1. The leadership re-imagination initiative global survey

    May 13, 2014 by ahmed

    The LEREPA is a survey instrument designed to measure qualities of a re-imaginative leader. The instrument can be applied at the micro level of the organization and at the macro level of an entire country or region and is designed to measure the leadership re-imagination quotient of leaders across the world.
    This survey now being conducted is a global one. The findings of this survey will enable the Caribbean Leadership Re-Imagination Initiative, and its research partners (Business Process Improvement Resource, Organizational Excellence Technical Committee, Global Benchmarking Network) to provide a global measure of re-imaginative leadership and contribute to the shaping of a discussion on what leadership in the future might or should look like.
    Leadership re-imagination explores a number of key leadership competences and commitments, including:

    • Alternatives-thinking
    • Constructive subversion
    • Mutual Accountability
    • Authenticity
    • Integrity

    The notion of Leadership Re-imagination is a proposition that there is an approach to leadership that departs from popular practice and conceptions. Leadership Re-Imagination is, in the first place, a discipline in alternatives-thinking. Alternatives-thinking is basically the belief there are smarter, more efficient, more inclusive, more effective, more people-oriented, and more customer-service driven ways of conducting business. Alternatives-thinking assumes there are good ways of getting things done but is characterized by an inclination to wonder aloud whether there might be a better way.
    To participate in this inaugural research, that will establish a baseline on the current state of leadership around the globe, please click on the following link http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5FBSSDV . The survey should take between 10 and 15 minutes to complete and the deadline for completion is June 30 10 July, 2014. Once the survey results have been analyzed, the findings will be shared on www.bpir.com . Respondents that have questions about the survey are invited to contact the author directly. Dr. Canute Thompson can be emailed at canutethompson1@gmail.com

  2. Mindful meetings

    May 5, 2014 by nick.halley

    Dr A. Pavlov and Dr J. Tobias have suggested that the way to handle work meetings is one where the members of the meeting have an ‘engaged areness’ or ‘mindfulness’ You can read their ten steps for encouraging a ‘mindful space’ below in the Management focus magazine of Cranfield University’s School of Management.

  3. Lean design – Learning from Apple

    February 26, 2014 by ahmed

    Lean is optimising a process to preserve value with less work. Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS).
    Lean aims to eliminate waste in the entire value stream, by creating processes that need less human effort, less space, and less time to make products and services at lower cost, therefore Lean simply means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.

    However, how does this relate to Steve Jobs and iPod in particular or all Apple’s iDevices in general?

    Steve Jobs used Lean in another way, instead of thinking of lean as a way of minimising waste in the production process he looked at how to eliminate waste in the way the customer interacts with the iPod.
    For example, the volume up button could have different functions such as selecting a menu choice or taking a photo. This approach enabled Apple to produce mobile phones with just five buttons.

    Apple’s (or perhaps Steve Jobs) innovation is by focusing on customers and how to offer them products without the un-necessary extras from design stage until displayed in an outlet.

    I have an instinctive aversion to hero worship. There is a fine line between valuing the lessons demonstrated by great leaders and slipping into a blind devotion that masks the inevitable flaws to be found in every human personality. Steve Jobs had more than his share of flaws and he possessed more than his share of genius. Reading Walter Isaacson’s recent and excellent biography of Jobs I am struck by the intuitive sense of lean, of flow, of simplicity, that he demanded from both the aesthetics and the technical workings of every product. You would be hard pressed to find an executive with a better sense of the interaction between the social and the technical.

    The Lean Mind

    When we think of lean our mind first goes to the workings of the Toyota factory. However, the principles of eliminating waste and achieving interruption free flow may be found at an even more profound level in the design of Apple’s breakthrough products and the intuition of Steve Jobs. Only nine percent of Americans today work in manufacturing and we might do well to turn our attention to the application of lean principles to less obvious endeavors such as product design and the use of technology.

    From the design of the first Mac to the design of the iPad, Steve obsessed on their design. He understood what we wanted before we wanted it and that was his genius. We didn’t know we wanted GUI’s, an iPod or iPad, and even less did we think we would be attracted to a product by the elegance and simplicity of its packaging. He imagined the customer experience before we had experienced it. This is intuition, a zen appreciation for the movement of the hand and eye and the imperative to eliminate distractions to allow the mind of the user to flow from the first thought to the engagement in the utility of the device.

    On the design of the iPad:

    “As usual Jobs pushed for the purest simplicity. That required determining what was the core essence of the device. The answer: the display screen. So the guiding principle was that everything they did had to defer to the screen. ‘How do we get out of the way so there aren’t a ton of features and buttons that distract from the display?’ Ive (head of design) asked. At every step Jobs pushed to remove and simplify.” (page 514)

    With the story of the development of each product it is easy to see why Jobs nearly drove those around him crazy. It was normal for him to walk around and look at the work of designers and engineers and immediately pronounce their work to be crap! And, a week later he would be gushing about the very same thing he labeled “crap” a week earlier. It was also normal that the work on the new product would be almost finalized, or finalized in the mind of others, and he would wake up in the middle of the night and realize why he was not comfortable with its design. The radius of the corners was wrong! Or, the ionized aluminum casing wasn’t exactly right. He would stop everything and have the entire team working on the product go back and fix things based on his simple feel for the design. Inevitably he would be proven right. And in every case it was a matter of the flow, the movement of the eye and mind from one interaction with the product to the next. It was about “lean” although he would not have felt the need to label it as such. It wasn’t the lean of the factory, but the lean of the customer experience.

    I doubt that any CEO in the history of business has been as intimately involved in the design of breakthrough products. His contribution was not that of a traditional executive at all. It was total intimacy with the customer experience that was his contribution.

    Costs vs. Value

    The way lean is implemented in many companies today it is viewed as primarily a cost reduction tool. Eliminating work-in-process, reducing the need for space, and increasing output per employee are all the natural results of lean and all result in positive impact to the bottom line. Rarely was reducing costs the primary motivation behind Steve Jobs’ decisions. The decision to open retail stores provides a telling example.

    Jobs obsessively wanted to control the entire flow of work from the design of chips to software, to the design of the case, the screen and the packing. This was the motivation for his decision to open Apple Stores. He and Ron Johnson spent many months designing the stores, developing prototypes and obsessing on every detail. From a traditional retailing perspective it made no sense. They didn’t have enough different products to fill a store. Most analysts thought it would be impossible to push enough product through the stores to justify the cost of the space. Gateway was failing miserably in their retail stores and Dell was selling direct to customers. But that is not how Jobs was thinking at all. He was thinking about the brand, the customer experience, the joy that the stores would create.

    Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle was a close friend and Steve repeatedly invited him over to walk through his prototype store.

    “On each visit Jobs prodded Ellison to figure out ways to streamline the process by eliminating some unnecessary step, such as handing over the credit card or printing a receipt. ‘If you look at the stores and the products, you will see Steve’s obsession with beauty and simplicity – this Bauhous aesthetic and wonderful minimalism, which goes all the way to the checkout process in the stores,’ said Ellison. ‘It means absolute minimum number of steps. Steve gave us the exact explicit recipe for how he wanted the checkout to work.” (page 386)

    That is lean thinking at its best.

    Most experts predicted failure. “Maybe it’s time Steve Jobs stopped thinking quite so differently,” Business week wrote in a story headlines “Sorry Steve, Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work.” The retail consultant David Goldstein declared, “I give them two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake.” Gateway’s stores were averaging 250 visitors per week.

    On May 19, 2001 the first Apple Store opened in Tyson’s Corner Mall, one of the most expensive retail properties in the country. By 2004 Apple stores were averaging 5,400 visitors per week! That year they had $1.2 billion in revenue, setting a record in the retail industry. In July 2011, a decade after the first store was opened, there were 326 Apple stores. The average annual revenue was $34 million, and the net sales in 2010 were $9.8 billion. They were not only profitable, but they boosted the brand and reinforced everything else that Apple did.

    The development of Apple stores and Apple products demonstrated an aspect of lean thinking that is not understood by most lean practitioners. It is not simply about cutting costs. It is about creating value in the customer experience by optimizing flow.

    The Lost Opportunity of Bureaucracy

    Many lean writers and practitioners have not been willing to step up to the plate and address the issues of organizational structure and systems. But, if you don’t you are not likely to be lean. The story of Sony’s lost opportunity and the development of the iPod proves the point.

    Sony had a music division and contracts with a large number of the most popular bands and artists. They were a dominant force in the music business. They had another division that had created the Walkman, a personal device to carry and play music. They had a computer division producing personal computers. They even had software to sell music online. And, at the time, they realized that Napster and other free music download websites were destroying the profitability of their business. It was out of control. Within the Sony brand they had every piece required to solve the problem. However, the three big and powerful divisions fought among themselves and could not collaborate to develop a solution.

    At Apple Computer there was a leader who understood disruptive technology. It wouldn’t be unfair to call Steve Jobs the Crown Prince of disruptive technologies. At that time Apple was merely a personal computer company. They produced no personal or portable devices. But, Jobs loved music. He understood that the personal computer could be the music hub. He personally led the charge to develop the iPod and there were no warring divisions within Apple. Jobs personally met with music royalty including Bob Dylan, Bono, the head of Universal, Sony and other music studios. He went to Japan and found the disc drive at Toshiba that could hold a thousand tunes. He developed an end-to-end solution that met the needs of the artists, the music studios, his own company, and most important, the customers who loved music! He practically lived with Jony Ive, the chief designer, whose aesthetic sense of elegant simplicity for not only the device, but even the packaging, created a unique brand image and advantage. The combination of iTunes software for your computer, the iTunesstore, and the iPod, met the needs of all key stakeholders. It was a victory of seamless integration. It eliminated waste in every component of the music delivery process. It could only have been achieved by an organization devoid of silos and a leader who understood the advantage of a seamless experience by the end user.

    In every instance of product development and marketing, Steve Jobs understood and demonstrated how eliminating waste from the flow of work and the flow of the customer experience results in the creation of value. Perhaps more than any other executive in our lifetime he understood the interdependence of the human and technical factors in product development and in their use. This is the lean that needs more of our attention.

    This article was from Larry Miller’s website “Management Meditations

  4. Learning from Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew

    January 23, 2014 by nick.halley


    By Professor Calestous Juma

    When history is said to repeat itself, it is never for good reasons. George Bernard Shaw captured this when he said: “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience

    The question of whether nations can learn from history nag policymakers around the world. Part of the problem is that history is handed down through a variety of interpretations that do not reflect reality. But contemporary history, if genuine presented, can offer policy makers with lessons they can learn from.

    This is the central message in the book, Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World, by Graham Allison and Robert Blackwill, with Ali Wyne. This is a contemporary account of Lee Kuan Yew’s thinking as told through a series of interviews.

    His central message is that history can repeat itself in a positive way if the world community pays attention to contemporary lessons. When Lee Kuan Yew took over as Prime Minister in 1959, Singapore’s annual per capital income was $400 and is now estimated at about $60,000.

    Singapore’s lessons for other developing countries have yet to be fully appreciated. This is partly because much of the discussion has tended to focus on rhetorical arguments about relationships between governance and economic growth.

    In fact, governance distinguished Singapore from its neighbors. As Lee Kuan Yew says: “They are not clean systems; we run clean systems. Their rule of law is wonky; we stick to it. We become reliable and credible to investors.”

    His key message on the driving force behind Singapore’s success is simple: “The quality of a nation’s manpower resources is the single most important factor determining national competitiveness. It is the people’s innovativeness, entrepreneurship, team work, and their work ethic that gives them that sharp keen edge in competitiveness.”

    He emphasizes the importance of knowledge in economic transformation but also rejects the classical separation between scholarship and entrepreneurship. “Those with good minds to be scholars should also be inventors, innovators, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs; they must bring new products and services to the market to enrich the lives of people everywhere.”

    This lesson from the evolution of Singapore’s educational system poses great challenges for most developing countries. They run outmoded educational systems that do not reflect the entrepreneurial demands of modern times.

    How to reform educational systems to keep pace with contemporary challenges is one the most important leadership lessons that developing countries can learn from Singapore. In stating that “demography, not democracy, will be the most critical factor for security in the 21st century,” Lee Kuan Yew emphasizes his belief in the supremacy of the quality of human capital.

    He connects this to three attributes that he considers vital for global competitiveness: entrepreneurship (seeking out opportunities and taking calculated risks); innovation (creating new products and processes that add value); and management (opening new markets and distribution channels).

    Probably the most enduring theme in Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership style and conviction is the role of learning. His vision of workers of the future reflects greater autonomy “to manage their own control systems, supervise themselves, and take upon themselves the responsibility to upgrade. They must be disciplined enough to think on their own and to seek to excel without someone breathing down their neck.”

    This lesson might appear to run counter to popular perceptions about Lee Kuan Yew’s own leadership style. But he expects the same kind of “creativity of the leadership, its willingness to learn from experience elsewhere, to implement good ideas quickly and decisively through an efficient public service.”

    In addition, he argues for a leadership style that can “convince the majority of people that tough reforms are worth taking, that decide a country’s development and progress.”

    One of the critical areas that require tough decisions include large infrastructure investments that lay the foundations for economic growth. Singapore built “world-class infrastructure…good communications by air, by sea, by cable, by satellite, and now over the Internet.”  But such long-term investments demand not only having long-term economic vision, but consistence and predictability in the rule of law.

    Lee Kuan Yew remains optimistic about the economic future of developing countries: “There is no reason why third world leaders cannot succeed…if they can maintain social order, educate their people, maintain peace with their neighbors, and gain the confidence of investors by upholding the rule of law.”

    To achieve success, these leaders must have Lee Kuan Yew’s determination, consistency, and persistence. They must set out to do something concrete and cannot just focus on the trappings of statesmanship. His advice is simple: “Anyone who thinks he is a statesman needs to see a psychiatrist.”

    For developing countries, history can repeat itself, but not necessarily in the caustically pessimistic way that Karl Marx describes when he said it repeats itself “first as tragedy, second as farce.” Lee Kuan Yew presents a more optimistic outlook. His insights are an important source of inspiration for present and future leaders.

  5. Lessons in quality and innovation

    January 12, 2014 by ahmed

    Suresh Lulla, the Founder & Managing Director of Qimpro Consultants Pvt Ltd and a board member of the Global Benchmarking Network was the guest in a Learning Infinite mentor chat.

    Below is an excerpt from the mentor chat Suresh shares his views, which came from more than 40 years experience as a management consultant, speaker and author.

    Q: Sir, what is the role of challenges in shaping one’s career?

    SL: They are the building blocks of experience. Challenges enable you to think strategically. Challenges take you to your vision.

    Q: What are the absolutely critical qualities one should have to deal with challenges successfully?

    SL: Understand customers, Understand customers and Understand customers. When faced with a challenge, ask what is the process? And who is the customer receiving the output of this process? There are only two things to remember in quality management: Customer and Process. Who defines quality? Customer! Who is the final inspector? Customer! Who pays your salary? Customer! To succeed, you have to be passionate about what you are pursuing.

    Q: I am required to define some KRA and goals for my team, my team does back office functions could you suggest some streams which can make work interesting for the team as well?

    SL: TAT of your value creation processes is a good place to start. TAT ensures the wasteful activities are in check. Proficient TAT also ensures customer satisfaction. To make it interesting, challenge the team to reduce the TAT by x%. The x% should have a stretch. It should bring fire in the belly.

    Q: Thanks for your advice, but the problem is that the TAT is already the best it can be e.g. same day delivery. However, what I want is to give some innovation / learning based KRA’s?

    SL: This problem can probably be addressed by understanding the difference between creativity and innovation. Creativity is the generation of an abundance of ideas. Innovation is the process of harvesting these ideas and converting them into something tangible that the customer wants. So to that extent, creativity is a right brain activity and innovation can be a left brain activity. So do you want to set your KRAs on the creativity aspect or the innovation aspect?

    Q: Sir, my organization has always entrusted me with unfamiliar tasks, and I have always taken these challenges and managed to deliver successfully. However, whenever I try and entrust similar responsibilities on my team members, they do not always manage to deliver successfully, what do I do wrong? And how can I encourage them to deliver to meet expectations?

    SL: Have you tried being a team member where one of your team members is the team leader? A Leader has to be a good follower.

    Q: Thanks this is very interesting! …Would you mind giving me an example?

    SL: Can you visualize Dr J J Irani, the then Managing Director of Tata Steel being a member of a team led by a Deputy General Manager and conducting himself as a member and not the senior most person in the team? Can you imagine Ratan Tata chairing a panel of judges meeting where the members of the panel are in total awe of him? How he changed their body language in a 2 hour meeting to one of relaxed creative thinking blended with humor. One has to realize this difference between autocratic and participative leadership. What succeeds is participative leadership.

    Q: Sir, can you recommend some illustrative reading material on participative leadership?

    SL: The concept of interdependence is very clearly explained by Stephen Covey in “The 7Habits of Highly Effective People”

    Q: Sir, if I decide to have my own start up in a few years what should be my personal goals and vision as of today, I being a recent pass out?

    SL: I would recommend that you first define your mission in life – the purpose of your existence. Then set a vision with a prescribed time horizon. Remember you need to revisit your vision each time there is a change in the external environment. On the other hand, your mission will remain a constant. “Vision of a visionary, mission of a missionary.

    Q: Over the years of working, being an vertical expert or being a jack of all trades will help you grow in an organization. How does manufacturing industries see if one does not have fancy management degree?

    SL: R V Ramachandran, the former Chairman of Cummims India was an Inter (Arts). I can’t recall a name. It was in the 1970 that ITC hunted for a Managing Director. They received 1000s of applications. Selected candidate was an Inter(arts). It’s your ability to connect with people that matters. The skill of empathetic listening is probably the least available in top management.

    Q: That is a really surprising one! While people at the top are required to not only increase the business interest but also uphold the stake holders interest (employees being one of them). What do you suggest/ how does one become a good empathetic listener.

    SL: Seek first to understand than to be understood. It is different from sympathetic listening where you agree even if you don’t understand, as for example, when you offer condolence to a friend for the loss of a dear one. With empathetic listening, I give you the dignity of listening/understanding even though I may not agree.

    Q: I come from software industry where deadlines are short and customer demands are huge. In this scenario what is the ideal mix of strategies that we should deploy and achieve deadlines as well as the demand of quality? Need your views on it.

    SL: Quality management is about making your processes better, faster and cheaper. Processes come in various avatars as for example, value creation processes, support processes and supplier processes. Practitioners indulge in managing the quality of value creation processes, more specifically the operational processes. Symptoms of problems surface in operational processes. Over 50% of the root causes lie before operations commence. The processes involved here are Voice of Customer (VoC), design and outsourcing. World class organizations focus on these 3 processes to be better, faster, cheaper and different.

    Q: Sir, if there is one Skill one must have to be an effective leader, what would it be?

    SL: Think of any leader you admire. I would bet 99% the person had extraordinary listening skills.

    Q: Sir, I am a Sales and Marketing professional and I handle a large team. The constant problems I face are lack of innovation in day to day operations in my team members. They stick to time and tested methods. How to make them think innovatively and help them develop their own problem solving skills before coming to me? Can u quote some examples?

    SL: Organizations look to the actions of their leaders. So you wish them to be innovative ask yourself “how innovative am I?”. Also, a culture of innovation is built when an environment of blame or ridicule is eliminated. People must be encouraged to ideate. Where there is an issue of ideation there are creativity tools that can be used in teams to generate right brain innovative ideas.

    Q: Hello sir, I am a Computer Science Engineering Graduate. I am looking for a job experience, but unable to find one. Can you suggest a few alternatives to find employment or improve employability?

    SL: While I may not be answering this question specifically, I was chatting with a young person from Purdue University (US). He brought to my attention that in the final year the curriculum included how to find the right job that you are passionate about. He also mentioned that one should attend every interview even if one does not want to join the company. Because each interview is a part of the learning process. He also mentioned the importance of how to write resume that reflects your passion and not your academic achievements. Selection usually happens when an employer senses your passion.

    Q: Sir, is problem solving a critical skill to have? Why problem solvers are always in demand and what makes them so?

    SL: Solving the right problem is a critical skill! The hard part is identifying the problem and subsequently defining it very objectively. Problem solvers are in demand because less than 20% of the executives have this skill and over 80% of work requires this skill.

    Q: How can one go about developing this key skill?

    SL: Few people know how to teach this skill. The legendary quality guru Dr. J. M. Juran demystified problem solving so that even top management could understand the power of it. It enabled them to define strategic problems effectively. Problems selected a team. Participation in the team was not voluntary. Results were assured.