Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Leadership and Management Models

This article contains some suggestions on implementing a new model for leadership and management within an organisation currently undergoing change and which may continue to do so for a period of time. It does not constitute any form of plan or proposal.

Most models that are currently in use are clumsy, the most basic simply comprising of Role, Job Description and links to a structure chart. Such models:

  • Do not provide individuals with sensible objectives i.e. outcomes or behaviours
  • Do not provide links with the overall strategy of the organisation
  • Are not helpful in aligning individuals with organisations, particularly during reviews

Steps have been taken over many years to define competences either in terms of outcomes or behaviours or a mixture. Recently the Management Standards Centre has been engaged in producing a new set of national standards that are based on behaviours. This is broadly true, each unit being defined in terms of ‘outcomes of effective performance’ and ‘behaviours which underpin effective performance’. I believe that these offer a method of defining a sensible model for use within an organisation, particularly as they place significance on innovation and managing change. The draft standards are however, a little light on detail and may be seen at the very top of organisations as trivial. There may also be some stigma regarding language i.e. competences. For the same reason ‘standards’ may not be acceptable to all.

Within organisations there may often be an element of change fatigue where successive regimes have introduced and re-introduced procedures for such things as reward, appraisal and recruitment.

With this in mind I believe that the starting point should be a model of the organisation which is complex enough not to be dismissed and simple enough to be understood! (see the Innovation Equation and accompanying notes for an example of this type of model). With the correct analogy/metaphor and a link to organisational objectives it is easy for all to see where they fit into such a model. It is then relatively easy to make links to what each individual does and how they do it. More importantly everyone will know what they have done and how well they have done it. The keys here are transparency, links to objectives and simplicity.

Thinking about a model often leads to the word ‘framework’ which is a good word to use as it implies management but still allows room for manoeuvre (creativity and innovation). Being part of a model which is multi dimensional instead of 2D, means that the traditional structure chart can be replaced with a symbol of the future. This will also help in removing one source of tension that emerges when people appear above others on an organisational structure chart.

If a new model is created and a framework is set up then the remaining task is to create a description of how individuals people fit into the model. Imagine being a cog inside a machine – your day consists of rotating endlessly whilst engaging with other cogs and wheels. You stop for breaks whilst you are oiled and the machine is filled up. Creating such a description will cover the outcomes and behaviours as well as what is required or expected from others. A non linear storytelling approach is helpful here in allowing the creation of an organisational metaphor linking the individual components.

This somewhat abstract concept, when turned into reality, will encapsulate the characteristics of both the people and the culture of the organisation. What is more, during a period of change, the model can be used to create a vision of the future and to encourage buy-in. Note that organisational components need not necessarily be people, they can be functions, machines or interfaces to the outside world.

The main difference between this and other models is that an employee now has a clearer idea of why he/she is doing what they are doing.

The key steps should be to:

  • Create an organisational model
  • Map the model onto reality
  • Create a leadership and management framework
    - Describe place/functionality within the model
    - Describe interfaces to people and things
    - Describe abstract concepts such as use of time, capturing ideas, knowledge
    - How is effectiveness measured?
    - Effect on reward and appraisal scheme?
  • Ensure transparency
  • Create links to objectives
  • Ensure simplicity
  • Promote the concept effectively
  • Monitor the benefits against cost!!

A major benefit of this approach is the ability to consider scenarios ie. What if? If the organisation was to become a learning organisation how would the model need to change, what effect might it have on the management framework, how easy is it to downsize or expand?


There are no new ‘off the shelf models’, however there are many different ways of customising and delivering the models that currently exist. The new MSC standards may provide a useful starting point although they contain much redundant material and can be sketchy in places. As with other models they can only describe the characteristics of an effective manager in a general way, not the characteristics of an effective manager in your organisation.

Any model must clearly define the concepts of leadership and management within your model. A good starting point for this is the work of Tony Cockerill and Harry Schroeder (High Performance Managerial Competences).

Care must be taken to ensure that the approach taken maps onto the way in which your organisation carries out its business, bearing in mind any changes that are likely to occur in the future. The keys are stakeholder buy-in and delivery (including format, language and support materials). See here for ideas on training Leaders and Managers or for helping them to think strategically.

Creative Business Solutions


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adison said...

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