Leadership Management Matrix (c) Cathryn Doney

Doom, Gloom, and How a Mob of Meerkats Can Help


Today’s business managers face an unprecedented rate of change: from the internet, from technological advances, from global competition, from disruption, from ecological and environmental changes. No landscape is safe, and Darwin’s theory tells us that those that fail to adapt are doomed.

But how do we adapt to changes we cannot anticipate? How can we mitigate risks we don’t know are risks until it’s too late? In times of great crisis we turn to our leaders or managers for guidance but where do they turn?

“That’s Not How We Do It Here”* is a story about how our failure to adapt will almost certainly lead to our doom, but it is also a story of hope and how we can rise again. Part fable, part allegory, part call to action to modern organisations, it is a story of a mob of meerkats in the Kalahari desert and their attempts to deal with unexpected changes in their environment. Through the eyes of the meerkats, we learn how to adapt and where to turn.

It exposes the benefits of good planning and management, but also its downfalls. It proposes an exceptional model of leadership from behind, of winning hearts and minds and harnessing the power of the whole of the group, but not from rose coloured glasses: it is clear that this style of leadership, without good management to back it up, is also doomed.

“Management and leadership serve different functions: The first can get the regular work done well, reliably, and efficiently, even in exceptionally large and complex systems; the second can energize us, despite barriers, to innovate swiftly and propel us into a prosperous future, despite changing problems and opportunities. Management and leadership are not two ways to achieve the same end. They serve different ends, both of which are essential in complex organizations that operate in changing environments.”

Here’s my adaptation of Kotter’s Leadership Management Matrix: where does your organisation fit?

Leadership Management Matrix (c) Cathryn Doney

Kotter and Rathgeber observe: “In a large organization in a protected world that changes little, good management is overwhelmingly important—and, in a way, sufficient. In a small organization, perhaps opening a new market niche in a world where tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities can change greatly at any time, leadership is overwhelmingly the key issue. For anywhere else, which includes tens if not hundreds of thousands of organizations on our planet today, it is both: because of their size or complexity (demanding management), and because they can’t hide from the incredible technological of that mass. In an organization of some size, in a world that is moving with speed and disruptions, does success not demand “and also”?

To understand the “and also” you’ll need to read the book.

And where do good leaders turn? Why, they turn to us of course. To all of us.

*”That’s Not How We Do It Here” : How organizations can rise, fall – and rise again. by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber, published September 2016.

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