things that matter.”

The Results of Being Present
Burton tells the story of an art class asked to draw a tree. The children go about their work with impressive efficiency. Within 10 minutes, everyone has a tree.

But after the teacher leads them outside, and they take another, closer look at bark and branches, the smell of wood and leaves - they look at trees - really look … for the first time. When they return to class, their creations are entirely different. The drawn and crafted branches leap from the pages. What makes the difference? Burton says “They took their time. By intentionally looking, they created artwork that was very rich.”

What About Us?
It doesn't matter whether we work in a school - or in an office, a factory, a restaurant, a store, a hospital, or somewhere else. Every day offers a choice: Will we be present? And while present, will we make a point of spending nearly all our time trying to understand? Or will we be obsessed with efficiency and controlled by our to-do list?

What To Do:
7 Action Ideas

1. Reserve some quiet time and listen to your inner dialogue.
2. Walk around, observe, ask questions. among the people who do the work.
3. Expect to see fascinating things, then tell stories about what you've seen.
4. Don't dismiss the "small" stuff. What you think isn't important may be very important to someone else.
5. Remember that all organisations, no matter how bad they appear, have things that are working. A well-framed question can lead people to acknowledge what currently works. For example: “Think back to a time in the organisation when you were highly engaged, inspired, or effective. What was happening?”
6. Recognise that even negative people are trying to say something positive. If someone complains about dull meetings, what they're saying is that they want better meetings where they can communicate and engage with colleagues. That's a positive.
7. Strive to live by the 95% Rule: Spend 95% of your time trying to understand and just 5% of your time making judgements.

I am indebted to Tom Terez for this story. For the full version, and more, go to his website at
From Cuttings 49 December 2003


What are the management practices that truly produce superior results? This sounds like the Holy Grail for organisations - an opportunity to cut through the annual cycle of finding a new initiative to stimulate the organisation. It also sounds a bit like a death knell for a lot of consultants whose income is based on finding a winning 'flavour of the month', writing the book, and retiring on the proceed. Well now the secrets are out, revealed in an article in the July 2003 edition of Harvard Business Review by three consultants (do I smell something familiar here?!).

Based on a five year study of reasonably equivalent businesses in tightly defined industry sectors, their performance was tracked, and differences in their management practices were analysed to develop the results: and it seems that it matters not so much WHAT you do but HOW you do it. It doesn't matter if you centralise or decentralise - as long as the structure is simplified. The technology doesn't matter - it's whether you implement it well. According to the authors, if you get the basics right, you have a better than 90 percent chance of sustaining superior business performance.

So what are the basics? Four primary practices: strategy, execution, culture, and structure, supplemented by two out of four other supplementary practices: talent, innovation, leadership, and mergers and partnerships.

The four primary practices:
Strategy Whatever the strategy, it will work if it is clearly stated, well communicated and understood by employees, customers, partners and investors. Built on a clear value proposition for the customer and developed outside-in based on what stakeholders actually say, not on gut feel or instinct
Execution Develop and maintain a flawless execution. 'You may not always delight your customers but make sure you never disappoint them.' Put decision making close to the front line, consistently meet customer's expectations and reduce waste.
Culture Develop a performance oriented culture. Inspire people to do their best, empower employees to make independent decisions and reward achievement. Establish and abide by clear values
Structure Whatever structure you choose make sure it reduces bureaucracy and simplifies work - the 3 F's - fast, flexible and flat. Promote co-operation and information sharing.

And any two of the four secondary practices (it matters not which, according to the research)
Talent Winners hold onto talented employees and develop more. Fill jobs with outstanding internal talent wherever possible. Run top-of-the-line training and development programmes.
Innovation Turn out innovative products and services, anticipating industry disruption rather than just reacting.
Leadership Find leaders who are committed to the business and the people. Encourage strong links across all levels of the company. Link pay to performance.
Mergers and Partnerships Seek growth through M&A as well as through internal means. Find new businesses that leverage existing customer relationships. Partner to use the best of both partners' talents.

None of these management practices are new, nor is their importance likely to cause any dispute. But, as the authors point out, knowing them is one thing, putting them into practice is another. Companies can all too easily forget or ignore the basics. And maintaining a focus on them is hard work. And whilst it is easy to fall down, it is not so easy to climb back up again. For example, Nike was a high flyer who failed to keep in touch with their target customers - urban teenagers - who moved from sneakers to casual.

And it also lost sight of cost control. It's on its way back, but it's been a hard journey.

What Really Works, Nitin Nohria, William Joyce, Bruce Roberson, Harvard Business Review, July 2003
From Cuttings 48 October 2003


Cosa Nostra Consulting Group
A special outcome from an Open Space conference at La Bégude in the South of France, was the announcement of the formation of the Cosa Nostra Consulting Group. a new 'family' of management consultants.

As a group of consultants, we have been aware for a number of years that very often our best interventions occur when we apply less of an expert role and facilitate an outcome for the organisation. And even when it comes to facilitation, it seems that the same principle of 'more is less' is also true - the lighter touch is often the more effective.

However, organisations have persisted in the measurement of input as a means of justifying reward. They persist in using outdated measures such as hours at work to reward employees for their contribution, and not surprisingly use similar input measures for evaluating the value of external services like consultancy, they. The paradox is that more reward ought to be based on outcomes not on inputs, yet business will continue to measure inputs for sometime to come.

So we are proposing a radical new approach to consultancy charging: an inverse rule... the less we do, the more we charge. This allows organisations to continue to measure input, but ensure that the consultant gets paid what they are worth.

Our family of consultants will also provide another service: for a small, regular monthly payment, we will not come at all, thereby ensuring the most effective contribution. We will provide you with protection against the exploitation by unscrupulous organisations who purport to want to try to help, but will only mess you up.

The Cosa Nostra Consulting Group: You pay us to stay away - or we send in the consultants...
It's an offer you can't refuse!

Contact us now with your details at or through any of our branches - or we will find you. Payment by credit card or cash. Personal collection service available

From Cuttings 48 October 2003


The 13 Characteristics of Successful People
Lists abound these days, and after the 7 Habits, the 21 Leaders, the 16 Personal Styles, the 4 Principles, and others that inhabit my filing systems, comes the 13 Characteristics of Successful People. These have been devised from the observations and research of Nigel Risner, Speaker of the Year and Past President of the London Chapter Professional Speakers Association. Nigel says that Successful People:
1. Have a Dream.
2. Have Ambition.
3. Are Strongly Motivated Toward Achievement.
4. Are Focused.
5. Learn How to Get Things Done.
6. Take Responsibility for Their Actions.
7. Look for Solutions to Problems.
8. Make Decisions.
9. Have the Courage to Admit They've Made a Mistake.
10. Are Self-reliant.
11. Have Specific Knowledge, Training, and/or Skills and Talents.
12. Work with and Co-operation with Other People.
13. Are Enthusiastic.

Magenta Circle weekly newsletter or Nigel's own site
From Cuttings 48 October 2003


In the last edition of this newsletter (Cuttings 46 March 2003), the lead article was on Performance Management in Crisis. The first quarter must be the season for surveys into performance management because a number of surveys have appeared recently — and they confirm that this is probably the only time during the year that organisations and managers do focus on performance management.

“Employees expressed a range of concerns regarding the performance management programs that affect their jobs, their pay, and their career advancement,” says Rod Fralicx, global employee research director for Mercer HR Consulting who conducted one of the surveys. “Three out of four employees indicate that they receive little in the way of coaching, and nearly the same number question the connection between their performance and their pay.” Beyond these two areas, employees 70 percent report that poor performance in their colleagues is not managed and two thirds didn’t have a formal appraisal meeting.

So, even though 61 percent of the sample had clearly defined goals and objectives, and knew how their performance would be evaluated (the highest favourable scores) they did not get any form of help during the year, by way of coaching to set them up for success or feedback, on their performance overall.

This is surprising when one looks at the direct link between performance management and commitment and satisfaction scores: 62 percent of employees who had a formal performance appraisal in the last year expressed a strong sense of commitment to their organisation, compared to 49percent for employees who had not had one. 80 percent of employees who are coached by their manager feel a strong sense of commitment to the organisation, compared to 46 percent among employees who are not coached.

If good performance is recognised 81 percent express overall satisfaction compared to 37 percent. If good performance is rewarded 88 percent are satisfied vs. 47 percent. If employees have clearly defined performance goals, only 18 percent are seriously thinking about leaving, while 46 percent of those without clearly defined goals are thinking of leaving. Likewise, employees who do not understand how their performance is evaluated are more likely to be thinking about leaving (18% vs. 41%).

“If ever employers needed a compelling reason to pay close attention to their performance management programs, this is it,” Dr. Fralicx says. “Effective performance management has a strong connection to employee commitment, satisfaction, and engagement, which, in turn, can affect important business outcomes such as turnover and productivity.”

Another survey of current views on Performance Management conducted among clients of SHL Group plc found some similar issues and also identified a number of paradoxes that exist in organisations:

* Feedback and coaching are seen as key drivers for organisational success, yet two thirds of organisations saw improving the quality of feedback and coaching as a top priority.
* Organisations know that linking individual objectives to business performance indicators makes the biggest contribution to the overall effectiveness, yet objective setting is identified as a critical skill gap.
* Employees are more satisfied when performance management operates as a continuous process, but less than half of organisations hold frequent progress reviews.
* Separating the performance and development meeting drives overall performance more effectively than combining them, but three quarters of organisations are still combining them
* Despite a clear need for performance management to be line driven, it is still often perceived to be owned by HR.
* Some other key results that came out of the SHL study included an approval for 360° appraisal systems - almost twice the approval of conventional or upward appraisal – and an indication that competencies are of growing importance with three quarters of surveyed organisations now using them. They also identified an interesting feature of performance related pay: linking performance management to salary increases the efforts of high performers, but has little impact on low performers

Overall, a performance rating for organisations in the SHL survey must be no better than ‘below standard - immediate improvement needed’ especially as one third of organisations admitted to being disappointed with how well performance management achieved its primary objective of developing people.

Worryingly with such a rating, organisations were planning to use online systems more to drive performance. Yet another paradox — all the evidence points towards more investment in developing the face-to-face skills managers in objective setting, giving feedback, conducting regular informal reviews, and coaching staff to help them achieve the results, yet the planned response is to make the performance management system even more impersonal and remote.

Perspectives on Performance Appraisals, December 2002, MSA Interactive Ltd
People at work Study 2002, Mercer Human Resource Consulting
Performance Management – Current Practice, SHL Ltd, March 2003
From Cuttings 47 June 2003


Free Return Tickets to Cape Town
…Imagine that this is a real headline. You would probably enter, suspicious that there must be a catch. But suppose there is no catch, and you won. Would you be delighted? Of course.

“Yet,” writes Matthew Parris, political columnist of The Times, “I have just come from Johannesburg airport along with 35 other people, all of whom had been raging, shouting, howling, and crying, because they had been made a better offer than this one. All we were asked to do was to postpone our departure to the following day. As I write this by a hotel swimming pool on a glorious, South African morning, friends and colleagues have been understanding, the Earth is continuing in its orbit, and 35 people's travel prospects for the year ahead are much improved.

The instinct which overtook us fascinates me. A disinclination to unscramble plans already embarked upon is responsible, I believe, for acts of tremendous stupidity both on a personal level and at that of national political direction. Wars have been started because the forward planning was already in place. Schemes whose disastrous nature becomes clearer by the day have been maintained for no better reason than that they have already been begun.

‘Saving face’ is often an explanation for this behaviour, yet on the roads, I am unlikely to be alone in the idiotic habit of sticking to the route after taking a wrong turn. The end-result may be a ten-mile detour, but this is easier to countenance than stopping, turning round, and retracing the few yards already travelled. As I do this when alone, it is not 'saving face'.

Natural selection has probably bred this into us - in the wild, the creature which stops too often to reconsider may be more exposed to predators, while an instinct to dig in and fight your way through the thicket, may be a more productive rule-of-thumb.

But a marriage, a Millennium Dome, a Groundnuts Scheme, a European Fighter Aircraft Project, a degree course, or a career may not be like a thicket. For a piece of lifetime advice to a favourite godchild, 'Abort!' may lack a lapidary quality, but as one who has aborted careers - and a Sunday-night flight to London - it is a piece of wisdom I can recommend.”

From Cuttings 47 June 2003


A lesson in linguistics
A salutary lesson for anyone wondering whether the tone of voice is important in communications:

A linguistics professor was lecturing his class. “In English,” he explained, “a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative.’ “However,” he continued, “there is no language where a double positive can form a negative.”

A voice from the back of the class was then heard to comment: “Yeah, right.”

From Cuttings 47 June 2003


You would have thought that the tightening of the economy over the last couple of years would have focused organisations' attention on effective performance management. A survey conducted at the end of last year by MSA Interactive shows this is far from the reality. A 'wake up' call to everyone involved-HR and senior managers-to look carefully at their performance management process and overhaul it with some urgency.

Employees in the survey seem to feel that there could be some value in performance appraisals, but it is seen either as time consuming [19%], viewed with some suspicion [28%], or considered not to deliver [32%].

More worrying is the managers' response: a total of 82% of the statements about how manager's view performance appraisals were negative. Managers were seen to find the process stressful, [18%], a waste if time [10%], and yet another task to add to their load [54%].

A clue to the malaise could be in that in 46% of cases, department managers see appraisals as an HR function and therefore it is difficult to get any ownership or commitment to use the process or follow through

In the perennial issue of methodology, a full 40% of respondents believe that their process is flawed by its subjectivity as it is based on manager opinion, while a further 15% had not thought about this aspect of the process and 14% did not believe it matters, the latter being yet another indication of the lack of 'buy-in' to the process by managers.

It is clear from the current and future business environment that performance management is here to stay, but to make it effective we must address the bureaucracy and management attitude associated with more traditional performance appraisal processes that lead to superficial and highly subjective assessments.

Only part of the success of a performance management process comes from the system itself. The greater success comes from line managers using the process proactively to set meaningful, work related objectives and then coaching people on an on-going basis to achieve these objectives. Helping people to succeed not catching them fail. Matt Barrett, MD of Barclays Bank describes the need for staff to have a clear line of sight between their contribution and the success of the organisation. This is what performance management has to, and can, deliver.

Perspectives on Performance Appraisals, December 2002, MSA Interactive Ltd
From Cuttings 46 March 2003


The Seven Habits of Successful Job Satisfaction
Recent analysis has given us a list of seven factors crucial to job satisfaction - and they are not all to do with pay and benefits.

The first thing tat matters is the sector of the economy you work in. The most satisfied workers in Britain work for non-profit organisations. Those in charities are especially happy and fulfilled. Self-employed people enjoy their jobs hugely because they like the independence - many are not in it for the cash; but for personal autonomy. Typically in Europe, public sector employees enjoy their jobs more than those in the private sector. But not in Britain where job satisfaction collapsed in the 1990s.

Second, your own nature and characteristics can have big effects on job satisfaction. Women enjoy their jobs the most, possibly because men are more difficult to please, or simply because they are better workers. Age matters: satisfaction follows a U-shaped curve-it starts high, then people become dissatisfied, and after their 30s, the average person becomes steadily happier with his or her job.

Third, the nature of your workplace has a striking effect on whether you will be happy in your job. Employees in big, impersonal environments are more likely to be fed up.

Fourth, who controls the pace of work? Satisfaction is low in places where the boss controls the pace of work and is high where customers or colleagues control how fast the work is done. - we do not mind working hard for someone on the same level as ourselves; it is pressure from above in a hierarchy that upsets us.

Fifth, pay does make a difference, as one would expect, but relative pay not absolute pay. It seems people create a mental picture of individuals like themselves, with their qualifications and experience, and they constantly compare, subconsciously, what they earn with the picture of what such a person should be paid.

Sixth, having qualifications that exceed those needed is associated with discontent.

Seventh, major cities and their surrounding areas have the lowest job satisfaction. This is partly because of the commuting, which we know has a bad effect on people's mental health.

So, what should you do if you want to be happy? Work for a charity or become self-employed. Grow old. Work in a small office. Don't become overqualified. Find a place where the boss does not control the pace of work. Avoid London. And be a woman!

The Quest for Job Satisfaction, The Times, February 2003
From Cuttings 46 March 2003


Collaboration is the key to organisational change
It is some time since Peter Senge wrote his seminal book "The Fifth Discipline" and started the world talking about the learning organisation. Needless to say, Peter has not sat back on his royalties, and still contributes to our understanding of organisation change. In a recent interview he shared some of his latest thinking about what it takes for organisations to survive and thrive in the 21st century.

"What any individual organisation, whether a school or business, can do today to significantly break from the cultural mainstream is small. Each one operates as if it were tied with a rubber band. Even a group that innovates a great deal for a while eventually gets snapped back to the norm. Many extraordinary, innovative schools, for example, in which kids are engaged and teachers love their work, usually return to average within 5 to 10 years."

Why do organisations resist change? One reason, Senge explains, is that most of us erroneously believe that somebody - some senior leader or manager - must be controlling the organisation's systems, in which we ourselves feel overwhelmed. "From a systemic perspective, the reality is just the opposite. Most large institutions are so complex that no one person - no 'mover or shaker' in a position of authority - can bring about the needed change. Rather, large-scale transform-ation can only evolve when lots of people at all levels of an organisation start to do things differently."

Readers of these comments who have some understanding of the dynamics of Large Scale Interventions such as Future Search and Appreciative Inquiry will immediately recognise the connection here. It is by engaging large groups simultaneously in making creating and implementing the change will it happen. That means that we don't want a 'mover or shaker' to make the change themselves, rather a catalytic, facilitative leader or manager who trusts staff to make their own decisions and creates the environ-ment for this to take place. That's a different leadership to that which usually hogs the media headlines.

Interview with Kali Saposnick in Leverage Points, Pegasus Communications
From Cuttings 46 March 2003


Learning from the best employers in Europe
A survey covering top performing companies across Europe identifies focus on a careful alignment of people, programmes and practices, with people the key strategic asset.

In the best employers:
* Employees are more inspired and engaged
* There is a greater explicit and shared culture with is performance oriented at an individual level
* There is a long term view on attracting and retaining talent
* High potential development is not at the expense of company-wide learning
* Promotion comes more from within
* There is a process that ensures all employees understand the collective goals and aligns individual contribution
* Compensation is used as a tool for differentiation
* There is much more success in achieving employees' desired work-life balance

Another 'wake-up' call on performance management. The best employers and the top performing companies in Europe have got the performance management equation right, and are reaping the benefits.

Learning from the best employers in Europe, Hewitt, Bacon & Woodrow, 2002
From Cuttings 46 March 2003


Using the Prisoner's Dilemma exercise, scientists in Atlanta, USA, measured brain activity on an MRI scanner, and found some interesting results: when the gamers co-operated, the activity in their brains was similar to the stimulation seen with drugs or food - both of which fire up special circuitry involved with reward. It seems that the brain pats itself on the back for co-operating.

Researchers think this co-operation induced brain cell activity may be unique to humans. If so, it could explain why humans co-operate more than any other species. It also suggests a way that altruism - which seems to contradict the idea that natural selection promotes self-preservation - could evolve. The anticipation of reward could be what keeps subjects from being selfish and choosing immediate gain over the long-term potential of a mutually beneficial relationship.

It also seems that the social aspect of the co-operation is a crucial element; playing the game and getting money without having to co-operate didn't stimulate the brain as much. When the subjects were told they were playing against a computer, they were less likely to co-operate, and if they did, only some of the reward areas lit up.

And some other US research suggests that the power of positive thinking also has an effect on our longevity, correlating long life with optimism, and with a lack of hostility, anxiety and depression.

The most recent study of personality and longevity was conducted among a group of 660 people over 50 in Oxford, Ohio, who, in 1975, had answered questions having to do with, among other things, their attitudes about aging. They had been asked whether they agreed or disagreed with statements like "Things keep getting worse as I get older," and "I am as happy now as I was when I was younger."

Researchers checked to see which participants were still alive in 1998, and they noted when the others had died. It turned out that those who viewed aging as a positive experience lived, on average, 7.5 years longer than those who took a darker view.

That is an advantage far greater, the researchers point out, than what can be gained from lowering blood pressure or reducing cholesterol, each of which has been found to lengthen life about four years. It also beats exercise, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, strategies that add one to three years.

Optimism was linked to longevity in a study reported two years ago by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Dr. Toshihiko Maruta, a psychiatrist, reviewed psychological tests that had been given to more than 800 people in the early 1960's, and based on the people's responses, he classified 197 of them as pessimistic. He then checked to see how long they lived.

Dr. Maruta found that the pessimists had a risk of death for any given year that was 19 percent greater than average.

Rewards of co-operation may begin in the brain, study shows, Dallas Morning Press, 22 July 2002
Power of Positive Thinking Extends, It Seems, to Aging, New York Times, 19 November 2002
From Cuttings 45 December 2002


I have just returned from a holiday in Australia where the aboriginal tribes, in common with many ancient cultures have an oral tradition to pass on wisdom and learning. In recent years we have seen the growing development of a storytelling tradition in organisations, especially in change, knowledge management and learning.

Corporate storytellers such as Dave Snowden from IBM and Steve Denning (formerly of the World Bank) are sharing their own stories out about their successes in introducing the art and science of storytelling to business.

Storytelling can provide insights into the norms and values of a group, and can be used to transfer knowledge that is often difficult to quantify and document. Often they provide a deeper understanding of the subject, and provide a strong emotional link and bond...or sometimes they just emphasise a learning point: Take a story from Dave Snowden about object orientated programming:

Two development groups were tasked with producing a set of reusable software components for the common features of a range of applications. One group was a team of world-leading experts in object orientated techniques. The other was a team of programmers, whose experience was in COBOL and data entry systems. The programmers were provided with basic object orientated training.

Both teams had to create a piece of code that defined the way in which data is presented to a file, printer, etc. The experts created a wonderful piece of code. It was elegant, it performed well and it only took two man months to develop. The COBOL Programmers downloaded a good enough‚ list object from the Internet at a total cost of $5.

And the point of the story-the programmers understood the purpose of object orientated techniques is all about reuse, not reinventing the wheel.
information from
From Cuttings 45 December 2002


Ethics for Everyman
Throwing a bomb is bad,
Dropping a bomb is good;
Terror, no need to add.
Depends on who's wearing the hood.

Kangaroo courts are wrong,
Specialist courts are right;
Discipline by the strong
Is fair if your collar is white.

Company output 'soars',
Wages, of course 'explode';
Profits deserve applause.
Pay claims, the criminal code.

Daily the Church declares
Betting shops are a curse;
Gambling on stocks and shares
Enlarges the national purse.

Workers are absentees.
Businessmen relax,
Different as chalk and cheese;
Social morality
Has a duality -
One for each side of the tracks.

Roger Woddis, New Oxford Book of Light Verse (written in 1917)
From Cuttings 45 December 2002


WORK and LIFE - Enabling Choices
Earlier this year, I signed up to attend a conference in Prague, taking the opportunity to take my wife and daughter to one of our favourite cities for a weekend break (one of the few times that our leisure and work patterns have coincided in 16 years as a consultant!). As luck would have it, the conference was cancelled, but we went anyway, and had a great three days. On hearing this, the comment from the organiser (Fran Wilson of the CIPD) was great "I love real life examples of work life balance!"

Since then, I have noticed a number of articles, research-and projects that I have been asked to work on-that have work-life balance as a theme. It may be I am more sensitive to the theme, or it may be that Generation Xers and Yers are causing us to re-look at our employment policies.

Linda Gratton of the London Business School certainly thinks that much of our practice and thinking about work and organisations is past its 'sell-by' date. Her research shows the baby-boomers (now in their late forties and early fifties) showing signs of stress, unwillingness to take on further responsibility, and regret at some of their previous life sacrifices. The Xers and Yers have seen the sacrifices made by their parents and want a new deal with greater flexibility and autonomy. But the economic environment and pressures often cause organisations to 'batten down the hatches' and persist with inflexible practices and structures, fearing the risk of change.

I have a personal dislike of the phrase 'work-life balance'-it suggests that there is only life outside of work, and tends to stop us looking for solutions that could be about enhancing the work environment to make it less stressful, rather than trying to increase non- work time. I prefer the more positive framing of "integrating work with life" as used by Sandra Colb and Naomi Johnson in their article in the August 2002 AI Newsletter.

Colb and Johnson work for the US Department of Health and Human Service, and used Appreciative Inquiry to address the potential for integration rather than look at barriers to take-up of flexible working programmes. Their pilot sites also addressed some non-typical areas for introducing flexible work patterns: an office staffed by professional attorneys, the administrative centre of a hospital, and the nursing staff on a paediatric ward where 24/7 cover was needed. As well as work efficiency gains, measurements of satisfaction rose from 38per cent to 67 per cent in one of the pilots, whilst in another the success of a tele-commuting option led to a doubling of satisfaction ratings. Just having the choice made a difference-one who did not telecommute, turned down a job offer as "Just knowing that telecommuting is an very satisfying."

The ability to choose is highly motivating. Yet research by the Leading Edge Consortium identifies that over 60 per cent of employees have very limited choices at work. As consumers we left the Henry Ford 'Any colour as long as it's black' behind, but at work we are still confronted by the same 'one size fits all' culture.

If changes in society and individual values are demanding choice, it is the rapid rise in technology that is the engine that drives the opportunity to transform the relationship between employer and employee. Technology enabled mass customisation in manufacturing in the 1990s spearheading a customer service revolution, and now enables variety and choice for employees as well.

If business leaders need any other reason to look at enabling choice, they just need to read the numbers from BT: 5,600 of their employees now work permanently from home, releasing £220 million of real estate costs as well as creating the highest productivity in the group.

If that doesn't convince them to confront their paternalistic tendencies or fear of power shift, then they need look no further than the news reports of the increasing numbers of high-profile people who are leaving their jobs. In recent weeks Simon Murphy has resigned as Labour MEP leader in Brussels, Danny O'Neil stepped down as CEO of Britannic Insurance, Trevor Philips withdrew his candidature from the 2004 London mayoral election, Andrew Dougal stepped down from CEO of Hanson, and Suma Chakrabarti - one of the most senior British civil servants took up his job only on the understanding that he only worked his contracted 40 hours per week and was able to have breakfast with his six year old daughter every day, and read her a bedtime story.

Choice has been available for some time in terms of flexible reward, and hours. We are now seeing the opportunities provided by technology to enable choice of location (working from home), job (BP operate a totally open web-based internal job market), project (a similar marketplace operates at McKinsey for all assignments), project, mentor and coach, and learning activity.

The simple truth is that if employers don't provide choice, employees will exercise their own.

A Stock of Options, People Management, August 2002
Integrating Work with Life: Using AI to Successfully Implement Family-Friendly Policies, AI Newsletter18, August 2002
Daddy, come home, Guardian, 30.8.02
Route to the top..., Management Today, March 2002
From Cuttings 44 September 2002


My good friend, colleague and mentor, Walt Hopkins used to finish some of his courses with a session he entitled 'acronymania'. One of his favourites was ROYAL (Rest Of Your Active Life) referring to lifelong learning.

I recall working in Geneva with Walt running either a PPI (Positive Power and Influence) or PNP (Positive Negotiation Program) for DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) when one participant responded angrily to another who had just used a lot of jargon which he did not understand. "That's the trouble with DEC, there are too many TLAs!" (Three Letter Abbreviations!)

Earlier, in my days working with Esso Petroleum, the first task of any new project team or study group was to come up with it's acronym title, which in true acronym style had to be a real word (an activity that often engaged the team in days - even weeks - of strenuous activity). One was TIGER (Training in Groups for an Effective Refinery) - which later metamorphosed into Coverdale when its designer left to set up his own eponymous consultancy.

According to the publisher Collins, the jargon term of 2002 is MVVD or Male Vertical Volume Drinker (heavy drinking bar-hopper) - the ideal retail alcohol consumer as described by the drinks industry.

Some old chestnuts come into mind:
BHAG - Big Hairy Audacious Goal
BOHICA - Bend Over, Here It Comes Again
WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get (interestingly identified as a real word by MS Word spellchecker)
SPOC - Single Point of Contact
WIIFM - What's In It For Me?
NABA - Not Another Bloody Acronym!

Now on the internet you can find a website devoted to acronyms ( which has a buzzphrase and acronym generator which will instantly give you a completely new acronym from its database.

IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) we can take heart that few of the shorthand codes actually migrate into mainstream English.

NRN (No Response Necessary)

Bizwords, Business Life, July/August 2002
From Cuttings 44 September 2002


The biggest "Town Hall" meeting yet
How do you get buy in from a wide community on large-scale change projects? In New York, they have just run a massive participative event called Listening to the City, where 5000 participants engaged in dialogue about the proposed re-development of the World Trade Centre site.

Five hundred tables of 10 people each with a facilitator, a voting keypad for each person and a computer terminal covered the main floor of the Javits Conference Centre. The tables engaged in discussion on the various proposals for the site, and more importantly started to express some of their own thoughts and aspirations- what the people of New York wanted to happen. They rejected all of the six plans on offer and came up with three clear statements: none of the plans met the public's criteria for a memorial; more flexibility was needed to provide a mixed use site including housing and culture; and the process should be slowed down.

There are some lessons here: complex information can be shared among large groups; large groups can operate effectively; listening works; if you get people on your side at the start, it saves a lot of difficulty later on.

Community Spirit, People Management, August 2002
From Cuttings 44 September 2002


COACHING - for Corporate Success
Virtually all managers surveyed in recent Chartered Management Institute research (93 percent) thought that coaching should be available to every employee, regardless of seniority. And a full eighty percent of executives believe that they would benefit from more coaching at work

This is a massive vote of confidence for the success of coaching as a not just another fad. It is a process which is highly valued and is also valuable as a key partner in any learning and development strategy.

On the positive side, evidence exists that shows that the number of managers receiving coaching at work is on the increase - up from 58 percent in 1966 to 77 percent in 2000 - the current findings reinforce the view that this expansion could go wider and deeper, and have a significant effect on organisation success.

Further evidence from the CMI research reflects the value of coaching at work: 85 percent of managers identified coaching's main value as enhancing team morale. 80 percent identify it as good at generating individual responsibility, and it is seen as very effective in supporting individuals through restructuring and change. With young managers identifying personal growth and development as one of the three top reasons for choosing a job (and choosing to move jobs) - the other two are career prospects and the challenges in the job - it is easy to see that coaching (and its stable-mate mentoring) is a tool that every manager should have in her or his toolkit, and also have available for them.

With almost a quarter of young managers saying that their current job does not come up to expectations, and coaching being identified as a key way to enhance individual responsibility, the link is obvious.

So what is essential for coaching to be effective? Three main things, according to managers who regularly act as coaches and coachees:
1. Objectives must be agreed beforehand
2. Feedback is essential
3. Coaches must have training before they start to coach someone

With only a small proportion of managers having the opportunity to be coached by people outside their organisations, the reality for most coachees (and the vast majority in smaller organisations where external coaching is rare) is that their coach is their line manager. The training issue is therefore key, whether it is training managers to coach other managers or to coach front line staff. Managers themselves recognise that not everyone will make a good coach, and certainly there are very few who can hope to have the skills and attributes without some training (or coaching) themselves. The demand is there.

In terms of feedback, it is also clear that there is a training need to ensure feedback is given and received effectively. Experience of many organisations is that feedback is given too little, too late and too general to be of use to people. Octavius Black of The Mind Gym offers us some useful tips in giving great feedback in a recent article:

"Do it often/ Give it promptly/ Be specific/ Avoid the 'feedback sandwich'/ focus on the impact of the event/Praise the individual's strengths/ Positive feedback should outweigh the negative/ Offer individuals the chance to respond/ Find the right time and place/ Don't let your personal prejudice get the better of you."

Readers of Cuttings will recognise my own bias towards positive feedback in developing people. Just like telling people not to think of pink elephants, telling people not to do something (negative feedback) has the effect of implanting that image into the brain. It is then harder to overcome it (as any sports player will tell you). Frighteningly, the ratio of negative to positive feedback in primary schools is 19:1. I'm not sure it is much different in many organisations. If we don't change that dynamic we will not make much progress.

Next to IT skills, personal effectiveness, emotional intelligence and assertiveness are the top perceived needs of managers, showing the growing need for team working and good interpersonal skills. By contrast, task specific skills are seen as a development area by less than a quarter of managers. But one of the difficult areas for managers has been to address the 'softer' areas in a coaching environment: feedback can be more subjective, the subject areas are perceived as being more personal than task related, and objective setting is notoriously difficult. So often the coaching relationship does not necessarily reach its full potential - staying at a task level rather than driving down to the real developmental opportunity.

So training is once again essential for managers to gain confidence in coaching others on these personal development areas - to be able to set behavioural objectives, give objective feedback on behaviour and link behaviour to organisation objectives.

The Coaching at Work Survey 2002, Chartered Management Institute
Great Expectations? - what the future holds for young managers, Chartered Management Institute, 32002
Achieving Management Excellence, Chartered Management Institute, 2000
Route to the top..., Management Today, March 2002
From Cuttings 43 June 2002


In times of crisis, fast and efficient communication is the key. But companies often neglect their most important audiences - their own employees. For example. in January 2001, General Motors made the decision to close its Vauxhall plant in Luton and cut 2,500 jobs in the process. But the first most of the staff heard about it was on TV and radio reports. The result was thousands of workers marching in protest on the plant, an anti-GM website, and truckloads of negative publicity.

Not communicating to employees is dangerous for other, less public reasons: employees are very often also your customers and shareholders. Employees are also the face of your company to your customers and to the outside world - to suppliers, the general public, shareholders and partners as well as customers. And studies in customer service show that people tend to tell bad news stories more often and to more people than good news stories. One bad advocate will tell a host of other people about their bad experience.

In times of change, people are more stressed by uncertainty than by bad news. Employees know that businesses must make tough decisions, but there is an emotional element that must be addressed Keeping staff informed will help to
* stop the rumour mill
* maintain business operations
* refocus staff on business imperatives
* keep up staff morale
* show visible and decisive leadership.

Crisis need not mean disaster for companies and for leaders insightful enough to recognise the importance of communicating clearly and effectively with internal audiences-employees and share-holders-as well as external ones. A strong leader is one who thinks internally and acts both externally and internally in good times and difficult situations.

Contrast this story-and others you can think of-with the positive outcome to the closure of the C&A department stores in the UK as highlighted in Cuttings

E-xecutive Issue, May 2002, Management Centre Europe
From Cuttings 43 June 2002


LEADERSHIP-the end of management?
When Kofi Annan addressed the 50tth anniversary of the UN, he said that if the previous century had taught us one thing it was that central planning does not work. This statement is not controversial. Yet many of our businesses and organisations are in essence centrally planned economies. So muses Charles Handy in his review of the new book by Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith entitled The End of Management.

Cloke and Goldsmith's conclusion is that management is an idea whose time is up. Knowledge workers want more than a pay cheque, and are not prepared to put up with systems that treat people either as idiots or as untrustworthy slaves. Organisations who fail to recognise this will lose their workers to those who do. At the other end of the hierarchy organisations are having to abandon their top-down processes as new information channels and the speed of change makes them slow and ineffective.

One series well known to BBC viewers, Back to the Floor, has been demonstrating the need for less management and more leadership to selected Chief Executives for five years. Almost without exception, the CEOs learn a painful lesson: There are people at the heart of the organisation who know exactly how to make the organisation better. But between them and the people who can make it happen are layers of management whose careers depend on sanitising that information and making sure it doesn't get anywhere near the CEO.

In an interesting parallel, when Robert A. Eckert took over the troubled toy maker Mattel he spent a great proportion of his first few weeks in the company cafeteria. Listening to the real issues, trying out ideas, gaining the commitment of the staff - all helped to turn round the numbers and also cement Eckert's leadership style.

But the battle between leadership and management is not new. Drucker's famous quote goes: "Management is about doing things right; Leadership is about doing the right things." The difference in today's business world is that the leadership need is not just at the top of the organisation pyramid. It is a skill that is required throughout. With the speed and complexity of change, decisions need to be made close to the coal-face and leadership is therefore as essential there as it is in creating the clear focus and direction for the organisation as a whole.

Jim Collins' research for his latest book discovered three factors that were common in companies moving from Good to Great: Identifying something that they could be truly the best in the world at; Discovering how they most effectively generated cash and profit; and what they were deeply passionate about. The translation of these factors into a compelling vision for the organisation is the work of the top leaders. Responding to the vision and creating the day to day working models is the work of other leaders in a strategic alliance of teams and self-managed operations - not a centrally planned and organised workforce.

Supportive research comes from Leeds University. Looking at bosses - not CEOs - who were seen as highly motivating, Beverly Alimo-Metcalfe identified three clusters of leadership qualities. First, personal qualities such as integrity, openness, decisiveness and behaving consistently with espoused values. Second, leading and developing qualities such as valuing people, coaching, mentoring, empowering, creating developmental opportunities. Third, organisational leadership qualities: strategic thinking, networking, prioritising, exchanging information, promoting best practice. These are a long way from the traditional promotion qualities that are more transactional.

Interestingly Alimo-Metcalfe comments "leadership qualities are often found in organisations, but rarely at the top."

The National Health Service in the UK has been trying a radical concept in leadership for its Primary Care Trusts (responsible for high-street medical care). They work with a triumvirate leadership team - typically a lay person, a health service manager and a general practitioner. Each has their own specific role in the job description, but there is also considerable overlap written in for the incumbents to negotiate for themselves. Early research shows that the model is working better than expected.

Judging from the number of articles on the subject appearing in magazines and the press in the last quarter, this topic is scheduled to run and run.

A final thought: When the results of a Demos/Institute of Management survey of leadership was discussed with army officers at Sandhurst they confessed thay'd been putting leadership first for decades, only recently starting on management skills. Business, it seems, does the reverse.

The End of Management, Kenneth Cloke & Joan Goldsmith, Jossey Bas
Down the Up Staircase, Fast Company, March 2002
Where Leadership Starts, Harvard Business review, November 2001
Good to Great, Jim Collins, Random House
Transforming leadership, Roffey Park newsletter Winter 2001
Let's give it a tri, People Management January 2002
Speaking out, Management Today, February 2002
From Cuttings 42 March 2002


Management Agenda 2002
Internal rivalry, hidden agendas, lack of trust and strained working relation-ships are rife in the workplace at the beginning of 2002, according to a survey by Roffey Park. This acts as a barrier to high performance, resulting in inappropriate management styles, harassment, conflict, values that are espoused but not practised, and resistance to change.

The research does have a positive outlook: despite comments about shutdowns, cost cutting, headcount reduction and outsourcing, 69% of respondents claim to be optimistic about the future. But 58% say they experience a culture of 'presenteeism', where they are under pressure to stay in the office considerably longer than their contracted hours, often regardless of workload demands.

Comparison with previous years' shows that work-life balance is becoming such an important issue that many managers are prepared to downshift in order to gain more time for their other interests. They are no longer prepared to make the heavy sacrifices that they made in the past.

The need to create a more diverse workforce appears to be moving up the business agenda, though this often means merely that there is an equal opportunities policy.

In a noticeable shift away from 'flatter structures', the research reveals that organisations are reintroducing structural layers in order to retain key employees in a knowledge economy.

The skills and attributes that managers believe are critical in today's workplace include networking, flexibility, political acumen, the ability to forge alliances, cultural awareness and extreme competitiveness. As part of their role, the majority of respondents say they are increasingly being expected to manage change, coach and develop others and engage hearts and minds.

The research also suggests that HR is still perceived to operate in a piecemeal, reactive way, with too many initiatives being undertaken that don't fundamentally make a difference to the business.

The Management Agenda 2002 is available from
From Cuttings 42 March 2002


Fixes that Fail: faster is slower
Daniel Kim highlights a common problem: we get caught in the dynamic of continually implementing quick fixes to resolve recurrent problems.

Why does this happen? Suppose there is a slump in sales - we respond with a quick marketing promotion. Sales improve. The person who 'saved the day' is promoted. Our attention is diverted away from the real problem - an ageing production line. The hero's replacement then get s the blame for the recurring problem, and again responds with a quick fix to restore confidence. Kim suggests we need to recognise this vicious cycle and take a more accurate picture of "progress".

You may recognise a similarity with my own model of effective problem solving Ready-Aim-Fire. The quick fix is typified by the Fire-Fire-Fire culture where people continue to work on the short term result without standing back and looking at the big picture.

Daniel Kim, Fixes that Fail, The Systems Thinker, April 1999
From Cuttings 42 March 2002


Cal Boardman of the University of Utah, , has uncovered a very different approach to bargaining in early Native American cultures.

The bargaining would go like this: If you are offering me an animal hide, as the buyer I tell you what a wonderful hide it is, pointing out its qualities, and I offer to pay you a very high price. You, as the seller, tell me what a generous individual I am, and since I am so generous, you cannot possibly take advantage of me, and as the seller offer a very low price.

The bargaining zone is now set, but it is the buyer that has set the high price and the seller that has set the low price, just the opposite of our "modern" practice.

From this point, the parties bargain, the buyer extolling the quality of the hide and the generosity of the seller, while the seller in turn extols the generosity of the buyer and insists the price should not exploit that generosity. Eventually a mutually satisfactory trade is set and the parties agree. But the context is quite different: in "modern" bargaining both parties would be deemed 'losers' as both would have got much better prices when they started.

Of course, this only works if the norms are observed by both parties, which explains a lot about the early encounters with Europeans who had a different definition of a good deal!

Cal found a modern example in Joe Rosenblatt who bought a machine tool company in San Francisco in the 50s for more than the asking price..

Joe's view: "If I had just given what was asked, and then made a lot of money, the people running the company for me would have realised I had not paid a fair price. It was far more important to me that they felt I was generous in my dealings, that they saw me as a partner in success, and that they continue striving to make the business a success. In the time I ran my business, I made far more as the result of paying a fair price than I could have possibly gained from paying an unfair price."

Contributed by Jack Brittan to the Appreciative Inquiry ListServe
From Cuttings 41 December 2001


Sources of Sustained Success
Following my lead article in Cuttings 40 on the work of Marcus Buckingham of Gallup, my friend and colleague Brian McEvoy of Brian McEvoy Consulting remembered (and also managed to locate!) the following from a book published in 1994 ...

"Suppose that in 1972, someone asked you to pick five companies that would provide the greatest return to stakeholders over the next 20 years. And suppose that you had access to books on competitive success that were not even written. ...
Conventional wisdom would have you begin by selecting the right industries. After all, "not all industries offer equal opportunity for sustained profitability, and the inherent profitability of its industry is one essential ingredient in determining the profitability of a firm". According to Michael Porter's now famous framework, the five fundamental competitive forces that determine the ability of firms in an industry to earn above-normal returns are "the entry of new competitors, the threat of substitutes, the bargaining powers of buyers, the bargaining powers of suppliers, and the rivalry among existing competitors." You should find industries with barriers to entry, low supplier and buyer bargaining power, few ready substitutes, and a limited threat of new entrants to compete away economic returns. Within such industries, other conventional analyses would urge you to select firms with the largest market share, which can realise the cost benefits of economies of scale.

You would have been very successful in selecting the five top performing firms from 1972-1992 if you took this conventional wisdom and turned it on its head. The top five stocks, and their percentage returns were: Plenum Publishing (with a return of 15,689%), City Circuit (a video and appliance retailer; 16,410%), Tyson Foods (a poultry producer; 18,118%), Wal-Mart (a discount chain; 19,807%), and Southwest Airlines (21,775%). Yet during this period these industries (retailing, airlines, publishing, and food processing) were characterised by massive competition and horrendous losses, widespread bankruptcy, virtually no barriers to entry (for airlines after 1978), little unique or proprietary technology, and many substitute products or services. And in 1972 none of these firms was the market-share leader.

The point here is not to throw out conventional strategic analysis based on economics but simply to note that the source of competitive advantage has shifted over time. What these five successful firms tend to have in common is that for their sustained advantage, they rely not on technology, patents or strategic position, but on how they manage their work force."

The Competence Gap, Cuttings 40, September 2001
'Competitive Advantage Through People' by Jeffrey Pfeffer, 1994.
From Cuttings 41 December 2001


High-value management
Some core competencies for managers in the leaner and "smarter" business environment:

* Fully understands the skills and backgrounds of staff and uses this information to best use talents and determine those he may empower, and those who must be "managed" first
* Listens 'actively' and understands that it's often appropriate to "share" leadership
* Operates "on purpose," understanding that there must be a direct relationship between the tasks a staff member undertakes and the objectives and goals of the organisation as a whole.
* Emphasises growth and opportunity, projects optimism, and invites staff to join in creating a winning organisation with room for growth and development of the organisation and the individual.
* Trains employees to think critically, and encourages them to come up with new procedures, or practices that will enable them to more efficiently do their work. Re-engineering, for instance, often demands "change masters."

Reuters, October 1, 2001
From Cuttings 41 December 2001


Worrying evidence from a survey conducted globally in over 500 member companies in March 2001 by the American Management Association, validated in Europe by Management Centre Europe, which shows a massive gap between the perceived need and the operational reality on a large number of key managerial competencies.

Not only is there a wide gap, in some cases it is a growing deficit, and the competencies where there is a shortfall are precisely those that are needed in times of economic slow down. In short, it suggests that there is a massive, immediate development need for today's managers if we are to weather the storm effectively.

For instance: three of the main gaps are identified in the areas of:
* Recognising problem areas and implementing solutions (importance 94.7%; actual ability 45.5%)
* Using information to solve business problems (95.2%; 46.1%)
* Co-operation and commitment (93.0%; 53.7%)

Similar, potentially disastrous gaps occur in competencies such as: customer focus, coaching and mentoring skills, listening and asking questions, and identifying opportunities for innovation

It is worrying that in a time of rapid change, there is an increasing inability to recognise emerging issues and opportunities and a reduction in the skills available to communicate critical developments or do something constructive.

Managers report spending most of their time fire-fighting and wading through too much information generated by fast IT and communication systems. Managers report a lack of time to carry out the activity of coaching staff with the increasing use of virtual teams making face to face contact a rarity. When they do coach it is usually looking at current issues not developing future capability.

So, even after the relatively high focus on development the last few years, something is still not working. This suggests that the training and development being offered is not effective in developing the skills necessary for today's managers' needs. The research comments about time also suggest another area of focus: does the culture of the organisation support and create the environment for managers to develop.

The evidence from a number of surveys that acquiring new skills and development are key are the elements of the employment package that are valued most is backed up by evidence that skilled workers are migrating to organisations offering development. A significant number of the Gallup Organisation Q12 (see below) factors that their research finds are determinants of a strong and vibrant workplace are to do with development.

12 Questions that determine whether people are engaged, not engaged or actively disengaged at work:
1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2. Do I have the right materials and equipment that I need in order to do my job right?
3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
4. Have I received praise or recognition for doing work in the last seven days?
5. Does my supervisor seem to care about me as a person?
6. Is there someone who encourages my development?
7. Do my opinions seem to count?
8. Does the mission of my company make me feel my job is important?
9. Are my coworkers committed to quality work
10. Do I have a best friend at work
11. Has someone talked to me about progress in the past six months
12. Have I had opportunities to learn and grow in the past year.

Marcus Buckingham's research at Gallup throws up a number of other interesting pointers in the debate: the workplaces that had the top scores in Q12 were 50% more likely to have lower turnover, 56% more likely to have higher than average customer loyalty, and 27% more likely to report higher profitability. And you don't need to look at your competitors for the range: Buckingham also found that Q12 variations inside is greater than between companies. Perhaps the answer is within.

The Yawning Gap Between Needs and Competence, E_xecutive Issue, MCE July 2001 / AMA survey of management skills and competencies: research/summ.htm
Marcus Buckinghma thinks your boss has an attitude problem, Fast Company, August 2001
From Cuttings 40 September 2001


Asking Questions
Octavius Black of The Mind Gym shares some great thoughts about questioning in the August edition of Management Today:

The question begets the answer: If you don't like the answer, think up a different question before you blame the answer.

Know what you want: What is the essential question you want answered? All other questions are means to get you to that answer. (Reminds me of Steven Covey's advice to start with the end in mind).

Start broad. That helps you to find out things without necessarily revealing your own bias or assumption. You can then focus down to the specifics.

Use questions that build on what the other person has said in order to build rapport - this shows you are listening and interested in what they are saying.

Tangential and hypothetical questions get conversations out of ruts and encourage creativity - they can also get tangential and hypothetical answers!

Asking beautiful questions, Octavius Black, Management Today, August 2001.
The Mind Gym,
From Cuttings 40 September 2001



Not the standard question about getting close to your customer - this is a more complex one: who are your customers going to be in five years time?

This is the question that Eamonn Kelly and his colleagues at the Global Business Network have been struggling with in recent months. They discovered in their research on the future that in many industries a fear of new competition was receding and a fear of the customer was starting to feature. Organisations had no idea who and where their future customers would be and how they would behave.

Eamonn has identified some propositions to help us think through this issue - no answers, just some considerations and trends:
1 The balance of power is moving from producers towards consumers.
2 Customers will expect everything to be customised to the unit of one.
3 Customers will express their values in their decisions and their demands in different ways at different times
4 Value creation will involve co-creation, or interaction between the producer and the consumer.
5 Customers are going to reward or punish companies for their behaviour.
6 Corporations die. Survival isn't a right. Existing companies face serious challenges to adapt and change.
7 At the end of the day, customers are first and foremost people, so understand their fundamental needs and motivations.

For Richard Pascale, the idea of a living organism is not a metaphor for how organisations operate. It is the way they really are. Gone are the management assumptions that intelligence and leadership is at the top, change is predictable and that you can cascade intention. That way an organisation becomes captive of its winning formula and settles into an equilibrium, which equals death in today's environment.

In a biological model the question is whether we are merely generating clones, or using cross-pollination to wake the place up and disturb the equilibrium. For instance, GE Capital makes about 100 small acquisitions a year to refresh its gene pool.

Also the biological model suggests that we steer near to the edge of chaos to invoke higher levels of mutation and experimentation. This entails using tensions like encouraging entrepreneurial actions to create your competitive edge whilst stopping the organisation from self-destructing.

Biological systems at the edge of chaos tend to self-organise and allow the emergence of new organisms. In business, there are countless examples of organisations being frozen in their procedures and unable to organise for the reality of the situation.

Finally, living systems cannot be directed along a linear path - the leader's job is not to help the organisation adapt and grow, not force it down a predetermined path.

Senge outlines three guidelines:
* Design, don't engineer
* Discover, don't dictate
* Decipher, don't presuppose

Fast Company, April 2001

Remember the email that tried to relate the earth's population to a village of 100 people? Apparently most of the numbers did check out, and research by Fast Company magazine has now updated the information backed by statistical sources: A real challenge to our assumptions and an identification of the need for acceptance, understanding and education.

"If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like this:
60 Asians
13 Africans
12 Europeans
9 Latin Americans,
5 North Americans
1 Oceanian
There would be:
50 female, 50 male.
80 non-white, 20 white.
33 Christian, 67 non-Christian.
20 people would earn 89% of the entire community's wealth.
25 would live in substandard housing.
17 would be unable to read.
13 would suffer from malnutrition.
2 would have a college education.
4 would own a computer.
1 would die and 2 would give birth within the year."

Rekha Balu, Christine Engelken, and Jennifer Grosso, Fast Company,
From Cuttings 39 June 2001


Research by Robert Hersowitz has produced eight reasons why remote workers 'switch-off' from their invisible manager:
* Misinterpreted, unintentionally 'hostile' emails
* Infrequent contact with the boss
* Lack of information about changes
* Lack of resources and back-up
* Failure to seek their views and opinions
* Vague or confusing objectives and instructions
* Informal appraisals and lack of recognition and praise
* Inevitable technical faults with communication mediums

Many of these 'switch-offs' relate to motivational factors of achievement, and affiliation, which suggests that remote managers need to revisit some of the more traditional management principles. A lack of resources, unclear objectives and infrequent contact are related to feelings of under achievement. No information, consultation or attempts to involve staff are clearly associated with workers' needs for involvement. Whilst hostile emails, lack of praise and poor quality communications are all symptoms of poor affiliation.

To overcome these difficulties, the best solution is to establish initial face-to-face contact. If this is impossible, then our own research suggests that the manager and remote team members need to invest at least the same amount (and ideally more) of time and effort in building, and then maintaining, the social and emotional environment that would take place during face-to-face meetings. Allocate specific time for non-business contact, and use software to help by creating chat rooms and interest groups.

Then after creating the environment, use the 'reasons for switch-off' as a measure for improvement, learning and self-awareness.

A rule of thumb for managers of remote teams: the more 'remote' staff there are, the more time you need to devote to them.

The Invisible Manager, Robert Hersowitz, E-xecutive Newsletter, MCE
From Cuttings 39 June 2001


The Institute of Manpower Studies has claimed that the word 'motivation' is among the six most used words in company documents. However, in a recent survey of 500 top UK businesses, 95 per cent replied that their staff could be more motivated. Hardly surprising when the London Chamber of Commerce estimates that bullying in the workplace costs £2billion a year through 19 million lost working days.

Looking at a success story - the largest advertising agency in Britain, Abbott Mead Vickers- it is possible to see that you can be nice and beat the rest. AMV prides itself on its friendly, family approach to management in an industry that is often seen as adopting a fairly cut-throat approach to people. AMV is a lean operation, so staff probably have to work harder than their colleagues in other agencies, yet it has one of the best staff retention rates in the business, all without coercion.

Co-founder Peter Mead rejects the notion that there needs to be some unease to spur action: "There have been management gurus who have claimed that conflict and anxiety create energetic synergy. It's complete nonsense. Fear paralyses rather than spurs people forward." For the same reason, AMV spurns ideas like 'hot-desking' - it makes people uneasy: "They like their own nests."

On a wider front, Fortune researches the World's Most Admired Companies, basing its analysis not just on financial results, but on the consideration of their industry peers. The latest list has only 2 UK companies in the top 50 (Shell and BP Amoco) which may show a general bias towards US companies by a US magazine, but also probably reflects the greater traditionalism this side of the Atlantic. The admired companies are twice as likely to use non-financial goals for their executives as other large companies. (e.g. 66% have goals for building human capital and 76% building customer loyalty compared to an industry 30% in both categories)

Many people have written on the need to revise the psychological contract between employer and employee in the light of the new economic realities. The old contract based on loyalty in return for security allowed a lot of poor performers to inhabit corporate havens, and the rash of change in the 1990s marked the end of security. A new contract is needed that allows current employees to meet their aspirations and for employers to get a return. So what motivates the new employees?

The much researched 'Generation X' reveals people who become restless if they are presented with a lack of sense of challenge, accomplishment or recognition. They seek trust and autonomy to deliver results. Hardly surprising then, that many organisations find they cannot retain staff when they perpetuate control systems and bureaucracy. Gen-Xers know what they want, are prepared to work hard for it and show loyalty to their current employer, but are also more likely to move to a new challenge and employer if their needs are not met.

There is nothing new in this form of personal drive and motivation. Having a clear goal has been recognised as one of the main differentiators of the most successful people. It is a key ingredient in recovery from serious illness or disabling injury.

Putting that motivation to work in a corporate setting may mean that we need to set up more human places for work and organise more like jazz bands. Companies like Abbott Mead Vickers and Medtronic (Fortune January 2001) have managed to create environments and cultures that allow people to be motivated, especially those independent contributors like Gen-Xers, technicians, professionals and researchers.

Leadership has often been compared to conducting a symphony orchestra, indeed Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic is a well known speaker and writer on leadership. For him, leadership is based on how much power you can give away, empowering, trusting and coaching people to achieve their best. This will be a pretty big step for most MDs and CEOs and the analogy might work for them. But not all of us are conductors of major orchestras - we are not MDs, but we are leaders of teams in organisations.

That's where the jazz band analogy works best: here there is an underpinning of trust in the band, a passion for what is being done, and close contact with its customer (jazz club not concert hall). The leadership and support roles are interchangeable, with the members communicating and collaborating around a minimal structure allowing everyone to excel.

Here's to more jazz!

News Scan, Organisations & People, February 2001.
Orchestral Manoeuvres, People Performance
A Human Place to Work, Fortune, January 2001.
The World's Most Admired Companies 2000, Fortune, October 2000
Leadership, People Performance
On the Frontline, People Performance
Keep X on the files, People Management, July 2000
Perseverance? It's a tough call, Professional Manager, September 2000
How to be nice and beat the rest, MT September 2000
The Psychological Contract, People Performance
From Cuttings 38 March 2001


1000 Questions
Joyce Wycoff of The Innovation Network put out a challenge in January to start the new millennium with 1000 questions. Her inspiration came from Michael Gelb who encourages people to make a list of 100 questions in his book "How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci". The network didn't get to 1000 questions, but it made a good start. Here are some of my favourites:

? What is the one thing I could stop doing, or start doing, or do differently, starting today that would most improve the quality of my life
? How can I get paid for doing what I love
? How can we remove more poisons from the environment than we put in
? What would the world look like without hate
? What is "the good life"
? How can we eliminate poverty in the next 10 years
? What will our grandchildren think of us for what we are doing to our planet
? What if we had an Olympics of collaborative games
And the meta-question:
? What assumptions are inherent in my questions

From Cuttings 38 March 2001


What have C&A stores in the UK and the Millennium Dome in London have in common? - They are both closing down operations at the end of this year.

The Dutch owners of the C&A chain announced in June this year that it was closing all of its UK stores by January 2001. The New Millennium Experience Company who run the Dome attraction in London were only going to be in existence for a year to run the millennium celebration.

What they also have in common is the need to maintain their staff's focus until the last minute so that the visitors to the Dome are kept amused and customers at C&A are served. The way they maintained their motivation is a lesson to everyone who faces similar challenges caused by restructuring or other changes. It is also a key lesson for everyone who is in the leadership business.

At C&A, from the date of the closure, the Managing Director of the UK operation, Neil McCausland tells of losing all of his authority over the 5,000 staff overnight. Why should they listen to someone who has just told them they were all going to lose their jobs? At the Dome, the media have relished in criticising its exhibits, its poor financial management and its inability to attract the planned number of visitors. This adds further pressure to a staff who know they have no job on January 1, 2001.

One key opportunity that both of the leaders of these two businesses have seized upon is freedom. Knowing that they are going to close, it has given them the opportunity to take risks that might not be tolerated in normal trading environments. But risks we can all take.
At C&A, Neil McCausland offered staff a choice: be de-motivated and angry, or try out new strategies to achieve success in the final months. He pointed out that the chances of taking these attitudes into job interviews was very high, so the better option for them personally was to adopt the positive strategy.

Focusing on the immediate concern, he promised help in finding new jobs. Then he told the store managers to tear up the rule book. No longer would they have to follow corporate guidelines, they could run their stores individually, just focusing on making profit. A monthly bonus for managers and staff based on that store's success replaced previous Europe-wide performance payments.

The result for C&A in the UK has been a 50% increase in turnover, with the added irony that trucks have had to be brought in from the group's European operations to help with distribution!

At the Dome, there is a similar message to the 2,000 staff. 'This is a unique, one-off project where you can develop better, more marketable skills.' The Dome offers training in job applications and interviews and forged alliances with its sponsors to generate employment opportunities. This support is even more welcome to the staff as they had been deliberately recruited from diverse and often overlooked parts of the community (about 40% of them had been unemployed for two years or more before the Dome took them on) The training that the Dome provided was highly commended in the national People Management awards, which demonstrates the quality of the provision, as does the general acclaim of visitors where 90% thought the service was good or excellent.

It makes you wonder what you can do without a crisis...

Inside Track, ,Michael Skapinker, Financial Times, October 18, 2000
Hosts with the most, People Management November 2000
From Cuttings 37 December 2000


You can guarantee that at Semco that they don't follow convention. Ever since this remarkable São Paulo company leaped to fame when its leader Ricardo Semler wrote an HBR article about 'Managing without Managers' in 1989, it has continued to question traditional employment practices. Recently it extended its business from manufacturing to internet services, and its learning is typically Semco: "transformation is easy if you throw away your plans and let your people lead you." When it comes to pay, Semco allows choice from a total of 11 compensation options:

1 Fixed salary
2 Bonuses
3 Profit sharing
4 Commission
5 Royalties on sales
6 Royalties on profits
7 Commission on gross margin
8 Stock or stock options
9 IPO/sales warrants that can be cashed in when a business unit goes public or is sold
10 Self-set annual review/ compensation where you are paid for meeting self-set goals
11 Commission on difference between actual and three-year value of company
...with any number of permutations and combinations!

"How we went digital without a strategy" Ricardo Semler, HBR September-October 2000
From Cuttings 37 December 2000


The 2000 Global Most Admired organisations identified by Fortune magazine have a common emphasis on performance measurement: they do a lot of it, and they also have a balanced set of measures, looking at customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction as much as financial results.

According to the survey consultants, Hay Group, "High performing companies do walk the talk when it comes to performance measures. It's clear that they are seriously committed to the human elements that contribute to their success."

In contrast with their peer companies, senior executives in the Most Admired companies believe that many of their performance measures encourage co-operation and collaboration rather than competition. They find the measures help them to focus on growth, operational excellence, customer loyalty, employee and management development and other critical issues, and therefore become more strategic and forward looking in their decision making.

And the measurement is not just through infrequent global customer or staff surveys. For instance: every quarter BP Amoco maps the progress of its people targets including: innovation, mutual trust and respect, teamwork and diversity. To BP Amoco achievement in these areas are just as important to the success of the company as revenues or profit.

BP Amoco is among the 40 percent of Most Admired companies who regularly measure and chart employee-oriented measures with equal importance to financial measures. That's a full triple the percentage of companies who fail to make the Most Admired list. 60 percent of the Most Admired companies also rely on customer indicators such as satisfaction, loyalty and market share compared to only 38 percent in the wider business community. Finally, when it comes to financial measures, the Most Admired companies tend to rely more on return-based methods of measurement like assets, equity, capital and shareholder value rather than just profit.

Lest you think that this survey is a list of the Most Admired companies based on an HR consultant's viewpoint, the key measures for inclusion include long term investment value and financial soundness as well as the ability to attract and retain talent and is headed by GE.

Hay Group managing director Vicki Wright comments: "The companies on the Most Admired list have executives who understand what performance measurement is all about. It's not about keeping score. It's about learning how to motivate people -how to link those performance measures with real rewards. The top organisations create performance measures that focus on all the drivers of their businesses - financial performance, shareholder value, employees and customers ... and they link the results directly to incentives."

Global Most Admired, Fortune, October 2000
From Cuttings 36 September 2000


In the last edition of Cuttings, I reported on the growing discussion about work-life balance and the different demands now being made on employers who want to attract-and more importantly retain-high calibre staff. A new survey in the UK has identified the career and personal conflict to be at crisis point.

More than 76 percent of managers surveyed say they want to spend more time with their families and partners. That may sound a little like the sort of vote that turkeys would give to a cancellation of Christmas or Thanksgiving, so the real worry comes from other survey results.

Nearly 43 percent say their loyalty is now to themselves and their own careers, not to their employers, and 46 percent say they would switch jobs in exchange for a better quality of life. Bruce Tulgan has identified this as the "free-agent" mindset which has migrated from the Generation X age group of his initial research.

Less work is not always the answer-more flexible working is the demand of 43 percent who say they could be more effective if given more control over their work style and location.

With managers in the survey describing sleep as the 'new luxury', as the report writers sum up there is a danger that 'your money or your life' is becoming a literal question for a significant and growing minority.

On a happier note, it is great to see in the same journal a report that BP Amoco have instituted no-meeting Fridays to help staff boost their home/life balance. As well as people being able to snatch a last minute weekend break, the benefit of an interruption-free day and a clear run into the weekend is reducing stress for everyone.

Age of the Flex Exec, The MT Work/Life Balance Survey, Management Today, August 2000
The good long Friday, Management Today, July 2000
From Cuttings 36 September 2000


Organisations are placing more and more emphasis on retention strategies, yet few have come to grips with the needs of their existing (and especially the new) workforce, many managers still report experiencing unacceptable levels of work related stress, and 'presenteeism' is still rife. For many, it's the choice of a living or a life.

Cost of living
A recent Institute of Management survey identified nearly a quarter of organisations experiencing mergers or take-overs in the previous year, and a third facing expansion into new markets. 69% of managers in the survey reported an increase in workload, 90% work longer than their contracted hours, 50% take work home and 40% work at weekends. 72% have received criticism from family or friends about their long hours. Managers report being unhappy with the culture of their organisation that does nothing to deal with this increased pressure. In the UK alone, the cost of days lost through work-related stress is estimated at £5.2 billion. High levels of dissatisfaction also lead to increased turnover, and the cost of turnover is significant, at over one and a half times a person's salary. It is also becoming more difficult to attract good people.

The changing workforce
Despite continuing downsizing and restructuring activities, there is very low unemployment, especially in specific geographic and competence areas. And the workforce is changing in its demands and expectations. Finding the best talent is costly, holding onto them is even more difficult.

Generation X (those born between 1963 and 1977) now form the core of the workforce. Generation Y or the net-generation is coming on-stream fast. Research by Bruce Tulgan on Gen-Xers has shown that they have a significantly different approach to employment: they see themselves as free-agents, willing to negotiate hard and move jobs in order to achieve their goals. And his research shows that this free-agent mindset is migrating to workers from different generations. All of the writings on managing your own career and the ending of the life-time contract of employment merely increase the spread of the free-agent mindset.

In this environment, we have to think very differently about how we win the talent wars (to use Tulgan's description).

It's not about pay
Research carried out over 20 years by the Saratoga Institute in the USA has identified that 85% of people leave organisations for reasons other than pay - poor supervisory behaviour is reported as the most predominant reason for people leaving their jobs.

And it's not about long working hours or challenging work either: it is not difficult to find Generation Xers working very hard in small start-up companies. It is just difficult to find them putting the same effort into working for a large organisation. In fact more than 60% of last year's graduates from Stanford Business School went to work for companies with 50 or less employees.

Reorganising work
People put their energy into work because they believe in what they are doing - that's why there is an increasing number of people setting up their own businesses or working for small organisations. They have a sense of belonging and contributing, they have more of a sense of purpose.

For those of us working in or with larger organisations, we need to start thinking about how we can create that same sense of purpose. We have to overhaul our HR policies and practices. The culture of many of our organisations dates from a different era when time served was more important than results. Even though most will now be espousing a different story, a look at the reality in the organisation shows that the old culture is still alive and in control.

Work needs to be reorganised to provide the best value added use of talent. Reward structures need to be flexible to allow negotiation of individual arrangements that reflect the contributions made. "It's not our policy" is not a valid answer any more, your talent will go and find what they are looking for elsewhere, whether that be more or less responsibility, or different and more rewarding work.

Work-life balance
The other flexibility demanded by rising costs of recruitment and retention is on working hours and practices. A 1998 survey of BT managers found 38% refusing promotion because of the perceived damage to their home lives. Individual friendly, family friendly, carer friendly policies and the open valuing of wider social values are still minority issues on the HR agenda, and need to be brought higher.

To be successful employers in the 21st Century, we have to offer a life as well as a living - whether that is by creating more meaningful jobs or by negotiating bespoke employment packages.

Toolbox, Fast Company, Jan/Feb 2000
Making a life, Making a living, Mark Albion, Warner Books
Work-Life Balance, People Management, May 2000
Taking the Strain, Institute of Manage-ment report, February 2000
Working from the Heart, Liz Simpson, Vermillion Books
Winning the Talent Wars, Bruce Tulgan
From Cuttings 35 June 2000


Good Days and Bad Days
Recently another serendipity occurred that create the spark for most of the articles in this newsletter. A posting on the Appreciative Inquiry Listserv (an electronic discussion forum for AI practitioners) created a wealth of interesting comments about good days and bad days, culminating in a telling comment that there are really only days - what makes them 'good' or 'bad' is merely our own choice about how you experience them.

The serendipity came with a deeper insight in an article in the current edition of Psychology Today that recommends taking a more proactive positive approach. Research by Professor David Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania has led him to spearhead a new school of psychology that seeks to understand and build human strengths, rather than the traditional schools of psychology that focus on negative behaviour patterns and seeking to correct them.

In the USA alone there are 18 million people diagnosed with depression and 65 million taking anti-depressants. In this context, Seligman points out that maybe "what looks like a symptom of depression - negative thinking - is itself the disease."

His school of positive psychology includes Mihaly Csikszentmihahlyi whose writings on Flow have focused on optimal human functioning and happiness, even in situations where we expect the opposite experience: like in repetitive work environments and seemingly mundane activities.

Scientific support already exists from Csikszentmihahlyi's work and other researchers who have shown that positive thinking reduces tension; optimists work hard and live more healthily; people who exhibit positive emotions after trauma show less anxiety and depression years later; people witnessing good deeds benefit as well as the giver and receiver; and others can turn obstacles into opportunities and preserve psychological health in negative situations.

Happy Days, Alison Stein Wellner and David Adox, Psychology Today,
Flow - The Psychology of Happiness Mihaly Csikszentmihahlyi, 1992
From Cuttings 35 June 2000


Negotiation is at the heart of civilisation
"All differences can be resolved through negotiation - and the principle applies equally to the smallest communities and the highest councils of nations" so said Nelson Mandela in April this year.

Speaking at Trinity College, Dublin the former president of South Africa acknowledged that some disputes and peace processes would progress slowly and with difficulty, but he was convinced that whatever the depth of the problem, it could be resolved through talks.

"World-wide democracy hinged on respect for alternative viewpoints and an ability to compromise. No matter how others may differ from ourselves, an acceptance of the integrity and good faith of everyone involved is crucial to success."

The Independent, 13 April 2000
From Cuttings 35 June 2000


A leader's prime job role is to get results, and therefore the climate they create in the organisation is critical. Recent research by Hay/McBer has thrown some light on the style of leadership that is most effective. They studied a random sample of executives from around the world in order to come up with their conclusions.

The research identified six distinct styles, each of which has a unique impact on the working atmosphere of an organisation, and therefore its results. Significantly, the research also indicated that leaders who get the best results do not rely on one style, but use them all depending on the situation. All of the styles have a place, but some have an more positive overall effect than others.

The six leadership styles:
• Coercive, demanding immediate compliance. Works best in a crisis or to kick start something. "Do as I tell you."
• Authoritative, mobilising people toward a vision. Works best when clear direction or vision is needed. "Come with me."
• Affiliative, creating emotional bonds and harmony. Heals rifts and motivates in times of stress. "People come first."
• Democratic, building consensus through participation. Gets buy-in, consensus and ideas from employees. "What do you think?"
• Pacesetting, expecting excellence and self-direction. Works when needing quick results from a competent team. "Do as I do, now."
• Coaching, developing people for the future. Helps employees develop long term performance and strengths. "Try this."

In measuring the impact on the working environment the researchers considered six drivers of climate: lack of red tape; sense of responsibility to the organisation; level of standards set; feedback on performance and rewards, clarity about direction and values; the level of commitment to a common purpose.

It is easy to identify the impact of the different styles on some of these categories: the affiliative style has the greatest positive impact on the performance feedback and aptness of rewards felt in the workplace; the coercive style has the greatest negative impact on flexibility and red tape in the organisation.

Looking overall, the authoritative style had the most positive impact on climate, especially where there is a need to chart a new vision. Overused, it can become overbearing, but it seems to be the style that works well in most situations.

Also having a positive impact on climate, and ranked closely together come the affiliative, democratic and coaching styles. The affiliative style works well to build team harmony and trust, but used on its own it can leave poor performance uncorrected and teams without direction.

Democratic leaders get buy in and commitment, but can also preside over long, inconclusive deliberations and lack of decision. Coaching leaders build competence, but fail when employees are resistant to learning or change.

Interestingly, of the six styles, the coaching style was least used, with lack of time and skill being cited as reasons. Its impact on climate and long term learning is recognised by some companies who are investing in trying to develop it as a core competence.

Of the other two styles, the pacesetting leader has an overall negative impact, due to the inherent tendency to micro-manage and exhibit a lack of trust. The coercive leader has the greatest negative impact, and is only appropriate when major crises loom or in a genuine emergency situation.

This study also shows that no one style is appropriate. They all have their time and place, with the Authoritative, Affialiative, Democratic and Coaching styles having the greatest impact. A leader who is proficient in these styles will make a formidable contribution to the results of the enterprise. Each individual leader will have her or his own repertoire, and therefore know where they should put their learning effort to improve their flexibility.

But if there is one of these styles that is universally underused and therefore where potential impact is greatest, it is the coaching style.

Leadership that gets results, Daniel Goleman, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2000
From Cuttings 34 March 2000


I am indebted to George Simons ( and the prolific 'author unknown' for the following, which I have translated from the original American!

"Now I see why powerful people often wear sunglasses - the spotlight blinds them to reality. They suffer from a delusion that power means something (it doesn't). They suffer from the misconception that titles make a difference (they don't). They are under the impression that earthly authority will make a heavenly difference (it won't).

To make my point, take this quiz.
• Name the ten wealthiest people in the world.
• Name the last ten Wimbledon champions.
• Name the last ten winners of best male or female vocalist award.
• Name eight people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
• The last ten Academy Award winners for best picture?
• The last five World Champions in any sport?

How did you do? With the exception of trivia hounds, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday too well. Surprising how quickly we forget, isn't it? And these are no second-raters. These are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:
• Name ten people you enjoy spending time with.
• Name ten people who have taught you something worthwhile.
• Name five friends who have helped you in a difficult time.
• List some teachers/mentors who have aided your journey through life
• Name half-a-dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.

Easier? The lesson? The people who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones with the concern."
From Cuttings 34 March 2000


GE is rarely out of the business press. Often it is the leadership style and practices of CEO Jack Welsh that get the headlines, but even in Jack's empire, the GE plant at Durham, North Carolina is in a league of its own.

The plant makes the engines for the Boeing 777. 170 employees and one boss make up the workforce (yes, ONE boss-everyone reports directly to the plant manager). There are nine teams who produce the engines, each being responsible for the total production from start to finish. Their only directive: the date the engine is to be delivered. All other decisions: who does what, training, vacations, workflow, performance improvement, discipline, recruitment... are all team based

There are only three grades of technician, based on skill level, and each has its own fixed wage rate, so everyone knows who earns what. There is no time clock, and of course each team member has an email address, Internet, voice mail, and a shared desk. The plant manager sits in the middle of the production floor, some 20 feet away from the engines manufactured in her (yes, her) plant.

What about quality control where each engine has 10,000 parts and when you have tolerances of less than the width of a human hair in seals measuring a metre across? It is certainly a living example of motivation by personal satisfaction in a good job not money.

And there are a number of other 'motivators' not present: no offices, no gym, no windows, no well-stocked break-rooms, canteen meals are served in Styrofoam containers, there are no stock options, the only way to get a pay rise is to do sufficient study and training to become a tech-2 or tech-3. Yet staff turnover is less than 5%.

The people at GE/Durham don't think that their job is to make jet engines, they think that t heir job is to make jet engines better. A quote from a team member: "I had never worked in this kind of environment before. The workforce is highly skilled and highly motivated-and highly demanding as well."

So to get hired at GE/Durham, there is a full day of interviews, group activities and presentations. Recently the plant manager, Paula Sims decided to retire, and two candidates for her job were subjected to a full day of interviewing and screening by the technicians at the plant. Robert McEwan who supervises the plant for GE summed up the feedback from the teams as "10 times better than what I got from my peers."

But an article about GE cannot be complete without a mention of Jack Welsh, who is due to retire on 31 December, 2000. Jack was recently voted manager of the century by Fortune magazine. The above story highlights the difference between what we normally term 'managing' and the real job of providing the environment to be able to excel.

Fast Company, October 1999
The Ultimate Manager, Fortune, November 1999
From Cuttings 33 December 1999


Questions seem to be the current node for writers and thinkers. You will recall that the value of questioning and asking the right questions has been a theme in Cuttings for the last couple of issues,.

The latest find in this area comes from John Adams in his new book 'Thinking Today as if Tomorrow Mattered'. John poses a number of challenges for those of us who are concerned with the thinking and direction of companies, organisations and society in general.

At the end of each chapter are questions for reflection, dialogue, contemplation and action. Several hundred questions are posed throughout the book, all challenging us to do something to create a more sustainable thinking and acting process if we are to pass on any quality of life to future generations.

The questions were distilled from over 1000 generated from a conference that John gave a keynote speech in his role of chair of the sustainable development task force at the World Business Association.

Get the book for the questions alone!

Thinking Today as if Tomorrow Mattered, John Adams, Eartheart Enterprises, 2000 ISBN 0-9672859-0-9
From Cuttings 33 December 1999


The Practice
Roger Harrison heard recently from someone who returned from India. Her group met with the Dalai Lama for several days. The meetings focused on dialoguing what they believed were the 5 most important questions to be considered moving into the new millennium.

The group were asked to come up with five questions before meeting with the Dalai Lama. They asked:

* How do we address the widening gap between rich and poor?
* How do we protect the earth
* How do we educate our children?
* How do we help Tibet and other oppressed countries/peoples?
* How do we bring spirituality - deep caring for each other - through all disciplines?

The Dalai Lama said all the questions fall under the last one . If we have true compassion, our children will be educated, we will care for the earth, and for those who "have not".

He asked the group: Do you think loving on the planet is increasing or staying the same?

His own response was, "My experience leads me to believe that love IS increasing."

He shared a practice with the group that will increase loving and compassion in the world, and asked everyone attending to go home and share it with as many people as possible.

1. Spend 5 minutes at the beginning of each day remembering we all want the same thing (to be happy and loved) and we are all connected.
2. Spend 5 minutes cherishing yourself and others. Let go of judgements. Breathe in cherishing yourself, and breathe out cherishing others. If the faces of people you are having difficulty with appear, cherish them as well.
3. During the day extend that attitude to everyone you meet - we are all the same, and I cherish myself and you (do it with the grocery store clerk, the client, your family, co-workers, etc.).
4. Stay in the practice, no matter what happens.

From Cuttings 33 December 1999


The final comment in my lead article in Cuttings 31 when I reported on the Processes for the Millennium conference in Valbonne was about the value of questioning. “Asking the right questions might be THE process for the millennium.”

From the response and recent articles published on the web, it seems that we may have hit on the key topic for today.

Joyce Wycoff commented on a recent piece of ‘creativity’ research from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (Goldenberg, J. Science Magazine 1 September 1999). The researchers created a computer program to generate ideas for advertising which a panel of judges found to be more creative than some produced by laymen. As a result the researchers are trying to refute the idea that creative thinking works best when it is completely without boundaries or limitations.

The inference is that creativity techniques such as brainstorming aren't effective, or rules and structure will automatically improve creativity.

In arguing against this, Wycoff points out that implementing more rules, more structures and more constraints would not necessarily increase creativity. The ideal is a framework that focuses thinking while allowing the looseness necessary for thinking to bounce around and generate various possibilities.

It is the definition of a problem —the right question—that creates the structure and constraints of the thinking applied to it. It depends on what you are trying to be creative about whether the constraints are helpful or not.

In At Work Online (the web site run by the magazine At Work which reports on innovative working and organisational practices), Jim Evers picks up the theme from the wider perspective of the words we use. He points out that we use words to label our perception, but these labels then lock us in and trap us into continuing to think that way.

For instance we talk of companies polluting, downsizing, acting unethically—but in reality it is the people, executives and managers who make the decisions who are doing these things. Only when we change the words we use—and the questions we ask—do we gain a deeper sense of understanding.

The language we use creates our reality. If we talk of problems and difficulties, then these become our reality. Asking the right questions is therefore of fundamental importance in creativity, and in our personal and organisation life. The mental models we use determine what we see and believe. Sometimes just changing the focus or frame can help us to breakthrough and visualise a better future.

Some of the exciting projects and discussions that have started as a result of Cuttings 31 will be featured in future articles. In the meantime it appears that asking the right questions is THE process for the millennium

Processes for the Millennium, Cuttings 31
Constraints can be effective, Joyce Wycoff.
Trapped by our words, Jim Evers, AtWork Online,
The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry, Sue Annis Hammond
From Cuttings 32 September 1999


Two articles in very different magazines this month focus on the same subject—mergers. Their observations on successes and failures provide a blueprint to make the current mania for mergers and mega-mergers more ‘user friendly’.

A merger or acquisition is never easy, and there have been numerous reports of failure to meet the necessary targets or objectives set out in the original documents. Randy MacDonald ,the V.P. Human Resources for GTE reckons that it takes years for the two culture sin a merger to integrate fully. No-one who has worked in, or with, a merged or taken-over organisation would disagree. And it takes years if you work hard. Many organisations do not work at the cultural issues, and it takes forever (or life, which is usually shorter as people leave or the organisation fails).

The case study of the merger of Commercial Union and General Accident to form CGU is therefore encouraging.

One of the key steps in making mergers work is that you create a new company, not an amalgamation of the two. CGU took this on board, and immediately started to develop a set of bottom-up values and processes that would make this a reality.

Using large group interventions they organised wide participation of employees with events numbering 500 at a time to devise the ‘best place to work’ and to involve people in real-time decision making about the structure and processes for the new company.

High participation and involvement seems to avoid the usual pitfalls.

Merger She Wrote, Fast Company, September 1999-09-10
Premium Bonding, People Management, 2 September 1999
From Cuttings 32 September 1999


Valbonne, South of France, May 1999—an Open Space discussion (both face-to-face and on remote links) around the conference theme: “Processes for the Millennium”. Two days of rich exchange and investigation led us to questions rather than answers, and directions not destinations. We share some of these with you and welcome further dialogue so that we can shape and develop the best processes for the millennium for living, learning and working.

When we discussed leadership, all the great leaders we had experienced were all great learners. They did not necessarily know the answers, but had some questions and a sense of direction — and had a passion for learning for themselves and for others. Hence the coining of the new word “Learnership” as a key theme and process for the millennium. We have all been inspired by great leaders/learners in our lives—we now need to inspire others to continue to learn.

Content-free education
Learning what? A continuing theme throughout the conference was the idea of content-free education. The idea was inspired by a story of a remarkable primary school teacher who was achieving some amazing results in the most difficult of circumstances, working from the context of teaching children the processes rather than the content.
The Net-Generation is now replacing Generation X. Studies of new entrants to US universities are measuring significant year-on-year improvements in the ability of students to take in, assimilate, use and process information. It is these skills that are more important in the information age, yet most of our education systems have not yet changed. Nobel Laureate Richard Feyneman wrote some years ago that most students waste their time memorising stuff that could be looked up in fifteen minutes*. Perhaps education cannot be totally content free, but it should be less content dependent.

Back to basics
Most laptop computers now come with anti-benefits—features that detract from the main benefits for users. E.g. Colour screens and large applications drain battery life and create extra weight, therefore making the laptop less useful. Plus the increased complexity means more conflicts and breakdowns—at a time when we are guaranteed to be far away from an engineer. Bill Gates has reason to fear Psion and its alliance with the cell phone manufacturers: what they have noticed is that people want connectivity and communications, not a luggable desktop computer!

As with technology so too with education. Let’s get back to the basic roles of the teacher—to create enthusiasm and help you see what you have learned.

The storytelling over the weekend enabled us to get to know each other’s values, and to recognise that values are important: they are important and they also define what is important to you.

The networks that people form appear to exist of nuclei of people who, almost like partners in a couple, have long lasting relationships based on love and respect for each other. When people link into different networks, truly global movements based on the same values come into existence. We experienced this in Valbonne, the linking of a number of networks, and the growth of new set of relationships to travel further on the learning journey.

Milestones on the journey
Boundaries are tending to disappear and blur—the interaction for this conference started before the official starting time, and continues long after the finish. The key elements for success in both private and work life are growing even more alike. Meetings appear to become less and less of a distinct event in time and place but much more of a milestone in our journey—a moment in time where we are together to share and summarise what we are learning. And that meeting need not be face-to-face. At Valbonne people were linked remotely to share their learning, and drew on the wisdom of others not present.

Best Problems not Best Practices
Looking forward to new unresolved problems is much more rewarding than looking backwards to past solutions!

Life is a project
Project management is a skill of the millennium. Knowing what your goal is for achievement makes your life a project, or a series of projects, because you can then plan your performance and set up a process to achieve it.

Reflecting on this, perhaps asking the right questions might be THE process for the millennium

* ‘Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feyneman!’, Richard Feyneman, Unwin 1985.

Open Space is a conference design that promotes high levels of participation and energy. It allows participants to create their own agenda and to self-organise the learning community—everyone taking responsibility for the effectiveness of their contribution. It is a design that is widely used to help organisations develop strategic direction and to address issues of concern. For more information and to contact a network of Open Space designers and facilitators, contact Geof Cox.

From Cuttings 31 June 1999


Strategy is dead, long live strategy. The gurus are fighting again. Gary Hamel is preaching revolution in the new e-world while Michael Porter is re-inventing himself as a corporate consultant after a sojourn in economic development and regional competitiveness. But in the world of fast change will strategy be doomed to failure?

Certainly, we have seen the end of strategic planning in any formalised sense as a way of dealing with the ever-changing business environment. But strategy is still very relevant in giving direction to an organisation. In Porter's terms strategy is different from operational effectiveness. The latter is to do with the incremental development of best practice whereas strategy is the unique positioning that differentiates from competitors.

The problem for most organisation is that they see the incremental improvement as strategy. Their process of strategy development is to benchmark and analyse, hold conversations and discussions with the 'usual suspects' in their own management teams and in the top consulting firms. They do nothing new and therefore, to observers like Hamel, they lose out to the revolutionary newcomers to their industries.

But revolutionaries are not there by accident-the Dells, the Intels, the Ciscos, the Amazons have a clear sense of what they are trying to do, and of how to do it. They have a clear sense of strategy. Its that they have developed their strategy from a new mind set. They think different.

Hamel puts forward 5 roots for strategy innovation in the new business era:

1 New voices
"Strategy creation must be a pluralistic process, a deeply participative under-taking. " New voices means top management giving up on its mono-poly and previously underrepresented constituencies given a larger share of the voice in the process. "Young people, newcomers and those at the geographic periphery deserve a larger share of the voice."

2 New conversations
Create a dialogue across the organisation - go for the unusual suspects rather than repeat the same conversations. "Opportunities for new insights are created when one juxtaposes previously isolated knowledge in new ways."

3 New passions
"Individuals will not invest emotionally in a firm and its success unless they believe they will get a return on that investment. " People will embrace change when they can see its relevance and have a stake in the future.

4 New perspectives
Looking at things in different ways allows individuals to perceive strategy. Managers must constantly look for new perspectives.

5 New experiments
Pilot ideas in small risk-avoiding experiment to maximise learning.

How to do this?
Practice is developing world-wide in the use of Large Group methodologies that encourage participation from all stakeholders in the creation of strategic direction.

The Return of Michael Porter, Fortune, February. 1999
Opinion, Strategy Innovation and the Quest for Value, by Gary Hamel, Sloan Management Review, Winter. 1998
From Cuttings 30 March 1999


e-commerce the Cisco way
E-commerce is the new way, if the gurus and stock market is to be believed. Organisations such as and Charles Schwab are changing the face of their business sector, and the challenge is to all organisations to come alive to the speed and impact of the web and the Internet.

Some business analysts may look sceptically at 'Internet stock', Yahoo! and almost everyone else in the sector have yet to make a profit, and their high rating seems to be due more to hype than reason.

That's where Cisco comes in with the different story. And their story is about managing the business using Internet technologies, not just doing business on the Internet.

Cisco takes orders of $23 million a day over the Web (more than three-quarters of its total business.) In support of that, 75 per cent of its 1.5 million customer queries each month are answered on-line, and 95 per cent of software upgrades are dealt with online, with correspondingly increased customer satisfaction ratings for accuracy and speed of response.

In its own internal administration, a Web-based expenses system allows payment to be made in two days instead of three weeks under the traditional system, and at a cost of $3 not $25. More than two-thirds of all job applications come in through the Web, and it is moving towards a complete 'e-HR' system. Financial figures are available three days after the end of each quarter, and annual results within 14 days.

Is this the model for the company of the future?

Rags to e-riches for the Cisco kids, The Observer, 14 February 1999
From Cuttings 30 March 1999


A word of explanation to non-English native speaking readers about the title. Birds flock when they fly and group together. The idea of people flocking in organisations comes from author and ex-Shell executive Arie de Geus in his books and articles on The Living Company.

He takes his inspiration from biology studies carried out by Nobel Laureate Allan Wilson. Wilson discovered that some song birds were the only species to evolve faster than man, and in proving his case, studied the evolution of the Blue Tit and Robin in Britain. Here is the story:

Britain has a tradition of delivering milk to people's homes, leaving the bottle on the doorstep. In the early years, the milk was left uncovered, and both Blue Tits and Robins soon discovered that the cream on the top of the milk was both tasty and easy to get. In the 1930s, dairies started to put aluminium foil caps on the bottles. Both the Blue Tits and Robins were foiled in their attempts to get at the cream.

However, fairly soon, some isolated Robins and Blue Tits discovered that they could peck through the foil to get at the cream. Whether these indiv-iduals were more intelligent or just plain lucky is not important. What is important is what happened next.

Within 20 years, the total Blue Tit population (1 million strong) from the North of Scotland to the far South of England had learned how to peck through the bottle caps and drink the cream. For the Robin population, only isolated individual birds could perform the task. What made the difference in the speed of learning?

The answer lay in the social habits of the two species. Robins are fiercely territorial. They protect their own space, and are violent towards other Robins who attempt to invade (whether by intent or accident). On the other hand, Blue tits are very social birds. They group together and welcome members of their species to their flock. When they flock, they are able to pass on the new skills to each other, so that in a short period of time, even the Blue Tit with the severest learning difficulty will have mastered the new survival skill. Robins do not flock. They have no mechanism for passing on learning through the species.

Arie de Geus compares most of our organisation structures and communication (especially those of the board-room) to the Robin. We have fiefdoms and hierarchies who protect their own territory and attack anyone who is likely to pose a threat from another part of the organisation (like another department). Information is not passed freely, and the organisation does not learn.

All of our attempts at business process reorganisation, knowledge management and cross functional teamworking will come to naught if we continue to behave like Robins. Organisations need to learn to flock.

How can we develop the flocking spirit? Large Group Interventions may provide some of the answers. These highly participative events focus sharing and learning in large groups (flocks), where traditional corporate communication tends to reinforce our Robin behaviour.

Robins may be one of our favourite birds to decorate Christmas cards and cakes, but they are not a good role model for organisations.

Birds that flock together, learn faster. Does your organisation flock? Would you like to be more like the Blue Tit?

The Living Company: A Recipe for Success in the New Economy, The Washington Quarterly, Winter. 1998
From Cuttings 29 December 1998


Have Fun at Work...& The Jester
Fun, growth and innovation must be a part of your workplace culture. The reason: not all of your staff will be judging your attractiveness as an employer based on advancement opportunities.

According to a survey of 1,000 full-time employees conducted over the past year, the vast majority (95%) are 'very' or 'somewhat' confident that they will keep their jobs, but far fewer (73%) are 'very' or 'somewhat' confident they will advance within their current organisation.

"Now that there is less 'up' available, employees must have opportunities to broaden their skills, contribute to cross-department initiatives, and seek a variety of developmental opportunities," says survey editor Paul Wesman of Right Management Consultants. "This helps retain top performers who might leave the organization if they saw no future there."

Bridging the Career Confidence Gap, Right Management Consultants (

Paul Birch works as a Corporate Jester. Having first designed the role when working for British Airways, he now works with other organisations. He helps cut through the fear and complacency and unleashing honesty and creativity, by stirring things up, using the Fool in Shakespeare's King Lear as his model. "Just because you're the boss doesn't mean that you know better..."

He's No Fool (But he plays one inside companies) Fast Company, November 1998
From Cuttings 29 December 1998


Nigel Nicholson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, and author of an article in the current Harvard Business Review, argues that a great deal of our behaviour is programmed from our Stone Age needs, and that we may therefore be fighting against evolution when trying to get people to change their habits and behaviour.

His ideas come from the school of evolutionary psychology-sometimes called modern Darwinism-which has grown in both momentum and respect in recent years. It claims some patterns of behaviour are inborn and universal, and these are not always beneficial to today's business environment.

For instance, in the Stone Age, survival often depended on having your emotional radar turned on and your rational turned off. You trusted your instincts, and your emotional screen helped to save lives when confronted with uncertainty, wild animals and natural disasters. In the current management world, we are supposed to suppress emotions and make decisions based on rational analysis. But our emotion response cannot be fully suppressed, making the most sensible of employees unable to receive feedback in the constructive vein in which it was meant and given. The primacy of our emotions will make us hear bad news first and loudest.

Evolutionary psychology also identifies that people feel most comfortable in small communities, and seek security in hierarchical systems. Research at Liverpool University shows that the brain power needed to remember people, alliances, promises, and other social necessities limits the human social group to 150. World-wide, 60% of employment is in companies of 150 people or smaller (is this a coincidence?). Larger organisations struggle with problems of 'belonging', and cliques, functions, teams, departments and groups that are often in conflict.

Greater success in hunting and gathering in Stone Age social groups led to high survival rates and the status of some members. In the modern world, there is a desire to obtain status in organisation settings even where there is an attempt to impose equality.

Even the most egalitarian of companies has a hierarchy in place. The trappings of hierarchy and power have been toned down, but the boss is still the boss. The CEO may have an open door policy-or like Andy Grove of Intel, sit in a cubicle alongside everyone else-but you don't go through the door much, if at all. The statements and policies may be egalitarian, but there are status symbols and hierarchies everywhere.

Many attempts to change attitudes and behaviour don't work very well-perhaps evolutionary psychology gives us some of the rationale. Understanding human nature a little more might save us a lot of wasted energy trying to get people to do things that are contrary to our mental programming. It seems you can take the person out of the Stone Age, but not the Stone Age out of the person.

How Hardwired is Human Behavior, Harvard Business Review, July-August 1998
Don't call me Sir, (everyone knows I'm the boss), Management Today, August. 1998
From Cuttings 28 September 1998


Moving And Recruiting
So, you've decided to move, joining the every growing numbers of managers who are switching companies. Increasingly, companies are looking outside for talent, and executive recruiters are on every street corner. There are lots of good jobs around which are better than the one you have now.

BEWARE! Studies in the US show that two out of every five management hires fail in the first 18 months. You could be better staying put-or at least be aware of why you might fail. According to a survey of over 800 HR executives, failure to build good relationships with peers and subordinates is the culprit in 82% of cases. The next two problems: confusion or uncertainty on what is expected (58%), lack of internal political skills (50%). So, don't ignore your 'soft' skills and look beyond the competencies required.

These sentiments are mirrored in the UK by research from Sanders & Sidney: "most jobs at senior level fail not because of the technical skills involved, but because of problems involving the corporate culture." With failures costing an average of £60,000 it is clear that employers should avoid the tendency to appoint the 'best at the time.'

And what of the future? A survey of today's students (the millennium recruits) don't rank salary and prestige in terms of priorities. These only rate fifth and sixth position behind: having idealistic and commit-ted co-workers (68%), doing work that helps others (65%), doing creative work (47%) and having responsibility (39%).

Don't Blow Your New Job, Fortune, June 1998
Recruit in haste, repent in leisure, People Management, July 1998
Recruiting Generation 2001, Harvard Business Review, July-August 1998
From Cuttings 28 September 1998


DILBERT is alive and working near you!
Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoons claims that most (if not all) his ideas are taken from his own real life experiences of working in a cubicle and the hundreds of real-life examples that are sent to him by his fans.

Here are a selection of real-life Dilbert managers in action, contributed to a recent magazine competition:

"As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday and employees will receive their cards in two weeks." (This was the winning quote from Fred Dales at Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, Washington.)

"What I need is a list of specific unknown problems we will encounter." (Lykes Lines Shipping)

"E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business." (Accounting manager, Electric Boat Company)

"This project is so important, we can't let things that are more important interfere with it." (Advertising/Marketing manager, United Parcel Service)

"We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees." (Switching supervisor, AT&T Long Lines Division)

A memo from senior management: "This is to inform you that a memo will be issued today regarding the subject mentioned above." (Microsoft, Legal Affairs Division)

One day my boss asked me to submit a status report to him concerning a project I was working on. I asked him if tomorrow would be soon enough. He said "If I wanted it tomorrow, I would have waited until tomorrow to ask for it!" (New business manager, Hallmark Greeting Cards.)
From Cuttings 28 September 1998


(or poet tree without mist aches)

Eye have a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marks four my revue
Miss steaks eye cannot sea
Each thyme when eye have struck the quays
Eye weight four it two say
If watt eye rote is wrong or rite
It shows me strait a weigh

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two late
And eye can put the error rite
No eye shall find it grate

I've run this poem threw it
I'm shore your policed to no
It's letter perfect in its weigh
My chequer tolled me sew

Attributed to the prolific writer 'Author Unknown" and contributed by Christine Barbara to Professional Manager, July 1998
From Cuttings 28 September 1998


Two forward focused reports and commentaries have been central to many of my discussions and activities over the last quarter. One is a report on research on the inclusive approach in business commissioned by The Centre for Tomorrow's Company*, the second is the developmental agenda of the Association for Management Education and Development (AMED).

The AMED agenda is a response from its Council to the enormous changes in organisational life over the past years, and the prospect of more to come. Their themes are:
* Humanisation of work: combating the danger of people being regarded as resources and costs
* Globalization: recognising the increasingly inter-dependent and integrated nature of economies.
* Stakeholders and management: the changing view about in whose interest an organisation is run.
* Sustainability: both social and environmental
* High performance: how to deliver results, on time, to world-class quality levels, at acceptable cost and remain agile and adaptable.
* Working across boundaries
* Working ethically

There are no easy answers or models in any of these areas. So dialogue on these issues should be top of the agenda in all boardrooms and development meetings.

Getting these themes, and especially that of inclusivity, on the agenda is the thrust of the Centre for Tomorrow's Company. Born out of the Tomorrow's Company inquiry by the RSA, it puts forward compelling evidence for a change in approach by the majority of the world's organisations. Their research carries a simple message: 'business will better serve its shareholders by focusing on the needs of its customers, employees, suppliers and the wider community.'

This report brings together powerful research evidence from around the world to support this statement. In fact the message above was part of a MORI survey, and was agreed to by 72% of UK business leaders. Harvard research on US firm's performance between 1977 and 1988 found outstanding performers characterised by strong emphasis on relationships with customers, employees and shareholders. Kleinwort Benson's tracking of stockmarket performance shows companies practising an inclusive agenda outperforming the rest by 16% in the short term and 38% in the long term. These are very compelling numbers.

Most recently, I have been involved in facilitating a couple of events as part of the Scotland's Future Strategic Dialogue. Sponsored by Scottish Enterprise, it is creating the opportunity for dialogue across all groups in Scotland to identify some strategic directions to address themes of sustainability, inclusivity, innovative organisations and creativity. Themes that have been identified as critical to the success of Scotland's economy and the organisations that, collectively, make it up.
From all of these reports and experiences, the message is clear - we need to both have, and act upon, the dialogue around these challenges.

* The inclusive approach and business success - The research evidence, The Centre for Tomorrow's Company, November 1997
† Seven development themes for the 21st century, Organisations & People, Feb. 1998
From Cuttings 27 June 1998


Another buzzword, bandwagon, or a serious requirement for today's business environment?

Like most new ideas, this one has been around for a long time, and practised by some of the best organisations. Andrew Mayo† quotes Tom Watson Jr., the founder of IBM in his article: "All the value of this company is in its people. If you burnt down all of our plants and we just kept our people and information files, we would soon be as strong as ever. Take away our people and we might never recover."

Most organisations today are beginning to accept that they are based on knowledge, and that the effective harnessing of that knowledge is vital to their future success. But the sheer volume of information that is being created in organisations today is making the physical management of knowledge difficult, without even starting to address the psychological barriers to sharing. Melvyn Ingleson* conducted a survey of the top knowledge management consultan-cies, and found that even they were being overwhelmed. So what hope for organisations who haven't even started?

As with most things, awareness is 90 percent of the solution. Once you recognise the need, then a strategy and solution is never far away. Andrew Mayo suggests five elements to a system:
• managing the generation of new knowledge through learning
• capturing knowledge and experience
• sharing, collaborating and communicating
• organising information for easy access
• using and building on what is known

IT developments (Email, intranets, groupware, interactive databases, etc.) help in building some of the infrastructure needed. They also make way for new ways of working, such as virtual teams. But organisations who focus solely on IT and ignore the people factor do so at their peril. 'Information is power' still rules most management, however enlightened. 80 percent of those responding to a recent survey identified the existing organisation culture is seen as the biggest obstacle to creating a knowledge based organisation.

To make knowledge management work we must focus on change management with at least as much vigour as IT. But most importantly we must focus on knowledge management.

* Managing knowledge into the third millennium, Management Consultancy, December 1997
Doctor Know, People Management, March 1998
The wide-awake club, People Management, February 1998
† Memory bankers, People Management, January 1998
Knowledge Management. More critical - Process or Behaviour, unpublished article, John Grundy,Global Teamwork Associates
From Cuttings 26 March 1998


Rosenbluth International have been following this somewhat surprising policy for some years in the travel business, and in doing so has grown into a $3billion global company that rivals American Express and is quoted as one of Fortune magazine's 100 Best Comp-anies to Work for in America.* CEO Hal Rosenbluth is so proud of his company's policy that he has even written a book on the subject.†

Readers who believe that customer service is the essential element in the success of any organisation need not worry, Hal and his executives are passionate about customer service, it's just that they do not believe that concentrating on the customer is the way to achieve it. Their focus is on putting their own people first.

Their rationale is simple, contented people will do their utmost for customers because they enjoy it. "We're not saying choose your people over your customers," says Rosenbluth, "We're saying focus on your people because of your customers. That way everybody wins."

A wide ranging survey conducted by Gallup in the US highlights other benefits. Contented employees not only stay at their company longer, but they also significantly boost profits and give higher productivity. Gallup found that in businesses where staff felt that they were valued, had scope for development and could express their opinions, there was a profit margin 27 per cent higher than average, and productivity 22 per cent higher than average.•

In Rosenbluth, they have a number of programmes (including training) to help make employees feel valued, like spending days with senior managers to get 'the big picture'.

With examples like Rosenbluth, and with solid numbers from Gallup, could we begin to make the over-used phrase 'our people are our greatest asset' real instead of executive-speak?

* The Independent, 13 January 1998
† The Customer Comes Second, Hal Rosenbluth & Diane McFerrin Peters
• People Management, March 1998
From Cuttings 26 March 1998


Not an advertisement to attract travellers off the railways and onto the roads, but a comment about how we can best develop appropriate competencies at work. There is no doubt that coaching delivers results. Given this evidence, and the feedback from managers and staff that they prefer working in an environment which helps them to reach their potential, why is it that coaching is not more widespread?

Clues may lie in the much used analogy of the sports coach.

In sport, the coach is recognised as important enough to be a full-time job, often separate from the job of team manager. In business, the job of coach and manager is usually combined, and unless some changes are made to what we expect of managers today, they will not make good coaches.

To be effective, coaching requires time, the right climate and a purpose.

Many managers currently work in a climate focused on self interest, driven to achieve short-term results in ever shorter timescales. So just training managers in coaching will not work. They have time and the right organ-isation climate as well as the skills.

Sports have specialist coaches. This idea is proving successful in call centres, and is worthy of wider application.

If we also recognise that sports coaching often comes from a range of places, we could look at developing roles of chief coach (manager), team coach (specialist) and player coach (team member). On-line coaching is even an option that works in sport and can transfer.

What gets measured gets done; learning must be greater than change for organisations to succeed-two truisms. So we must position learning as the top, measurable priority.

We can all identify the effect of coaches and mentors on our own development, we must be careful to ensure short-termism doesn't ruin this learning for others.

Coaching - Who wears the tracksuit in your organisation? The Wadenhoe Centre, July 1995
Presentation, Frank Dick, IPD National Conference 1997
Coaching has a place in the online world, Letter, People Management, October 1997
From Cuttings 25 December 1997


All we can do is bet on the people whom we pick, so my job is picking the right people - so says General Electric CEO Jack Welsh. (He personally interviews all candidates for the top 500 jobs at GE.)

The single most reliable predictor of overall excellence for all of the most admired companies in the US* is the ability to attract and hold on to talented employees.

Analysis of these companies' HR practices reveal the following seven basic themes:

1. Top managers take their mission statements seriously and expect everyone else to do likewise. No platitudes, vague statements and jargon-laden documents here-instead there are clear and specific lists, more akin to a set of detailed building plans than a rough sketch.
2. Success attracts the best people-and the best people sustain success. A blinding flash of the obvious, overlooked by many companies.
3. They know precisely what they are looking for. Assessment centres and competence based criteria go beyond the c.v. and interview to ensure the 'right' people are selected.
4. Career development is seen as an investment, not a chore. Intel spends 6% of its payroll on its in-house university and managers do formal teaching assignments as well as coach. SmithKline Beecham has a '2+2+2' rule for development to senior management-hands on experience in two businesses, two functions and two countries.
5. Promote from within. In general, top companies hire to develop not to fill a single job.
6. Reward performance. Stock ownership, options and bonuses for long term performance, shared by everyone.
7. Measure work force satisfaction. Top companies don't guess, they use frequent and innovative surveys and 360-degree e feedback to find out what their employees want and think.

Every company claims that its people are its greatest asset. The most admired companies show they really mean it.

* Fortune, October 1997
From Cuttings 25 December 1997


What is the key to making people work harder on what you want them to do? There is no easy answer, otherwise the discoverer of the key would be a multi-millionaire and we would all practice the principles. Some recent articles* do throw a little light on the subject, and at the same time add a little more confusion!

In a recent survey of US worker attitudes, 35% of workers identified money as the motivator to performance. 14% would respond to more interesting work, 13% to a supportive boss and 10% to better fringe benefits. Experience at Contin-ental Airlines seems to support this view—they started paying money bonuses for on-time performance, and have pulled themselves from dead last to among the leaders in 2 years.

Not everyone agrees with the money argument, especially HR professionals. They were surveyed by People Management magazine. That research found that the meaningfulness of the job and job involvement were the spur to greater work effort. The pattern of cause and effect identified in the research appears to support the view that softer management approaches, such as strong two-way communic-ation and developing responsibility, have a greater effect on the effort people put in more than conventional carrot-and-stick techniques such as performance related pay.

Research on the most effective salesforces suggests that incentive driven pay structures do not produce lasting results. Nigel Piercy of Cardiff Business School compared the skills, structures and policies of 140 organisations and found that the key difference for the most successful performers was that they all paid their sales staff high basic salaries and low incentive commissions. This way sales managers were better able to guide sales activity and priorities. High commissions seemed to breed high pressure sales and poor customer relationships, which in turn led to poorer long term results.

Which brings us to PRP: The professionals can’t agree about money as a motivator. The link between PRP and organisation performance is often tenuous. We forget that the fish determines the bait, not the fisherman. It is, therefore, not surprising to find that performance management often fails to perform.

* Spurring stuff, Robert McHenry People Management, July 1997
Surprise! Money Talks Loudest, Fortune, July 1997
New, improved salesforce, Management Today, December 1996
Missed a motivator?, Management Today, May 1997
From Cuttings 24 September 1997


A new study and report from Amin Rajan of CREATE* provides us with an in-depth understanding of leadership in the financial, professional and business service institutions of the City of London. Whilst the study concentrated on London, the organisations represented are global in their reach and their influence, so the findings have relevance for all organisations in all countries.

Institutions in London are experiencing more than their fair share of change, not just from global competition, re-structuring, outsourc-ing, computerisation, and rational-isation at an unprecedented rate, but also the effects of the debacles of Barings, Daiwa and Morgan Grenfell Asset Management demonstrating the need for rapid and radical changes in management style and control.

The report highlights a leadership issue that is common to most organisations: there is a strong ‘craft’ tradition of producers and specialists who form the core of the staff. At the same time, the newly evolving working methods rely overwhelmingly on effective inter-personal relationships. Executives questioned in the study reported the ‘ability to inspire trust and motivation’, ‘visioning’, and ‘ability, willingness and self-discipline to listen’ as the three key leadership skills - all ranking higher than business skills. The big question is ‘How do executives develop these skills when they are recruited primarily from the ranks of specialists?’

To develop these skills, four kinds of learning are needed: taught, mentored, experiential and distance. Most institutions focus almost entirely on taught learning for leadership development. The other routes need to be developed more, as only the ’what’ of leadership can be taught, the ‘how’ must be learned.

The use of these other forms of learning is limited in the institutions in the City of London. I suspect the same is true for most organisations world-wide, and the same end result will ensue unless there is change. Rajan suggests that unless the scale of use of these learning avenues grows substantially, an untenable leadership gap will emerge by 2000. “Their accelerated use runs with the grain of changes in the market place as well as in the workplace.”

* Leading People, Amin Rajan with Penny van Eupen, Centre for Research in Employment and Technology in Europe, 1996.
From Cuttings 24 September 1997


Following fast behind other books in the reengineering genre, this latest offering* has some key advice for people living in a right-sized, re-organised and proactive world — coupled with some sound tactics for dealing with the uncertainty and the survivor sickness that is prevalent in many of today’s organisations.
Yeomans challenges his readers to ask themselves: Are you happy in your job? Where do you see yourself in five years? In ten years? What would you do if you lost your job tomorrow? How long could you survive economically?

Any of these questions strike home? Then these skills are for you.

What you need are seven types of skills: career, endurance, communic-ation, follower, leadership, team and customer.

1. design a career strategy to take charge of your career and your life; manage your career don’t plan it. Career planning has become an oxymoron.
2. manage stress and time to your advantage, and prepare for change.
3. harness the power of public speaking, good writing and attentive listening. More time is spent developing communications skills than any other, yet we still don’t do it well.
4. build a better relationship with your boss. Bosses now share power, so take 51 per cent of the responsibility.
5. generate high performance from your staff by becoming a better leader
6. organise and work more effectively within teams and give your team a leading edge
7. develop a more collaborative style with your customers, tackling problems head on and look for win-win outcomes.

And a final strategy — look out for the signs of imminent change.

* 7 Survival Skills for a Reengineered World, William N. Yeomans, Penguin Books USA
From Cuttings 23 June 1997


Timing is the Key to Effective Training
The sooner someone receives training in a new skill, the better — this is the key result of a three year research study into training effectiveness carried out in the USA and Australia that puts paid to the thinking that experience is the best teacher.

In a typical research test, a group of over 100 people were given a series of computer simulated air traffic control tasks to perform. One third of the group received no training at all; a further third received training at the start; and the final third received training half way through the test series. The training consisted of an expert instruction and demonstration of the rules and strategies for success.

The results were clear — the partic-ipants who received early training performed best. The researchers attribute that success to one primary factor: self confidence relating to the skill. Having witnessed someone else successfully completing the task and using the new skill — in this case the trainer — they are better prepared to clear the hurdles themselves. They see failure as a temporary state because they have seen and experienced success.

Learning purely by trial and error, on the other hand, has a different effect. People who had no training were more likely to blame themselves when something went wrong in their test activity, and upon failing to succeed they saw themselves as fundamentally incapable of mastering the new task.

The group who received training half way through the series of tasks tended to be half-hearted in their approach to the training and shrug off any attempts at encouragement from their trainers.

Early failure often makes people close themselves off to learning a new skill — for ever. Because learning a new skill invariably means making errors and experiencing failure, early support and training is critical. The self-confidence built from the belief in the possibility of success builds psychological and emotional resources that carry people through the difficulties.

This focus on getting a mental picture of success seems to have a great deal in common with the comments in the last edition of Cuttings† about the use of positive reinforcement rather than traditional discipline — research seems to be finally exploding many of the traditional beliefs of ‘learning from your mistakes’ and ‘KITA’.

* Effective Training, Harvard Business Review May-June 1997
† Accentuate the Positive..., Cuttings 22, March 1997
From Cuttings 23 June 1997
Further hard evidence of the financial penalties of poor service comes from the Henley Centre for Forecasting—individuals will reduce their normal spend with a supplier by half over a five year period if customer service is found wanting. Anyone wanting to retain turnover and profit should therefore measure cust-omer satisfaction—virgin territory for the UK at least where 80 per cent of customers apparently think that companies do not value them*.

Learning from some leading firms in customer focus, just sending out a survey is not enough. 3M admit that few customers like surveys, so they now send out their own employees to talk to 40 to 50 key individuals in their customer companies around the world, for one-and-a-half hours each. That way they get told more and can really understand what their customer wants. They are also getting harder on the measures at 3M. They are looking to identify customers who are ‘comp-letely satisfied’; would ‘definitely recommend’; and would ‘definitely repurchase’ — and have a target of 50% in this top category.

Mass customisation is a customer focused strategy that some companies are also adopting to deliver outstand-ing service. The idea is to produce a product or service that is tailored to meet the customer’s precise needs, at a low cost comparable to a standard, mass produced product. Sometimes, companies find that customising is less costly than the standard service, as Hertz discovered with its Gold service† and Hewlett-Packard found by postponing the final assembly of its printers and PCs to the point of distribution from its world-wide distribution centres ˚.

* Are they being served, Management Today, February 1997
† The Four faces of Mass Customization, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb. 1997
˚ Mass Customization at Hewlett-Packard, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb. 1997
From Cuttings 22 March 1997


People Management magazine in November last year ran a ‘How to’ article on the Disciplinary Interview*. In it Alan Fowler points out that the first of many common mistakes in the process is a failure to follow the company’s formal procedure. What follows is an excellent check-list and set of principles that ensure that the disciplinary interview is carried out in a fair, calm and systematic way that minimises the potential for litigation or further serious damage to either party. They are a set of principles that are well known and well practised in most organisations that have an established formal procedure and carry out regular training of managers in interviewing and handling these situations. Most organisations will have a disciplinary policy and procedure.

It is therefore somewhat surprising that discipline doesn’t seem to be effective in correcting behaviour. In recent research only 25 per cent of those interviewed had any chance of success in being rehabilitated by the process†. This suggests that there are some fundamental flaws in the whole idea of discipline, and it is not just about avoiding damaging litigation.

In the research more than half those interviewed felt that the rule breached was only there for management’s benefit, and the action was prompted by the personal motives of their supervisor. After being disciplined, 45 per cent thought that they would break the rules again. 30 per cent grudgingly agreed to conform and only 25 per cent were committed to changing their behaviour.

The author of the research, Dr. Derek Rollinson, points out that if managers want their staff to behave differently, they have a better chance of success if they just encourage good behaviour rather than penalising transgressions.

This supports what a number of HR professionals and writers have been saying for some time. It also supports the research done in a number of other fields, especially sports coaching, that positive affirmation is more successful than focusing on the faults. Stories abound of research carried out in soccer, golf, bowling and other sports where there is a greater improvement in performance if coaches build on what people are doing right rather than correcting what they are doing wrong.

A number of my network colleagues and I have been reminded of this in the past couple of years as we have learned to practice and use Appreciative Inquiry with our clients and ourselves to focus organisations and people on creating a future strategy that builds on success rather than problem solving. Accentuating the positive might bring the decline and fall of the formal disciplinary process. In any case, if discipline doesn’t work anyway, what have you got to lose by trying something positive for a change? What’s the best that can happen?

* How to conduct a disciplinary interview, People Management November 1996
† The Disciplinary Experience and its Effects on Subsequent Behaviour, paper to the British Psychological Society by Dr. Derek Rollinson, University of Huddersfield
From Cuttings 22 March 1997


Consultants and writers have been predicting massive changes in the way we work for some years — recent studies and reports seem to suggest that the changes are starting to take effect*. In which case employers and employees, education and training, professional institutions and labour organisations need to take on the challenge and make some changes to the way they plan and operate their roles in the employment market.

For all of the talk of the ‘end of the career’, organisations are still planning the career paths of their brightest and best with extra emphasis being placed on succession planning for their key management roles. Outside of these key personnel, and those who are in a strong position to negotiate due to their scarcity or high skill level, the rhetoric of career development is largely not believed by the workforce. The level of support and development being offered to the broader workforce in career management appears to be almost directly proportional to the level of certainty in the business sector. Where there is a high level of uncertainty, most of the workforce are offered a job and little else.

Little help is therefore being given to the most needy. It is hardly surprising therefore to find that “the rhetoric of career development is by and large not believed by the workforce.” (Wendy Hirsh, co-writer, Strategies for Career Development.) What is needed is a much clearer statement about the assumptions of companies about their future employment and career development intentions, and practical plans that are consistent with these intentions that go beyond the usual “motherhood and apple pie.”

And there is little doubt that all of the workforce needs support to cope with the change. In the UK an Institute of Management study finds that part-time employees are to be found throughout the corporate structure and in seventy four per cent of organisations. And the numbers are predicted to increase. The same report highlights the need for increased flexibility and access to specialist skills as driving forces for the use of part-timers.

People are also changing with the times. Those in management and professional roles, especially those who have taken stock of their current environment and priorities have started to scale back and take control of their own lives and careers, spawning the new term “downshifting.” These are not the drop-outs or has-beens, there are serious people in seriously important professions and jobs.

Under pressure from the changing business environment, the changing employment environment, and now from the changing priorities of their top people, organisations will need to quickly come to terms with a new world of work. Jobs are being redefined, working relationships are changing, pay and benefits are individually contracted from a cafe menu, the employment contract is changing. The workforce needs help in managing these changes, and organisations need to reflect them in their human resource strategies. Now.

* Managing Careers in 2000 and Beyond, Careers Research & Advisory Centre, Cambridge
Strategies for Career Development: Promise, Practice and Pretence, IES/National Institute for Careers, Education & Counselling
Flexibility and Fairness: Managers’ attitudes to part-time working, Institute of Management report, September 1996
Downshifters, Bulletpoint
All change in the modern workplace, The Scotsman, 19 July 1996
From Cuttings 21 December 1996


“Management is a curious phenomenon. It is generously paid, enormously influential, and significantly devoid of common sense.”

With these provocative words, Henry Mintzberg starts his article in the recent Harvard Business Review in which he tries to insult everyone in one way or another, and apologises to those he misses. His intention, as with his presentation to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switz-erland in 1995, is to shake us all out of the complacency that surrounds the practice of management today, which he believes is undermining many of our organisations.

“Organisations don’t have tops and bottoms.” Mintzberg points out that the only thing that a chief executive is at the top of is an organisation chart, which in itself is a meaningless document—he challenges us to cover up the name of the company and try to work out what it does from the organisation chart. Instead, he wants organisations to think of themselves as concentric circles: outer people connected to the real world, who develop and produce the products or services, but have a narrow view; central people who see widely all round the circle, but do not see clearly as they are disconnected from the operations; and informed managers in between who can see the outer edge and also talk to those in the centre. This last group are the people we know as middle managers—the ones who have almost gone in the last rounds of restructuring.

“It is time to delayer the delayerers.” Organisations remove layers from their operations and replace them with controls and layers at the tops of their hierarchies, thus adding financial controls and distancing them from the real value and richness of the business. “Delayering can be defined as the process by which people who barely know what’s going on get rid of those who do.”

“Lean is mean and doesn’t even improve long term profits.“ Mintzberg relates two stories to illustrate his point about the value of security: the woman in a mutual insurance company who was working hard to set up an electronic database, safe in the knowledge that although it would mean that her current job ceased, the company would find her another one; and the example of the bank managers in Canada who formed a group to work together to protect themselves when it was clear that they were being systematically fired just before they qualified for their pensions. Insecurity breeds sabotage. Lean is mean, and we should stop treating people this way.

“The trouble with most strategies are chief executives who believe themselves to be strategists.” “Great strategists are either creative (visionaries) or generous (bringing out strategy in others).” Mintzberg bemoans the shortage of both, seeing most chief executives pretending to strategise by producing glossy plans and engaging in chess games with blocks of organisations.
“Decentralisation centralises, empowerment disempowers, and measurement doesn’t measure up.” Decentralisation usually brings with it strict financial controls which concentrate power at the centre of the division. What empowerment really means is stopping the disempower-ment of people - removing unnecess-ary management controls from people who know what to do†. And measurement has distorted sensible behaviour by pushing people to meet numbers instead of customers.

“Great organisations, once created, don’t need great leaders.” Switzerland works without having any one person ‘in charge’—seven people rotate in an out of the head of state job on an annual basis. The queen bee does not make the decisions in a beehive, they are made collectively by the workers, she provides the ‘hive spirit’. The cult of the great business leader, or turnaround expert is a drag on organisation effectiveness.

“Great organisations have souls; any word with de or a re in front of it is likely to destroy these souls.” Hype is the problem in management; the medium destroys the message. We are supposed to get ‘superinnovation’ on demand because it has been deemed necessary by a manager in a distant office who has read a book. “Why don’t we just stop reengineering and delayering and restructuring and decentralising and instead start thinking?”
“It is time to close down conventional MBA programmes.” This is a familiar theme for Mintzberg. The real builders of businesses, the ones who make a sustained difference, are not MBA graduates. You cannot create a manager looking at case studies and theory in a classroom.

“Organisations need continuous care, not interventionist cures.” Nursing is a better model than medicine. Managers, like surgeons, keep operating on their systems, radically altering them in the hope of fixing them, usually by cuttings things out. Instead of interventions, organisations need to be nurtured and looked after steadily and continuously - a more feminine approach.

“The trouble with today’s management is the trouble with this article: everything has to come in short, superficial doses.”

* “Muses on Management,” Henry Mintzberg Harvard Business Review, July-August 1996
† “Empowerment-Letting people do what you pay them for,” Geof Cox, Management Scotland, January 1995
From Cuttings 20 September 1996


Change management isn’t working as well as it should. Senior managers consistently misjudge the gap between their view of change and the perception of many employees, including middle managers, and the effort required to win acceptance of change. So reports a recent article by Paul Strebel in Harvard Business Review*, quoting from his forthcoming book on Change Management.

A recent report measures the success rate of change in Fortune 1,000 companies at well below 50%, with some leading practitioners quoting figures as low as 20%. Management looks for enthusiasm, acceptance and commitment from its employees, but frequently gets something less. Professor Strebel identifies the root problem to be that managers and employees view change differently. Top managers see change as an opportunity to strengthen the business.

Many employees view change as disruptive and intrusive and upsetting the balance.

Personal compacts between the employee and the organisation are the reciprocal obligations that define their relationship. For change to be successful, these personal compacts need to be revised. There are formal compacts - job descriptions, business plans, targets and objectives; psychological compacts - the implicit agreements about loyalty and rewards; and social compacts - the unwritten rules and expoused values of the company.

Philips Electronics failure to address these compacts led almost to its bankruptcy. Two excellent CEOs in the 1980s did everything they knew to redirect the company. They communicated vigourously, reorganised and set up task forces to address the issues of the pace and quality of product development, the slow time to market and high manufacturing costs. They understood the problems, articulated the plans and undertook the initiatives that we associate with change leadership, yet they failed. They failed because there was little alignment between senior manage’s statements and the practice and attitude of lower level managers and subordinates. The informal rules and relationships blocked the change. Only shock treatment and addressing the need to radically change the compacts stopped the collapse of Philips.

Other examples of the personal compacts working against and blocking change abound. Strebel insists that unless the revision of personal compacts is treated as integral to the change process, companies will not accomplish their goals.

* Why do employees resist change?, Paul Strebel, Harvard Business Review, May-June 1996
From Cuttings 19 June 1996


For your convenience, Scott Adams, has compiled and numbered the most popular management lies of all time. Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert the cartoon character who comments on business and management in over 1,000 newspapers. They are:
1 “Employees are our most valuable asset.”
2 “I have an open door policy.”
3 “You could earn more money under the new plan.”
4 “We’re reorganising to better serve our customers.”
5 “The future is bright.”
6 “We reward risktakers.”
7 “Training is a high priority.”
8 “We don’t shoot the messenger.”
9 “Performance will be rewarded.”
10 “ I haven’t heard any rumours.”
11 “We’ll review your performance in six months
12 “Our people are the best.”
13 “Your input is important to us.”

Dilbert recommends that we should apply the “What Is More Likely” test to differentiate between an straightforward lie and sheer stupidity. For instance, thinking of a specific situation will help to explain why companies treat “their most valuable asset” so badly:

Your boss’s desk chair breaks and there is no money in the furniture budget to replace it. What is more likely? Your boss would:
A Sit on the floor?
B Use a spare non-management chair from elsewhere in the office?
C Postpone filling a job vacancy to move budget money to furniture?

Applying this simple test indicates that as employees we are actually less valuable than office furniture.

Other wisdom comes from Dilbert’s readers, like the story of the company who purchased laptop computers for employees to use while travelling, but fearing that they might be stolen, they permanently attached them to the employee’s desk!

* The Dilbert Principle, Scott Adams, HarperCollins, 1996. Extract from Fortune May-1996
From Cuttings 19 June 1996


Two pieces of research by the Institute of Management in the UK have focused on the reality of some trends that have been forecast for a number of years. Flexible working is growing, and has become an essential element in the strategy of most of the top UK employers*. Almost 90 per cent of employers use part-time and tempor-ary workers (an increase of 15 and 8 per cent respectively on 1994) and 70 per cent contract out non-core operations. A quarter of employers have adopted teleworking and homeworking schemes.

Working 9 to 5 is a thing of the past and the changes will continue. Looking to the future, over half of the businesses surveyed estimate that one quarter of their workforces will be ‘non-core’ in four years’ time, and 80 per cent of employers predicting an increase in flexible working.

These trends have two attendant difficulties - managing and motivating flexible workforces and surviving the changes as an individual. To help combat the former problem, it is critical that restructuring is accom-panied by an effective communic-ations strategy to ensure the compatability and motivation of the core and complimentary workforce. As most restructuring takes place to reduce costs, the necessary finance may not be available, but unless the problem is addressed the benefits will not accrue. Previous Cuttings have highlighted the need for inplacement° and the problems of survivor sickness•—it seems these issues will be on the increase in the future.

Surviving the post-recession econ-omy is the subject of the second report†. In the past two years, 80 per cent of managers have experienced increased workloads and 50 per cent of managers have had changes to their career paths. Almost 60 per cent of managers are concerned about future career opportunities, and over 40 per cent did not feel in control of their career development.

The report identifies some imperatives for survival:

* CHANGE—Actively welcome change and seek opportunities for personal and career development
* CPD—Continuing Professional Devel-opment is a must to keep skills up to date
* STRESS—Learn to cope with and manager stress; it is not going to go away
* SELF-EMPLOYMENT—Do not dis-miss the potential of self-employment; it is a growing trend
* EMPLOYABILITY—Refocus your skills from the technical to the transferable: computer literacy, interpersonal communication, team working, languages, finance and strategy.
* TRAINING—In-company training is not enough; managers must become proactive
* TIME MANAGEMENT—Learn to prioritise and plan time inside and outside work
* FINANCIAL SECURITY—Review your personal protection portfolios continuously.

Elaborating on the latter point and to drive home the need to build independence and flexibility, an article in the Wall Street Journal∞ gives three exercises for removing the ‘golden handcuffs’ of your current job:

* Get paid at least once during the year for a skill or hobby outside work. (Find new ways of earning)
* Live way below (20-25%) your income for three months. (To find your real bottom line)
* Do a full-scale liquidation drill. (How much can you raise to finance your new start somewhere else)

These exercises will help you to over-come the fear of falling.

* Survey of Long Term Employment Strategies, Institute of Management, October 1995
† Survival of the Fittest Institute of Man-agement, November 1995
∞ On Top of the World—and Afraid to Fall, Wall Street Journal, January 1996
° Inplacement or Outplacement, Cuttings 9, September 1993
• Survivor Sickness, Cuttings 14, February 1995
From Cuttings 18 March 1996


In today’s rapidly changing world, survival is dependent on adaptability; adaptability is dependent on the capability to learn; and that capability is dependent on the motivation for continuous learning of everyone in an organisation in a supportive learning environment*. A series of articles in People Management in recent months have focused on the theory and practice of the Learning Organisation.

The simple formula L≥C (the rate of learning must be greater than or equal to the rate of change) is easy to explain and understand, but observation of organisations suggests that senior management still have difficulties in accepting its implications. For instance: how many databases of competitive and market intelligence exist in organisations, and are professionally maintained, without ever impacting on that organisation’s decisions? How many organisations are running training courses in methodologies that are rejected by management on return to the workplace? How many organisations have policy statements that value people but then have HR policies that restrict their development?

Many years ago Reg Revans identified that the rate of pace of change in all aspects of work was like living on the edge of a precipice. In such situations it is fatal to look down at what has gone before - we must look around us and up in order to survive. In other words, basing decisions and actions on historic data is flawed as that data is out of date. We must focus on the current and the future in order to develop. And that implies that we have a capability for continuous learning from our environment and make the appropriate changes.

Many organisations have tried to implement a strategic change in recent years through TQM, BPR, re-structuring, IT systems, etc.. Many of these have failed, often due to the lack of ability of the organisation to learn and adapt. The culture (the way we do things round here) must change as well for the organisation change to succeed. This requires a higher-level, or double-loop learning. Lower-level or single-loop learning involves obtaining information about markets, competitors, technology, etc. and utilising it, but without any significant change in the way the organisation sees the world, its internal processes, its culture or its overall competitive stance†. The latter action comes from higher-level or double-loop learning. This is the start of a learning organisation.

Examples from the ICL group of companies demonstrate how several concurrent applications are necessary to establish the learning organisation. Setting strategy regarding the measurement of learning; developing and demonstrating leadership characteristics; replacing HR processes to support flexible working and individual ownership; using the power of IT to share information and promote group learning∞.

The costs of failing to harness learning are duplication, repeated mistakes and lost revenue. It is the challenge for organisations today to eliminate these costs and to develop a learning culture for the benefit of all stakeholders.

* Learning as the Competitive Lifeblood of an Organisation, Elizabeth Lank & Andrew Mayo, The Executive, Spring 1995
† Spinning a brand new cultural web, Loizos Heracleous, People Manage-ment, November 1995
∞ Changing the soil spurs new growth, Elizabeth Lank & Andrew Mayo, People Management, November 1995
Feeding the minds to grow the business, John Burgoyne, People Management, September 1995
An old idea that has come of age, Bob Garratt, People Management, September 1995
From Cuttings 17 December 1995


John Kotter of Harvard Business School has studied the organisation change efforts of over 100 companies over the last ten years and has distilled the eight major errors that they have made. Learning from these errors gives the eight sequential steps to organisation change which will, Kotter asserts, ensure success. To err from the sequence or to devote less importance to one step will give a disproportionate negative effect. “Skipping steps creates only an illusion of speed, and never produces satisfying results.”

For those who wish to plan for successful change the steps are:
1 Establish a sense of urgency
Successful change efforts begin when there is a strong sense of dissatisfaction with the current state.

2 Form a powerful guiding coalition
Establish a critical mass in order for change to be sustained.

3 Create a vision
There needs to be a powerful vision of the future that can be easily communicated.

4 Communicate the vision
You need to devote considerable time and effort to communicating the vision - a memo posted on the notice board is not enough.

5 Empowering people to act on the vision
Pathways need to be cleared to allow people to take action - and that means removing policy, proceedure and people dinosaurs that do not support the direction.

6 Planning and creating short term wins
People need positive feedback to justify the effort, so action is needed to ensure short term success.

7 Consolidate improvements and set new targets
Celebrate wins but don’t declare victory.

8 Institutionalise new approaches
Change only sticks when it becomes the ‘way we do things round here’

Eight Steps to Organisational Change, John Kotter, Harvard Business Review, March/April 1995
From Cuttings 16 September 1995


Project managers are fast becoming the new “boss” in today’s de-layered, re-engineered and empowered organisation. For years they have filled a specialist role in major construction and engineering activities, but now the project manager is the linchpin in the flatter organisation where the day to day activity is overseen by automation and empowered workers, not by middle managers. But project managers are like alcoholics - only a quarter of them know that’s what they are. Project management is a feature of almost every management job (including those managing offices and people from a secretaries desk). Few have the title of Project Manager, but all have projects to manage.

The project manager gets change implemented in these new organisations. A project is a series of tasks that are linked together to achieve a goal. Projects have a beginning and an end. They take over when continuous improvement turns up a need to re-engineer on a larger scale than the immediate workgroup, or there is a need to install a new telephone or computer network. Project managers are nearly always caught in the middle of a matrix of cross functional work, with little direct resource or positional power to call on to get the job done. Getting someone to do something to help complete your project who works in another department and has no direct benefit from the outcome requires the ability to influence and negotiate, not the traditional management approach of command. Power in project management comes from different sources - expertise in using the tools of project management; a track record of success; and an ability to influence and communicate with all of the stakeholders involved.

The Leading Edge, Thomas Stewart, Fortune, July 1995
From Cuttings 16 September 1995


A fast and efficient way to achieve organisational redesign is outlined by Alan Wilgus in Quality Progress*, and by coincidence this was a methodology used by our colleague Bonnie Kasten at the Castle Colleagues Conference in Disneyland Paris in February.

Future Search Conferences differ from most organisation redesign approaches by involving large groups of stakeholders rather than using a few managers, consultants or a design team. Experience from traditional approaches shows that some of the best designs are never implemented due to lack of buy-in from the organisation’s members. Future Search gets the ‘whole system’ together in one room. Management, staff, unions, customers and suppliers work together on structured activities in a single act of creating their future. Consequently, when the designs and plans are finalised, there is buy-in from the organisation’s members (even if their own idea is not included, they have been part of the discussion and can commit to the outcomes).

The other fascinating aspect of the technique is speed. Future Search typically does in a few days what even small, focused design teams take months to design and years to implement. Wilgus shares the example of a major textile company of three, linked, two day conferences with 60 to 80 participants in each (Vision to identify a shared idea of the future; Technical to design the work environment; and Social to agree the style of working). The lapsed time from start to implementation of the re-designed organisation was 10 weeks.

This conference method of redesign offers many advantages over traditional methods. It will not always be the answer but it certainly pays off in terms of speed of design, ease of implementation and commitment to the changes.

* The Conference Method of Redesign, Quality Progress, May 1995
From Cuttings 15 June 1995


Managing diversity is fast becoming a strategic business issue. Unfortunately, most of its implementation in Europe uses the model of equal opportunities, and therefore misses the opportunity to maximise the potential of all employees, not just those in minority groups.

Diversity consists of visible and non-visible differences on factors such as sex, age, background, ability, personality, work style. By harnessing these differences, rather than by trying to minimise them in a ‘melting-pot’, organisations create a productive environment where everyone is valued, their talents utilised and organisation goals are met.* If we accept this definition and approach, it follows that the affirmative action and targets that are such a large part of anti-discriminatory practice have little place in diversity.

Differences can be strengths. Our own research has shown that a gender mix is important for organisations where customers are of mixed gender. For some time we have used the Castle Culture Passport which recognises more than 18 cultural differences that can be potential mine-fields or sources of strength and opportunity.†

It is easy to apply the diversity process to international relations. Nationality is just one other difference, like gender and age. One of the mine-fields here is language - as Willy Brandt said “If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen.”

For British companies, recent research∞ makes sobering reading - 74 per cent of telephone calls made in French, German or Italian to Britain’s top 100 exporting companies were abandoned at the switchboard. Of the remaining 26 calls, 19 could not be understood in the sales department. Non-British readers will not be surprised.

We may not be able to change language skills overnight, but we can try to understand and value all cultural differences and stop assuming the parent company/nation model applies everywhere. The awareness of cultural diversity is improving. The practice of diversity is just starting. Let’s hope that it is a trend that continues.

* Diversity: More than just an empty slogan, Personnel Management, November 1994
† The Castle Culture Passport, 1992
∞ ‘I insist that you speak English’, The European, Spring 1995
Differences can also be strengths, People Management, April 1995
World-wide vision in the workplace, People Management, May 1995
From Cuttings 15 June 1995


Most organisations have reduced their numbers of employees in recent years. Unfortunately, according to research done by David Noer*, whilst many companies do a good job helping those who have been laid off, few help those who remain. It is not always a callous belief that they should feel lucky to have a job, it is more a lack of understanding of the effects of downsizing on employees as a whole.

I argued in a previous Cuttings† for the outplacement style training and career planning to be provided to all employees, so ensuring that those working in an organisation can be self motivated and achieve their full potential. Noer’s research has some chilling statistics to support this view. He found that 70 per cent of survivors felt insecure and had reduced confidence in their ability to manage their careers; 72 per cent felt the organisation was not a better place to work after the downsizing. A further study of over a thousand companies showed the business effect of this uncertainty and fear—most did not reach the goals that the downsizing was designed to meet, and the stock price of restructured firms often lagged that of their competitors. Employees are quoted as saying: ‘I don’t go the extra step any more’, Why should I take a new position if I am exposed?’, ‘Keep your head down—that is what you see from executive to programmer’, ‘Why should I take a risk?’.

Noer suggests ways of combating survivor sickness: first be truthful and admit that both you and your employees are feeling bad. Then communicate, communicate, communicate—you cannot communicate too much or too often about the current and the future. Thirdly, begin to understand the reasons for the sickness and doing something about them.

A study from Cranfield’s Human Resource Research Centre on the financial services industry in the UK (which has endured some severe cutbacks in staff over recent years) found that increased awareness of the syndrome has not been matched by an response in organisations. Fewer than half (45 per cent) of organisations surveyed provided any structured help for their survivors. Even worse, the majority (62 per cent) carried out no evaluation of the change in their organisation. At best the companies provided a fire-fighting service.

More disturbing evidence comes from Professor Cary Cooper∞ at Manchester University. He identifies behaviours of survivors that are motivated by fear, working long hours simply to be seen at work. Organisations need to take stock of their actions and recognise that their increased productivity after re-organisations may be masking severe problems in the future.

* Healing the Wounds, David M. Noer, Jossey Bass
† Cuttings 9, July 1993
∞ Presentees: new slaves of the office who run on fear, Sunday Times, 16 October 1994
From Cuttings 14 March 1995


“Corporate America is having a love affair with teams” - so starts an article in Fortune∞. The same is true of corporate Europe. Teams work. Documented improvement examples abound - Boeing cutting their 777 engineering problems by half, IDS increasing productivity by 40% - but high performance teams are not as widespread as the organisations that sing their praises would have us believe. A recent survey of the Fortune 1000 shows 68% of companies use self managed or high performance teams - but only 10% of workers are actually in those teams.

What is the problem? It seems to centre around two issues: firstly, we underestimate the difficulties, both organisational and personal, in getting a high performance team motivated and empowered. Secondly, organisations launch teams in a vacuum with little or no training or support, often in areas where they are not really needed. Many tasks are better performed by individuals and get bogged down in team processes because someone thinks teams are a good idea in all situations.
I have often used the outdoors for team development training. Many tasks in the outdoors cannot be carried out without teamwork. One person cannot complete the task on her or his own, however brilliant they may be. Using the outdoors on a larger scale, Chris Bonnington has led expeditions to Everest. He emphasises the need for a clear objective and a good plan as the basis for teamwork†. He also recognises the need for a balance of temperaments—you don’t succeed with a team of prima donnas. Climbing Everest also mirrors a real problem for workplace teams—how do you balance the recognition between the team performance and the success of the one or two visible individuals in the team? In mountaineering, not everyone makes it to the top, but all participate in the success.

One organisation to have taken the teamwork activity to heart, and who are really trying to make it work is the Rover Group. Gains in product quality and staff morale have helped to accelerate the development and adoption of team working throughout Rover, and a radical change from the hierarchical structure seems to be permanent*.

∞ The Trouble with Teams, Fortune, September 1994
† The Heights of Teamwork, Personnel Management, October 1994
* Rover Managers Learn to Take a Back Seat, Personnel Management, October 1994
From Cuttings 13 December 1994


Are career ladders disappearing?
A major new report from the Institute of Management* looks at trends in management careers. Professor Kerr Inkson and Trudy Coe surveyed IM members in their research conducted over 13 years from 1980 to 1992. Their key findings:

• Managers are changing jobs more often
• Managers are moving sideways or downwards more often
• Managers are moving upward less often
• Managers are changing jobs for personal choice less often
• Managers are more often subject to job changes imposed by the employer
• The 1992 recession has had a marked increasing effect on job change

In 1980-82 (a previous recession) 66% of managers in the sample changed jobs for the purpose of career progression, promotion, or some other personally motivated, proactive reason. This percentage had fallen to 43% in 1992.

In contrast, reactive change—the imposition of a change by the employer through redundancy, transfer, dismissal, or re-structuring accounted for only 21% in 1980-82 but had risen to 41% in 1992. The most significant rise came from organisation restructuring, rising from 8% in 1980-82 to 25% in 1992.

Up is not the only way
The report concludes that whilst it is not possible to determine whether the effects identified stem directly from the recession or reflect longer term structural change, the message for managers is that their future career scenario will be markedly different from the “onward and upward” tradition. Managers will need increasingly to take ownership of their own career, and in particular of their own portfolio of skills. They will need above all to be prepared for change and to seize it as an opportunity rather than view it as a threat.

Beverly Kaye† has long argued that career development does not equal promotion. We use her development options in our own Life and Career Designing seminars:
UP - traditional promotion
ACROSS - sideways development, getting breadth of experience and different interests
IN - developing a more specialist position in the same function, going for depth of knowledge and expertise
DOWN - moving downwards in the organisation to take, perhaps, a less stressful position and use one’s expertise for other activities, such as mentoring
OUT - moving to another position outside the current organisation.

Each of these directions is a development option and a career path, though many of them (especially ACROSS and DOWN) have been tainted by the view that they meant side-tracking or demotion in a hierarchical culture. The IM report supports the view that we need to give managers the skills to make these wider choices of career development and we need to change the attitude of individuals and organisations.

Taking control
The IM report also recognises the need for managers to take ownership of their own careers. Many organisations have begun inviting more individual input into the corporate structures of succession planning and career development. Managers need the skills to make these decisions and build their own futures, while organisations need to be more flexible in their planning. If all of the work is done by individual managers, then they will become increasingly frustrated with the inflexibility of the organisation. If the organisation changes without encouraging individuals to develop their skills, then chaos ensues. So the effective approach is a well-organised and simultaneous development of the individual skills and the organisational structures.

A goal is a dream taken seriously
Our own Castle Consultants approach to Life and Career Designing∞, designed by Walt Hopkins, introduces practical steps that enable both individuals and organisations to increase the number of options and to choose the most appropriate option. We encourage organisations to develop a database of organisational resources and opportunities that can be matched with each individual’s database of skills and goals to determine the potential for both the individual and the organisation. Working together, both individuals and organisations make better use of skills, set clearer goals, and reach those goals more quickly.

Reactive moves, according to the IM survey, have doubled in this recession. Redundancy and reorganisation often lead a company to make its first contribution to the career development of its managers—outplacement. Outplacement is undoubtedly successful and it is a real benefit to those made redundant. But what about those who are left behind in the newly reorganised company in which they are supposed to do more work with fewer people? And what about the possibility of career development for everyone before reorganisation and redundancy. Would it not be better for companies (and for the economy) to have an ‘inplacement’ service that helps managers whilst they can still add value to the company?

* Are Career Ladders Disappearing? Kerr Inkson and Trudy Coe, Institute of Management, 1993
† Up Is Not The Only Way, Beverly Kaye, Prentice Hall, 1982
∞ A Goal is a Dream Taken Seriously, Walt Hopkins, Organisation Design & Development, 1986
From Cuttings 9 June 1993


The London Marathon recently showed the ‘marathon effect’. By the time the elite runners were finishing, the fun runners had only just started their race. These runners are usually the least prepared for the event and the most anxious, often taking part for the first time. They start very slowly and take lots of rests along the way. The elite runners are well prepared, run to their own pace, and when they cross the line they start planning their next event.

Leaders often forget the ‘marathon effect’ when they introduce change. Corporate leaders are like the elite runners—they have often completed their transitions before the rest of the organisation gets started. They have often experienced or led change before and know what to expect. They have trained hard and prepared themselves. They wonder why it is taking so long for the organisation to catch up with them. They forget that everyone does not run at the same pace, and that some will not have even started when they are looking for their next challenge.

From Cuttings 8 March 1993


The press is littered with stories of the current recession, many of which tell of redundancy and unemployment. Recent surveys* have investigated the background of redundant executives and found some striking results. Many of the executives picked for dismissal were imaginative, go-getting, highly motivated, likeable, forthright and intellectually bright. The sort of people that you would think would have been better to keep. Those who know Meredith Belbin’s work on Team Roles† might recognise the backgrounds described as Plants, Shapers and Resource Investigators. These were found to be the shorter lasting executives.

To answer ‘why?’ we need to consider the weaknesses of these roles as well as the strengths. Plants are original thinkers, but also likely to loose touch with reality and criticise others thinking; Shapers, the task leaders, are highly motivated, but often strike others as arrogant, abrasive and self centred; Resource Investigators have information on the outside world and new possibilities but easily get bored, demoralised and ineffective.

When it comes to finding new jobs Finishers and Evaluators, the team’s worriers and critics respectively, are slower than average. Given that most organisations do not have sufficient critical evaluation in their management process∞, this is worrying for future success. Quicker than average in finding new jobs are Plants and Resource Investigators. The loser on both fronts is the Shaper who is short lasting and slow to be placed.

Readers of past Cuttings will know of my interest and application of Belbin’s research to management teams and problem solving. These latest findings show a need for information and training in two areas. Firstly to help organisations make the best decisions on hiring and firing in order to give them the right balance for future success. Secondly to help individuals to be both more flexible to match their organisation’s need, and to reduce the weaknesses inherent in their role preference. For further information or to discuss specific applications of this work, please call us.

* Michael Dixon, Financial Times, March 13, 1992
† Meredith Belbin, Management Teams, Why They Succeed and Fail, Heinemann 1981
∞ Ready, Aim, Fire, Geof Cox, 1992
From Cuttings 6 September 1992
The traditional view of suppliers has been an adversarial one. Most of the training for corporate buyers in the past has been to assume that sellers had self-interest as first priority and were thus treated with distrust. My own experience as a buyer in a multinational was based on these traditions and a paranoia about the potential for bribery and conflict of interest.

Some organisations do not have the same blinkered viewpoint. They see suppliers as being a vital part of the formula for delivering a quality product or service and treat them accordingly. At one of our negotiation courses in 1987, the Managing Director of a Swedish company advised his major supplier to attend the next course. They tell us that their negotiations are faster and better as a result. A real partnership approach.

This philosophy is now getting through to many more organisations through quality improvement initiatives. Just-In-Time manufacturing methods will radically reduce inventory holdings, but also mean that there has to be trust in the supplier. The adversarial approach will not work any more.

Some companies find that the benefits of partnerships with partners go even further and provide a competitive advantage. Working with suppliers helps to define requirements and therefore supply a better, cheaper product. Xerox Corp. reduced their supply costs of plastic parts by reducing the design specification to the same levels as their Japanese competitors. Other savings accrue to the customer. Procter & Gamble has seen customers reduce people involved in purchasing and progress chasing by 50% and also get a 60% increase in error-free delivery and invoicing through their supply chain management.*

As organisations begin to enter partnerships with their suppliers and customers, new skills are needed to negotiate the best deal for both parties, and to continue to improve the relationship throughout the contract. This way is a real win:win approach. Castle Consultants have formats for training in influencing and negotiating that meet these needs, as our Swedish friends still testify.

* Management Today, October 1991 and March 1992
From Cuttings 5 June 1992


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