Leadership Summit 2009 – Gary Hamel: Manage Differently NOW

Posted on August 6, 2009




Manage Differently NOW

The most important question: Are you changing as fast as the world around you. Are you the vanguard or the “old-guard?” Reminders: attendance is declining, and the “brand-reputation” is down.

9 out of 10 beings believe in some spiritual existence, etc. Of those that are “agnostic,” or “atheistic,” over 1/3 of them express some spiritual existence.

So, is it the message, or the methods? A rhetorical question, of course. For too many churches, they are convocations for the comfortable and convinced. And while we are facing challenges that seem insurmountable for us, they are not for God. Maybe we should feel lucky that this will lead us to a deeper correspondence with the divine. Unprecedented situations yield unprecedented challenges, but that takes unprecedented strategies.

Let’s not feel too sorry for ourselves. Our problem is not skepticism, secularism, etc. It’s aversion.

We live in a time where the future is not an extrapolation of the past. The world is becoming more turbulent than most organizations. Business models are not eternal. And in industry after industry, we’ve witnessed profound shifts. In each of these shifts, the incumbents have been left behind. Most organizations end up shackled to one model, and thus shackled to the past.

Visions become strategies, strategies get codified into habits. The hard thing is not inventing a strategy, but re-inventing it. Unfortunately it usually takes a crisis for this to happen. And it usually takes a change in leadership itself. If you want to change, you decapitate the leadership team. In these supposedly sophisticated. We need to change, crisis and episodicly driven. How do you overcome entropy, the pull of the past.


1) You have to overcome the temptation to take refuge in denial. “Every organization is successful, until it is not.” The good news is that denial follows a pattern (dismiss, rationalize, mitigate, confront). The problem is not necessarily that the future was not unknown, but it was unpalatable.

a. Treat every belief in church practices as a  In turbulent times, humility is not just a virtue, it is a survival strategy. Listen to the renegades and the dissidents. Do we welcome dissent, or do we stifle? Have we asked our leadership team to learn from the outliers. You have to be willing to listen and respect them. How does it feel to be an outsider?

The future has already happened, but it’s unequally distributed.

2) You have to generate more strategic options. More things. We tend to clutch at the familiar because we can’t see the alternatives. Leaders must see that change is more exciting than staying on the path. Change always follows a power law. (what I call the ratios of excellence). These ratios are a “search strategy.” We rush prematurely to close the one giant acorn, that we don’t generate enough truly crazy ideas. We end up with an incremental strategy. We have to diverge a lot in order to start.

Dell’s “IDEASTORM” Must be open, participative.

You’re very unlikely to create a new paradigm if you’re not willing and ready to face the realities you currently have. “sacred cows.” You’re in a race to uncover your own orthodoxies. You have to unpack them.

a. Look at your programs, what hasn’t changed in 3, 4, or 5 years. Has it not changed because we’ve explored options, or is it because we have the dead-hand of tradition around our neck.

b. Look at your community. What are we doing. “Open Source the sermon?!”!”!”!!”!”!” Why is church a lecture and not a discussion so often? It’s so easy to mistake the edge of your rut for the horizon. We have to learn to be contrarians. Think of Jesus…so how much more unconvention do you think God wants us to be? Are we more committed to redemption and renewal and reconciliation, or are you more committed to the programs, policies and practices of your church? What would be the true test of that committment. Your willingness to sacrifice your familiar practices on the altar of … Surrender our cherished sins, and surrender our cherished orthodoxies.

3) If there is a single overriding organization, one simple explanation, it happens when the mental models of the leadership team depreciate than their authority. The veterans are still leading things, but their understanding of the world has passed the sound byting. This is why it is dangerous to give a few people a monopoly. Big organizations are not resilient, there is no way for change to compound from the bottom, so they leave. They challenge the entrenched beliefs, of the entrenched believers.

The reality, is that most aren’t visionary yet practical, bold yet prudent, confident yet humble. Is the challenge, finding great leaders, or is the challenge, building great organizations without superhumans at the top.

Are there any alternatives? Yes.

I want to create an organization who create all the time and fight bureaucracy none of the time! There is no hierarchy. You get to be a leader when your team asks you to lead them. How do you know if you’re leadership material? Everyone can say “no” to any request. Commitment is voluntary. Compliance is not.

At the end of the year, how much value has so and so given to the organization. Less envison, plan and control, and more mobilize, and support.

How do you get volunteers to collaborate with millions of lines of code with almost no management processes? Our organizations were never built to be adaptable, semi-programmable robots. We have to be disciplined, malleable, and expandable, and we need organizations that are radically different than the past. Work is open, participatory, it gives every employee, and gives them the ability to rate.

The web is a post-bureaucratic structure. It is the most adaptable thing humans have created, and it is a direct affront to the management authorities we’ve created. The moment someone stops creating value, they lose authority.

Top down structures are political and feudal. Maybe we need to go backward before we can go forward.

The early church was spiritually powerful and institutionally weak. We are not going to get fundamentally better at changing lives if we’re not going to be better at changing our churches. And we won’t do that unless we change our leadership.

Our churches need to be the most vibrant, adaptable, resilient organizations in the world.