Friday, 6 January 2017

Delegate to the edge

19:59 Posted by G No comments
One of the best books I read in 2016 was Matthew Syed's - Black Box Thinking. As an IT leader reading him talk about feedback loops, the use of Agile, failing fast and learning from our mistakes was really a message that I am used to delivering. It's a really engaging book, with a really gripping (but tragic) first chapter. I was lucky enough to speak to him at a Deloitte event and got to tell him this, but it really draws you into the book. I can't recommend it enough.


Since finishing the book, I'm an avid follower of his on Twitter, and from his Twitter feed, I noticed that he recently wrote an article on LinkedIn about delegation and the power of it.  What struck me most (apart from delegation being the only way to actually get stuff done!) was using the priviledge of using our position as leaders to empower our team to get stuff done.

What I mean by that is my job is to clear the path, set long term direction and gain budget approval, but the real brains of the outfit are those that work for me, they come up with how we are actually going to achieve our goals, and executing them.

As Syed explains in his article (here), that empowering teams, and pushing decision making closer to the 'edge' of the organisation is much more effective.  I'm currently reading General Stanley McChrystal's book which delves into this and is fascinating, as clearly in his domain there's much more at stake than mine.

What is closer to home (especially as an avid hockey play) is the distinction that he draws between the England Football team and the GB (Olympic gold medal winning) Women's hockey team. Whereas the England football team looked listless while losing to Iceland (a central command and control structure - without the manager there was little leadership), to that of Danny Kerry the GB Women's coach who is quoted as :

Kerry allowed players to decide on when they train each day, codes of conduct, and they elect their captain through a vote. What happened? The players developed leadership qualities, and felt far more empowered to make big decisions on the pitch.

The article goes on to quote Eddie Jones the England Rugby coach, who says:

Eddie Jones, has become interested in the idea of “growth mindset”, trying to ensure that his players are willing to take responsibility for their actions, rather than making excuses when things go wrong. 

Which neatly joined the dots with an article that Sir Clive Woodward (England Rugby coach 1997-2004).  In an article posted today in the Mail, Jones is quoted as saying:

The only advantage you really have on the opposition is learning faster, so if you want a learning environment the head coach has got to set the example. To achieve that you have to keep improving yourself, keep gaining knowledge wherever you can and you’ve got to have a coaching staff the same

Woodward then asks : With the ideas, how much is coming from you and the coaches as opposed to thoughts and ideas from your team?

Jones's answer is : The balance probably went from 100-0 in favour of the coaches 12 months ago, now it’s probably 50-50 and we want it to be 20-80 by the World Cup.

Lots of us all to learn, but a mix of centralised leadership and delivery accountability at the edge makes good sense to me

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