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            [post_date] => 2015-10-07 11:00:35
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Yves Morieux is a Senior Partner and Managing Director at The Boston Consulting Group, a BCG fellow and director of the BCG Institute for Organisation.Yves' Six Simple Rules of Smart Simplicity, has helped CEOs with their most critical challenges, for instance, moving their companies from quasi bankruptcy to industry leadership. He will be a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference on 8 October 2015

1. What is the chief thing that managers/leaders get wrong about what effective leadership means today, in your experience?

Managers often don't understand what their teams really do. They understand the structures, the processes, the systems. But this is not what people do – it is what people are supposed to do.  A company's performance or a department's performance is what it is because people do what they do, because of their actions, decisions and interactions – their "behaviours".  Because we don't understand what people do, we create solutions – new structures, processes, systems, scorecards, incentives, training, and communication – that don't address the root causes. We don't solve the problem, we simply add more internal complicatedness. And the more complicatedness we create, the less we understand what is really happening, the thicker the smoke screen, and then the more rules we add. This is the vicious circle of modern management. This is why the first rule of what I call Smart Simplicity is "understand what people really do at work."

2. Do leadership principles work best when understood as a top-down process, or is this understanding of leadership out of touch with the modern workplace?

From collaboration to performance to employee engagement, everything we know about work is changing – but our businesses are seemingly slow to respond. People are more attuned to sharing posts, writing blogs, and providing instant feedback through ‘likes’ and ‘favourites’ than they are to completing surveys, so why does our approach to employee engagement still centre on a set of fixed statements and a rating scale? In their personal lives people collaborate naturally with those around them and have an amazing propensity to share even when there is no immediate benefit to them, hence the success of crowdsourcing sites like Wikipedia. So, why do we spend so much time and energy in organisations on encouraging people to practice these seemingly natural behaviours at work? The challenge for businesses is to disrupt every process and practice in the organisation by asking: Why does it exist? What are we trying to achieve? If we were to start the organisation from scratch, would we choose to create this? And perhaps most tellingly of all, would this practice exist if we trusted our employees? iqmatrix

3. A core feature of your approach to leadership and better workplace productivity is the concept of ‘Smart Simplicity’. How does this play out in a world where the data available to companies now – be it through consumer feedback, predictive modelling, data analytics etc – has surged? Does the effective use of all of this data necessitate more complexity, rather than simplicity?

The environment is more complex – the problems to resolve in order to attract and retain customers, in order to create value and build competitive advantage – are more demanding than in the past. This is a fact of life. Based on our analysis, complexity has been multiplied by 6 over the last 60 years. The real problem is not business complexity. The real problem is internal complicatedness – the solutions companies typically use to try to respond to this complexity: a proliferation of cumbersome structures, interfaces, coordination bodies and committees, procedures, rules, metrics, key performance indicators and scorecards. Based on our analysis this complicatedness has been multiplied by 35! This complicatedness creates obstacles to productivity and innovation. People spend their time writing reports, in meetings. There is more and more work on work, and less and less work! A lot of data, a lot of information is always good. The difficulty – and the value-added – is sense-making, to derive meaning and knowledge from the data, so that companies can interpret and act on the data. But complicatedness makes it increasingly difficult for companies to make sense of the data. There is at the same time a data indigestion and a knowledge deprivation.

4. When it comes to Irish businesses, how do their workplace dynamics compare with other countries and what would be your principal advice to them on what to change?

Irish businesses face the same problems as other mature economies. They need to manage the new business complexity without getting complicated. Smart Simplicity is not about becoming simplistic, we cannot ignore the new complexity of business. This is why I refer to "Smart" simplicity. The six rules of Smart Simplicity concern Irish businesses because Irish businesses are also confronted to a greater complexity.

5. Should business leaders focus more on improving employee productivity per se, or should this be balanced with also ensuring that staff are happy at what they do and not afraid to be creative? How does one strike an effective balance?

We must not strike a balance here! We must break the compromise between productivity and happiness or creativity. We must not improve one at the expense of the other. In fact organizational complicatedness hinders productivity while demotivating people and making them suffer at work. They lose direction, purpose and meaning in the labyrinth. They have to work longer and longer, harder and harder, but on less and less value-adding activities. This is why Smart Simplicity and removing complicatedness simultaneously increases performance and satisfaction at work: because you remove the root-cause common obstacles that hinder both.

6. What do you think are the key organisational challenges that face a country like Ireland over the next few years, for both business managers/leaders and their staff?

Organizations are going through a deep revolution in their ways of working. We are going through a new economic revolution, and every economic revolution entails and organizational revolution. The organizational solutions on which we have built profitable growth over the last 30 years are obsolete.  Irish managers and employees will have to invent new ways of working. Smart Simplicity provides guidelines for this, but what mainly matters is boldness and courage in breaking with conventional wisdom. Irish people are certainly well placed in this respect! NMC 2015 A4 HEADER Yves Morieux is a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 8 October. Apologies but this event has now reached maximum capacity.  [post_title] => "Understand what people do at work" Six Word Wisdom from Yves Morieux [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => understand-people-work-six-word-wisdom-yves-morieux [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 20:38:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 20:38:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.imi.ie/?p=12166 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22158 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2018-02-26 16:58:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-26 16:58:48 [post_content] => [post_title] => In Praise of VUCA [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => praise-vuca [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-13 07:16:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-13 07:16:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.imi.ie/?p=22158 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22387 [post_author] => 7 [post_date] => 2018-03-13 11:01:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-13 11:01:43 [post_content] => [post_title] => Strategy in 'Interesting Times' - 4 Tips to Make Life Easier [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => strategy-interesting-times-4-tips-make-life-easier [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-13 06:52:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-13 06:52:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.imi.ie/?p=22387 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Gareth Jones

Gareth Jones

3rd May 2018

Gareth Jones is an IMI associate on the Senior Executive Programme.

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"Understand what people do at work" Six Word Wisdom from Yves Morieux
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Strategy in 'Interesting Times' - 4 Tips to Make Life Easier

The Constant Constraints of Leadership


It has become a common place of organisational life to claim that we are living in a highly volatile environment where change is constant and uncertainty is a permanent feature of life. It is certainly true that rates of scientific and technical change are extremely fast and accelerating – artificial intelligence, nano technology, genetics, stem cell research, blockchain – will all greatly affect the way we live our lives and the way we work.

Leaders are compelling communicators (Photo source)

However, I’m not entirely convinced of this argument about volatility. I was comparing my life with that of my mother. She lived through 2 World wars, a general strike, a civil war in Ireland, the Korean war and the Cold war.  My life in contrast seems to have been characterised by almost unbroken quietude.


Change Fast, Humans Slow

There is a more fundamental observation to be made about leadership in a changing world. While we can concede the speed and power of technology, just think how slow human evolution is. We are very like the people who walked the earth ten thousand years ago. So, let’s focus on some leadership constants.

Firstly, leaders read context. They collect soft information which gives them insights into the way their organisations are really functioning. They walk into the Cork office and can tell quickly that morale is a little low, they ask why things seem to be buzzing in the finance department.

This aspect of leadership can’t be replaced by management information systems or the latest fad big data. The good news is that situation sensing is a skill which can be improved. Try keeping a little diary of your observations of the workplace, nothing too demanding, just 10 minutes at the end of the day. The very act of recording your observations will raise and sharpen your antennae.

Secondly, leaders were and will remain compelling communicators. Indeed, in a world of Twitter, Instagram and the rise of digital communication platforms, the imperative to be a compelling communicator is even greater. Otherwise your voice is lost in the noise.


A Purposeful Vision

But what should leaders communicate? The most important is to paint a vision of the future, to give people coping with change some idea of where we are headed. Closely related is that they provide a sense of purpose, they answer the question “what is this organisation really for?” Our recent research shows that the desire for a sense of purpose is increasing amongst the young but is present across all ages.

Leaders also communicate values. The guiding principles which regulate and inform our behaviour at work. Recent scandals in both the private, public, charitable and sporting arenas have made the issue of values absolutely central.  And leaders do more than communicate values – they live them. Leaders are exemplars of organisational culture.

Finally, it was true and still is that people want to be led by a real person who they can trust. A lot follows from being a real person – real people bleed, sometimes cry and have weaknesses. Many executives don’t take their real selves to work, rather they role play through the week in the hope that they can rediscover their humanity at the weekend.  They are destined to fail – and this helps to explain the epidemic of executive stress.   Whether we like it or not, we will spend the bulk of our adult waking lives at work. It had better be a place where you can be yourself.

Yes, change is all around us, but for leaders there are also constants. The challenge is to be yourself, but skilfully and in context.


Gareth Jones is an IMI associate on the Senior Executive Programme. Gareth is an expert on organisational design, culture, leadership and change and is currently a visiting professor at the IE Business School, Madrid, and a Fellow of the Centre for Management Development at London Business School. Gareth has published several books co-authored with Rob Goffee, including “The Character of a Corporation” and “Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?”