Why are Leadership-Development Efforts Relatively Ineffective?

Michael Couch and Richard Citrin recently published an important new book entitled Strategy-Driven Leadership:The Playbook for Developing Your Next Generation of Leaders. This book places business strategy first and maintains an emphasis on building leadership programs around what it will take to make the business successful as opposed to implementing a program in the hopes that it will benefit the strategy.

I spoke with Michael and Richard this month and asked them: “Given that most organizations spend significant resources on developing their leaders, why are most leadership-development efforts relatively ineffective in the long run?”

Here is their complete answer:

In Strategy-Driven Leadership, we cite several factors related to the ineffectiveness of most leadership development initiatives. Let’s discuss three of the most critical factors.

First of all, many approaches to leadership development ignore context. By this we mean that any development initiative must be built from a strong and clear strategic or business case. Designing effective development starts with the question, “Why exactly are we doing this?” -- so that the intended business impact of any investment in development is established at the get go. We call this “framing” the development.

Related to context, a second factor that is important to the effectiveness of leadership development is to have learners understand and focus on leadership competencies that are directly linked to the strategy of the business.  Strategies vary across organizations and the strategy of an individual business can change over time. For development to make a difference, strategy must be translated into the unique skills required of leaders to execute the strategy.

Third, organizations often take a one-size-fits-all approach to developing their leaders by buying an off-the-shelf program and requiring all leaders to attend the training. You’ll see this kind of program something like “these 5 factors are essential for every leader to possess.” This approach is seldom effective because it ignores the fact that the development needs of individual leaders vary greatly. There’s just no way that a single program can address those diverse needs. In addition, and probably more importantly, critical leadership competencies cannot be learned in a classroom. Real leadership skill-building occurs through navigating and learning from a challenging job or assignment. Our model for developing strategy-critical leadership skills, called Intentional Leadership Development, capitalizes on learning from experience so that development is built into everyday work and not bolted on as something extra to do.

What do you think of Michael and Richard's views on leadership development? Has leadership development been successful in your company?


Creative Problem Solving and Lean Thinking

There has long been a debate in the Lean community about creativity. Clearly, a Lean organization thrives on standard work, and it is easy to assume that following standard work means that creativity must be curtailed. In her new book, Creatively Lean: How to Get Out of Your Own Way and Drive Innovation throughout Your Organization, Bella Englebach argues that creative thinking is fundamental to Lean thinking, and that using tools and approaches from the adjacent field of Creative Problem Solving makes for better Lean thinking, and better Lean thinkers. Recently, I asked her: "What is Creative Problem Solving and how it can be applied to Lean thinking?" Here is what she explained:

Deeper Thinking
In my book, I tell a story that many of us in Lean have heard, or even experienced. A Lean learner proudly presents their countermeasure to their coach or sensei, only to be told, “Go back. Think deeper.” That can be very frustrating. What does it mean to think deeper?

Creativity Has a Natural Rhythm
I believe “thinking deeper” means to take advantage of the natural rhythm of creativity, which requires developing skills in both thinking broadly (divergent thinking) as well as thinking convergently, which is to select and strengthen ideas.

Creative Problem Solving
Creative Problem Solving (CPS) is a proven method for approaching a problem or challenge in an imaginative and innovative way, and it explicitly teaches convergent and divergent thinking. Like Lean, the CPS approach has distinct steps for solving a problem. Each CPS step deliberately uses divergent and convergent thinking. In my work I have found that paying attention to the divergent thinking/convergent thinking creative rhythm and using CPS tools with Lean approaches like the A3 and the improvement kata drives deeper thinking, and more innovative countermeasures.  And who doesn’t need more innovation?

What have been your experiences with creativity and Lean? When you need an innovative improvement, what approaches, and tools have you used?


Does Your Organization Deliver Fantastic Customer Experiences?

In November, Daniel Lafrenière published an interesting book -- entitled Delivering Fantastic Customer Experience: How to Turn Customer Satisfaction Into Customer Relationships --
about what customers now expect from their service providers and the importance of developing loyalty.

When I spoke with Daniel this past month, I asked him: What has drastically changed regarding customer service and customer expectations?

Well, the world has changed… drastically!

Today’s customers are connected. They have access to information: product specifications, experts and people reviews, videos, etc. They can buy everything anywhere at anytime, without leaving the comfort of their home.

Gone are the days in which businesses could simply offer an "OK" experience and get away with it. Today’s customers have high expectations because they have experienced great service elsewhere. It is hard to drink cheap wine after tasting a great one! 

When customers like a brand, a product, the business culture, they can be amazing promoters. However, when they feel depressed, abandoned, confused, disappointed, exploited, frustrated, humiliated, ignored, incompetent, misunderstood, irritated, taken for granted, ridiculed, unjustly treated, treated like a number, or unpleasantly surprised, they can be severe critics and spread the word all over social media.

Studies have shown that people compare your company’s customer experience with those of others that are not necessarily your competitors, either in a brick-and-mortar store or online. They will not understand – nor care – why you are not able to offer a stellar frictionless customer experience similar to that of Apple, Amazon, Starbucks and Nespresso.

Customers want to feel welcomed, helped, appreciated, understood, heard, happy, important, cared for, reassured, acknowledged, respected, and pleasantly surprised.

They also want great products/services, information and added-value content, great advice, reviews from friends, lightning-fast checkouts and easy-peasy returns. Whether you are a small, medium or large company, customers expect a flawless experience, nothing less. And these business-to-consumer (B2C) expectations are now migrating to business-to-business (B2B).

Beware! It was said before that the customer was king. Today, the customer is God!

Do you agree with Daniel's perspective? How do you think customer expectations have changed during the past decade?