All entries for February 2013

February 27, 2013

Ulrich model

Not so far ago read couple of articles. In both of them the Ulrich Model was mentioned as a modern and the best known tool that gathers business strategy and leadership together and helps to achieve the former through the later. Both of articles were describing the process how companies came to that decision and adapted their existing corporate structure to Ulrich Model. Basically, both companies, namely, Mars and Nestle came to that model as they realized that their employee surveys were telling them that staff didn't know where company was going, providing the evidence that they didn't have a common culture or vision. So they rebuilt structure, in terms of Nestle – for the whole company, in terms of Mars – for some of their Departments (for example, HR). The approximate structure was (Mars):

  • Business Partners. Operational level - establish relationships with customers and business units;
  • Shared Services. Tactical level - deliver HR services;
  • Centers of Expertise. Strategic level - create HR frameworks.

After finding so many benefits of this model I was very curious about the negative sight and some limitations in its application. When almost every one goes crazy about some new theories the intrinsic resistance appears in myself. So I went straight to literature that were focused on the ways how that model were implemented and how it worked together with leadership. Not so good I have to admit.

  1. Splitting HR into three parts, as Mars example suggests, created boundaries on communication and revealed the lack of joined up thinking (in that case, they applied Ulrich to gather employee and encourage to work as one body but instead got just opposite effect) Additionally, this boundary even could result in open warfare between people in different part of the model – Assumed solution: CONSTANT ROTATION, so that everyone can try themselves in different parts;
  2. The Center of Expertise also was isolated from the business realities – Assumed solution: DELEGATION OF POWERS from business units that might encourage to work and deal with everyday routine problems and gain better knowledge of real situation;
  3. Business partners were often overwhelmed by transactional work so they couldn’t do the strategic element of their work – Assumed solution: SUPPORT FROM CENTER OF EXPERTISE, that focuses on right initiatives prioritization puted as an objectives for HR BP.

Oveall, there many more difficulties in its application but, to my mind, for all of them the solution can be fined and, thus, I think this tool isn’t perfect but still useful and valuable for deploying strategic goals by using leadership.

February 24, 2013

Constant question – leader is born of made?

This question had dominated debates about leadership for ages. For example, Aristotle claimed that a person was born in the beginning with destiny to rule or to be ruled. There are some prove from existing studies that leadership in our nature to some extent, so it is in-born:

  1. The genetic studies shows that some are more willing to lead people because of gene or chromosome;
  2. Also, the “teachers’ concept” claims that students can be divided in two groups: on those with sign of spark and on those - without;
  3. Another reason of leadership being in-born is that the individual character, style and competence is also something that a person is born with, thus, it is unlikely to be changed.

Firstly, I also was going for in-born leadership and didn’t believed in leadership development, but now I can clearly see that much might happen between in-born characteristics and person’s feelings. Actually, nurture can exceed nature. It is just the matter of moment. Some people cannot possess enough skills and emotional power, others – do so, but experience lack of necessary motivation. Some may have the ability and will but doesn’t have opportunities. Overall, the leadership potential is already in the individual and seeks for recognition and development. Thus, the key question is not “born or made” but “how to develop and how much”. 


February 23, 2013

360° Assessment – good, bad or ugly?

I am still not sure how I feel about 360° Assessment, positive or negative. Actually before starting to work on my leadership assignment I had some prejudice that this type of assessment is highly bias and unreliable, as it based on people’s judgments on one person. However, while I was searching for information about leadership deployment I was constantly coming on 360° Assessment with all it benefits and the prove of being leadership tool number 1 for all times! Let’s consider some of the followings:

  • Highly effective in situational leadership, when person was asked to play a certain role in the team;
  • Covers views from different perspectives (boss, peers, subordinates, self-assessment, sometimes customers);
  • Helps to identify some areas for improvement and learn;
  • Brings changes not only on personal level but on organizational;

On the other hand, it is still not so clear and obvious if this assessment mainly lead to positive changes or not. In support of this uncertainty the following drawbacks we defined:

  • Assessed person can be too fragile to accept negative feedback, which may lead to retire into themselves;
  • Cannot be applied to a person, whose constantly dealing with project work;
  • Assessors might be fraught with spoiling relationships with candidate.

To sum up, I decided for myself, that this assessment had very good aim in the beginning of its application to numerous companies; however, in majority cases the proper conditions were not formed to use it effectively (for example, uncompetitive corporate culture, being sure that assessors were observing person’s performance over certain time and so on)

February 22, 2013

Barriers to effective leadership

It is very strange that everyone analyzes the required leadership competences, skills and qualities before deciding on what Leadership activities company will apply to a certain person, but none analyzes the possible barriers to effective leadership. Actually, I think, it is more important to, first, concentrate and work on removing those barriers, and only after that create a leadership development action plan. Otherwise, company will spend enormous amount of many on deciding and building leadership model, which won’t probably work, as participants were not ready to those changes. There can be the following barriers (Gill, 2011):

  • Low self-esteem, when person experience lack of motivation and can suffer from depression;
  • Lack of self-confidence, it may turn into lack of confidence in other people;
  • Fear of failure or shame;
  • ‘Thinking inside the box’, which may lead to ‘paralysis by analysis’;
  • The adverse consequences of stress

Actually, while I was writing, I realized that I have all above-mentioned barriers!!!! Good! Now I know what I will have to deal with. Next step will be finding the way in which company can remove those barriers (these are just assumptions that needs more deep research):

  • Low self-esteem => to help employee to achieve small goals every day and recognize his or her progress;
  • Lack of self-confidence => NLP trainings and workshops on self-development;
  • Fear of failure, shame => acting classes, that might help to break complexes;
  • ‘Thinking inside the box’ => to organize some trips, to draw inspiration from new experience
  • Consequences of stress => to provide 15 minutes break each hour and a half, fitness and healthy food.

I will be happy if anyone suggests other solutions!!! I think this can be usefull for all of us)


February 20, 2013


Considering various leadership theories it is impossible not to go back to Deming and check what he was saying about it. What really surprised me is that lots of theories oppose to SoPK in different ways. How come that leadership – a way how to achieve business success and follow continuous and sustainable improvement, conflict one of the greatest study about improvement? There are the following contradictions that I found:

  1. Trait Theories: Deming was saying just opposite, - leadership is not something that you are born with, but something that you can develop by constant learning;
  2. Theories of Emergent Leadership: The first thing that come to my mind “firefighters”, a true leader is someone who control the situation and doesn’t let it become critical, so that another leader can't appear (or “firefighter”);
  3. Leadership Style Theories: The main issue here is “concern for task”. If the leader more task oriented that might focuse his or her attention on short-term goals and ignore people’s development;
  4. Path-Goal Theory: Even in the name there is a word “goal” that Deming was consider as one of deadly disease of modern management. To stay highly oriented on achieving goals put company in a trap;
  5. Transactional Leadership: To my mind is the most contradictive one. Setting work objectives and performance standards, focusing on financial reward, directive manner of leading people – all this things that Deming was fighting against.

To sum up, I have to mention that these theories are just a tiny part from the overall picture and almost in every theory there can be something that contradict to Deming’s SoPK.

February 18, 2013

Theories of leadership – classifications

Today I started to work on Leadership & Excellence assignment. To get an overview of the topic I searched different articles and took some books from the library – what a terrible mistake I made! The first article proposed that there are five main classifications of leadership theories, other identified just three, in the third there was no classification at all – just description of theories. After spending half of the day in the library I finally found a book that summed up all previous classifications of theories and presented them in quiet simple, understandable way.

I asked myself: Why don't just keep it simple? Why people try to split theories on styles, methods and frameworks? I was seriously confused by the number of interpretations of theories (Some authors were mixing methods with styles, others – theories with frameworks. The funniest thing about these numerous classifications was that almost everyone were talking about the same things but interpreting them in radically different ways). I was really exhausted and decided to sum up and develop my own classification.

  1. “WHO THEORIES” these were theories that put emphasis on the personal characteristics of individual;
  2. “WHAT THEORIES” identified leader according the results that he or she gave to the company;
  3. “WHERE THEORIES” concentrated on the position that leaders take in the company;
  4. “HOW THEORIES” these were focused mainly on leadership deployment, tools and techniques that leader use.

This classification helped me to group different theories and make it look simplier. However, after I came up with my own classification I understood that sometimes, as it happened with leadership, you cannot simplify study – just because by separate one leadership theory from another – I lost a complete picture of leadership. These theories complement each other and provide overall view of a leader…So, answering my question “Why don’t just keep it simple?” The answer is that leadership, itself, is a very controversial topic and therefore should not be put into frames.  

February 07, 2013


Today I had experience of being a leader of a team in a particular task. The first time (it happened at CBE module), when I was leading a team I tied to contribute as much as possible, thus, I was pushing, reminding that we have deadline and arguing all the time – and I have to admit that I was quite annoying leader. When we finished the task, I tried to step back and analyze if I acted well as a leader. To my opinion, I created wrong environment to my team members – they were too stressed and couldn’t express their thoughts to the full extent. Moreover, the result was actually not so good. Therefore, I decided next time to act more passive and calm. Plus, when Paul mentioned that we can play and take different roles, it completely confirm my decision.

However, being passive and too democratic leader also, didn’t bring any great results. BUT! Compared to my previous experience result was still better. Was it caused by my leadership style or by new team members? I can only assume. Therefore, another hypothesis came to my mind:

  • In the first case I was too active -> TOO ENERGETIC
  • In the second case I was too passive -> LACK OF ENERGY

So, maybe leadership is all about delivering the right amount leader’s ENERGY in the right way to other team members? If you give it too much, it might cause rejection. Too little – will cause a lack. So, where is that line of how much leader need to give? And the second question how leader can deliver their energy effectively?

Answering how much and how to deliver:

In Russia we have a rule, we call it “whips and cakes”. In UK - “carrots and sticks”. I am pretty sure that this method might not work in other countries, but it defiantly work in Russia. The point is that to get the result from your employee you have to keep switching all the time from “bad boss” to a “good boss”. I am totally against this approach, as I think this kind of game will ruin all the trust to the leader. But what if we apply it from the different perspective? What if leader will be switching all the time from being very energetic and active to a role of observer? How do you think if it going to work or not?


February 05, 2013

Policy deployment through leadership

I couldn’t understand Deming’s philosophy entirely until this seminar, when we were discussing the principle’s of successful policy deployment. I really believe in what he was saying and working on: the recognition is a key to improve people performance in a company. The issue was that before this seminar I just knew that we DO need to change existing payment and rewarding system to break these barriers in people minds and shift the focus from extrinsic motivators (such as salaries and bonuses), to recognition, respect and real join of what you are doing in the company. BUT! I didn’t know how, how, how and how to do it. I didn’t have a picture of how it can be implemented. So, to sum up, how I now see the people performance and reward system in Deming’s shoes.

  1. Create a Vision of the company
  2. Develop a Mission
  3. Applying “Line of sight” deliver company’s strategic objectives to each department and then to each employee by using two-way communication;
  4. Implement leadership to that “Line of sight” process to help employees to set their personal goals in the SMART way;
  5. Reviewing the progress (again, through leadership implementation)

Another question appears…how we will design company’s leadership deployment to be sure, that we can easy and clear recognize a leader in our organization? Because if we fail in deciding on the right leader, the whole concept of new performance and rewarding system based on recognision and leadership deployment will collapse. Oh, God, it is so unfair, once I finally found answer to that question which was following me from the first day of my study in Warwick, I am now facing a new question! When will I finally reach a consensus?


February 2013

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