All entries for March 2015

March 23, 2015

Leadership succession

Let’s assume for a second that John Excellence agrees to my proposal and becomes a smashing entrepreneur with rocketing sales and a highly motivated work force, and this happens because from the inside he has an authentic leadership style. A few years later he parties so much that his success celebrations land him into a horrid medical condition and he is unable to run the business and lead his workforce. What now? His father, brother, sister or any close successor comes to take over his place or one of the directors act on the already devised succession policy and replace John by themselves.

Whoever comes to fill his place will be succeeding him but will their leadership capabilities be able to matchup to the benchmark set by John? Will there be any similarities in leadership style at all? Of course not! It’s hard to replace someone as it is but imitate his every move is practically impossible. The new person will bring his own leadership style to the table which definitely will not favor the company. The workforce that was so loyal to John has already lost their source of inspiration in losing the leader. The last thing they want is someone to take John’s place and be different from him. People generally do not accept change and people who try to bring change will always face a certain level of hostility.

What can be done to fix that? The answer probably lies in devising a system that not only transfers leadership but also transfers the leadership style. A code of conduct for impression management and to standardise the leadership style for anyone who wants to take over the position. It should be set out in the policies as to how the company should be led and it would be preferred that a person from the board succeeds with the position as it would be someone with prior knowledge and experience of how the company was being run.

Dispersed Leadership

All theories mentioned in the books and in journals take a very individualistic perspective of the leaders, while another academic concept gaining increasing acknowledgement is that of dispersed leadership. This multi-disciplinary theory, with its roots in sociology and anthropology, interprets leadership as a process that diffuses throughout an organization rather than lying merely with the formally designated leader. The importance therefore shifts from breeding leaders to catalysing the process of making leadership oriented organisations.

The Trait theory is a method of identifying the key features of successful leaders. It is assumed that through this approach critical leadership traits could be isolated and that people with such traits could then be recruited, selected, and installed into leadership positions. This approach was common in the military and is still used as a set of criteria to select candidates for commissions.

After having studied this in detail, I got to know various leadership theories. These theories are applicable to today’s management as they have to improve according to the situation. Paradigm shifts in the cultures of organisations and the consistent parallel and horizontal development of companies have raised the need to look at leadership in a new angle.

Even though traditional hierarchies cannot be eliminated from the business world today but it is my belief that an effective workforce is not one with leadership at the top but one with leadership throughout the hierarchy. This does not mean that everyone has the responsibility to lead but instead that everyone should possess the qualities and willingness of being a leader whenever the situation demands.

A leader must show some traits and demonstrate certain characteristics to be an effective leader. These essentials are:

1. Good Communicator.

2. Exude positivity

3. Truthful no matter how bitter it might be

4. Promote workplace equality

5. Patient

6. Refreshing the vision within the workforce

9. Accept risks associated with decisions

10. Stay determined

What a coincidence

It just happens to be Pakistan day today and while I was writing my PMA I was listening to a documentary on the partition of the subcontinent and how it happened. The documentary highlighted three people of high significance. The first was M. A. Jinnah leading the Muslims, second was Gandhi leading the Hindus and the third was Viceroy Lord Mountbatten sent by the British to finalise the partition. Both Jinnah and Gandhi were part of the congress and partition committee. But their ability to lead the masses had nothing to with their positional powers. It would be very unusual if millions of people just started following someone for no reason. What Jinnah and Gandhi did was that they made these people realise that they had no vested interests in what they were doing. They did not want money or fame, they had a vision far bigger than materialistic things and people believed in that vision. So on one side we have these two leaders who had charisma and were driven by their vision. No one really questioned them.

On the other side we had the viceroy who had been commanding another part of the British Empire and was now here to deal with the matter. He was known to be a decisive leader who deliberated before making decisions to rationalise but at the same time was quick and rigid with his decisions. He did not really go down as a likeable person in the history books because he favored some people over others. From that his leadership style could be considered at paternalistic as he listened to everyone but did whatever he decided and no one could budge him from his decision. He also picked favorites and ignored what and who he deemed unimportant.

The popularity of these people in the history books can be argued by their capacity as leader and the role they played. Maybe if Gandhi was sent by the British to deal with the separation he would have been just as disliked. But then again, they were in different capacity and they were really different people as well. They might have handled the situation differently in a way that everyone stayed happy, mutual consent. Jinnah and Gandhi were phenomenal leaders and they had millions of followers because they had the authentic leadership style. Their leadership was based on their personal traits making them more likeable and inspirational.

So there is a leadership lesson from the history books. Hope it makes sense. Happy Pakistan Day!

March 20, 2015

RDM – The Waverider Task

The first day in class we were given a brief and were required to make a location decision in a matter of minutes. After three days of knowledge bombardment it was up to us to turn our intuitive decisions in to educated decisions. Armed with an arsenal of tools the group set out to decide the most relevant tools and to apply them on the data provided to remove all biases and to back our decisions with rationale. What we came up with was a combination of qualitative and quantitative tools to produce impartiality. Not only did we do that, we made the process of decision making robust by using our knowledge to eliminate groupthink.

What this demonstrated was that no matter which form of leadership was adhered to, the aim of robust decision making in itself served a much bigger purpose. It eliminated groupthink, ensured equal participation, and included all perspectives and points of view. This strengthened good leadership and group efforts and at the same time minimised and made ineffective all negative aspects that came with the task at hand.

It all started by reaching a consensus on the decision of tools to be used. To make the decision of whether to continue with the prototype or not, the tool used was the decision tree. All cash flows were mapped out in accordance with the various probabilities of different potential situations and the outcome was to continue with work on the prototype. The decision tree, being a quantitative tool, also substantiated the results from the qualitative tools used to decide the location for production of the sea catch. The qualitative tools used were the grid analysis and the comparative SWOT analysis. The decision reached from these tools was to establish our production site at Lymington. The cash flows and optimum decision reached by the decision tree backed this decision.

After the decisions of continuing with the prototype and setting up production at Lymington, the last decision to be made was that of the tools to be used for marketing. The tools available for marketing were the usual; internet, TV, magazines and newspapers, flyers and handouts, billboards and radio. After assigning weights to the benefits provided by the tools, the extent of those benefits was measure using tools such as the analytical hierarchy process and SMART. Though the results from these two tools varied a bit in proportions of priority, mainly the result was the same. As pointed out by the SMART analysis, the most cost effective mix of tools included the internet, billboards and flyers. The cost per impressions and conversion rates were taken into account by these tools and in the AHP, the option using TV was also dominant. Though everything seemed fine and dandy, it was later pointed out that the obvious options left out were radio and newspapers, a form of entertainment that fishermen mostly use while fishing. This was probably because of the fact that the quantitative tools had lacked qualitative criticality. It can also be said that the tools left out could be attributed to selection bias.

At the end though there were some loopholes in the process, it can be confidently said that the decisions made were highly robust, if not fully.

March 13, 2015

Robust Decision Making

It’s exactly how our classmate Bekzhan articulately said, “After these three days, life doesn’t make sense anymore”. We have been so conditioned to maintain the assumption of neutrality of our opinions and perspectives that we almost always position our biases in the blind spot of our brain. Though some of us are open to our opinions being challenged, while others are not, the first impression we have of our own opinion is that of absolute impartiality. That can never be true. The exercises we underwent in this module, the optical illusions and the tampered statements, demonstrated the two ways in which the brain works, the conscious and the subconscious. Our conscious mind generates an opinion while we make a decision and that opinion seems perfectly rational to us. What we are not aware of is that this opinion is actually under mammoth proportions of influence of the subconscious mental activity. Our thought process takes into account even the smallest experiences and events while generating judgements. We might not even remember these events but they are lodged somewhere in our brain and influence the smallest decisions like your choice for breakfast to relatively larger decisions like your choice of coming to WMG. Our lack of rationale and judgement is more observable in our decisions made by our instinctive system, System-0, and our intuitive system, System-1. System-2, our process based system, is slower and more conscious and therefore makes an effort to eliminate bias and influences on decisions, but this cannot be achieved completely. The heuristics that are almost always in play while decision making are:

Representativeness – based on the likeliness of occurrence of a sample from a population

Recognition or Availability – based on how easily we can relate to or generate examples from our memory pertaining to certain situations.

Anchoring and adjustment – based and anchored down by previous knowledge and experiences

Affect – based on emotional evaluation

The word bias can be compared to white light. It seems very simple and definitive in its meaning but when you pass it through a prism you will get a wide range of distribution of various types of biases that are covered by that single word in everyday life. Every decision we make is impacted by a certain type of bias. There are numerous biases, the main ones of which are:

  • Hindsight bias
  • Confirmation bias
  • Illusion of control
  • Pessimism bias
  • Pseudocertainty
  • The gamblers fallacy
  • Stereotyping
  • Subjective Validation
  • Status quo bias
  • Selective perception
  • Bandwagon effect
  • Ambiguity effect

Cheerleader Effect

And on a lighter note we also have the cheerleader effect also stated by Barney Stinson in ‘How I met your mother’ that basically states that people in group tend to seem more attractive than when viewed individually.

How these biases work in a group are somewhat different as the symptoms for groupthink are different. Groupthink occurs when a group makes faulty decisions as group pressure leads to:

Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to challenge or contradict the group decision

Self-censorship – views different from that of the group are not expressed

Illusion of unanimity – the view of the majority goes unchallenged and so the decision seems unanimous

Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – information that is problematic or may complicate the decision making process is kept behind the curtain

The solution for prevention of most of these biases have been academically developed but, who knows, maybe the developers of the solutions had some biases as well. The conclusion that I have come to is that there will always be a certain level of bias as it is immensely hard to control our subconscious mental activity but we can make an active effort to control our biases and curtail the effects of our previous experiences and knowledge. This will not only help us make robust decisions individually but will also help eliminate groupthink to reach a decision free from bias and objections.

March 2015

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