Friday, 30 September 2011

Collaborative Leadership in Asia

 

   I’ve been attending the Singapore Human Capital Summit and it’s been remarkable how clearly increased collaboration has come through as a core theme.

We started off with Lynda Gratton’s description of the changing nature of work, which includes a big focus on collaboration.

But I thought the best explanation of the shift came from one of Gratton’s research participants, Pradeep Pant, President of Kraft Foods for Asia Pacific. Pant explained that the command and control organisation has had to go, since that as business has become more complex, it’s no longer possible to be hands on.

Advantage through product features lasts just a few months – sometimes weeks. So real advantage today comes from:

  • A relentless focus on who we want to be, and what we want to do (and not do)
  • A higher purpose – older people are concerned about job descriptions and salaries (my notes also say potatoes, but I’m sure that can’t be right!), but those at the other end of the age spectrum are most concerned about what does the company stand for, other than market share, profits and cash (actually I don’t think that’s right either – I think all generations, East and West, are increasingly focused on this).
  • Looking at communities, and understanding what to do with hierarchies and organisation
  • Organisational flexibility and adaptiveness to change – ensuring that true innovation, rather than simply product development, is deeply embedded. So the job of the leader is encouraging risk taking and experimentation, taking away fear of failure.

 

Pant says he’s had to stop wearing a tie – people knew he was informal but were worried other people saw him as too formal, and that they wouldn’t talk to him,

A lot of the speakers seemed to understand the shift Gratton had been describing – but there were a few other comments that made me less sure about this.

 

So, for example, one of the CEO speakers claimed that her employees put leaders (including her, presumably) on a pedestal. Um, I wonder… And yes, I know that there’s a high power distance trait in much of South East Asia, but even so, I’m not sure this will be right. I suspect the speaker’s comment has got more to do with many Executives’ lack of understanding about their organisations (but I could be wrong on this)..

Anyway, I was cheered later when Jen-Luc Betel from Medtronic (I think it was) noted that whilst respect for hierarchy may be comfortable for leaders, it’s not good for their organisations, as it saps creativity and energy.  Companies need to unleash people at the bottom of their organisations by creating a respectful environment and ensuring that people are empowered – if they’re watched, they won’t innovate.

 

The value of collaboration also came in several other sessions, for example Vineet Nayar talked about HCL becoming a ‘Facebook organisation’, based upon community rather than control. He wants HCL’s internal relationships to be spherical, rather than hierarchical, in nature. People need to come together for purposes that are good for the company, collaborate over something, and then disband (then go and collaborate somewhere else).

See also this earlier post on Vineet’s organisational model (including his original drawing of it).

And also Vineet’s  presentation on the perfect storm:

 

 

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