First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Karl Ronn: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

RonnKarl Ronn is the managing director of Innovation Portfolio Partners. Based in Palo Alto, he helps Fortune 500 companies create new businesses or helps entrepreneurs start category creating new companies. He is a co-founder of VC-backed Butterfly Health that sells Butterfly body liners nationally. He is also developing a software company building diagnostic competency for physicians using virtual human simulations of top medical school cases.

Previously, he was vice president of Research and Development and general manager of New Business for Procter & Gamble, where he was one of the key innovators behind Febreze, Swiffer, and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. In addition to these brands he was responsible for the Global R&D for Pharmaceuticals and Over-the-Counter Health Care including Actonel, Vicks, Prilosec, and In-home Diagnostic Tests. He has also managed Beauty Care businesses and started Diaper and Maxipad businesses across Latin America.

He is on the advisory boards of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Toledo. He is a member of TED conference and has been a speaker at the Mayo Clinic, Consumer Medical Conference, AMA and other innovation forums. He is the co-author with Bob Johansen of The Reciprocity Advantage: A New Way to Partner for Innovation and Growth, published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of Karl. To read the complete interview, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing The Reciprocity Advantage, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Ronn: I have about 10 people who are my personal sounding board to help me. They are family, friends, business leaders, and academics. I use them to make sure I’m growing, to respond to ideas, and to challenge me. This helps me decide where to spend my time.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Ronn: I’ve had multiple turning points. While in college I was an intern on the executive floor and learned that senior management needed proposals to strengthen their ideas; they didn’t have all the answers. Then when studying finance part-time I realized that R&D risk could be managed by applying the tools used in finance leading me to develop the risk classifications discussed in Chapter 9. Lastly, by asking people who had known me for many years I was able to determine that my most valuable role was as an Angel, the person who plays a nurturing role between inventors and senior management, to nurture different in kind ideas through the “valley of death.” This role was part of what I did at P&G and is what I now do full time.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Ronn: My engineering degree taught me to be a problem solver and how to learn new fields of science rapidly. Later I studied finance to learn how companies really made decisions so I could build better rationales for funding new developments. While I was studying capital asset pricing models and modern portfolio theory I realized that nobody had created the equivalent of stocks and bonds for the different types of R&D investments. One would never compare a stock to a bond. Instead we balance a portfolio. Yet companies pick favorite projects and compare incremental projects to new business developments. To achieve consistent growth I needed to determine what an R&D portfolio’s structure needed to be. Chapter 9 of this book reflects the solution to that problem. The 3×3 matrix shows the distinct types of R&D investments and discusses how to balance them to achieve consistent topline growth.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you went to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Ronn: I was fortunate that my engineering internship happened to be on the executive floor of a power company, Toledo Edison. First hand experience taught me that Senior Management wanted me to help them create better answers. The worst case would be they would just say no, the best case was they would change their plans. I was also there when Three Mile Island happened (to another company). We had a sister plant of the same design. So, I was inside of a major breaking story and I could see “the fog of war” requiring agile decision making with incomplete information. So, when I started work at Procter & Gamble after college this gave me the courage to propose new approaches and shape projects even as a new hire.

Morris: From which books have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Ronn: I’ve been lucky to meet and work with many of the key thinkers on innovation. Their books are good, but the discussions have been more critical. Clayton Christensen, Dick Foster, Scott Anthony, Tim Brown, David and Tom Kelley, Roger Martin, Mark Fuller, Douglas Englebart, John Kotter, Ted Levitt, Nicholas Negroponte, Neil Gershenfeld, Rosalind Picard, Rita McGrath. If you choose to read their books, read their first book which will show their initial insights and their latest to see how that has changed.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Ronn: Be a servant leader. Empathy is the key skill. Listen for a problem and then help the person with the problem create a solution. We have a mythology of single people who made a difference. Each of us has a role to play. Be a key member of the team and lead when it is your time to lead and follow the rest of the time.

Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Ronn: I’m not this cynical. You don’t need to worry about people stealing ideas that are big because they are too hard to solve alone. In Silicon Valley new ideas are discussed in coffee shops without any privacy. If the people at the next table can solve the problem, you should partner with them. The problem is that most ideas are small. Those require protection because being first is their only advantage, and a short-term one.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

Karl cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Book link

Twitter links



For more information about future forecasts, please click here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter F. DiGiammarino: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

D13_041_019Peter DiGiammarino is a senior executive with 35 years of success leading businesses that target tight public and private markets around the world. In addition to running companies, he serves public, private, private-equity-owned, and venture-capital-backed software and services firms as an adviser and/or board member and has consistently helped them to achieve their full potential to perform and grow. As a leader who has served successful companies in the role of CEO, Peter knows how to develop and lead teams of high-powered, driven professionals. His emphasis is to create and implement plans that are true to the organization’s market, offerings, competence, and purpose.

Peter currently serves as Chairman of Compusearch and advises a dozen other organizations as CEO of IntelliVen. He is based in San Francisco, California. He is also adjunct professor in the Organization Development program at the University of San Francisco where the workbook he authored, Manage to Lead: Seven Truths to Help You Change the World, is used to teach a course he developed on Organization Analysis and Strategy. That book was published by IntelliVen (July 2013).

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Peter. To read the complete Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Manage to Lead (in Part 2), a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

DiGiammarino: My father. He and my mother raised six of us; I am the oldest of a generation on my father’s side. He was a high school teacher, football coach, and camp director who in mid-career got his PhD from Syracuse University in Education, became an assistant superintendent of a public school system, and taught at a teacher’s college. He guided us to be interested in new technology and tried constantly himself to use the latest and greatest to improve the work of teachers. His master’s thesis in 1954 was on the potential for the felt board to improve teaching. In the ‘60s he was the AV (Audio Visual) guy who brought home a projector and movies on reels for us to watch well before the days of VHS and DVRs, and in the ‘70s he led a team to design and implement a mini-computer based system to keep track of student data that is still ahead of its time.

He taught that a smart and motivated person could figure out how to do anything (work on a car, repair a washing machine, fix a computer) … and, further, that there is no point in figuring something out if you don’t also share it with others; starting with your siblings!

He had reservations about the big, bad business world so stayed in academia his entire career. We never seemed to have much money and I thought it must not be too hard to do well and vowed to one day have more than enough financially.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

DiGiammarino: Charles Rossotti has been my career-long mentor. He was one of a team of five that left the group known as McNamara’s Whiz Kids in the ‘60s to start American Management Systems (AMS) in 1970. I joined 7-years later in an annual wave of aggressive MBA recruiting. We grew AMS to a $1B and 10,000 people over 20 years. As our CEO, Charles modeled constant experimentation, learning, growth, and performance with intelligence, teamwork, and drive.

In the mid-80s the $30M/year unit I had grown from start-up was underperforming relative to plan. Charles called on me more frequently to review status and plans but didn’t take over; instead he showed interest, confidence, and patience and offered help and support. He knew we could get back on track…and we went on to generate nearly $200M/year within a next decade.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

DiGiammarino: After 20 years at AMS felt I knew too much; every day people came to me with problems that I knew how to solve. I wasn’t learning any more. I wanted something new and figured it was time to run an entire company, not just a large business unit. In 1996 I let myself be recruited to be president and COO of a $200M public software company.

I quickly found that I had a lot more to learn. While I had been successful at AMS, it was almost too easy in an environment that was familiar and insular. I knew I had figured out some useful and important things about growing past the start-up phase and crossing over to being a credible business but needed to test, hone, and further develop my ideas before I could credibly share them with others. It was at this point that I began a systematic process to immerse myself in different companies, in different markets, at different stages of evolution, scale, and business model in order to enrich and apply anew what I had learned first at AMS.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

DiGiammarino: I attended the University of Massachusetts for as an undergraduate because I was accepted only to UMass. I vowed that I would never let important things in life “happen to me” again. Instead, I would figure out what I wanted and then make it happen. On the last day of high school I decided to graduate in the top few percent at UMass and go to MIT for graduate school. Which is what I did.

At UMass I was accepted into a new interdisciplinary major for upper-class students who wanted to pursue an unconventional course of study. Even though the program was open only to juniors and seniors, I entered as a freshman because I only wanted to study computers and there was no other option for undergrads to take computer courses. I recruited as my advisor Dr. Wogrin, a 20-year veteran of teaching at Yale and Chair of the UMass Computer Science Department. He became interested in me and assisted me in developing a four-year plan to study math and economics (which is really applied math!) in order to prepare to someday study business (which is, after all, really applied economics!) rounded out with all the courses from the Masters Program in Computer Science.

For my senior project, which enabled me to graduate with honors, I designed, and led a team to implement, a system students could use online to find and register for courses that fulfilled specific requirements, such as being well-liked by other students, meeting a core requirement, and not held before 10:00 AM. In doing this I experienced first-hand the potential different disciplines have to create enormous value that did not previously exist when brought to together to bear on real-world problems.

From the interdisciplinary program I also learned to:

o Plan
o Be accountable to a plan
o Implement a governance structure; by having to review my progress against plan with my advisor twice a semester
o Master bureaucracy
Note: For example, I got the Computer Science Department and the interdisciplinary program to each pay half of the increase in costs relative to state school tuition to finance a semester of study at MIT in my junior year.
o Set high goals and then drive to achieve them no matter how lofty
o Follow through on commitments
o Work hard; because it generates worthy results and it is a waste of time and money not to
o Be comfortable being different
o Appreciate the value of outstanding counsel and advice
o Take full advantage of available resources

Conventional education tracks the best students to learn more and more about less and less as they go from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s and then on to a PhD in a subject area. The limit to this approach is that a student learns everything about nothing. Those that follow this path tend to be extraordinarily deep in their chosen specialty and remarkably inept on topics outside of it as they are intimidated by their own lack of knowledge relative to what they know in their field.

An interdisciplinary program prepares the best students:

o To learn a great deal in any field they want and so are not inclined to get good at only one subject but easily develop depths of competence in whatever they want or need to know.

o To be enriched by the insights, ideas and opportunities that unfold from the blending of competency depths, empowering them to synergize and innovate to create value far beyond what could previously have been imagined.

Upon graduation from UMass I went on to the MIT Sloan School of Management where I studied Information Systems, Strategy, and Organization Development (OD). I took all the OD classes I could because when I arrived I came across a study of alums 20-years out that said the number one course of study they wished they had had more of by far was OD! I had the opportunity to study with some of the second generation founders of the field including a course from Richard Beckhard and a class from Ed Schein.

* * *

To read the complete Part 1, please click here.

Peter cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites: web site that features a blog of tips and tools for getting organizations on track to fulfill their potential to perform and grow; subscribe to receive 2-3 short posts per month at no cost) (sample vision, mission, values) (HBR: strategy & change) (strategy & leading change) change) books for non-profits) assessment of national financial activity) (international site connecting MBAs and aspiring MBAs with key topics and each other) (for nonprofits) (graphic tools for strategy, change, et al) inquiry) (evaluation and measurement) (emotional intelligence) (cultural transformation/values) of life, development tools for people and organizations) and other resources for CEOs)

TWITTER accounts to consider following:


Formatted Version: Complete

Sunday, October 12, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Book on Organizing Change Features Three Key Principles

When Bill Lee and I wrote Organizing Change (San Francisco:  Pfeiffer-Jossey Bass, 2003), we did so from a large-scale perspective.  Our premise was that it is easier to consider change from a high-level such as a one that affects an entire organization, then, whittle it down to whatever level you want to use, such as a division, department, or unit.

While the magnitude of a change may differ by size, the principles do not.  As you read our book, you will find three major concerns that you want to be aware of for any change that you lead or initiate.  These are to be:

inclusive – go as deep as possible in the organizational charts of the areas affected by the change; get input from as many people as you can; it is difficult to argue against a change you helped create.  Remember what Covey said years ago – “without involvement there is not commitment.”  Make the change “our initiative” not “mine.”

systemic – consider how the change will affect all types of stakeholders; consider other departments or units in the organization, internal and external customers, consumers, and so forth.

systematic – organize the change phase by phase; decide who does what when;  get it right the first time, and you will not lose productivity while kicking off the change initiative.

When you lead change, you are in the driver’s seat, not the passenger’s seat.  You make decisions that craft and create important paths that various stakeholders take to solve a problem, correct a difficulty, or make something  that is “good” even better.  What is important, however, is to know that you never begin with the change initiative.  You always begin with the recognition of a problem, issue, or uncomfortable situation.  That principle will remind you of John Kotter’s first step in his change process, which is URGENCY.   In fact, he wrote an entire book about that step, which you can purchase a synopsis of from

It is amazing how many people I have taught this process to in professional workshops and courses over the last ten years.  I remember the first one for Citi so well, as if it were yesterday.  Right now, we have two weeks to go in the MBA course “Leading Change” at the University of Dallas College of Business, where I use this book and teach practical implementation of the process.  In this course, we don’t talk about change – we make change.

I know it works.  We would not have had this many interested people if the process were unsuccessful.  Fortunately, I hear back from so many individuals who implement the program in their organizations, that I am inspired to continue to share it with others.

At Creative Communication Network, we offer two paths for change.   We do this in workshops, consulting, and coaching for both paths.



if you want to:

Cope with change you didn’t create

Work in a change-friendly environment

Reduce personal anxiety about change

Produce an environment of freedom

Look for positive changes to implement



if you want to:

Reduce the impact of a problem

Design an organized change initiative

Gain commitment by influencing others involved in the change

Boost the positive impact of change on those affected by it

Measure and evaluate the effectiveness of the change


We’re really excited about these programs.  We will be going into companies as well as conducting public workshops.  Complete information, including agendas, outlines, objectives, pricing, and other details are available by calling (972) 980-0383 or sending an e-Mail to:

Don’t wait!  Join the fully satisfied individuals from many organizations who have benefited from these programs.

Here is how to get the book that we use in Leading Change.  It is now a print-on-demand book directly from the publisher.  After you get it, you can contact me for the templates that are featured within the book.  This is the link to use:
Organizing Change: An Inclusive, Systemic Approach to Maintain Productivity and Achieve Results (0787964433) cover image
Organizing Change: An Inclusive, Systemic Approach to Maintain Productivity and Achieve Results
Authors:  William W. Lee and Karl J. Krayer
ISBN: 978-0-7879-6443-6
272 pages
May 2003

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How We Select Books for Presentation and Publishing

Based upon my blog post on Friday, I have received quite a few questions and comments about how we select our books, and why I would select a book that I dislike so much.  These questions provide me the opportunity to share the context with you and explain “how we do what we do” concerning books we present at the First Friday Book Synopsis and on our site,

First, every book we select must either have appeared, or we believe has the great potential to appear, on a best-seller list  that we find credible.  There have been occasions where a book we have presented has not yet made it on a list, but we believe that it will do so in the very near future.  A good example of that is the recent best-seller by John Kotter, which Randy presented as soon as it appeared in print.  We do not present self-published books, nor books from our friends who write a book and ask us to do that.  In most cases, we ask them if they are interested in presenting a “bonus program,” where they can sell and present their own book, beginning at 8:30 a.m.  Very few of these have been successful, and we do not have very many of them any longer.

Second, we owe allegiance to no author or publishing company.  With rare exceptions when Bob Morris, who reviewed books for, gave us a copy he was finished with, we purchase every book ourselves that we present at retail prices.  As you are aware, we also give those away at the end of the First Friday Book Synopsis.  We have never presented a book based upon a phone call from an author or publishing company.  Never.

Third, we do not select books based upon whether we agree with them or not. Our policy is that the presentations are not book reviews or editorials. Our purpose is to transfer the information from the book to the audience, and we urge participants that if they disagree, devalue, or feel offended about what the hear, not to “kill the messenger,” as we did not write these books. Through the First Friday Book Synopsis, we do not want to endorse books or book content. I will admit that occasionally our enthusiasm has suggested that a book was “terrific” and “worth a careful read.”  On Friday, July 11, I  turned off the recorder is off, and chose to tell the world what I thought about my book, and later, repeated that in a blog.  It was awful, and I thought you ought to know.

Fourth, we have made a policy not to present or publish personal finance books.  However, we have included higher-level financial books that have to do with content such as the general economy or dealings with foreign countries that goes beyond building individual wealth, investing in stocks, and so forth.

Fifth, over the last year, we have moved toward handouts that go beyond “presentation outlines.”  They contain much more than we can present in 15 minutes, and include content that participants need to study on their own time.  This is actually based upon input from our audience members.  Our pledge is to always tell you where to look on the handout (e.g., “top of page 5″) even though we cannot cover all of it.

Finally, the First Friday Book Synopsis is a “labor for love.”  We do not make any money on this event.  Every month that makes a small profit is followed by a month that takes a small loss.  Our money comes from participants who bring us in to their organizations to present programs based upon our expertise.  We are appreciative of those of you who have made room for us, either in your own company, or under your umbrella as a consultant.

I hope this explanation has been satisfying to you.

I hope these comments are helpful, and above all, thank you for all your support in 17 years for the First Friday Book Synopsis, the 10 years of, and the 7 years of our blog.

Saturday, July 12, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , | Leave a comment

Terry R. Bacon: An interview by Bob Morris

Terry R. Bacon

Terry R. Bacon is a Scholar in Residence in the Korn/Ferry Institute.  Previously, he was founder and CEO of Lore International Institute.  He has a B.S. in engineering from West Point and a PhD in literary studies from The American University.  He has also studied business and leadership at Goddard College, Roosevelt University, University of Chicago, Wharton, Stanford, and Harvard.  He is a prolific author and speaker, having written more than one hundred articles, white papers, and books, including Selling to Major Accounts, Winning Behavior, The Behavioral Advantage, Adaptive Coaching, Powerful Proposals, What People Want, and most recently,  The Elements of Power:  Lessons on Leadership and Influence (AMACOM, January 2011). Bacon’s next book Elements of Influence, will be published in July 2011.

He is chairman of the Fort Lewis College Foundation board and president of Music in the Mountains, a summer classical music festival in Durango, Colorado. During the last four years, Leadership Excellence has named him one of the top 100 thinkers on leadership in the world. You can learn more about him and his ideas and works at,, or

Morris: Before discussing your brilliant book, The Elements of Power, a few general questions. First, other than a family member, who has had the most influence on your personal development?

Bacon: A variety of teachers and mentors through the years.  I couldn’t site one particular person.  It’s more like a loose community of caring people.  However, I found reading about the lives of Sir Thomas More and physicist Richard Feynman to be particularly inspirational for me.

Morris: On your professional development?

Bacon: Probably every author of every good book on leadership and business I’ve ever read, including Michael Useem, Dan Goleman, David Maister, Peter Drucker, John Kotter, Warren Bennis, Garry Wills, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, Michael Porter, James MacGregor Burns, and a host of others.  I’m a voracious reader, and the key thoughts of those books stick with me.

Morris: To what extent did your education, training, and experience at the United States Military Academy prepare you for what awaited you, following active duty?

Bacon: The military academy had a profound effect on me.  It taught me leadership, decision making, strategic thinking, responsibility, adaptability, integrity, and an engineer’s mindset, all of which helped me develop as a man and prepared me for the leadership roles I’ve played since active duty.

Morris: In your opinion, are business opportunities today better, worse, or about the same as they were (let’s say) ten years ago? Please explain.

Bacon: I think the opportunities today are the same as they were ten years, a hundred years ago, and a thousand years ago.  Opportunity is what you create when you have the gumption to make something out of nothing, when you see possibilities others don’t, and when you are brazen enough to break with tradition and courageous enough to see it through.  That existed long ago and it exists in abundance today.

Morris: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you began your business career years ago?

Bacon: I wish I’d known earlier in my career how to assess talent and select the best people for every job.  And I wish I knew how to make the tough people decisions sooner.  Businesses thrive when you have the right people in place and decay when you retain the wrong people.  But making the tough calls is difficult for most younger managers/leaders, especially if you are a “people person.”

Morris: What is the primary mission of the Korn/Ferry Institute? How specifically does it fulfill that mission?

Bacon: The Institute’s mission is to develop and implement world-class intellectual property to improve our clients’ acquisition, development, and retention of top talent.

Morris: Most people I know claim that the most valuable lessons they learned were from personal experience; more specifically, from failure rather than from success. Is that also true of you? Please explain.

Bacon: Yes, I think you learn more from failures—if you actively seek to understand why they happened, avoid focusing on blame, and apply the lessons immediately.  I’ve always told people that it’s okay to make mistakes.  If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t pushing yourself.  But it’s not okay to make the same mistake twice.  Mistakes and failures are acceptable as long as you learn from them and apply the lessons immediately to improve the business.

*     *     *
To read the complete interview, please click here.

Terry Bacon cordially invites you to check out these websites:

To learn more about Music in the Mountains, please click here.

For more information about Fort Lewis College, please click here.

For more about the foundation, please lick here.

You can learn more about the Durango Arts Center by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coming Next, February 4, for the First Friday Book Synopsis – The Orange Revolution, and All the Devils are Here

Nearly 120 gathered this morning for the January, 2011 First Friday Book Synopsis.  Karl Krayer and I have been presenting these synopses/briefings on best-selling business books every month since April, 1998.  This morning, Karl presented Buy-in by John Kotter, and I presented Power by Jeffrey Pfeffer.  They were both practical, useful, important books.  (Note:  Karl’s handout had a terrific, valuable breakdown of the major objections, and solutions to meet these objections, for those seeking to get their ideas across).

You will be able to purchase our synopses, with audio + handout, in a couple of weeks on our companion web site,  (Many other book presentations are available on the site).

For next month, Friday, February 4, Karl will present a synopsis of The Orange Revolution: How One Great Team Can Transform an Entire Organization by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.  (Free Press.  2010).  You can read Bob Morris’ review of this book on our blog by clicking here.

I will present a synopsis of All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera.  (Portfolio Hardcover.  2010).  This book is currently #1 on the New York Times Hardcover Business Best-Sellers list, and is considered by many to be the top book regarding the financial crisis of 2008.   (Note:  one of the other top best sellers regarding this crisis is The Big Short by Michael Lewis.  You can also purchase my synopsis of this book at our companion web site,

The First Friday Book Synopsis provides a great breakfast, in a spectacular setting (the Park City Club), with great networking, and substantive, useful content – all in a fast-paced gathering.  If you will be in the DFW area on February 4, come join us.  Registration will be open soon – in a day, or two, just click the Register Now! sunburst on our home page.

Click image for larger view

Friday, January 7, 2011 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Which is It? Overmanaged and Underled — OR, Undermanaged and Overled? How about Undermanaged and Underled?

In Leading Change, John Kotter states that some organizations try to implement a change program which is then likely to be “overmanaged and underled.”  In The Leadership Pipeline:  How to Build the Leadership-Powered Company by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel, that theme is more broadly developed.  They write:

Because of the new business realities, including ever increasing and unpredictable complexity; AND, because businesses “dramatically reduced their investment in talent development, greatly reducing or even eliminating training programs, development assignments, and time for coaching,” the famine for leaders is acute.

1.              The need for leaders has grown exponentially.
2.              There are not enough leaders to meet the demand.
3.              There is not enough “talent” from which to develop enough leaders.
4.              The inevitable consequence is that many (most?) companies are at least partly underled, thus underperforming.

Other authors, almost too numerous to mention, echo such sentiments.  Now comes The Best Leadership Is Good Management:  Too many so-called leaders fancy themselves above the messy, but crucial, work of managing by Henry Mintzberg in the latest Business Week (published on-line on Aug. 6, 2009).  Mr. Mintzberg argues that the opposite is true.  He states:

Corporate America has had too much of fancy leadership disconnected from plain old management.
We’re overled and undermanaged. As someone who teaches, writes, and advises about management, I hear stories about this every day: about CEOs who don’t manage so much as deem—pronouncing performance targets, for instance, that are supposed to be met by whoever is doing the real managing.

So – which is it?  I suggest that it is both.  I think there has been a failure in management.  This is the point of such books as Execution and Six Disciplines Execution Revolution.  Execution is all about management processes, actually getting the job done, well, and on time.  But I think we also face a failure of leadership.  It is leadership failure that keeps companies from facing an uncertain future with a strategy to survive and thrive.  How many have said that General Motors should have seen the changing landscape far before it did?  Leadership is about seeing the big picture, setting the direction—and then making sure that the job gets done.

So – I agree that we’ve got to get a whole lot better at management.  But we’ve also got to get a whole lot better at leadership.

Robert Greenleaf nailed this years ago in Servant Leadership.  He described two kinds of leaders.  His terms were different:  Conceptualizers and Operators.  But the two roles are the same – an organization needs leaders to help them see the future (conceptualizers), and leaders who can make that future happen (operators).

So, here’s Randy weighing in on the debate.  I think Mr. Mintzberg is both right and wrong.  He is right – we are undermanaged.  But he is wrong – we are not overled.  Too many American organizations are, sadly, both undermanaged and underled.

Sunday, August 9, 2009 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments



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