Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Autocratic Leaders and the effect on culture innovation and growth.

From pricing of offers to clients, to the cost of  coffee cups, to paper clips: "I can't say yes to that I need to ask the MD." - when this is said on nearly every issue  then an organisation has a potential problem.

When that controlling behaviour is at the centre of the company than what does it mean.

Kurt Lewin describes autocratic leadership style as one of the three types of leaders he uses the word authoritarian as opposed to autocratic but the meaning is the same. It means that decision making is centralised and control is the "name of the game".

On a positive note you definitely have control - there is no doubt about it with accountability remaining centralised and clear. In times of financial hardship, where watching the pennies and keeping the big picture in one head is required then it might be justifiable.

In an organisation that cries out for innovation, agileness and empowerment then an autocratic style becomes a disaster. The culture of non delegation, the fear of making decisions without the say so of the leader suppresses "get up and go", saps the environment of energy and disengages staff. With higher paid knowledge workers the higher levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs get erased by the leaders behaviour and the employee gets "hacked off" fast and leaves.

In an organisation that is based on a cost leadership strategy it may well have its place, but in a model that thrives or needs to thrive, on invention and differentiates through doing things differently then life is going to be tough. In fact there is a high chance of terminal failure.

One of the key problem with this issue is that often autocratic leaders grow within businesses that were once small and have grown up and out from the one man bad SME world. Often the leader that was needed at set up isn't the leader when things get a bit bigger, more complex  and the skills required are at a different level. Of course large businesses have autocratic leaders too but you do see this so much in family or small businesses that have outgrown their origins,

In a history book "The Rules of the Game" by Andrew Gordon he describes the flamboyant independent leaders of the 1805 British Navy where ships captains had to innovate and think on their feet because communication between vessels and command was impossible. He contrasts this to the 1916 British Navy at Jutland when central autocratic control had in his view emasculated the innovated and independence of junior leaders resulting in a battle of indeterminate results and attrition, where even today, scholars debate who won. I like this different way of looking at leadership and often we can learn much from different areas of study.

The message from this post is that leadership types or styles need to be appropriate to the business you are in and the *generic strategy you choose.

* Generic Strategy   "Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance." Michael Porter in 1985

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

More on who is the customer in the business model and how confusion can lead to big problems.

I became re-acquainted with the "who is our customer dilemma"  in two instances in recent times.

Firstly in a government institution who provide a facility to members of the public, but the facility was a requirement based on  legislation not on consumer need. Secondly in a financial services company selling its products through intermediary parties.

The stakeholder tension and confusion in both organisations creates complexity in applying normal models and tools. The proposition dilemmas of either, a proposition to an end user but where revenue is generated by a different stakeholder who perceives value differently as in the case of the government example, or where a complex and cultural commitment to selling a proposition to a third party introducer like an IFA both make using tools like the business model canvas much harder.

Of course the important problem is not tool or technique related but the confusion and communication issues that arise as a consequence within the organisation itself. In the case of financial services potential regulatory conflict. What is good for the IFA may not of course be good for the consumer and this tension between stakeholder conflicts is a difficult thing to manage.

I spent a lot of my early career in asset finance where we sold  finance through the manufacturers of equipment - vendor finance. The perennial problem was that the dealers wanted: low rates, everyone accepted for credit and for the finance company to fall on the side of the seller in disputes. In the industry, over a period of time, this inevitably resulted in "tears"; with finance companies lending incorrectly, some going to the wall on occasions, and incidents of mis-selling by finance companies, manufactures and their dealer networks. This was all created by a poor understanding of who is the customer? the dealer, manufacturer or the the borrower (lessee). The business model was not clear and not communicated correctly into daily operations; the culture and messaging was poor with staff behaviours affected as a consequence.

How can business architecture help this?

We need to use views that clearly explain the roles of stakeholder and define the propositions that are aimed at particular customers or stakeholder groups with clear linkage that shows how intermediary partners fit into the flow of value. We need to show who creates the value and how the value is enabled though partner engagement and partner management. These double facing approaches can be applied through  popular techniques with a bit of thought and adaption, so don't just dismiss an approach because it seems to only to fit a B2C simple business model. Create clear business models to communicate to all staff what your business is about and how the relationships fit together to make your business what it is.

If you want to hear more and learn how to do this properly through our learning offerings contact us via

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Constraints of EA and Biz Arc Tools

Having spent some time working with a tool vendor over the last year I have come to the conclusion that tools for creating the models in business architecture are a double edged sword.

Clearly the ability to create relationships between business components and then present views appropriate to stakeholders is good, particularly when the meta-model as it always is, is complex and multi-dimensional. However, tools are prescriptive. Tools may or may not support particular methodologies; often they support one or two as the vendor has to pay royalties to the owner of the methodology which pushes up the development cost and ultimately the cost to the purchaser. Some methods like TOGAF are aligned to I.T. architecture and are weaker on the business front and therefore the tool mimics the weaknesses.

Other tools come from a perspective bias like process centric modelling where process sits in the middle and everything connects to it. Process centric tools are designed with keeping a library of processes for the operation controlling and presenting those to business users. In more advanced business process tools other business components are mapped to the process with the process being the hub. This is all fine if the objective is operations mapping and control but what if it isn't?

The trouble with tools is that your thinking gets constrained by what the software tool was designed to model. Invariably most tools are built by I.T systems people to model hard components close to systems requirements. Marketing biased items and HR biased items are invariably absent. Try modelling customer segments, propositions, channels, skills and learning development to link to the more traditional items and then the issues start to appear.

Some tools are just so complicated it takes a week or so of training to get going and then explaining what is going on to business stakeholders becomes a nightmare. In many organisation the purchase and adherence to a tool becomes more important than anything else, architects focus on their tool and the tool becomes the role not the architecture. Adding on to this the serious price per seat for many high end tools means they sit in I.T. hidden away in an ivory tower whilst business architecture needs to be a the "coal face".

I like multidimensional modelling tools but I have learnt not to become obsessed by them.