Archive for January, 2016


Welcome to the first post-Amanda Sterling led #NZLead and of 2016.  It’s my pleasure and honour to continue Amanda’s legacy of stimulating posts, sharing and chat via the #NZLead hashtag.


Because I offered to host the chat (on Twitter: 28 January NZ time 7pm – 8pm / UK time 8am-9am) I got to choose the topic and it’s something I am REALLY interested in, taxed by and keen to know more about: leading in unorthodox structures.  

Leading seems both easy as pie and full of common sense about human behaviours; and as difficult as can be with the complexities of people, systems, unpredictability and unexpected outcomes.  It is still difficult in systems and structures we’ve been working with for years – hierarchical, job-title led and positional power infused.  So what about when the structures are very different and all those old rules are cast aside for alternative and therefore unorthodox leadership propositions?

We could spend a couple of weeks debating leading in Agile, how Scrum methodology in IT development needs a different kind of leader and we haven’t even talked up democratic workplace principles or the H-bomb of Holacracy.

Casting aside the various labels for systems and thinking purely about things which are deviances from the traditional ladder of power pyramid model, what does this form of leadership need, mean and do?

So my four questions are: –

  1. How strongly do we feel alternative structures are challenging the more traditional orthodox formats?  Is it an increasing trend that will become a new norm?
  2. What are the issues leaders face in working with / in alternative structures?
  3. What’s the mindset and behavioural shift leaders will have to make to be successful in alternative set-ups/structures?
  4. What’s the one thing leaders can focus on to adapt to alternative structures – however radical they may be?


If there’s one thing I’m seeing it’s that leadership is under pressure to adapt whatever the system or structure.  That’s not a new thing: ever since I became someone with people management responsibility, there’s been new theory, changed models of operating and different demands.  The structures though have all been largely similar – hierarchical.

Now that we’re seeing many challengers to this model, I’m seeing a whole new tension arise in leaders.  Fearful – in many regards – for their very existence.  Gary Hamel has advocated Management 2.0 for some time now.  Julian Birkinshaw called for the Reinvention of Management and there’s countless books on alternative leadership angles and now leading in a connected age.

Let’s see what useful insight, hopes and aspirations we can set in our one-hour twitter storm.  Thursday 28th January 2016 – 7pm NZ Time / 6am UK Time.


TagTeamBlog #1

Posted: January 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

I have long admired the blogging of one Helen Tracey AKA @HRpotential (and blog site

So I asked Helen if we could join forces to try a little experiment with blogging – a co-blog or a tag-team approach.  We pick a subject: Helen says something about it in written form, I respond, Helen adds more, I do too and then eventually we think it might be worth sharing with the unsuspecting world.

Here’s the first one: We’d LOVE to know what you think.



Do you know what I think Perry? Human Resources is a lot about common sense. Practitioners just lose their way because they get tied up in the red tape of have to deal with tricky issues. Something which should be fairly straightforward gets progressively more and more complicated and we end up just chasing our tails. Once something like that is in place, we HR pros can get very protective of our baby. Why throw the baby out with the bathwater? We need a job after all.

Take performance management for example – what is probably the profession’s hot topic right now. If someone was designing the process from scratch they would probably start with what the organisation wanted to get out of it and work backwards. So, the team brainstorming the desired results would come up with things like “staff feel valued for their input”, “staff understand how much their work means to the organisation” and “staff believe they are rewarded fairly and in a timely manner”. Imagine one participant in the session, probably swinging back on their chair, staring at the ceiling until they interject with, “I know, I’ve got a great idea!”. They go on to describe a system of forms, targets and performance indicators. Eventually someone mumbles, “sounds complicated” to which the reply is “don’t worry, we’ll only have to do it once a year!”.

My point is that no one in their right mind would design performance management as it is now.  Yet any question of a serious rethink is dismissed amongst concerns of “robustness” or simply laughed off as a half-meant joke. Is there any hope Perry?


Hey Helen – you put it so well here.  It would/should never have been like this.  Anyway in answer to your question to me: There may well be hope in that many people have realised how the bureaucracy isn’t just unhelpful it’s positively loathed and creates more tension than it was ever designed to solve.  

Done well, and by that I mean by that is without being overly fixated on forms and ratings, the chance to chat with someone on your team about how they’re doing and review how things are is a great way to get some meaningful dialogue underway.  Then BOOM we introduced boxes, and scales, and performance related pay and all sorts of well meaning stuff.  And we lost the will to live and hours and hours and hours.  And we grew no closer to each other in understanding each other.

Now the humanity in us is repelling the forced compliance with forms, systems, rubbish feedback sandwiches (has there ever been a more rubbish model than this?) and disregard for the person behind the job title.  Inside the overalls / shirt is a person with the right to expect managers to notice the contribution they make or don’t and to being a trusted, reliable, effective member of the team with responsibility and accountability to do great things that drive the business forward and deliver the key aspects of the business value proposition.

So I think we’re de-layering this and returning to people having conversations that help, matter and show support.  We are also decoupling performance pay – which I don’t think has ever really worked to enhance productivity, and we are removing awful mechanical rankings and silly achievement words like “acceptable performance” – how uninspiring is that?  And still people worry about the bureaucracy though.

So i’d like to ask you back, if we strip back to conversations, how do we satisfy the bureaucrats and those who need compliance?  Over to you H…


Wow Perry, that’s a tough one. My immediate answer is, you can’t. As soon as we dare mention trying to take away the forms, the bureaucrats will be sweating and wringing their hands. Unfortunately their first concern will be, how can we justify sacking someone further down the line if we don’t have mounting evidence of their terribly declining competence? Getting them to ask the right questions, such as “what on earth was the line manager doing?” and “was there more we could have done to prevent this?” involves a complete cultural change. I would like to say that the HR people would be gently prompting the right responses, but all too often HR is its own worst enemy. We’ve gone around justifying our existence in completely the wrong way, by building an empire of processes and hoops that people need to jump through in order to keep their job. We speak of the bureaucrats as if they’re some distant enemy, when regrettably of lot of them have already infiltrated the ranks of HR.

No doubt many will be balking at my mention of “culture change”. Another thing that’s so difficult and intangible it’s been crossed off the list of acceptable activities for HR to “manage”. Instead culture has been turned into an excuse for exactly why things can’t change. You know, why can’t we change the performance management system? Oh that wouldn’t work here, it doesn’t fit with our culture! We’ve forgotten that HR wields some of the biggest instruments affecting the whole tone of “how things are done around here”. Learning and development. Discipline. Recruitment. It’s the people that make the culture, and we don’t just let them run around randomly doing whatever they want (or hopefully we don’t). Even line managers have a framework to work within, and who sets that framework? Human Resources.

So I think the question isn’t how do we please the bureaucrats, it’s how do we get rid of them! Perry?


Wow Helen getting rid of the bureaucrats makes you sound like Gary Hamel..!  I mean that in a nice way.  I guess I’d love to see bureaucracy become more about discerning process.  Great things in place that gives us the consistency and certainty needed in the places they’re needed but not inflicted as a default.   “Let’s process that out.”  NO.  Let’s only process it where there needs to be a solid repetitive element and the rest of it we work on PRINCIPLES.  Principles should be the foundation of things like people development and enablement not process.   So let’s turn the bureaucrats into purveyors of artful, practical, elegant principles that we can all subscribe to with intellect and let’s loosen the choking effect of bureaucracy.

I guess in summary what we will need to deduct from our exchange then here is: –

There is hope: in returning to the value and impact human beings have in work and not in a process

There is a change: in the way we thrust conversations back into our ways of working and bring dialogue that creates meaning and trust.

There is a guiding light: in principles and not in process process process.

And therefore HR should help manage the bureaucracy and bureaucrats via sensible evidence of benefits gained by a move to de-layered simplicity and things lost if we stick to the current painful process.

Thanks Helen for being a part of the jointly constructed, conversational, co-created blog post.

Our first tag-team blog.  #Whoomp! There it is.


Back in the light

Posted: January 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

Being dark for 11 days – what was it like?


So after 23rd December ticked over into the 24th, I stopped posting on Social Networks and spent very very little time on them.  What was it like?  How did I cope?  What did I learn?

It was actually NOT that big a deal.  I found my battery on my phone lasted a long long time.  I resisted urges to even favourite things I read in the very very brief time I scanned networks (and this was only when I had a mention or an alert on a social network – I kept an eye on it – three times a day tops and not at all on some days).

I didn’t feel any anxiety about missing out.  I smiled a little at some of the things I did see when I popped back in but loved the sense of NOT having to post anything.

I missed the reciprocity though.  When people had a birthday note pop up or when they posted something to me I felt a little rude by not replying BUT I resisted and told myself that they’d understand my going dark meant something.

Was I more attentive at home and to those around me?  A little more but I genuinely believe in the flow of on and offline being something I have tuned into to.  I see something funny online I share it offline with who I am with.  I hear something great offline and I feel it could be a useful thing to share online.

I think sometimes people do make too much of this “online is a distraction/offline is best”.  It’s mixing both for the benefit of you and others that really makes things tick.

When I need to focus on things, I ignore social networks, alerts, phone calls and more.  It’s not even a tough discipline.  If you’re THAT easily distracted then the thing you’re focusing on isn’t that important right now surely?  I tend to use social networks to inspire me rather than distract.  If I need a bit of inspiration or a break away from something I’m deeply grappling with, it comes as a welcome relief to see a nice post on something positive or a useful study report.

When I want to idle away some time – also known as randomised researching – I jump on social networks.

Already in my first 48 hours back on the grid, I’ve found some brilliant stuff.  

I’ve also found some amazing things in the journals that had stacked up a bit over the past 2 months and some great things in the books I jumped into.  These weren’t left because I wasted time on social networks or online – I was just plain busy with stuff (work).

There is though ONE THING I missed whilst off the grid: incessantly learning stuff.  So strong is my appetite to learn that this did make me a little uncomfortable and I needed some form of distraction (which is where lots of movies filled a gap).

So my lessons here are:

  1. It’s great to go dark just to prove to yourself and others you can do it.
  2. It’s useful to have space where the small screens in life give way to larger books, journals and magazines.
  3. That you don’t lose out or suffer fear of missing out as much as many people predict you will/do by not being online.
  4. That people welcome you back which is lovely.  It’s always nice to be missed for things you do, say and make people feel/think about.
  5. That there’s balance in the force.  It’s not on or offline it’s a beautiful movement between them to interweave them into your life and work and play.

It is though, great to be back.