April 11, 2011

Level 5 Leadership

Posted in BADM 720 tagged , , , , at 7:22 pm by Sarah

The first thing I noticed about this week’s reading was some odd language.  First: “Good-to-great transformations don’t happen without Level 5 leaders at the helm.  They just don’t.”  My statistics professor has been saying all semester that we never definitively prove anything in statistics; rather, we deal with a little thing called reasonable doubt.  So how does a professional business article get away with a statement like that?

Second: “I gave the research teams explicit instructions to downplay the role of top executives in their analyses.”  So they are deliberately gathering biased data to make the results say what the author wants them to say?  This flies in the face of everything I thought I knew about research, statistics, and not least of all, ethics.

My next thought was Who is this guy and how am I supposed to consider him an authority or even a scholar? This guy, I then noticed, is the (in)famous Jim Collins, author of the “Good to Great” piece of work that got slammed in our reading a couple weeks ago.  Now I understand.

Now that my attitude was affected by my previous knowledge of the author’s work, reading the rest of the piece only went downhill.  I ended up feeling like he basically took way too many pages to say over and over again that his favorite company leaders were ones that balanced extreme humility with an insistence upon exemplary work.  He should consider taking a few pages from his idols’ books.

March 20, 2011

Strategies of Effective New Product Team Leaders

Posted in BADM 720 tagged , , , at 5:02 pm by Sarah

This reading was all about how problematic it can be for businesses to develop new products.  I believe the issues described are pretty common.  I’ve worked at lots of places where decisions are made without consideration for the people those decisions will affect, there is no visibility and information is withheld as standard procedure, and managers try to control every detail of the work rather than trusting employees to do their jobs.  It’s an environment that is self-perpetuating.  Employees don’t take ownership of their work, and they don’t have opportunities to make mistakes, which means they will never learn anything.

One of the more interesting questions posed by the article is why these problems are so common, when every manager seems to believe that they have the solutions.  Just because we know how to be effective leaders in theory, doesn’t mean we are effective in practice.  The article suggests that leaders have to transform their thinking, though the nature of this transformation was unclear due to excessive wordiness and unnecessarily complex vocabulary.  Personally I think this is a complex question to answer.  It’s hard enough for me to apply the things I’m learning for myself, much less tell someone else how to do it.

I think the most important thing that this article suggests is encouraging inter-departmental cooperation.  I always like to be able to understand the big picture, I try to be considerate of the roles that others play in our work, and I appreciate it when others do the same for me.  That sort of goes hand in hand with the suggestion that information needs to be disseminated quickly and freely from rank to rank, which has been a personal pet peeve of mine.

February 23, 2011

Specialty Medical Chemicals

Posted in BADM 720 tagged , , , , at 8:41 pm by Sarah

Last week we read about a company that was built from the ground up in a unique way.  This week’s reading is about an executive who was put in charge of an existing company and all its existing management issues.  I hate to keep comparing my own workplace to our many examples of what not to do, but I find once again that I see many of the same issues above me at work.  I look at our middle management and see managers who are in direct competition for attention and resources, not coming together as a cohesive leadership team.  Most of my peers have very little idea of what other teams in the company do, and it is easy to lose sight of the big picture.  Our review system is vague and not constructive.

I think it’s kind of a shame that the managers in the reading seemed to be biased against the new CEO before he even arrived.  I understand that it can be difficult to be open-minded when the departing leader has been doing things a certain way for a long time and you have no idea what a new leader will be like.  But I would think that high level managers in a big company would have learned at some point in their careers how to quickly get on good terms with the person they report to, at least on a professional level, if not a personal level.  To show disapproval like these managers did set them up for failure right from the start.

Bringing in an outside opinion to help with personnel problems is an interesting idea.  On one hand, a manager in a CEO position should ideally already know his own strengths and weaknesses and be able to determine the same in his direct reports.  On the other hand, the professional outsider was able to pin down traits in the CEO that he was not aware of himself, as well as traits in the rest of the leadership team that had not shown through to him because of his position.  No matter how this information is gathered, it is crucial to understand employees’ personalities if you are going to understand how they work together and how you can move them around to influence that working relationship.