Owning your change program

It has been a while since I’ve checked out my leadership counterparts on Alltop… I found some tasty posts from bloggers I hadn’t seen before.  Melissa Dutmers at Riverfork challenges us to not fall back on conventional wisdom:

…that the greatest contributor to success is “active and visible executive sponsorship” (this is corporate speak meaning high level executives are supposed to inspire and influence their people). I don’t buy it. I believe that the number one success factor for leading change is YOU (emphasis Melissa’s). 

I agree.  The need for executive sponsorship is almost a truism; as Melissa notes, “you need the support of a high-level manager or executive to approve the idea”. 

But can a change leader stop at formal approval?  Are you content with leaving the “active and visible” part of executive sponsorship to the executive him/herself?  For example, do you bother to draft that announcement e-mail or put together talking points for the exec to use with the board?  Do you make the leadership the first part of the communications plan, not the last?

Management + Leadership = Ordered Liberty

As part of my blog reanimation, I popped over to Bas de Baar’s “Project Shrink” blog for a few ideas. Lo and behold, Bas had a brief post (w/ Crossderry link) and a video clip with his take on the difference between project management and project leadership.

Bas opposes “dependence vs. independence” to capture the difference between management and leadership. There is a great insight in that distinction, because it  brings the concept of entrepreneurship to the project world (where it is sorely lacking, IMO).  Al Gore’s policy entrepreneurship on the environment — notwithstanding the many issues I have with Gore’s substantive case — makes a great leadership contrast to Bas’s Ag Department bureaucrat.

As Bas closed the clip, he mentioned that “we need both [management and leadership]”.  This aside gets to the crux of the matter, IMO.  We need to have some combination of manager/leader.  

Bas’s policy-focused metaphors of bureaucrat vs. entrepreneur also brought to mind the concept of ordered liberty:  “freedom limited by the need for order in society. ”  That phrase neatly captures the paradox of  vision versus/and plan.

How Managers Exert Influence

I run hot and cold on Henry Mintzberg, but I was taken with his thoughts in a Monday interview (published in the most recent “MIT Sloan” special section of the WSJ, here). 

Mintzberg’s observations on influencing action — and the limits of that influence — are particularly acute. He outlines three “planes” of influence: through direct action, through other people, and through information.  This last approach comes in for some withering criticism.  Per the example below, it is apparent that Mintzberg believes managing through information is what often passes for leadership these days:

Today I think we have much too much managing through information—what I call “deeming.” People sit in their offices and think they’re very clever because they deem that you will increase sales by 10%, or out the door you go. Well, I can do that. My granddaughter could do that; she’s four.

He also touches on the “Manager vs. Leader” question I’ve posted on here. Work calls, however, so I’ll get to that in a later post.

Balancing today’s and tomorrow’s business

Scott Anthony had a post on Bloomberg that summarizes what must have been a bang-up discussion on growth and innovation (post here).   He captures the balance we must strike between “winning the game” and “changing the game” well in his opening graf:

Take a deep breath, and repeat after me: “My [business model, product, business unit, brand, offering] has a finite life. I’m going to make that life as happy and productive as possible, but I also have to think about what’s next.” 

Perhaps this mantra can also help shed some light on the “manager vs. leader” question that so many seem interested in (it is my number one post and its here).  The manager is most interest in today’s “life” while the leader is focused on tomorrow’s.

Does a leader change only people?

Eric Dana Hansen added a comment to my recent “Manager vs. Leader definition” post.  In it, he refers to a work of his that touches on leadership.  If I’m reading him right, his take is that

management is based upon processes, order, and controls and that leadership is more about developing the potential in others. 

In my comment, I agreed with the first part about management, especially its emphasis on order and controls. However,

I’m don’t buy into leadership being strictly about people….  The reason I like the “Stultz” definition [referenced] in the post is [that] in changing the system, leaders must acknowledge and address all segments of the “people, process, technology” triad.

Also, the blogosphere must be on a manager vs. leader kick.  I just noted a couple of posts by Glenn Whitfield (here) and Andrew Meyer (here) that touch on an interesting dimension of the topic: IT strategy and alignment.

I’ll comment more directly on those tomorrow.

“Manager vs. Leader” definition

In today’s Investor’s Business Daily I saw an article about Jack Stultz, the Lt. General who is chief of the Army Reserve Command.  It’s worth a read, especially when Stultz discusses the cross-pollination among his various military and civilian (at Procter and Gamble) experiences:

“P&G valued a lot of what I brought from my military experience. A lot of my successes in the military are from things I brought from P&G.” At P&G, Stultz learned the difference between those in charge:
• Managers are committed to improving a system’s efficiency.
• Leaders see a lack of production and take risks to change the system.

Stultz goes on to talk about the “violent conflict” that can be generated by the manager-leader gap.  

I relate to that conflict, especially since it often rages within me.  I’m pretty good at both strategy and execution, but my temperament is such that I’m never satisfied with doing only one or the other. I enjoy running the entire race: identifying openings, designing an approach to exploit them, then running and optimizing that new system until it demonstrates.  However, I then get the itch for the next challenge.

NOTE: I’m adding new posts on this topic…the first is on managers and influence and is here.

Mentorship Start-up “Crash Course”

I very much liked this BNET article by Jennifer Alsever on starting a mentorship drive (here).  The article is rich with sources and tips, so check it out.  The four basic steps are listed below:

Decide Why You Want a Mentor Program — Set your program up to succeed by defining goals and involving top execs.
Pair Up Proteges and Mentors — Create profiles and match people according to your goals.
Set the Rules for Engagement — Make sure people meet regularly — and know what to talk about when they do.
Keep Tabs on the Program — Make sure mentoring is providing the results you want.

Not that I’m looking to integrate mentorship into my group’s social media strategy, I appreciated the explicit decision and goal-setting advice.  I’ve seen many explicit promotions of mentorship in people development efforts, but I’ve never had any real idea of what that mentorship was supposed to accomplish.  Now that I have a chance to drive this topic, perhaps I can learn from those mistakes!

Leading, not managing, complexity

One of the pleasures of blogging are the parallels I find between and among various bloggers’ themes.  As I was prepping for my WSJ interview last Friday, I reviewed the posts on my Complexity Set page.  I realized that Elizabeth’s review of the book Leadership Skills for Project and Programme Managers (here) provided a nice counterpart to my post on a Harvard Business Review article The Experience Trap (sorry subscribers only) — Set Goals for Behavior.

My post highlights the power of goals that don’t simply replicate planning and control targets.  Rather, one should put the focus on behaviors that support project deliverables and outcomes.  This differentiation is one of the key differences between managing and leading.  Elizabeth’s post had a nice table from the book that outlined these differences really well, which I though was worth spiffing up and reformatting (below).

NOTE: Table manually copied and reformatted from Elizabeth’s post.  Credit: Adapted from Franklin, M. and Tuttle, S. (2008) Leadership Skills for Project and Programme Managers, TSO: London, p. 9.

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