As a highly successful business author, Patrick Lencioni may well need no introduction, although his individual style – imparting lessons through business fables – is very much a personal hallmark. From my first encounter with his book, Five Dysfunctions of a Team (which my colleague, Chris Rogers, reviewed here), I was immediately drawn to the way that he delivers his lessons in the form of a story, complete with characters, drama and plot. I had to consciously leave aside my reservations that his approach omitted the structure, methodology and models to support his argument… but as it turned out, I did not have to wait too long to sigh with relief. I found everything I sought at the back of the book.

It helped to draw me in that the first two dysfunctions he tackled were lack of trust and avoiding conflict, themes and experiences that chimed with my own thoughts and frustrations when dealing with many global senior managers and executives. Won over by the style and approach, I read on through the remaining dysfunctions and found myself appreciating a very satisfying read. (Satisfied enough to turn to some of his other works, where I found rich material on a range of approaches and ideas to free up thinking, manage meetings and handle change.)

His most recent book, Getting Naked: A Business Fable about shedding the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty, differs from his earlier output. Rather than the global CEO/CIO population, Lencioni has aimed this book at “anyone whose success is tied to building loyal and creating sticky relationships with the people they serve” – including not just service providers of many stripes but also people in his own trade: consultants.


For a great many of us, much of our lives are spent deeply immersed in the challenges of working globally, growing and nurturing our businesses and all the while trying to make sense of a seemingly never ending and ever-shifting and mutating economic landscape. A veritable ‘ball of confusion’, as the old song went. Our lives are far from uneventful, although the events – internal or external – are for the most part small, transitory, fleeting. They make ripples of differing sizes, but they fade and pass, the ripples overwritten by the next passing moment.

But not all events are made equal. Some can, in themselves, be over in mere hours, yet their impact is felt not just far and wide, but deeply and for years afterwards. Their impact is all the greater because they rob us of any belief or hope that our lives are under our control: they change what we have previously been able to think or understand. Events on this greater scale are not the shifting of sands beneath our feet as we make our way forward through our lives: they are drastic, jarring moments that completely re-arrange our landscape and our outlook. 9/11, the tenth anniversary of which occurs this Sunday, is one of those – mercifully – rare events.

A beautiful September morning in America with unusually clear blue skies turned, in the space of little over two hours, into something that – though many have written about it since – ultimately remains beyond the power or scope of words. Images of those events, replayed or reprinted uncountable times since, remain truly shocking: repetition has not inured us to them. Even for those of us mercifully untouched directly by the events of that fateful day, it is still a raw moment, and one whose impact around the world continues to be felt.

For those more directly affected – not just by the events of the day, but the ripples and repercussions that were to follow – 9/11 must remain an unthinkably painfully moment in which lives were irrevocably changed. Kazusada Sumiyama’s only child, Yoichi, was among the 24 Japanese citizens who died that day (9/11 claimed the lives of civilians from 90 countries). Now retired, he finds it difficult even to read newspapers as they carry reports of terrorism incidents around the world, but dedicates much of his time to ensuring that those who live on do not forget what happened that day. Speaking to Kyodo News in 2004, he said “”I want to create opportunities for remembrance.”

This Sunday is a moment when it is entirely appropriate that we all find the space to do so in our thoughts.

We’ve cringed about fairness before on this blog, mostly as it seems to have become a word our political leaders eagerly want to use but not to engage in debate about. While it’s possible to admire someone who knowingly embraces a challenging strategy, part of the problem of fairness is that it’s not only measured, it’s felt. (It’s also not the most easily measured abstract concept in the world either, prone as it is to conflicting readings of equally conflicting statistics.) These inherent difficulties do, however, need to be acknowledged: feeling that we are being treated fairly is a widespread human desire, and integrally linked with such important aspects of a harmonious, productive and successful organisation as trust and respect. It may be difficult to measure quite how the presence of these fluffy components turns into cold, hard cash, but their absence can cost an organisation dear in many ways.


Back in February 2009, Linda Holbeche, CIPD Director of Research and Policy and Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge, a leading thinker on organisational change, co-authored an article in Impact, CIPD’s quarterly update on research and policy activities, called Organisational development – what’s in a name? (click here to download a copy as a PDF). As OD consultants and advisers, we hope that the article has had ‘impact’ as well as simply appearing in a magazine with that title, as we share the authors’ concerns that OD is neither well understood nor as widely practised as it might be. Like them, we would very strongly argue that OD has a major contribution to make in the present business climate as a means of breaking out ‘vicious cycles of wastefulness and short-termism’.

The years running up to ‘the crisis’ – a more multi-headed beast than a mere ‘credit crunch’, hence perhaps the lack of a widely accepted single term for our times – can be seen as one in which relatively easy living blind-sided organisations to a need to think differently or over longer timeframes. As the authors say:

… periods of strong growth can often mask the need to do anything different and breed complacency.”

Yet those are not current circumstances for most organisations: making hay while the sun shines is ok only as long as organisations, when colder winds blow, are happy to keep their heads down on hay bales when they could have been working towards pillows.


Change is, at the clichés of the zeitgeist run, now a constant of organisational and individual working life. On top of market globalisation, technological advance, downsizing, rationalisation, business re-engineering, merger and acquisition, the public sector in the UK is now to face the kind of cuts that, for once, deserve the use of capital letters on the words Very Significant. Arguing about the requirement for them, or attempting to discern the assumptions and reasons for the choices that the Government will make will not change their impact: the motivations of the axe-wielder make little difference to the results of the blade’s impact.

There will, undoubtedly, be pain. Many of the howls of anguish will be real, rather than mere disagreement from those who are less directly affected. But managers and HR functions in the public sector (and in private sector companies dependant on income from public sector contracts) need to focus not on the vocal symptoms, but on repairing the damage and remodelling the future. This week will mark the change from a situation on not knowing what’s coming and asking ‘what are we going to do?’ to a situation of knowing what’s coming and doing it.


Phil Jesson really has captured the moment with his ‘snappy’ guide, Piranhas in the Bidet. On the back of (at least as the media would have us believe) apparently the worst recession since forever, the time is well overdue to take a good look at de-mystifying some of the overblown bulk of management theory, MBA speak and TLAs (the dreaded three letter abbreviations) that proliferate in the corporate world.

In the same novelistic style very much preferred by Patrick Lencioni (read out review of his Five Dysfunctions of a Team) and even by the great man himself, John Kotter, in his tales of ‘melting icebergs’ (‘Hearts of Change’), Phil Jesson – or I should say more pertinently, his fictional occasional chauffer, George Willis – takes Simon Gray, the newly appointed CEO of Aldertons, on a journey that far exceeds a boss’s expectations.


Like any professional consultants (whether that consultancy is provided internally or – even more so – externally), the privilege of being selected to provided our service carries responsibilities. Some are mandatory in the strictest sense – the legal framework defines a range of liabilities and risks – while others are better categorised as ‘professional’ or ‘ethical’.

To maintain our standards (and the standards of professional bodes to which we belong, as we are proud to support organisations that work to define, maintain and drive up standards), we are committed to regular and ongoing professional development.  A further ethical concern is to recognise the boundaries within which consultancy is provided and presented: the opportunity to present ideas does not translate into a right to see them implemented. (Indeed, insisting too adamantly ultimately undermines the recipient client: effective consultancy should be based on mutual professional respect.)

As world leaders in promoting the criticality of ensuring the successful transfer and application of learning, coaching and OD interventions, we are seeking here to identify and encourage the achievement of best practice in this business critical area.



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