“To be in command and out of control”


Didier Marlier

April 11, 2010

From Disruption to Engagement

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My partners and I are about to embark on a journey, with several organizations in the world, which have decided to seriously engage their people in their strategy implementation and create (more) “Intelligent Organizations”.

I was looking for leaders having taken their people through similar paths. Fabio Barbosa in Banco Santander Brasil, Jorgen Knudstrop and his team in Lego or Robert Polet with Gucci were examples that jumped to mind.

I then watched the video herebelow. For those of you who missed previous posts, Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper served in the US Marine corps. He is known amongst others for being one of the 8 US Generals to call for Donald Rumsfeld resignation in 2006. Van Riper had also used “Complex Adaptive Systems” theory to inflict a humiliating defeat to the US Army in the 250 million $ simulated invasion of Iraq called Millennium Challenge 2002.


“In Command and out of control” is the challenge those companies we are going to work for have all identified. To be in command suggests that the top leaders will not abdicate their responsibilities and will continue to be accountable for the company’s result. They will coordinate, continuously scrutinize the periphery of their firm’s business model and look for disruptions threats or opportunities. But (and that will be the most challenging belief and behavioural change for some of the leaders) they will learn to let go of control. As Van Riper suggests, once we have co-created and shared and meaningful purpose, and that all of our teams have integrated the few critical rules of engagement, then the best we can do as leaders is trust them to take the right decisions as they are the ones who are close to the evolving markets and customers.

I encourage you to watch the several clips of Lt General Van Riper posted on Youtube as they are quite insightful…

Last week of preparation before a three months marathon which will take me to Brazil, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland… Have a great week all,


1 Comment

  1. Johannes

    Malcolm Gladwell dedicated a chapter of his book “Blink!” to Paul Van Riper and his performance in the Millennium Challenge. One important basis for Van Riper’s was not only to accept losing control in the traditional sense of control, but also to accept the shallow dynamics you get when giving room to intuition and surprise.
    Getting back to the video: A major challenge is to develop the “cause-and-effect system” you work in into an “interactively complex system” or to move from the first to the latter. Van Riper managed this in an excellent way: He changed the rules of the game (that’s actually what every guerilla fighter does) and forced his opponents (the blue team) into the shallow area. The decisive difference there was that Van Riper’s team was prepared for it.



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