The New Work of Leaders


Our traditional view of leaders—as special people who set the direction, make key decisions, and energize the troops—is deeply rooted in an individualistic and nonsystematic worldview. Especially in the West, leaders are heroes—great men (and occasionally women) who rise to the fore in times of crisis. So long as such myths prevail, they reinforce a focus on short-term events and charismatic heroes rather than on systematic forces and collective learning.

Leadership in learning organizations centers on subtler and ultimately more important work. In a learning organization, leaders’ roles differ dramatically from that of the charismatic decision-maker. Leaders are designers, teachers, and stewards. These roles require new skills: the ability to build shared vision, to bring to the surface and challenge prevailing mental models, and to foster more systematic patterns of thinking. Leaders are responsible for building organizations where people are continually expanding their capabilities to shape their future—that is, leaders are responsible for learning.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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Change and Leadership


Change is nothing new to leaders or to their organizations. Around 500BC, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted that: “You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing on.” He was one of the first Western philosophers to address the idea that the universe is in a constant state of flux.

As we move further from the “stable state,” effective change leadership has become a challenging calling. Today in the language of business, organizations, academia, and consultancy, the word “change” has come to mean different things to different people. We need to define “change leadership” in a way that establishes a congruence between leadership and the benefits of the change being implemented; and articulate it properly. Change can refer to any of the following and more:

  • External changes in the market/industry, technology, customers, competitors, social, political and natural environment;
  • Internal changes that determine how the organization reacts and adapts to the external changes at great speed;
  • Top-down programs such as business process reengineering, restructuring, cultural change, for example, and
  • Business transformation programs which can be described as comprehensive organizational initiatives.

It can also be a combination of all the above.

Major change is those situations in which corporate performance requires most people throughout the organization to learn new behaviors and skills. These new skills must add up to a competitive advantage for the enterprise, allowing it to produce better and better performance in shorter and shorter time frames.

Change leadership can be defined as altering groups to the need for changes in the way things are done; mobilizing and energizing groups; and tapping fully into the potential and the capacity of the organization. It involves taking the responsibility to champion the change initiative and effort through building and maintaining commitment and support. The situation determines who emerges as the leader and what style of  leadership he or she has to adopt. The situation will also determine the core skills needed to lead in that particular situation. Therefore, one can no longer discuss leadership in general terms.

The leader and the style of leadership required in a stable organization will differ from that which is required in an organization under threat. This is because leadership styles and behaviors are likely to be critical in times of threats.

The qualities, characteristics, and skills required in a leader are determined to a large extent by the demands of the situation in which he or she is to function as a leader.

In any major change program, there are many leaders because there are many people at many levels in the hierarchy who play different critical roles during the change process, including the CEO. In modern complex organizations, the notion of an ill-seeing, all knowing leader is unrealistic. Instead, different individuals assume leadership in situations where they have a unique competence or accountability. All the non-CEO change leaders are every bit as essential to creating high-performing organizations as are the more visible and dynamic executive leaders. In essence, the change leader could be the CEO, a line leader, internal network, or a change community.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Job Analysis and the Changing World of Work


Globalization, quality initiatives, telecommunicating, and teams, for example, are requiring organizations to rethink the components of their jobs. When jobs are designed around individuals, job descriptions frequently clarify employee roles. Jobs today frequently go beyond the individual, however, requiring the activities and collaboration of a team.

To be effective, teams need to be flexible and continually making adjustments. Effective work teams require competent individuals. Team members must have the relevant technical skills and abilities to achieve the desired corporate goals and the personal characteristics required to achieve excellence while working well with others. . these same individuals must also be capable of readjusting their work skills—called job-morphing—to fit the needs of the team. Not everyone who is technically competent has the skills to work well as a team member. Accordingly, employment planning requires finding team members who possess both technical and interpersonal skills. As such, team members must have excellent communication skills. Team members must be able to convey messages among each other in a form that is readily and clearly understood. This includes nonverbal as well as spoken messages. Good communication is also characterized by a healthy dose of feedback from team members and management. This helps to guide team members and to correct misunderstandings. Team members must be able to quickly and efficiently share ideas and feelings.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Riding theWaves of Change


Knowing the rules for riding the waves in the ocean can teach us how to ride the waves of change whether they are rolling into New York, Paris, or Baghdad. The future is coming toward us like enormous waves of change. Set after set after set they are getting bigger and coming faster. The surf is up from California to Bangkok to Vienna to Karachi. But how do we respond is a matter of choice. We can stay on the beach or get into the water.

 The future belongs to those who decide to ride; to those who have the courage to paddle out where the big ones are breaking; to those who welcome the unexpected. Enable yourself to embrace the waves of change, seeing them as exciting and challenging rather than intimidating and threatening. Learn unconventional rules for breaking out of old modes and mind-sets so that we can take effective risks, constantly innovate and continually be on our edge. Follow simple yet effective unconventional wisdom will make your work and your life richer, more rewarding and fulfilling. You’ll find that riding the wave of change is the most exciting and exhilarating way to your life. Ride this wave.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

The Era of Fragmentation


Driven by a combination of capital-intensive new technologies, newly emerged mass markets, and global trade based on national competitive advantage, in industrial era production was organized around the idea of division of labor instead of craft specialization. The work formerly done by one artisan was broken down into its component parts, which in turn were mechanized where possible, and semi-skilled workers were hired to do part of the job or to tend the machines. New roles, those of supervisor, middle manager, and production planner, were created to provide the oversight and coordination that were formerly the responsibility of individual journeymen or masters. In brief, authority over the content of jobs was given to people who, themselves, were not actually doing this work. The newly created managerial authority took “from workers the right to define their own job, their own skill level, and their own standards of quality.”

The division of labor, originally intended to create a rapid growth economy based on a low-skill work force, did help assimilate nineteenth century agricultural workers into industry. But once there, it imprisoned them.

Division of labor is an addictive practice. Work breakdown—promoted by those whose authority and careers tend to benefit from it—tends to beget more work breakdown, taking the pressure off the employer or the educational system to continually upgrade employee skills. Once started, the practice tends to be self-reinforcing, producing a de-skilled work force.

By the mid-twentieth century, most corporate organizations were based on the concept of functional specialization. Work that was once whole had become fragmented. The focused skill of an individual was diffused into the skill of an entire factory. The common view was that mechanics check their brains at the gate when they come to work.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Key Organizational Processes


A process is a specific group of activities that is of value. Business process design involves the identification and sequencing of work activities, tasks, resources, decisions, and responsibilities across time and place, with a beginning and an end, along with clearly identified inputs and outputs. Processes must be able to be tracked as well, using cost, time, output quality, and satisfaction measurements. Businesses need to monitor, review, alter, and streamline processes continually in order to remain competitive. A process view of the organization differs from the traditional functional view.

Processes are not simply obscure, back-room operations of the service concern, but instead are an integral part of delivering the value proposition. We maintain that processes and service are inseparable; that is, the process is the service. An effective process is results driven, deriving its form from customer requirements—how and when customers want to do business with you. Market-oriented companies ensure that the service encounter is positive by asking, “How can we make our customers’ lives easier?”Managers must first take a “big picture” view of their company by looking at key processes in relationship to the marketing cycle.

Various market constituents such as customers, suppliers, and publics determine the how and the extent to which marketing cycle elements are performed. Customers in particular determine the competition and nature of the marketing cycle and the subsequent core processes that are required to support these selected marketing cycle functions. For example, the customer service process is performed as part of the service management function of the marketing cycle. Customer service activities would include, but are not limited to, such activities as tracking and trending customer complaints, recovery from customer service failures, and establishing customer service standards. The process indicators represent the “metrics” for measuring the core processes. One of the process indicators for the customer service process is guaging customer satisfaction levels.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Revisiting Leadership


Human beings are designed for learning. Unfortunately, the primary institutions of a society are oriented predominantly toward controlling rather than learning, rewarding individuals for performing for others rather than for cultivating their natural curiosity and impulse to learn. The young child entering school discovers quickly that the name of the game is getting the right answer and avoiding mistakes—a mandate no less compelling to the aspiring managers.

 

Our prevailing system of management has destroyed our people. People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-esteem, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning. The forces of destruction begin with toddlers—grades in school, gold stars, and on up through the university. On the job, people, teams, divisions are ranked—reward for the one at the top, punishment at the bottom. Incentive pay, business plans, put together separately, division by division, cause further loss, unknown and unknowable.

 

Ironically, by focusing on performing for someone else’s approval, corporations create the very conditions that predestine them to mediocre performance. Over the long run, superior performance depends on superior learning. A full one-third of the Fortune 500 industrials listed in 1970 had vanished by 1983.

 

Today, the average lifetime of the largest industrial enterprises is probably less than half the average lifetime of a person in an industrial society. On the other hand, a small number of companies that survived for seventy-five years or longer. Interestingly, the key to their survival is the ability to run experiments in the margin to continually explore new business and organizational opportunities that create potential new sources of growth.

 

If anything, the need for understanding how organizations learn and accelerating that learning is greater today than ever before. In an increasingly dynamic, interdependent, and unpredictable world, it is simply no longer possible for anyone to figure it all out at the top. The old model, the top thinks and the local acts, must now give way to integrating thinking and acting at all levels.

 

While the challenge is great, so is the potential payoff. The person who figures out how to harness the collective genius of the people in his/her organization is going to blow the competition way.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

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