Mapping Strategy to the Leadership System

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A smedicalleadershipprogram2mall rural healthcare system sees a significant opportunity to improve its its strategy map. Expertly design their strategy map is a simple one-page document illustrating their strategy for growth. It is posted proudly in their various “visibility walls” that provide staff, patients, and visitors graphical displays of leadership, performance, and strategy. Structured in a classical Balanced Scorecard (BSC) methodology it identifies Aspiring Cultural of Greatness, as the central theme of leadership (learning and growth perspective). Where many organizations are content to leave it at that, this rural hospital took their BSC to the strategic horizons. They determined that a leadership system needed to be designed that would in fact – create a culture where all staff aspired to be great – individually and organizationally.

Nearly a year in the making, it follows the structure of classical systems theory. It has 1) a central focus (empowerment), 2) critical elements leaders control; 3) routines & activities for leaders to follow, a clear system for deploying the system; and 4) three mission critical performance objectives. They will be able to measure the performance of both their leadership system and individual leaders with non-financial measures of performance. They will actually be able to measure how well individual leaders are doing empowering their staff!

What is so impressive, is that this focuses individual leaders on executing the requirement of the leadership system rather than gaining followers. In this organization, there is little room for the dynamic charismatic leader following a model of personal power and control. The entire leadership system is mapped to a growth strategy that will execute on the mission and vision. Furthermore, it will deliver mission and vision with an approach consistent with their values.

 

Leadership: Its the System Stupid

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Oops! Road SignMay I please have your attention? Leadership is a system it is not a person!

Living in the shadow of Microsoft world HQ I have many friends who work with Microsoft. Without exception, everyone repeats the same thing: the culture is toxic. It is impossible to work collaboratively because the rules of engagement are such that one can only advance on the back of co-workers or by heroic effort which means 80-100 hour work weeks. Those who genuinely want to work for organizational mission, who want to produce outstanding products and services that are truly innovative (and have a life outside Microsoft) – cannot. I am even hearing reports, that experience with Microsoft, once a ticket to the C-Suite, is now considered a negative work experience. Employers are concerned they may inherent the toxic culture.
I recently read Kurt Eichenwald article titled Microsoft’s Lost Decade (Vanity Fair, July 24, 2012). In it he blames the toxic culture on the practice of stack ranking employees. For example, a manager with 10 employees has to rank each one in a performance order of 1-10. This means that two will get a great review, two will get ranked with deficient performance and six will get average reviews. Therefore, to consistently get a great review, one must make sure his team mates score poorly. His conclusion is that Microsoft could hire Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Larry Ellison and Jeff Bezos and one of them would rank as a disaster.
Therefore, Microsoft could hire the best leaders and creative thinkers on the planet but the system of leadership would prohibit them from leading effectively. Each may bring tremendous value to the company but only the one who can sabotage his colleagues would be considered successful. Conclusion: the leadership system will always trump the individual leader.
In 2013 Microsoft announced the practice of stack ranking was being abandoned. Let’s see how long it takes to change the underlying culture.

Three Leaders, One Leadership System

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Close up of men's rowing team

Leadership Systems: All Leaders Pulling Together

Three leaders. All well recognized for their expertise. All brilliant and hold post graduate degrees. All operate non-profits. Two are CEO’s of similar organizations with a similar mission and comparable size. One is growing rapidly. The other is growing but slowly. One has that unique ability to gather followers. Volunteers and funding flow easily but he struggles with long term strategy. He is concerned that growth and well-meaning activity is masking real and long-term transformation. The other is a brilliant strategist but struggles communicating new concepts and making them simple. Hence, funding and the necessary volunteers don’t come so easily. My observation is that both struggle putting the necessary systems in place to be as successful as they would like. Especially a leadership system. To them, leadership is an individual person.

The third leader is the CEO of a different type of non-profit. He operates in a world of dynamic change, high competition, high regulation and everything he says and does is open to public review. He understands that leadership is not about one person exerting power and control. He is building a formal leadership system. It is a work of art. His senior leadership team is operating – like a team. They are mission driven and their leadership system is designed to execute on that mission. Yes, he hires leaders for their technical expertise and experience but he also hires them to the requirements of the leadership system.
For long term organizational excellence, transformation and innovation my bet is on leader number three. His personal leadership is not about attracting followers but about executing organizational mission. He understands that this will take all leaders pulling on their individual oars in concert with the others. My prediction is that soon, they will be recognized nationally for their excellence.

Leadership Systems – Staying Connected to Staff and Customers

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A team orientationSummary

It is time we recognize that our current approach to leadership development is a waste. $50 Billion and research says there is nothing to show for it. It’s only value is perpetuating the fantasy of a tiny minority ruling over the majority. This has been the view since the beginning of time. We still kneel at the altar of gods and goddesses … and wonder why there is no measurable value in developing leaders. We believe that training emerging leaders as sages will make them better rulers when the more power they acquire the further they are from their greatest source of brilliance – their staff and their customers. Or to be blunt, the higher they rise the stupider they get.

In an article titled, Leadership – It’s a System, Not a Person! author Barbara Kellerman, the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School takes on the $50 Billion leadership development industry and states: From the beginning, learning about leadership was, for good and sound reasons, all about leaders: single individuals who could, despite being a tiny minority, control the overwhelming majority and on occasion, single-handedly change history. She goes on to say: the leadership literature – was focused for eons on gods and goddesses, sages and princes, philosopher kings and virgin queens. The basic model of leadership has not changed. It is time to change it.

Problem

People are frequently promoted because of their technical skills. Nurses move into senior positions because they are good nurses. Associate engineers become senior engineers because of technical experience. Eventually they become leaders when they need to manage people with technical skills different than their own. They can no longer rely on the prowess of their technical skills to manage and direct others. They are part of a system of leadership. The system serves as their platform. However, without platform design, individual leaders default to the traditional role of leaders = leaders tell followers what to do. All too often, the results are revenues at any cost, profit at any price, and production not matter what the risk.

Case: In September the U.S based – Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), sited a major automotive parts manufacturer and its staffing agency for repeated safety violations. The most notable of which was a robot that malfunctioned. A young woman, laboring to meet demands of leaders who required quota be maintained at any cost (usually at the expense of worker’s personal time and safety), stepped in to clear a sensor fault. It abruptly restarted, crushing her to death. She and her family had been planning a wedding. Now they were planning her funeral.

Solution

Two Lenses of Leadership

There are two lenses through which to view leadership. 1) The lens of the individual leader seeking to influence others; and 2) The lens of the organization which should be structured to deliver measurable value. All systems, including the leadership system, should be designed and aligned with the delivery of this value. But Barbara Kellerman points out that the 40 year old leadership industry “has not in any major, measurable way improved the human condition, which is precisely why it should be reconsidered and reconceived”. In our view, the solution is understanding leadership as a system which is the platform for leadership success. Without a designed leadership system or platform, individual leaders operate to their own sense of mission and organizational performance becomes highly variable.

The remainder of this article can be viewed in its entirety at:

http://www.managementexchange.com/hack/leadership-development-inflating-egos-and-destroying-value

 

Leadership Systems: Connecting Staff and Customers

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computer_networkIt is time we recognize that our current approach to leadership development is a waste. $50 Billion and research says there is nothing to show for it. It’s only value is perpetuating the fantasy of a tiny minority ruling over the majority. This has been the view since the beginning of time. We still kneel at the altar of gods and goddesses … and wonder why there is no measurable value in developing leaders. We believe that training emerging leaders as sages will make them better rulers when the more power they acquire the further they are from their greatest source of brilliance – their staff and their customers. Or to be blunt, the higher they rise the stupider they get.
In an article titled, Leadership – It’s a System, Not a Person! author Barbara Kellerman, the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School takes on the $50 Billion leadership development industry and states: From the beginning, learning about leadership was, for good and sound reasons, all about leaders: single individuals who could, despite being a tiny minority, control the overwhelming majority and on occasion, single-handedly change history. She goes on to say: the leadership literature – was focused for eons on gods and goddesses, sages and princes, philosopher kings and virgin queens. The basic model of leadership has not changed. It is time to change it.

Problem

People are frequently promoted because of their technical skills. Nurses move into senior positions because they are good nurses. Associate engineers become senior engineers because of technical experience. Eventually they become leaders when they need to manage people with technical skills different than their own. They can no longer rely on the prowess of their technical skills to manage and direct others. They are part of a system of leadership. The system serves as their platform. However, without platform design, individual leaders default to the traditional role of leaders = leaders tell followers what to do. All too often, the results are revenues at any cost, profit at any price, and production not matter what the risk.

Case: In September the U.S based – Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), sited a major automotive parts manufacturer and its staffing agency for repeated safety violations. The most notable of which was a robot that malfunctioned. A young woman, laboring to meet demands of leaders who required quota be maintained at any cost (usually at the expense of worker’s personal time and safety), stepped in to clear a sensor fault. It abruptly restarted, crushing her to death. She and her family had been planning a wedding. Now they were planning her funeral.

Solution

Two Lenses of Leadership
There are two lenses through which to view leadership. 1) The lens of the individual leader seeking to influence others; and 2) The lens of the organization which should be structured to deliver measurable value. All systems, including the leadership system, should be designed and aligned with the delivery of this value. But Barbara Kellerman points out is that the 40 year old leadership industry “has not in any major, measurable way improved the human condition, which is precisely why it should be reconsidered and reconceived”. In our view, the solution is understanding leadership as a system which is the platform for leadership success. Without a designed leadership system or platform, individual leaders operate to their own sense of mission and organizational performance becomes highly variable.
Case Study
Recently, a colleague and I were asked by a small regional hospital to assist them in developing a formal model of leadership. Our one stipulation was that it would be developed as a system rather than a program to train leaders. They were all for it.
Step One – Identify System Focus or Purpose
The first step was to determine the purpose or focus of the system. After much discussion, they realized that exceptional healthcare outcomes would only be realized if staff and patients enjoyed a sense of empowerment. Staff needed a sense of empowerment to fully utilize their passion and commitment to care for their patients. Patients needed empowerment to fully engage the healthcare system around personal health. Thus, the purpose and focus on their leadership system become – empowerment. In short, every individual leader operating within their leadership platform has a singular leadership focus – empowerment.
Step Two – System Requirements
This initial conversation then engaged a larger group of senior leaders and resulted in a well-defined set requirements structured around:
• Behaviors;
• Routines;
• Clear plan for training and deployment of the system; and
• A simple set of metrics to monitor system performance.

Creating a Path to Success

Like any system, be it the solar system, the lymphatic system, or a data system, leadership when seen through the organizational lens as a system becomes highly manageable and measurable. It becomes the platform engineered to execute the mission. It becomes a path to creating value for the patient. In short, every process must be measured against both its intended medical outcome as well as how it promotes empowerment. This platform or system gives the emerging leader a clear path to success because they are connected to both staff and the patient.

Practical Impact

Leaders Know How to Lead
The impact of a designed leadership system that could be graphed, modeled, and measured was almost immediate. The director of training will train emerging leaders to a specific set of system requirements. The HR director will hire leaders to a specific set of requirements. These include both technical skills as well as clearly identifiable leadership skills. The CEO and COO can monitor the performance of the system to two simple indicators – staff and patient safety. Both of these are easily measured.
When we finished, the Director of Nursing stated: “I have always been promoted because I was a good nurse. Then they put this title on me of ‘leader ’and I had no clue what I was supposed to do. Now I know”.

Challenges

This article was initially published by Management Innovation Exchange. The full text can be found at:

 http://www.managementexchange.com/hack/leadership-development-inflating-egos-and-destroying-value