If you wish to measure the level of Trust in your organization, look at its amount of procedures…

Thursday May 19th, 2016 0 comments

“Trust is good but control is better!” is a quote attributed to Vladimir Ilitch Lenine who wasn’t particularly know as a trusting leader. So is there an opposition between trust and control?

Two weeks ago, we saw how BCG partner, Yves Morieux accused misunderstood Clarity, Accountability and Measurement needs to be responsible for lack of productivity.

Those of us working with complexity know that there is nothing worse than throwing “complicatedness” at the face of Complexity as it makes things worse.

Dan Ariely, in the short text I recommended on the same blog post suggests that, when contracting, the highest value destruction happens when the letter of the contract destroys the spirit of the handshake.

I remember a story that a professor liked to share, back on my IMD MBA days: Disney parks were known for the professionalism with which they tracked habits, preferences and unconscious needs of their customers. For example, they knew there would be, by the end of every day, an average of 10 to 20 cars that would be stranded in the parking lot, the father (usually) having driven to the limit of their almost empty tank (but with the kids screaming at the back, the poor man had only one idea: get there asap) and not thinking that the burning sun would evaporate what was left of gas in the tank. So Disney had little golf carts circulating with a gallon free of oil to save the unfortunate man from a marital crisis by being unable to restart the car at the end of a long day. Wonderful isn’t it?

Unfortunately this well-intended obsession in measuring and tracking everything also drifted into creating real encyclopedias of “Do’s and Don’t’s”, rules, roles and procedures for every category of employee in the park. Learning this by heart was quite cumbersome and frustrating as you could count on the complexity of welcoming thousands of different people every day, to create incidents which were not planned nor accounted for by the manuals. And when this was happening, employees, used to refer to their Bibles, were lost and unable to take an initiative they could be punished for, since it was not part of the procedures.

To my knowledge, none of you, readers, work in such places, but armed biological, chemical, industrial, medical or transportation organizations are, amongst many, understandably submitted to similarly demanding and detailed procedures and norms. So, identical problems can arise, when procedures become the purpose and people hide behind them.

One of our ex-colleagues loved to draw the following pictures on a flip-chart, to show how to trust and empower your people:

OboatThis drawing, although very simple, summarizes the point for me:

  • Our responsibility, as leaders, is to identify the waterline for our people. It defines the playing field and the moment when our behaviours must change instantaneously from exploration, trial and error, experiment, think out of the box etc… to rigour, no risks, discipline and perfectionism
  • We should encourage our people, as Jay Rao teaches, to experiment, and if it has to happen, “fail fast, fail cheap and fail smarter
  • And we should be equally clear that any experimentation below the waterline is endangering the whole organization and rigorously prohibited.

That sort of attitude will reinforce Trust on the ship, reduce the amount of unnecessary procedure and incentivize people to experiment safely.

The image that sticks to my mind is this wonderful experimental Tango. Apart from Argentinians, who seem to master it so gracefully, Tango seems so complicated, in particular for uncoordinated people such as I. But when freedom is given and a few basic rules are clarified, action becomes seamless and creativity an art.


  • Unusual leadership moments

    Friday May 6th, 2016 0 comments

    There are a few and very simple experiments which I would encourage you to do for your personal (leadership) development and the one of your team: I always enjoyed the jovial, mischievous and profoundly humane depth of Finnish “Business Philosopher”, Essa Saarinen. On that unforgettable Helsinki Summer evening dinner, I thought I had seen the most frightening part, seated at…

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  • “What gets measured gets done”? The problem is that the wrong things get done!

    Thursday April 28th, 2016 6 comments

    From the first day I heard this pundit of management “What gets measured gets done”, I intuitively knew there was something wrong with it but found difficult to explain why. The clip of Yves Morieux, a BCG partner, made it much clearer and tangible. I love Yves Morieux. He may be one of those people who instantaneously removes any complex…

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  • Prevent your top performers to destroy shareholders’ value

    Friday April 22nd, 2016 0 comments

    Your top performers probably show great results and contrast strongly with the rest of your team. But what if I promised you to increase by 260% the performance of your average subordinates and showed that your highest source of shareholder value destruction are your top performers? This is what Jim Tamm, a now retired Senior Administrative Law Judge for the…

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  • High Power Distance kills Entrepreneurship

    Friday April 15th, 2016 4 comments

    Those of you who follow this blog know how much I support the ideas of Innovation & Entrepreneurship “guru”, Prof. Jay Rao from Babson. He has produced two short and excellent clips (displayed and commented on this blog, “If you wish to kill innovation, hand it over to R&D!” and “Prediction logic vs Creation logic“) Yesterday, I discovered another very…

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  • What is your cathedral?

    Friday April 8th, 2016 4 comments

    In our book, “Engaging Leadership”, I relate to a story that was highly popular in the 80-90’s TQM circles: “It was said that during the Middle-Age, a nobleman was walking down the place where a cathedral was being built. He was puzzled however by the differences in energy, quality and speed between the various stone carvers’ teams. Being curious from…

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  • Who will be brave enough to truly develop leaders?

    Saturday April 2nd, 2016 0 comments

    A few months ago, I had dinner with a top HR officer who had followed one of our programs and wanted to provide me with a rich “exploratory feedback” (something highly value-creating as it is half way between feedback and questioning. It feels less threatening and easier to receive and more creative and geared towards co-creation as the person giving…

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  • Create Psychological Safety or watch your organization fail!

    Saturday March 19th, 2016 7 comments

    My true education in “Change Leadership” and “Leadership that gets results” (with my apologies for borrowing the title of a Goleman article in HBR of 2000) dates back in 1998, when being challenged by a client: I was explaining that leading by fear and emotional blackmail is what had costed Brazil the 1998 final of the Football (soccer) World Cup against…

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  • Get rid of your Diversity credo, start practising inclusion!

    Wednesday March 9th, 2016 0 comments

    For years, I have looked down at the notion of “Inclusion”. I rejected it, considering it was: A wrong priority: Business is about performance, not keeping everybody happy. In any corporate culture, Benevolence/Support are needed and have to be counterbalanced by Exigence/Challenge. I always respected the recruiters of Nestlé and McKinsey (when they interviewed me during my MBA) for being…

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  • When work itself is being disrupted

    Thursday February 25th, 2016 2 comments

    I remember that, 20 years ago, the think tank advising the Government of an advanced thinking European country, had asked a famous consultancy to help them reflect on ways to reverse the flow of labour intensive work towards cheaper Asian countries. The consultants had come back with a rather unconventional and counter intuitive suggestion: All residents in the country should…

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  • Don’t miss your “Moment of Truth” with those you lead!

    Friday February 19th, 2016 0 comments

    Jan Carlzon was C.E.O. of S.A.S., the Swedish national airline, which he has been widely credited for saving. One of his most famous legacy was the concept of identifying and performing on the “Moments of Truth” that S.A.S. employees would have with their customers. Following him, the company had 50’000 such moments/day. We, as leaders, are presented with such crucial…

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