founder of naked leader

“Take us back David”

Naked Leader Week – 55 –  Monday 17 May 2004

“Take us back David”

In both my books I make a very direct attack on some of the so-called change, management and consultancy initiatives we have seen in our organisations. Many people ask me when I first “dared” to write about this.

In truth, I had been asleep for too long, and was personally guilty of leading several initiatives inside organisations, I would like to say with the best of intentions, however that is no excuse now.

I have looked back to the first column I wrote on the subject – it came at the start of the new millennium, in January 2000. It is very direct; however I repeat it here verbatim.

A Different Destiny

“As people raised their glasses to celebrate, they did so in the hope of a better tomorrow, leaving their problems behind, and looking to a future where their hopes and dreams would become reality”

 BBC TV reporter

BBC News 1st January 2000

 Never before has journalistic cliché so flourished and thrived out of control. With the beginning of a new everything, all we have to do is make a few wishes, sit back and automatically a brighter future will be ours.

And then we return to work we find that nothing has altered. In a world of fast moving change, so much stands still.

The new millennium has arrived, and if we are to achieve our plans, our dreams, and our destinies, we need to do so much more than hope. If we want different outcomes, we need to do different things.

We can start by consigning some initiatives and projects from the 20th century, into the bin. They will not be remembered fondly.

What real financial benefits, for example, have been delivered by Business Process Reengineering (BPR), the most glaring example of crass stupidity posing as consultancy answer to all. This biggest waste of money in history aimed to improve processes, effectiveness and our very way of working, but in most implementations it managed to achieve just the opposite. The majority of BPR exercises were simply an excuse for downsizing, and one of the principal reasons that so many organisations are now having to work so hard to regain and rebuild the trust of their people. Even the founders of BPR are now admitting it was a gross, costly mistake – they should hang their heads in shame.

And not just BPR…

“Continuous Improvement” and “Total Quality” are two rallying cries that have taken us nowhere, and are classic examples of squashing general catch-all standards into unique organisations, while simply providing an opportunity to have a bitch at other departments. How do consultancies get away with it? Do they not realise that it can take a year to get something “right first time.”? No one has that sort of time anymore.

Then we have “best-practice,” and “benchmarking.” Those advisers that commit professional murder on us by measuring our success against the majority, just to ensure that we are conforming nicely and not being left behind.

The trouble is, they failed to tell the founders of, or or egg, whose philosophy and attitude was somewhat different. Better to take action, try things out and achieve 80%, and if you make a wrong turn or decision, simply make a new one. Keep making those decisions until the right one comes along – try benchmarking that one.

Copying other people simply doesn’t work anymore.

These initiatives conspired to produce three devastating outcomes – a culture of inaction, loss of trust from our people, and a massive cost to UK PLC.

This is the millennium for inspirational leadership, visionary thinking and united, positive and decisive action. Never before has so much depended on the choices you make as a leader. Continue to address the same challenges with the same “solutions,” or break free and forge your own future – taking your organisation where it never dreamed possible, realising that the future is about destiny, and not simply about tomorrow.

Forget best practice – if it works for you then it is worth doing. Put aside the fear of making mistakes, the more you make in the course of discovery, the better. Try something on a Monday, if that doesn’t work, try something different on a Tuesday, and if that doesn’t work…

The bizarre element of the initiatives that have ill served us in the past is that most people in our organisations could foresee exactly where they were going – nowhere. I have said it before, I will say it again and I will continue to say it to my dying day – people are the key to our futures, our prosperity, our dreams realised. Those organisations, which can influence, inspire and ignite their people’s ideas, motivation, and loyalty will be those that succeed.

The new agenda, the new business age, the new business spirit, is about human beings. What they do, how they feel, who they are and who they become.

Millennium cliché it may be, but your destiny is in your hands, and no-one else’s. You are responsible for your future – anyone who believes otherwise is living high in the sky where cuckoo birds sing.

May your destiny be clear, may your actions be many, and may your leadership be now.

My advice, your choice.


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