Posts Tagged ‘science’

The leadership, a term borrowed from english, defines the capacity of an individual to carry out or lead other individuals or organizations with an aim of achieving certain goals

The leadership, a term borrowed from English, defines the capacity of an individual to carry out or lead other individuals or organizations with an aim of achieving certain goals. It will be said whereas a leader is somebody who is able to guide, to influence and inspire.

A leader is distinguished from a manager or a decision maker, which has capacities for the administration, without “to carry out” the group, the organization or the country at another stage of its development. A good manager can be a leader, but two qualities are not automatically dependent. Associated the political sphere a long time, the leadership is a quality sought in a great number of fields. Thus, one will also speak about leadership in that, business world of the culture or the science or in the field of the sport. One will distinguish also public leadership from private leadership, this last being directed towards the company. A politician is thus not necessarily a leader; conversely, many leaders are not politicians.

As much the coverages by the leadership evolved/moved, as much qualities which define it multiplied. If the leadership in the past were closely associated with the personality with the leader and particularly with its charisma, much of recent studies suggest a capacity learned, fruit of the experiment and dependent on specific contexts. Among competences (or qualities) which one finds in the leaders, one can quote: vision, strategy, persuasion, the communication, confidence and ethics.

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Seeing change as a problem

Seeing change as a problem

In a previous article, I examined why problem solving, which is our conventional approach to change, is instrumental in creating resistance and slowing or neutralising attempts to create change.

Briefly, the reasons are as follows:

1) The focus of problem solving is usually on the ‘gap’, and the present problem/s and rarely is enough emphasis placed upon creating shared clarity about the destination.

2) The emphasis on deficiencies tends to have a disempowering effect – ‘I can see that’s the problem but I’m not sure I can change’.

3) This in turn creates defensiveness – ‘Why should I change?’ because it becomes easier to knock down the change than to admit we can’t.

4) In turn, this defensiveness and reluctance, coupled with a human dislike of being confronted with our shortcomings, fractures the relationships and depletes the trust necessary for people to make changes.

A different starting point

Every person or organisation has inherent creativity, capability, imagination and success. If we begin from this perspective then a new approach to change is possible.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an approach to change that begins with the assumption that, for whatever the issue, there will always be examples for an individual or organisation of success. They may be fleeting or infrequent or incomplete but they will always exist.

Too often these successes are dismissed as being a distraction to the problem or too insignificant to matter. But, surely, it is worth finding out how these successes occurred – not because we want to revel in the knowledge that everything is OK but because if we really understood how these occurrences came about we might be much better equipped to create more of them.

The Appreciative Inquiry way

Appreciative Inquiry begins by asking exactly these questions. It also begins, critically, by asking them of the individuals who will ultimately be asked to change.

AI begins with establishing the change which is aspired. What does the individual or organisation want more of? This then becomes the focus of research, and questions are developed to look deeply into where such behaviour or outcomes already exist.

These questions are positively framed and individuals involved in the change are interviewed to explore the best examples of the chosen aspiration. The emphasis is on real stories and actual events as these are not only primary data but they tend also to be easier to collect and communicate.

The stories are then shared and discussed to establish what they all have in common. It is also useful to examine where they differ as this can uncover alternative and complementary strategies to success. The conclusions are then drawn together into a compelling and memorable vision of what success would look like and feel like.

The next stage is to create a set of statements for what will be necessary to create the desired future. These will be based in the vision but will be both provocative and practical and will provide guidance for action planning – both now and ongoing.

Using the vision and guidelines, action steps are created for who will do what and when – both immediately and into the future.

Why does it work?

Most people, when they hear this approach, say that it sounds very logical but struggle to see why it is so much more effective.

AI is based on a vast body of research into human behaviour in the fields of psychology, anthropology, sociology and other social sciences. It also shares its scientific underpinnings with other leading edge approaches to change like Neuro Linguistic Programming and Coaching. There are many reasons, therefore, why AI works but without going too deeply into the theory, some of the key ones are:

1) We get more of what we focus on. If we ask questions about our problems the issues will take up more of our attention and become more significant. If we inquire deeply and persistently into what we want we will find, inevitably, that we create the future that we are learning about.

2) Successful change needs to engage with what really matters to each individual. The interviews connect each individual with what really matters to them and thus help create a personally compelling reason to change.

3) Change is a social phenomenon. Relationships, support and co-operation are required for almost any change. AI fosters and grows these by creating energising, positive and transformative interactions between those involved.

4) Human beings move towards positive images of the future and the creation of a compelling, sensory rich picture of the destination is vital.

5) Change takes courage. People have more energy and confidence moving into the future (unknown) when they take forward parts of the present (known).

6) Change requires action. Positive practical steps, by as many people as possible, are essential to make progress and achieve results.

It’s a great theory, but does it actually work?

AI is proven in applications across the world. From major organisational change at NASA and British Airways to Imagine Chicago where over a million people have been engaged in the process. From coaching to creating self sufficiency in food in villages in the developing world AI has proven incredibly powerful. (See also the US Navy case study )

I believe that there are two particularly interesting things about AI. The first is that, in a world where some estimates say that 75% of all organisational change efforts fail, I have yet to come across a story about where AI has not worked.

The second is that AI is the only approach to change I know which is generative – which is to say that the scale of the change increases as you go further from the point of initiation in both space and time. Most change efforts work like a rock thrown into a pond – big ripples at first which gradually diminish to nothing. Because of the energy it creates in people AI goes on working long after and far away from where the change started – and that has to be worth having!

How could you use it?

AI can be applied from 1:1 coaching interactions to organisational change involving thousands of people. It can help individual change, the creation of powerful teams, in conflict resolution, cultural change, mergers, redundancies – any form of change in fact. It can transform workshop or training design for a short session of a few hours to much longer term projects.

As a student studying business and management, i heard many interesting tales of hewlett packard

As a student studying business and management, I heard many interesting tales of Hewlett Packard.  It’s no secret that the computer, printer, toner and ink manufacturers have some of the best managers and, as a company, are the envy of many a multinational organization for their empowering culture and people centred approach to innovation.

This is the story of Charles (Chuck) House, the head of corporate engineering at Hewlett Packard.  Chuck had always been an innovator and had always had a deep rooted commitment to his work.  This probably explains why, in the early eighties, Chuck decided to get to work on a large screen computer monitor.  Nothing strange about that I hear you say!  Well, the thing was that David Packard (co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard company) had ordered good ol’ Chuck to stop working on the screen and abandon the project.  History tells us that Chuck ignored the order from above and pressed ahead.

The original marketing research findings had estimated that the company would sell thirty of these high quality precision monitors and it looked like a waster of time.  Luckily, Chuck House didn’t agree.  Hewlett Packard sold more than 30,000 of the monitors and they have been used in many industries from manned space missions to open heart surgery.

In recognition of Chuck’s pig headed optimism and commitment to working for the company, even risking his own job security by closing his ears to his company orders, Chuck was awarded the Hewlett Packard in house medal for “extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the call of duty”.  Chuck is recognised by Hewlett Packard and the computer industry and being one the great leaders of modern management.  Dr Charles “Chuck” House has since worked as Science Policy and Societal Impact Director for Intel corporation and is currently the Executive Director of Media X, Sanford University’s technical advancement and innovation programme.


Garfield, C. 1986. Peak Performers: The new heroes in business. Great Britain. Hutchinson Business.

MediaX at Stanford University website. [online] Accessed 17th May 2009.

It is an all-too-familiar scenario

It is an all-too-familiar scenario. Corporation X misses badly on its commitments several quarters in a row and the stock plummets. As a result, the Board loses confidence, the CEO “resigns,” and a new CEO is appointed who immediately announces a sweeping restructure of the corporation.

In the past few years, papers have been inundated with such reports. Even at corporations where top-level executives show signs of “vision” and have articulated what seems to be a sound business strategy on paper, results fall short of expectations.

We have all been there at one point or another in our careers. The leadership team spends long hours agreeing on a 3- or 5-year strategy to improve the performance of the business. Management teams work equally hard to come up with supportive annual budgets. Both teams populate long PowerPoint presentations and well-built, exhaustive spreadsheet files. Yet not much happens in terms of actual deliverables! Ambitious year-end targets are missed. Improvement curves keep being shifted to the right, until the scenario at the beginning of this article is realized. Now the process for restructure of the corporation begins.

Questions immediately arise as to why these events occur so often and include:
• What has gone wrong and why?
• Are the goals too aggressive?
• Are the visions and/or strategies inadequate?
• Are middle managers unable to execute?
• If the answer is yes to all these questions, then why is it so?

All are good questions, and many have been extensively addressed with proposals on how to find corresponding solutions. Based on my experience, however, a key element that needs to be addressed is the importance of strategic alignment.

What is strategic alignment?

Strategic alignment can be described as the linkage between the goals of the business, which quantify the progress of the implementation of the strategy towards the vision, and the goals of each of the key contributors. Key contributors include groups, divisions, business units, departments, or individual employees who have an interest in the continuation of a successful corporation.

Strategic alignment, put simply, is “everyone rowing in the same direction.” The tighter the linkage and the better the alignment, the likelihood of flawless corporate execution becomes stronger.

Strategic alignment has several advantages once implemented properly and practiced. Benefits include:
1. Allowing an efficient use of usually scarce resources,
2. Resulting in increased speed of execution, as a corollary,
3. Promoting team efforts towards common goals, and
4. Escalating employees’ motivation, giving them a keener sense of contribution to the results of their individual groups and of the corporation as a whole.

These are good results that many corporations would benefit from, but very few corporations are able to realize them. Since many corporations and their leadership teams attempt to gain strategic alignment, the question becomes what barriers must be overcome.

How can strategic alignment be implemented effectively and what are the key success factors?

The first component of a successful strategic alignment is the extensive communication necessary within the organization to understand the elements of the vision and of the key strategic directions needed. Relentless repetition by the leadership and management teams at every opportunity, including sales meetings, company meetings, and operational business reviews allow each employee to understand vividly how he/she can contribute to the overall progress. More often than not, however, these vital communication opportunities are restricted to boring presentations of high-level tables filled with data that are difficult for employees to associate with their day-to-day jobs.

The second component of a successful strategic alignment is absolutely essential to link the results of each employee’s job to the progress of the entire corporation strategy and to do it clearly and simply. This is best accomplished by using simple measures of key performances (KBMs= key business metrics, or KPMs= key performance metrics), which can be connected to the employee’s annual performance review.

One excellent example of effective strategic alignment is practiced at Thermo Electron Corporation, a leader in the field of analytical instrumentation, headquartered in Waltham, MA. Thermo Electron uses a cascading set of goals that quantitatively measure the progress of the strategic implementation. This “waterfall effect” or “goal tree” starts at the very top of the corporation and cascades down to all levels of the organization – from Corporation to Divisions; from Divisions to Business Units; from Business Units to Departments, and from Departments to Employees.

When it reaches the employee, the objectives are incorporated into her/his annual performance targets and these objectives directly support the key goals from the highest levels of the organization. This ensures both focus and alignment as the employee daily delivers on their objectives. Objectives are rolled back up the “waterfall” or “goal tree” in periodic reviews of goals at all levels in the organization.

Implementing strategic alignment is not rocket science. It requires, however, strong commitment from the top leadership and focus on relentless communication at every opportunity using simple management principles of focus, clarity and reinforcement.

In the end, effective execution of strategic alignment is a leader’s top priority and ensures that goals are met and success achieved.

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