Managing the VUCA World – Part 1

When dealing with increased VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity – what can leaders do? and how can they manage this on an on-going basis?  Read on…


Businesses are under increasing stress as markets are increasingly volatile, clients are more demanding, talent is scarcer and change occurs in faster and shorter cycles.  To survive and thrive business leaders have to make faster decisions, on less information, and which have greater risk.  This has led to a change in how leaders need to think, decide and execute.

As business leaders what can we do to address this in a sustainable and effective way?

A good model, that addresses the four areas of concern that business leaders need to deal with, is by using VUCA.  This consists of:VUCA Elements

1. Volatility – the rate, amount, and magnitude of change

Drastic, rapid shifts can bring about instability for organizations and leaders, but even the minor or innocuous shifts that occur daily, such as new and “immediate” priorities that disrupt plans, or the increasing need to “multi-task,” are changes that increase volatility.

 2. Uncertainty – the amount of unpredictability inherent in issues and events

Leaders can’t predict because they lack clarity about the challenges and their current and future outcomes. Uncertainty can result in an over-reliance on past experiences and yesterday’s solutions or to analysis paralysis as we sift through more and more data.

 3. Complexity – the amount of dependency and interac­tive effect of multiple factors and drivers

Complex interactivity requires leaders to think in more creative, innovative and non-linear way; to be able to deal with shades of gray (as opposed to black and white) solutions.

4. Ambiguity – the degree to which information, situa­tions, and events can be interpreted in multiple ways

Ambiguity increases doubt, slows decision-making, and results in missed opportunities (and threats). It re­quires that leaders think through and diagnose things from multiple perspectives.

 The Challenge for Leaders

For leaders, the challenge is not just a leadership challenge (what good leadership looks like), but it is a development challenge (the process of how to grow “bigger” minds) to deal with the world of VUCA.  Leaders, too often, have become experts on the “what” of leadership, but novices in the “how” of their own development.

So What Can We Do?

  1. Change the Leadership Mindset – we must help ourselves, and our tactical leaders from being easily get trapped by their predictive mindset when they encounter a VUCA situation by providing a robust sounding board, challenging their assumptions and beliefs, and helping them develop new perspectives, options, and ideas.
  2. Change the Leadership Approach – many leadership issues are not problems to be solved but rather dilemmas that must be continuously managed.  Helping leaders to understand this, and to manage the issues and create opportunities from this is key.
  3. VUCA is a neutral force in the world – leaders often look at Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity as a negative force that they need to react to.  Rather, as leaders, we need to see the potential and to transform it proactively and find the opportunity within.
  4. Leaders Don’t Execute, leaders execute – Leaders too often get involved in driving the efforts themselves, leaders need to help them think more strategically and to unlock the potential of their people. By developing and supporting leaders (i.e. mid- or lower-management at lower levels we can execute at the right level, with the right people with the right skills.

So what are you going to do to address VUCA in your business or organization?

Visit the second part of this article, How to Manage Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – Part 2, to discover the 4 ways for how leaders can deal with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Steps for Improving Your Leadership Behaviour

If what you are doing isn’t getting what you want then you have two choices: you can either settle for that which you do not want or, secondly, change what you’re doing to change what you get. To do this you need to know what you want (and what you don’t want), and how you are going to change to effect this.

Think of a time when how you acted in or reacted to a situation was not your finest hour. You handled it poorly, and the result you got was not what you wanted. Worse, you allowed the situation to escalate.  We’ve all had occasion where this has happened. So why did we act as we did?  I am sure there are many reasons, good and bad. But knowing why you act in a certain way does not change your behavior. You would think that it would. It should. But it doesn’t. Knowing does not mean understanding, and understanding does not mean taking action.

The real question is how do you change your behavior and respond in a better way? There are three steps:

  1. Identify the problem
  2. State what needs to happen
  3. Offer to help

Use these steps for any problem you face with someone at work. For example one of your reports has mishandled the drafting of a report.  Normally, you would get angry and criticize her work. This does not help, nor does it build her confidence. Applying the three steps you can:

  1. Explain why and how the report has been drafted poorly.
  2. Clearly and explicitly explain what needs to happen, and coach them through what needs to happen. Do this by asking them what they think needs to be done, don’t tell them. Coaching them enables them to learn and not repeat their mistakes.
  3. Provide support and help to them, but don’t let them abdicate the work or responsibility back to you in doing so.

Making this change in your behavior is never easy. It doesn’t feel natural or ‘right’. It feels awkward.  This is natural and to be expected. Remember when you learned to ride a bike, it was difficult. Eventually, after sufficient practice, you mastered the new behavior of riding a bike and it has now become second nature.

So, to change your behavior, you need to practice and keep at it until it feels natural and ‘right’.  As a leader, you need to lead change, and to lead change you need to lead yourself, and to lead yourself you need to be willing and able to change your behavior.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Don’t Give Advice, Offer Experience

Leaders – Don’t Give Advice When Asked!

How executive coaching can help you in your business

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Advice - at your own riskLeaders and managers often need to give feedback to their teams and staff. Usually it is in the form of advice rather than feedback. Why is this? Advice can be packaged more easily, especially when you are dealing with a sensitive situation and/or individual, rather than feedback which is often perceived as being more critical in its nature. So how can we improve.

The Pixar Story

Virtually everyone knows Pixar , the animation studio that made Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars, A Bug’s Life, and which grossed more than $6 billion, and has won 24 Academy Awards. Here is the question for you – how many flops has Pixar produced? The answer is none!

One reason for it is that within Pixar they give brutally honest feedback.

Brutally honest feedback

At Pixar, when a director hits a snag on a film, they immediately call in the “brain trust.” This is a group of brilliant senior filmmakers who come in, look at the film in progress and give brutally honest feedback for about two hours.

Normally this is an uncomfortable process and, at best, only partially effective. But it works for two reasons:

  1. No authority – the “brains trust” has no authority over the person to whom they are giving feedback. It is up to the recipient of the feedback to do something or not. As such they are not under any obligation to take the feedback, and because of that they often do.
  2. No advice – people do not tell others what to do, they don’t offer advice; they offer experience. As such the recipient can learn from others, and can choose what to do or not.

As such, the less authority and power you have the greater the influence you can bring to bear. And the lower the requirement to act on the experience shared, the more likely people are to do so. This creates the opportunity for learning, development and innovation. Counter-intuitive? Yes, but it works. Share your experience – but remember we don’t have to learn from it, but then we probably will!

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Starting With Your Purpose Wins!

What is the difference between an average leader and a great leader – the answer is WHY?

by  Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

In a TED presentation by Simon Sinek a key question was asked – “How can some companies achieve things that others do not, when they have access to the same talent, resources, markets etcetera?”

The answer is to this lies in a question.  Great leaders focus on the Why?, and not the What? they start from the inside and work outwards.  Let’s look at the picture below, the “Golden Circle”.

It explains why some leaders are able to inspire where others aren’t.

The “Golden Circle”

Golden Circle

Everybody knows “what” they do 100%. Some know how they do it. But very, very few people or organizations know WHY they do it.  The “Why” is the why you do it, why you get out of bed in the morning, and why people should care.  It is not about making a profit – that is a result, not the why.

If you are inspired you begin with the why in mind. Inspired organizations and people all think, act, and communicate from the inside out.

There is an important point here – people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

This reflects an important point about when people make decisions.  When a person makes any decision they always make an emotional decision, and then follow it up with a rationalisation.  As such emotion makes people act, and logic makes people think.

So if you lead with the ‘what’, you lead with information, features and benefits and facts and figures  it can drive understanding, but it doesn’t  drive behaviour.  To drive behaviour you lead with the ‘why’, you lead with emotion which attracts and stimulates people to make a decision.

But if you don’t’ know why you do what you do, then how will you ever get someone to buy into it, and be loyal, or want to be a part of what it is that you do.

Let’s look at how this ‘Golden Circle’ can be applied, using Apple as an example.

The Uninspiring – Outside-In Approach

WHAT: We make great computers

HOW: We make beautifully designed, easy to use and user friendly computers

WHY: Want to buy one?

This is uninspiring and it typical of what most businesses do.  We tell people what we do, how we are different and then expect some kind of desired behaviour to happen.

The Inspiring – Inside-Out Approach

WHY: Everything we do we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently.

HOW: The way that we challenge the status quo is that we design beautiful computers that simple to use and user-friendly.

WHAT: Want to buy one?

Here we have said the same things, we have just reversed the order – and you can feel the impact.

Ramifications for Leaders – Leading with ‘Why?’

As leaders,  the goal is not just to get people to buy that need what you have, but to believe what you believe. The goal is not just to hire people who need a job, but who believe what you believe. If you hire people who just need a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people that believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.

Leaders are those who hold a position of power or authority. But being a leader is not a noun, its a verb – leading. Those who lead are those who inspire us. Whether within organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. Not for them, but for ourselves.

And it’s those who start with why, who have the ability to inspire those around them or find others to inspire them.

Tell them why you do what you do

Don’t tell people what you do, tell them why you do what you do.

Let me give you an example using my business, Growth & Profit Solutions.

WHY: Why do I what I do?  I help people to grow, realise their potential and to enable them to do that for others!  I get up every day and work with people to realise their potential, to help them realise that of others and to create a virtuous cycle in doing so.

HOW: I partner with clients to design customised development programmes that develop the peoples’ skills and capabilities in helping them to grow and raise their performance, to share their learnings and experience with others in resolving challenges and capitalising on opportunities, and to bring passion into what they do.

WHAT: Would you like to make such a difference for yourself, for others, and for your company?

For me, the thought that what I do can positively affect people far over and beyond those who I work with – someone else I may never know, and even four, five or six times removed – is exciting, rewarding and deeply satisfying.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life (Confucius) – I am truly fortunate to be in this position, and even more fortunate because I can help other people to choose for themselves.

So the question here is not what do you, but why do you do what you do?

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The Importance of Management & Leadership Development

The Management & Leadership Development Imperative

Why Management & Leadership Development is a priority and its benefits.

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Leadership Development 2

One of the top issues for CEOs is business growth; however the ability of the business to achieve this growth is being stymied by the lack of suitably skilled staff – in short, effective leadership.

Strong leadership and management is a key factor in fostering innovation, unlocking the potential of the workforce and ensuring organizations have the right strategies to drive productivity and growth.  However, this potential is not being achieved due to managerial shortcomings and a lack of strategic thinking. Effective management is the exception rather than the rule.

So how do we address this?

Overcoming these weaknesses and improving our leadership and management capability is fundamental to creating a culture where more businesses have the ambition, confidence, resilience and skills to respond to the current economic challenges and compete successfully both nationally and globally.

By providing more comprehensive management training and development for budding leaders, companies can gain the edge over competitor firms.

Managerial Performance

A recent report in the UK stated that UK businesses are losing over £19 billion per year due to poor management.  In fact, almost half of say their line manager is effective, with 43% of UK managers rating their own line manager as ineffective – and only one in five are qualified.  However, management problems are not restricted to the lower or mid-levels, with the reporting highlighting incompetence of bad management of company directors as being responsible for 56% of corporate failures.

How much is this costing your business, and what are your risks with those at the top?

One of the root causes of management and leadership weaknesses is due to poor training and development, and this is a global and systemic problem.  For example, first line managers are primarily selected because of their technical capability rather than their potential to move into more senior positions, despite technical proficiency being far less significant when considering subsequent promotion. They frequently do not receive any specific management training and are not only ill-equipped to take on this role, but their immediate line managers often lack the knowledge and skills to support them.

So What Do We Do

The situation can be improved. Companies need to invest in leadership development for their managers, by doing this they can be prepared for the non-technical aspects of their job, which become increasingly important as they advance.

To build a robust and sustainable high performance business you have to take a more strategic view of management development.  To do this effectively you need to have:

  • Commitment to Management and Leadership Development (MLD) – driven by the CEO and senior management ;
  • HR practices that reinforce MLD – such as performance management, leadership succession planning and competency frameworks;
  • Alignment between business strategy and HR strategy – managers’ skills are clearly developed to drive business results.

Benefits of Management & Leadership Development

Good leadership and management can have a truly significant impact on organizational performance, both in the immediate and longer term.  Research has shown:

  • Best-practice management development can result in a 23% increase in organizational performance.
  • Effective management can significantly improve levels of employee engagement
  • A single point improvement in management practices (rated on a five-point scale) is associated with the same increase in output as a 25% increase in the labour force or a 65% increase in invested capital.

Management & Leadership Development is essential to long-term business success and, as such, provides a high return on investment (RoI) in both the short-term and the long-term, with the value created being realized and compounding year after year.

Growth & Profit Solutions partners with businesses to enable their key people to develop their commercial, management and leadership capabilities by working with them on addressing key challenges and opportunities on the job.  This allows experiential learning which is retained, obviates the need for key people to be absent whilst attending training courses, and is developed around the individual’s and the business’ needs. This helps to drive outcomes, retain critical talent whilst building a talent pipeline, and develops the in-house capabilities of the business allowing it to grow effectively and on a sustainable basis.

The question is not can you afford to invest in Management & Leadership Development, but can you afford not to?  If you have already started, then keep going; if you haven’t started, then start today – but don’t wait till tomorrow, by the time it becomes a “squeaky wheel” and has your attention it will be too late!


Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How to Use Deadlines to Your Advantage

How to use deadlines to your advantage

We often live in fear of deadlines or see them as the main source of our stress. You know how it goes: “Only two months left to make your annual target”, “The report has to be completed and on the boss’ desk by Friday morning”, or “The customer has to have this by the close of business today”.

Here is the thing; it is how you frame deadlines that will determine how you perceive them. Do you see deadlines as something which is there which will disturb your work-life balance or something that can you achieve a better balance? Do you want deadlines to be a source of stress or a source of energy? The choice is yours.

Here are some of the ways you can reframe deadlines to help you become more effective and efficient by adopting a perspective of:

  • Deadlines provide a means by which you can easily and quickly prioritize your work.
  • Deadlines help you and your team to focus, align your efforts and improve collaboration
  • Deadlines help you to determine when and why you “just say no”.

Deadlines can help you be more productive when used properly. In doing this:

1. Don’t give everything a deadline.  Not all work is important and urgent – only give deadlines to work that is. If you create a deadline for everything then if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

2. Plan around the deadlines. You need to make sure that you allocate people, time and resources in a suitable way to ensure the work gets done. This is especially true with deadlines that are further out in the future, and where we are often more prone to procrastinate and then we panic to complete the work in time.

3. Create contingency plans. We have all experienced the problem of being behind schedule. We know it can happen, so create contingency plans so that know what to do and how to recover the lost time.  Especially if your work is dependent on others doing the work on-time. If you don’t have a contingency plan you will be forced to react, this usually results in poor decisions being made and poor results realized.

4. Have mini-deadlines. If the deadline is a long way off, then create mini-deadlines for smaller pieces of the work. This helps you to monitor progress and ascertain where the plan and deadlines might be at risk.

5. Let people know what is happening.  Your work is often impacted by the work (or lack) of others and in turn your work (or lack) of impacts other. Make sure you let others know what is happening or not, and the associated upside and risks – similarly others need to reciprocate.  Doing this helps you to determine what needs to be done to keep to the deadline, what might be needed a change in the scope of work being done, or if the deadline needs to be shortened or lengthened.

Deadlines are a tool. Using them properly they can help you get more of the work done, and more of the right work done. Use these guidelines to help you leverage the power of deadlines and get more done, more easily with less stress.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Using the Decision Matrix for Better Decisions

Making Better Decisions – Using the Decision Matrix

by  Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Decisions are made in a subjective and varied way, creating poor decisions and contributing to poor outcomes.  See how a simple tool can help you make better decisions – whether at business or home.

When making business decision we often find that we are reinventing the decision-process every time, and consistently allowing subjectivity to sway our decisions.  This is especially true in team or group environments where a person’s perceived position, authority or their ability to dominate the conversation can mean that their personal viewpoint carries disproportionate weight and effect.

So how can we reduce this subjectivity, yet maintain the debate and dialogue necessary to make a robust decision.  There is a simple, yet effective, tool – the Decision Matrix.

What is the Decision Matrix?

The Decision Matrix is a tool which reduces the subjectivity in decision-making by creating a series of selection filters.  The real value of the Decision Matrix lies in the conversation and discussion it engenders in the group when working through the process.  As such, it is this conversation which opens up the dialogue, creating a richer set of options to choose from, and a clear and consistent process when selecting with which option(s) to proceed.  In doing this the Decision Matrix enables the group or team to identify, agree on, weight and importantly take ownership of a set of factors that are seen by all as influencing that decision,

How the Decision Matrix Works – Step by Step

Having determined what the decision to be made is about you:

Step 1: Generate a list of the issues/options/alternatives that require a decision to be made.

As a group, having already determined what the decision is that is to be made, create a list of all the relevant issues, options or alternatives.

Step 2: Get your group or team to brainstorm the critical factors

This are the critical factors that would influence the selection of the issues/options/alternatives identified in Step 1.


  • Criteria are both personal and business-focused, as such criteria have aspects that are both logical and emotional;
  • Don’t have too many criteria – this weakens the process and the choices made are more likely to be made on outlying factors – we would suggest no more than 10.

Step 3: Create Weightings for the Criteria/Factors

Having chosen the selection Criteria/Factors, you now need to weigh them individually to jointly total 100.  By doing this you are making it clear that not all criteria are equal – some have greater significance than others.  The more important the criteria the higher the weighting or score. The discussion in this area between the group or team members helps them to understand each other’s perspective, and to create a commonly agreed and shared understanding of how to evaluate the alternatives, and why in that way.

Step 3: Input the information from the above steps by:

  • Across the top of the chart create columns for each issue/option/alternative listed.  Label  the first column as “Weightings” and the second column as the “Do Nothing” choice.  For all subsequent columns put in each of the issues/options/alternatives.
  • Down the side of the chart create rows for each Criteria/Factor.
  • For each factor put the relevant weighting in its “Weighting” column.
  • For the “Do Nothing” column put a score in each factor at 50% of the weighting for the factor.  For example, if a factor had a weighting of 10 then the “Do Nothing” column for that factor would be scored as 5.  The total of all the factors for the “Do Nothing” column should add up to 50.

Step 4: Score Each Factor for All the Issues/Options/Alternatives Listed Across the Top

  • It is important to focus on one factor/criteria at a time and, in doing so, complete the grid row by row.
  • When scoring a factor note that you cannot score more than that factor’s weighting – for example, if a factor has a weighting of 12 then it cannot score 13 or more, the highest score it can be given is 12 – but it can always score less
  • When scoring start with the first factor, work your way across the row, and then repeat this with the next factor. This helps you to compare that factor against all the alternatives.

Step 5: Total the Scores for Each Issue/Option/Alternative

  • This will give you a score for each and the means by which to prioritise them, with the highest score being your first choice.

Notes for when using the Decision Matrix

Remember, this is a tool.  You may not agree with the result that you generate with this, in that case open up the discussion as to why and get others’ input.  Simply because this tool says that one alternative is your top priority does not mean that it should be so.

Decision Matrix – Worked Example:

In the example below the question is:

“Which of my main customers should I concentrate on to grow my business?”

  1. I have identified my 5 clients (Step 1).
  2. I have identified, with my group, the key criteria (Step 2) by which to evaluate my criteria.
  3. I have completed the decision matrix scores (Steps 3 – 5).
Decision Matrix

From this we can see the following:

  • The customer I should concentrate on growing my business is Customer 2.
  • However, Customer 4 is a close 2nd – being only 3 points behind.

Further Uses of the Decision Matrix

I may want to use this to decide that I want to focus only on customers who score more than 70 points.  Again, Customer 2 is the only one to achieve this (with 71 points).

However, I can use the Decision Matrix to ask the question of Customer 4, which is marginal with a score of 68 – “Which factors for Customer 4 can I increase their score so that the total is above 70?”.

For example, if you could raise their score on Prompt Payment to an 8 then Customer 4 would then score 70 points and would be focused on as a result.

This then raises the question of “How do I improve Customer 4’s ability to pay promptly?”  This could involve, for example, getting the customer to pre-pay future orders or to reduce their arrears with your company.

As such the Decision Matrix not only helps you to prioritise, but to drive actions to help you realise the outcomes you are looking for.

However, making a good decision does not mean that you will get a good outcome.  To learn more on this read “Leadership & Decision-Making”.

How will you use this tool?  What decisions can this help you with?

Share your ideas, insights and experience.  Share the knowledge, share the wealth!


Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The Key Differences Between Management & Leadership

A business needs to have both effective managers and effective leaders; it cannot operate without one of them. Leadership and management are different roles, not different people.  As such, all leaders are managers but not all managers are leaders.  Let me explain further.

There are many in management positions – those who control or administer part of the business who have a title such as “manager”, or “supervisor” or  “director” – who have the necessary management skills (for example, being able to plan, schedule time effectively, manage budgets etcetera). But titles do not make leaders.  To be a leader you need to have people who will willingly follow you.  This has two implications:

  • If no one is following you then you are just a manager.
  • You can have no formal title or authority but, because people follow you, you can be a leader.

As such, leadership is not a noun, it is a verb. But leadership is not just about having followers, and management is not just about control – there are differences that collectively make management and leadership very different but complementary. Kotter concisely defines management and leadership as the following:

“In fact, management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services as you have promised, of consistent quality, on the budget, day after day, week after week. In organizations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. We constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially if we are not in senior management jobs. So, management is crucial — but it’s not leadership.

Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it’s about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous and it’s a recipe for failure.”

The essence of the difference between management and leadership can be summarized in one sentence: Management is about coping with Complexity; Leadership is about coping with Change.  As such, Management is about Resources, Leadership is about People.  Let’s explore this further in the table below which highlights some of the key differences.

Key differences between management and leadership

Management Leadership
Doing things right… Doing the right things…
Efficiency Effectiveness
Transactional Transformational
Speed Direction
Practices Principles
Things People
Manage complexity Manage change
Drive stability, efficiency, and order Drive innovation, adaptability and change
Task-focused People-focused
Operational role Situational role
Content is important Context is important

As you can see from this list there is a tension between management and leadership which, if you achieve the right balance between the two, can be highly productive and beneficial.

However, if you have management with weak leadership or leadership with weak management you will have an imbalance. We explore this in the leadership/management matrix.

The Leadership/Management Matrix

So which is more important, management or leadership? This is not the right question to ask, rather the question to ask what is the balance between management and leadership that you need to have? To answer this, you need to at what role each plays. Management ensures the stability and efficiency necessary to run today’s business reliably. Leadership creates the change needed to take advantage of new opportunities, to avoid serious threats, and to create and execute new strategies. The point is that management and leadership are very different, and when organizations are of any size and exist in environments which are volatile, both are essential to helping them win.

The management/leadership matrix show what happens when you have weak or strong leadership interacting with weak or strong management.  The four quadrants are:

  • Doomed – weak management, weak leadership.  Here the business is run inefficiently and with no clear direction to guide and align people’s efforts, decisions and the allocation of resources.  People are not inspired or motivated to achieve high-performance, and the business is losing to its competitors.  The business is unlikely to survive beyond the short-term.
  • Innovative – weak management, strong leadership. Here the business is able to adapt quickly and effectively, but there are insufficient management and associated skills in place to drive stability, efficiency and to create the necessary order to manage the resulting complexity and create order from which to build.
  • Well run but bureaucratic – strong management, weak leadership.  Here the business is well-structured and managed; it works efficiently which is good while the status quo exists.  However, in an environment of change, it finds itself relatively rigid and inflexible with its existing bureaucracy and organization being unable to adapt effectively.  This can expose the business with existing strengths potentially becoming major liabilities, potential competitors going unrecognized or changes in customer need going unmet.
  • Well run and innovative – strong management, strong leadership.  Here there is a healthy balance of management and leadership skills and capacity.  The business has a clear direction around which everyone and all actions is aligned, people are inspired and motivated, and as a result, they work both efficiently and effectively.  They are competitive, adaptive and have the right mix of skills, capacity enabled by a strong business culture which supports the people in their work.

Over-managed and Under-led

A common complaint in most businesses is that they are over-managed and under-led (in the bottom-right quadrant of the matrix, bureaucratic). Those at the top of the hierarchy (note I do not call them leaders) are often more focused on doing things right (management) rather than doing the right things (leadership).

Over recent years the emphasis of senior management has been on having an efficient business (management) rather than an effective business (leadership).  In pursuing this they have focused on getting the business processes (management) right, rather than the people right (leadership).  This focuses senior management on controlling people (management), not on helping them collaborate (leadership).

Part of this problem has been historical in that for many years businesses operated in a relatively static environment and having a management focus made sense. Now we are in an environment of accelerating change. We are experiencing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) at an unprecedented level and rate.

The problem with many businesses being overmanaged and underled is that the business focuses on maintaining the status quo at a time when people need to change to meet the new challenges and opportunities.  This creates an organization that is inflexible, backward-looking and slow to change. We need to change as fast as the world around us to avoid becoming obsolete.

To overcome VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Agility) we need to develop, articulate and drive across the business a clear Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility.  This is all about dealing with change and helping people to embrace that change successfully.  In short, it is the work of a leader and not a manager.  It is a case of the old adage – what got you here won’t get you there! Leadership is more important than ever in these changing times.

If you want to be successful in your career, your business and your life then change always starts with you! You need to adapt and change yourself first before you can help others to do so.  You need to move from being a manager to being a leader.  You need to become agile in what you do, to challenge the status quo and to become comfortable with ambiguity and volatility. If this is uncomfortable for you then you can stay a manager – but be prepared for a life with fewer challenges, fewer options, and fewer opportunities.

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