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Management & Leadership - Derek's Blog on everything and everything else...

Derek's Blog on everything and everything else...

The Derek Hendrikz blog mostly relates to issues of organisational leadership, management, relevance and performance, but there are times when it does not. This is an interactive forum where we debate relevant and not-so-relevant issues… No holy cow’s kept alive here, thus please say it as it is (according to your world)…

The leadership and management blog by Derek Hendrikz is dedicated to sheding light on organisational leadership and management issues. More often than not, holy cows are slaughtered here and that which we have believed to be true for so many years are challenged in every possible way... 

Derek Hendrikz is an international strategic leadership a...

The leadership and management blog by Derek Hendrikz is dedicated to sheding light on organisational leadership and management issues. More often than not, holy cows are slaughtered here and that which we have believed to be true for so many years are challenged in every possible way... 

Derek Hendrikz is an international strategic leadership and organisational performance specialist who offers training workshops, seminars and consulting services in this regard.


What is a High Performance Team and how are they created?

What is a High Performance Team and how are they created?

By Derek Hendrikz


Those who have experienced youth during the 80’s, would know that when referring to a high performing team, it inevitably implied a ‘notorious’ team led by Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith. The A-Team, an acclaimed 80’s television show, kept millions around the world nailed to their seats.


‘High Performance Teams’, a phrase echoed in meetings, trumpeted in workplace passages and often tabled as the business case for expensive team building interventions. So then, what is this phenomenon that we so eagerly demand and encourage?


"...he and his team outperformed all expectations, and moreover, they achieved that which no other could possibly dream of achieving."


In the book, ‘The Wisdom of Teams’, Katzenbach defines high-performance teams (HPT’s) as; “A concept within organization development referring to teams, organizations, or virtual groups that are highly focused on their goals and that achieve superior business results.” Katzenbach continues to state that HPT’s outperform expectations compared to all other similar teams. Maybe this was the underlying message when Colonel Hannibal Smith, at the end of every programme, always said with a broad smile; “I love it when a plan comes together.” Hannibal, knew that, at the exact point of that statement, he and his team outperformed all expectations, and moreover, they achieved that which no other could possibly dream of achieving. With that smile, the Colonel knew that they have reached a point of superior performance.


The concept of High Performing Teams is older than most would imagine. In fact, many scientists have attributed superior intelligence to species that could develop the ability to hunt and kill in teams. We, for instance know, that the reason why Orcas are our ocean’s top predators, is primarily due to their ability to work in teams. This amazing ability has led them to create different cultures and dialects. The only other animal species who operate at that level of team performance are chimpanzees. And, of course, our own specie, humans, would have not been able to produce a fraction of our current modern advancement if it were not for our ability to work and produce in teams.



"...the process I’ve just described sometimes has a sense of ‘divine intervention’ – magic happens!"


The HPT concept was first described in detail by the Tavistock Institute, UK, in 1950, but was only popularised during the 1980’s by companies such as General Electric, Boeing and Hewlett-Packard. During the first decade of this century, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Human Dynamics Laboratory team, investigated explicitly observable communication patterns and found energy, engagement, and exploration to be surprisingly powerful predictive indicators for a team's ability to perform. My own research fully concurs with this finding, and I therefore propose that for any team to produce superior performance they must have the resources (energy), which implies sufficient people, money, assets and time. Secondly such team must focus (engage) with the task at hand. This is more than knowing that they should do something, but rather matter of being passionately involved with a task, to the extent where consciousness beyond such task is lost. Lastly, there is the ability to collectively explore. Here, the team needs to solve, resolve and change whatever it is that they are working on. This dimension is much more complex than a ‘face value’ understanding would permit us to perceive. Collective exploration directly implies that minds must meet, merge and produce synergy. Hence, tacit intelligence (that in the individual minds of people) must become explicit (explained and understood by all in the team) and then internalised into a process (made implicit). Those who have the privilege and opportunity to function in a high performance team, would testify that the process I’ve just described sometimes has a sense of ‘divine intervention’ – magic happens!


Yet, with all this said and done, I cannot help but think of the Colonel’s words; “I love it when a plan comes together”, since these words indicate that beyond energy, engagement and exploration, there is something else; a pivotal glue that orchestrates the magic that must happen. I believe that this central nexus is a clear and undisputed goal. Plans only come together if those who have to get it done unquestionably believe in the possibility, probability and impact of the final result... Hence, there must be a clear, well communicated and concurred goal.


"...even though they have their differences, they have the utmost respect for each other’s skill and ability."


At this point we have, I believe, established sound definition and elements of a HPT. It might now be a good time to work with the character of such a team. Of course, my first thought would be to analyse the amazing A-Team of Hannibal Smith, especially since they were so diverse in terms of character and behaviour. They were absolutely nothing alike. There is Bosco Albert "B.A." (Bad Attitude) Baracus, the practical strong guy of the team. BA fixes things and is a hard opponent to beat in any physical battle. Then we have Templeton "Faceman" Peck, who is the team’s negotiator and seducer. Where resources are needed, Faceman is the guy who will negotiate for such. Lastly, the A-Team has their precision pilot, "Howling Mad" Murdock, who lives in a metal asylum. The team tolerates Murdock’s madness for his ability to fly any aircraft. Now, what strikes me most is that it is the different personalities and skill of these team members that make them great. They rarely like each other and often have immense conflict, but where task calls, they unite into a formidable force. It was mission that brought them together and it is mission that puts them into action. Moreover, even though they have their differences, they have the utmost respect for each other’s skill and ability. Where Murdoc gets into an aircraft, the whole team believes and trusts that there is absolutely no one better for the job; where resources are needed, every member knows that Faceman will negotiate that; where something has to be build, the team never interferes with the instructions of BA; and where the plan is made the team knows that the Colonel knows best.


"Of course there will be conflict and there should be, since this is nature’s way of testing the strength of any argument."


Most articles that you read will emphasise communication as key to effective team work, but I strongly believe that goal clarity is the real key. People at a party communicate effectively, but we can hardly call them a team. That which separates groups from teams is mission. The stronger the goal, the more effective the team. Where you add trust and intelligence to a goal, you have a formidable force. I am in no way implying that communication is not important. I am merely emphasising that clear goals attract functional communication. I’ve been to many meetings where competent people sit and talk rubbish; simply because they have no idea what the purpose of the meeting is. In this example, the lack of effective communication has nothing to do with communication skills, but rather reflects on the absence of a gravitational force that pulls relevant information. When you add competent people to a clear goal, effective communication will follow. To me this is the bottom line. Of course there will be conflict and there should be, since this is nature’s way of testing the strength of any argument. You might argue that people, even though competent, might take things personal. This might be so, but even then, it is a matter of weak emotional intelligence, of which communication is only one facet.


Through the years, may attributes and characteristics have been listed under the heading of ‘High Performance Teams’. I have read many of these and offer the following list as my contribution to a myriad of existing advice…

1.    Clear Goal

I have said much on this, but would like to add, that it is not only about having a clear goal, but also about having a goal that is 100% acknowledged, sponsored and sanctioned.

2.    Competence

Irrelevant of how well you define your goal, it can never outperform stupidity. Our A-Team was not great because they had clear goals, they were fantastic because each team member possessed extraordinary and relevant skills. Surround yourself with brilliance that holds relevance to your goals and the results will be beyond comparison.

3.    Trust

I sincerely do not think that team members must get along, be friends or even like each other. But trust is non-negotiable. In one episode, BA Baracus (who dislikes Murdoc beyond expression), saves Murdoc from drowning. BA did not do this because he likes or dislikes Murdoc; he did so because they are team members who trust each other. This is the essence of integrity. No team will surpass mediocracy without this virtue.

4.    Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Yes, teams will have severe conflict and will differ on many occasions, but at some point you need to move on. The past is a place that does not exist. Those who live there, without doubt, struggle with emotional intelligence. EQ is tested on two levels, namely; (1) your ability to work with own issues and (2) your ability to function within a community or group. The former strongly relates to your ability in moving past disturbing experiences and the latter to connect and communicate with those whom form part of your system. High EQ is essential to high performing teams, especially if they have to keep on performing over a long period.

5.    Conflict

No, I am not referring to the effective management of conflict; I am referring to actual conflict. Conflict is the essence of evolution and growth. It is nature’s way of eliminating the weak. You might complain that your ideas are never accepted because the people who judge them are stagnant thinkers. But, just maybe, the real reason is that your idea is simply not strong enough to withstand the turbulent forces of organisational functioning, in which case it is a good thing that it is not accepted. Ideas and creativity are like tadpoles. There are millions being born and ponds are often swamped with such. But, very few ever become frogs. The purpose of conflict is to test, scrutinise and judge your ideas, concepts and creative thinking. And, as with tadpoles, you have to earn the right to become a frog.

6.    Diversity

At the core of our A-Team lies diversity. In terms of personality, behaviour, physical ability and thinking; Hannibal, BA, Murdoc and Faceman have very little in common. And exactly that, is their secret. Two sperm cells can never produce a baby. It is in the crucible of opposites where innovation and renewal is forged. The price of uniformity is stagnation and the price of diversity is conflict. The former will pave your road to the kingdom of irrelevance and the latter will ensure long term survival.


The next question into our journey of discovering HPT’s, is how to create one. I believe that this was already answered by explaining the characteristics above. To recap, I offer the following steps…

1.    Define a clear and relevant goal;

2.    Attract and recruit brilliant people to execute that goal;

3.    Build trust trough constant and honest feedback and facilitate processes whereby members can understand each other. Psychometric testing such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and team development will go a long way here. In my previous article; “Does Team-building Really Work?” I discuss this thoroughly.

4.    Tolerate conflict. Instead of trying to avoid and resolve conflict, rather endorse and develop emotional intelligence.


I hope that this article has contributed to your quest in developing a high performance team. If this write-up has stimulated your interest, then please make use of my resource centre on ‘Team Development’. Where you struggle with the given link, you can simply go to www.derekhendrikz.com and under the ‘Resource Centre’ tab, click on ‘Management Resource Centre’. From there you can select the ‘Team Development’ resource page. There is no ‘log-in’ procedure and all slides, video clips and other information is directly downloadable. 


Thank you for reading this article…



  •  Katzenbach, et al.: 2003: The Wisdom of Teams, HarperBusiness
  •  Pentland, Alex "Sandy": 2012 Issue: The New Science of Building Great Teams: Harvard Business Review
  • The A-Team: Wikipedia: Accessed 19 May 2016



© 18 May 2016

Strategic Leadership and Organisational Performance Specialist






© 2016 Derek Hendrikz

  7118 Hits

What is Leadership?

What is Leadership?


By Derek Hendrikz


What is leadership? A question that has evaded precise definition for decades now; and I certainly have no intent to solve this conundrum where answers equal the number of people who attempt such. Each bestseller has new advice, and now and again someone claims deeper thinking on this matter. The best I can do, is to give my opinion and experience on what leadership is, but more importantly, what I believe it is not...


Through the years I have worked hard as leadership trainer and strategy development consultant to determine some common characteristics to leadership. My criteria for such dimensions was that it must be applicable to leaders in government, business, religion, non-profit causes, science, academia or any other sphere where a person has taken leadership. This is what my research produced…


The purpose leadership…

Before understanding the purpose of leadership one needs to understand the purpose of organisations, since no leader can exist outside an organised system. Consequently, without organisation there can be no leadership. The purpose of organisations are to stay relevant and to perform. This is what all organisations do, irrelevant or their sector or industry. Performance is the ability to maintain established cyclic processes and relevance is the ability to stay externally sponsored. At the workplace we mostly refer to processes as operations. This is where we repeat and perfect that which we have done yesterday. In my experience this is a management function. To stay relevant, on the other hand, requires an ability to negotiate sponsorship from the environment who warrants your existence as well as the competence to initiate and execute projects, which ensures the change that is necessary for continual survival. Thus, the purpose of any leader is primarily to influence change and to negotiate relevance. This could be a military General on the battle field, a supervisor leading a team who are developing new prototypes, or any other person who acts as guardian against the kingdom of irrelevance. To define the purpose of leadership seems straight forward, but the question remains, what common characteristics do leaders have?


The character of leadership…

Over the years, literally hundreds of qualities have been ‘bestowed’ on leaders. Some of the most assumed traits are, pro-activeness; good communication skills; respectfulness; quiet confidence; enthusiasm; open-mindedness; resourcefulness; the need to reward others; creativity, organised; consistent behaviour; delegators; positive attitude; intuitive; well educated; open to change; interested in feedback, just to name a few. Yet, with a bit of thinking, I was able to create doubt on almost all of the characteristics named above. In my research, I could only find two truly common virtues that great leaders must have. These are…

  1. The ability to create vision; and

  2. The ability to influence others to work towards such vision.

Some leaders might have good communication skills, are respectful, interested in feedback, etc. but many are not. To my mind, the only true characteristics of leadership are vision and influence. All other attributes relate to mere personality preferences and follower needs. This brings me to the next point, which is that much of what we believe of leadership are mere myth…




The Five Great Myths of leadership (what leadership is not)…

1.    Leaders have high Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

It is most common of blog-authors and motivational speakers to endorse the ability of leaders to be intra- and inter-personally intelligent. Of all the leadership myths, I believe this one to farthest from the truth. In his book, ‘A First-Rate Madness’, author Nassir Ghaemi draws strong links between leadership and mental illness. All you have to do is pick the name of a great leader and google will prove that there is a 5/10 chance that such person suffered from some type of emotional disorder. Nelson Mandela cheated on his first wife and was married three times; Charles Darwin suffered from severe agoraphobia and had an intense fear of people; Abraham Lincoln, Ludwig von Beethoven, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, Marlon Brando, Jim Carry, J.K Rowling, Ernest Hemingway and Vincent von Gogh are but a few examples of immensely influential people who all suffered from bipolar disease and manic depression; Lady Diana, princess of Wales, had an bulimic addiction and suffered from severe depression; Heath Ledger, Kurt Cobain, Elvis, Michael Jackson and Witney Houston all suffered from drug addiction and suicidal depression; George W Bush, John F Kennedy and Franklin D Roosevelt are only a few examples of American presidents who have been reported to abuse alcohol; and it is recorded that the father of modern science, Sir Isaac Newton suffered from bipolar disorder combined with psychotic tendencies and a total inability to connect with people; Benjamin Franklin was addicted to a mixture between alcohol and opium up to the day of his death; Pope Leo XIII was addicted to cocaine; Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., both made suicide attempts in adolescence and had a number of severe depressive episodes in adulthood. I could go on and on with this list, to the point where it becomes a recipe for insomnia. In the 2013 Forbes article, ‘Why The Brains Of High-Powered People May Be More Prone To Addiction’, author Alice Walton explains, “that the best leaders among us – the most driven, dedicated, and outside-the-box thinkers – are wired a bit differently from the rest.” Two things that we have to agree with here, is firstly, that all the people mentioned above were great leaders in their respective fields, and secondly, that being chronically depressed, suicidal, avoiding people and drug abuse absolutely contradicts the notion of being intra- and interpersonally effective. In reality, there is probably a greater case for emotional dysfunction than emotional intelligence as common factor to great leadership.

2.    Leaders are Proactive

In his book, ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, Steven Covey argues that proactive people focus on things that are important but not urgent, whereas reactive people will focus on things that are both urgent and important. Much of the motivational gospel today claims that leaders must be proactive. Yet, great leaders are made in times of mammoth reaction. Winston Churchill was immortalised through his reaction to Hitler in the Second World War; Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein both changed science history when they reacted to incorrect thinking in this field, and today, the most powerful person in the world (Forbes List 2015, December), Vladimir Putin, made social media waves when reacting with large scale attacks against Syria after a Russian fighter aircraft was shot down. In terms of Covey’s definition, I would suggest that leaders are far more likely to be created in circumstances where things are both important and urgent as opposed to where things are important, but not urgent. Thus by nature, leaders are reactive. This explains why leadership mostly creates an immense amount of dependency with those that follow them. Of course, you could argue that many leaders react as a proactive measure, but I would counter argue that even the most proactive action is a reaction to something, thus making pure proactive action impossible.

3.    Leaders are Positive

In the 30 June 2011, Wall Street Journal article, ‘Depression in Command’, Nassir Ghaemi states, “Normal, non-depressed persons have what psychologists call ‘positive illusion’—that is, they possess a mildly high self-regard, a slightly inflated sense of how much they control the world around them. Mildly depressed people, by contrast, tend to see the world more clearly, more as it is.” As stated earlier, leaders change things. Where no change is needed, leadership becomes irrelevant. Mostly this change is the result of being negative about something; e.g., Mandela was negative towards apartheid, Ghandi was negative towards British rule in India; Steve Jobs was negative towards the current state of home computing, etc. A common trait in leadership is that leaders are mostly negative towards the past and positive towards the future, especially if such future is a creation of their own vision.

4.    Leaders put People first

Leadership implies followership. Thus, by its very nature, people are important to leaders, because without such they cannot exist. Studies have shown that depressed people often demonstrate a higher level of empathy towards others. Earlier I have eluded to the possibility that many high powered people are often depressive, and therefore possibly care deeply about others. There is thus no question that great leaders care and feel deeply for their followers. But do leaders put people first? My research has shown that, although most leaders care deeply about their followers, it is their vision or goal that comes first, even if this means sacrificing the same people that they love. The greatest leaders of our time, including political leaders as Mandela, Ghandi, Lincoln, business leaders and even spiritual leaders did not blink an eye to sacrifice their own people and in many cases themselves for (to their minds) the greater goal.

5.    Leaders are Democratic

There prevails a strong romantic notion that leaders are democratic. There are even a number of psychometric tests that aim to verify that you have democratic tendencies, and if so it is professed that you will be a good leader. But, in my research, I could not find one great democracy brought about by democratic leaders. When the South African Government wanted to talk to Nelson Mandela, whilst he was still in prison, fellow political prisoners, outvoted such move, but Mandela nevertheless went ahead. After his release from prison, Mandela’s executive team voted that the Springbok rugby emblem must be changed to a Protea (the official South African flower). Mandela had a vision of uniting the South African nation and knew that changing the emblem of a sport mainly supported by white South Africans could do much more harm than good. Subsequently he made a very autocratic decision to keep the emblem. This decision later proved immensely wise when South Africa won the world cup in rugby on home ground. Similarly Abraham Lincoln was outvoted when suggesting that they should abolish slavery, and neither did Ghandi ask Great Britain to leave India, he told them to go. These are small and mediocre examples of how great men made high impact decisions against the wishes of their constituencies. In fact, I found the greatest democracies of history being established by incredibly autocratic leaders. The mere semantic of leadership implies autocracy. The true nature of leadership is much more autocratic than democratic. Leaders who have left legacy beyond comparison, all very much knew their own autocratic tendencies, and for this reason they knew when to leave. Mandela only stood as South African president for one term, Ghandi refused presidency of India, Bill Gates reigned as CEO in 2000, etc. But, this is a topic for another article.


Are Leaders Born or Made?

This is a favourite debate during leadership workshops. The easiest way to answer this question is to revisit our primary characteristics of leadership, namely the ability to create vision and the power to influence others towards such vision. In terms of influence, of course it can be taught, coached, mentored, etc. Negotiation skills training is a good example of teaching people to influence others. Thus we can teach a prospective leader in the art of influence. But can I teach you to create vision? This becomes more problematic, and if not impossible, very close to such. Then there are the circumstantial factors, such as upbringing, problems posed by the environment, etc. Throughout history leadership has been very context specific. Most great leaders were made during a very specific time and within a very specific environment. To answer the initial question, I would advocate that there are leadership characteristics that can be taught, such as the art of influence, but that there are an equal amount of characteristics that cannot be taught such as the ability to create vision. Also, you cannot teach a person to be born at a specific time within specific circumstances and in a specific environment.


Thus far, I have been focussing on international leaders that have influenced the world, but most reading this article will need to understand leadership in a much smaller and localised environment, such as their organisation. I do not think that the character of leadership is any different on any level. I do, however, believe that people loosely use the term leadership for contexts that actually imply management. A lot of the characteristics like emotional intelligence, democracy, positive thinking, pro-active action and people orientation are strong requirements for management. Most books, articles and workshops on leadership are often more directed at efficient management, although it is sold as effective leadership. I am a strong advocate that the one is not more important than the other, and that these crucial elements should be in equilibrium with each other. In essence leadership is about changing things and management is about maintaining things. The former is project-based whilst the latter focusses on cyclic processes. Together they keep the system relevant whilst ensuring that it performs optimally.


To answer the question to what leadership is, I would simply say that whoever you are and within whichever environment you function, the need for change will determine and endorse your leadership behaviour. High impact change such as establishing a new government will require highly disruptive leadership, whereas low impact change such as arranging a year end function will favour a process efficiency approach. It all begins with a clear goal or vision, which is then translated to a strategy, executed by a team, and sponsored by an external environment…




  • Analysing the environment
  • Setting goals
  • Creating options
  • Creating strategy
  • Innovative solutions                                           
  • Selecting a team
  • Motivating people
  • Getting the environment to sponsor your vision
  • Securing stakeholder goodwill


If you are a prospective leader, then the best advice I can give is to find your place of influence and then to make things happen by using what you have at your disposal. Find your strengths, and know that even weaknesses such as depression, peculiar looks, a terrible childhood, etc. can be strengths. Use everything at your disposal as a tool of influence. Danny De Vito used his peculiar body type to become one of Hollywood’s top comedians, Arnold Schwarzenegger used his strange accent as a trademark and Churchill’s depressive personality drove him to immense defeats. Secondly, turn all the energy of those around you towards achieving your vision. Create a powerful team and sell your vision with all that you have. Where your team believes in your vision they will follow and become an army of focus.


In my strategy development and implementation workshop, I work with strategic leadership, which combines leadership skills with strategy development and implementation.

Click Here for more information on Strategic Leadership Training


Derek Hendrikz; © 29 November 2015

Strategic Leadership and Organisational Performance Specialist




© 29 November 2015 Derek Hendrikz Consulting www.derekhendrikz.com

  5953 Hits

Does Team Building Really Work?

Does Team Building Really Work?

By Derek Hendrikz 


Organizations, worldwide, often spend vast amounts on team building interventions, but are mostly unable to prove any significant return on investment. Although these interventions are usually great fun and participants find activities highly entertaining; the question remains whether such team building was really worth money spent? Questions such as, “Are we a more effective functioning team?” or “Are we now more results driven?” are mostly answered with positive excitement right after the intervention. But, test these questions three months post-hype, and the answers may seem far less optimistic.

Organizational development consultants are repeatedly confronted by EXCO teams to develop and initiate interventions that bring about real and actual change. This will stay a major challenge; one in my experience, that can be vanquished if team building is an outcomes-based intervention. The implication of outcomes-based team building is not about what delegates do during such team building, but rather about how we could utilize and process experiential activity to resolve dysfunctional workplace dynamics.


Where, for example, workplace culture needs remedy, we would provide employees with an experiential activity, and observe how they apply organizational values or a specifically selected value during the activity. Participants will have fun and experience camaraderie during the activity; and that is good. However, the consultant will see fun as a side effect of achieving something that has much greater effect, which is to solve a pre-defined problem. In the above example, dysfunctional workplace behaviour, resulting in unsanctioned organizational culture needs remedy. In this case, the consultant will carefully analyse team behaviour and give feedback accordingly. This process is facilitated and not instructed. The team needs to become conscious of their ‘blind spots’ as opposed to being told how to behave. This process of experience, reflection, learning and applied remedy will normally continue for about two to three-days.

Of course, it would be incredibly naive to think that any team could sort out their problems in two consecutive days. OD consultants might be group dynamic experts, but they are certainly not magicians. The best we can do is to make a team aware of that which causes their problems, and then guide them to practically resolve this back at the workplace. But, the real ‘fix’ will take place in absence of the consultant. It is for this reason that organizational values form a foundational basis of any team development intervention. Collective values is the only possible benchmark against which to measure ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour. Where team problems have escalated to a point where it significantly affects goals and process outcomes, I recommended to rather contract a team coach than to run a once-off intervention.

The following table highlights some of the major differences between traditional team building and outcomes-based team development interventions...

Traditional Team Building

Outcomes Based Team Development

Activity Based.

Outcomes Based.

Results are measured against the amount of fun that a group has.

Results are measured against changed behavior at the workplace.

Consultant has a short term relationship with the client.

Consultant has a long term relationship with the client.

Usually a once-off intervention.

Part of a continuous development process.

Little time spent with the client, before and after the intervention.

Consultant spends lots of time on behavioral analysis before and after the team building event.

Approach is superficial, with focus on having fun, entertainment, adrenaline and excitement.

Focus is on the development of a relationship; involving pre-analysis, follow-up and impact assessment.

"Immediate gratification' approach, focused on obtaining favorable evaluations right after the event.                                                

Functional approach, focused on attaining outcomes and moving the group towards optimal functioning through constant conditioning.

In outcomes-based programmes, the whole intervention is focused on attaining pre-negotiated outcomes. Activities are mere vehicles in getting the group to a pre-determined destination. Learning and growth takes place during the processing of an experience, which the facilitator presents to the team. Strategically, the facilitator will link such experience to the groups operational functioning. This learning is then practically applied during a next experience. This cycle continues to the point of renewed behaviour. It is for this reason that it is better to have less team development goals than having more. In my experience, more than three / four intervention goals is very hard to achieve.

Typical phases of an outcomes based team development intervention will include…

  • Pre-assessments (questionnaires, individual interviews & focus groups)

  • Setting up a team development plan

  • Team development interventions (structural reorganization, strategic planning and alignment, managerial development, team development, intra- and interpersonal relations)

  • Continuous follow-up and impact assessments sessions to determine the impact of the development as well as further development needs

  • Continuously working with appropriate group processes and dynamics (making meetings, planning sessions, etc. more effective)

In conclusion I advocate that team building can definitely work, provided that the sponsor has a clear idea of what he/she wants to achieve, and that a programme is devised to specifically address these pre-determined outcomes. Where you increase the developmental focus of a team building intervention, the long term impact will correspondingly increase.

This article is adjusted from my 2003 article “Outcomes-based Team Development”.


© 02 November 2015

Strategic Leadership and Organisational Performance Specialist




© (c) 2015 Derek Hendrikz Consulting

  6365 Hits

How to lose your customers – SIX fool proof ways!

How to lose your customers – SIX fool proof ways!

By Derek Hendrikz


Customer relationship management is something that everyone talks about and frontline staff are usually over trained in this area. I run a number of these workshops each year and it was during a second CRM workshop with the same customer when I realised that very little of what I have taught on a previous visit was actually implemented. This led me to the idea of teaching companies on how to lose their customers. At least in this way, they can be really good at what they do; especially since losing customers seems to be the favourable option to many companies…


Having trained thousands of people in the area of customer service, I was able to come up with six excellent ways of losing customers. That’s right, six fool proof ways that will ensure that you lose your customers without delay. Not only do my methods work, but they work fast. If you apply these methods with discipline and consistently, your company could close down within the next six months. Here is my secret formula…


Losing Your Customers – Rule 1: Focus on the inside…

Internal focus is the first and most dynamic way of swiftly losing customers. The secret is to create a company culture which has a much bigger focus on what’s going on inside the organization than what’s goes on outside. Employees must be taught, from the onset, to focus on promotions, internal politics and pleasing their managers. You need to impress many people, have lots of ‘Highly Confidential’ files on you table, and attend endless meetings. If you want to climb the ladder of status and importance, you need to play the game right. To do this you need to move in the right circles, and say the right things to the right people. The playing field is set in the world of strategic sessions, task teams and work-groups, a sure recipe to get nothing done. But then again, it’s not about getting something done or about client service, since these things simply won’t add to your importance. Being important is at the core of an internally focused company’s needs. How many times have we become frustrated with the front desk attendant who puts up the ‘CLOSED’ sign at exactly 5 seconds to 10, “I’m sorry its teatime, you have to come back at 10:30”. My frustration becomes her delight. One cannot help to wonder that if her senior manager had to descend from the 17th floor to request a specific service; if she would have put up the ‘CLOSED’ sign in his face. Highly unlikely! You see her future is dependent on the way she treats her superiors and not the way she treats her customers. With us, the mere paying customers, her importance is derived from the power of demonstrating her control. Customers have the power to kill or grow a company. The way you treat them will secure their choice. Thus, to lose your customers simply focus on the inside.


Losing Your Customers – Rule 2: Believe you have the upper hand…

The success of any entrepreneur is embedded within one word, SURVIVAL. Therefore, to lose your customers, you need to get really comfortable. Believe that you are too big, too strong and too experienced to go down. Even better, believe that since you are a government department, you can never close shop, as the kings and queens of the past did of course. We, the customers, are the lifeblood of your enterprise. We are the guardians of your mission. If you do not meet our every specific need, you will not survive. And where you do not deliver, your competition will kill you. In a private enterprise your competition are those who are prepared to serve us better; and in the public service, your competition is an idea or ideology. You might tell me that your sponsorship is guaranteed, and yes, keep believing that. In government, departments rarely close down, even long after their reason for existence has expired. They are often artificially kept alive, like a brain-dead patient on a heart and lung machine. But ideas, ideologies and software solutions will assassinate you with amazing ease. Keep on doing what you did yesterday and an angel of irrelevance will soon fill your vacant post. Intensity of competition creates effective organization. So then, keep on doing nothing, as you are doing now. You can stay as long as you like, but without doubt, your customers will not do the same.


Losing Your Customers – Rule 3: Reward incompetence…

There are amazing internal benefits of not delivering. Yes, it pays to be ineffective. I know a man by the name of Joe who has recently been appointed to distribute toilet paper throughout Babalingwe Pty (Ltd). His job is simple. He needs to get three quotations and then make the necessary arrangements with the cheapest supplier. His work includes delivery of toilet rolls to the various departments, where a store clerk will issue them to the different toilets. For Joe to be effective is easy. However, the question is not whether he can be effective, but rather what’s in it for him? In which ways will Joe benefit from the effective distribution of toilet paper? The answer; not very much! On the contrary, if he continues doing his work in this manner, chances are good that he will stay a clerk for life. The secret of climbing the ladder to bureaucratic success, is to create an empire. Success in large organisations do not lie in the deliverance of Service Excellence, but rather in your ability to create internal dependency. The first step for Joe will be to complicate communication, since this will enhance the level of dependency which the company has on him. Lots of people within all departments now have to interact with Joe. From now on it’s not just a matter of ordering toilet paper. No, no, no. You must place an order on form ToiP6660PK. This form then needs to be sent to the authorization office where form ToiP837494K09JL will be issued. Once signed by two clearance clerks, the order can go through to the final approval office where a ToiP854758J00ML form will be issued and stamped by the senior approval clerk (who is in meetings most of the time). I think at this point you will agree that Joe cannot cope anymore. What he needs is staff, lots of them. Once he has staff he will need to appoint managers and get a personal assistant. Soon Joe will be appointed as the Director of toilet paper, and before long he will be running a toilet paper head office. His reason of existence will be entirely based on functional incompetence. You might think that this example is outrageous, but think again and you might just identify a number of Joe's in your own organisation. I remember just a few years back, a news announcement was made, reporting that police officials were to be given extra allowance for working in high crime areas. Really? Why would these Police Officials want to reduce crime especially if, high crime equals better pay. To lose your customers, keep rewarding incompetent people and keep sponsoring internal empires that were built on nothing more than perceptual dependency.


Losing Your Customers – Rule 4: Reward complication…

Do not underestimate the power of complication. It is your tool to domestic power, and a very powerful virus that eventually secures organisational demise. Maybe the term ‘skills monopoly’ is somewhat more politically correct. This reminds me of Susan, a lady who worked with leave forms. Only she knew how to complete them, and when she was not there, nobody went on leave. Complicating things to the extent that only one person knows how to deal with it, makes the organization incredibly dependent on that individual. The power that this dependency holds is highly seductive. We often hear people boosting about the fact that the whole place will fall apart in their absence. These are the bureaucratic knights of your organisation. They love to invent official forms, and create protocols and structures that nobody understands. They demonstrate their superiority through quoting policies and procedures off by heart. Of course we need people who ensure that rules and regulations are met. But where focus creates dependency, the aim is always to become indispensable. And where employees are indispensable, they become more important than customers; a sure way for service excellence to collapse. To lose your customers, complicate things, to the extent where unravelling red tape has taken prominence to your actual purpose.


Losing Your Customers – Rule 5: Do not give any reason to provide customer delight…

Employee motivation is a big thing. We give incentives for excellent work and pay bonuses where you make sales or exceed expectations. Yet, when I get to the front desk, Steve spends more time on impressing Rebecca, his boss, than giving me good service. The reason, I found, was that giving me good service was not part of Steve’s KPI’s. There is thus absolutely no reason for Steve to provide me with customer delight. What’s in it for Steve? Why should he give me excellent service? Management tries their best by sending out motivational letters, providing customer service training, and mounting glossy service excellence posters on company walls. Statements such as, “It’s our company and we should be proud of it”, or “We all need to work together to achieve success” are advocated with increasing crescendo. But, customer service training and motivational messages do not put bread on Steve’s table. Neither does providing good customer service. The antithesis, of course, is that feeding his manager's ego will definitely ensure Steve’s bonus. If you want someone to be more effective, you need to make it worth his or her while. Service excellence will not get Steve promoted, or make him more important, or ensure more money, or give him more benefits. What Steve must do is make his manager feel important, significant and even omnipotent, if that is the command. To lose your customers, stimulate a performance system where employees will have no reason to provide customer delight. Make them bow to their managers, who, in the greater scheme of things, are not only more replaceable but also less influential than the frontline who will eventually produce the bottom line.


Losing Your Customers – Rule 6: Give employees authority without power…

Power without authority leads to dictatorship and authority without power leads to demoralisation. Of course, both will rid you from your customers, but here I would like to focus on authority without power. This is the case where a high earning director cannot authorize the purchase of a date stamp. Better even is the case of a frontline employee who cannot give me discount, replace my product or sort out my problem. It says on her desk plate “Customer Service Desk”, but apparently such service is limited to three restricted things that she can do. Large organisations have many positions and posts, but when it comes to making a decision the buck stops nowhere. The power to authorize is usually shifted from office to office, using every trick in the book to avoid responsibility. I need to get the green form from the blue office, and then return to the purple office where I must fill in the orange form, which must be authorised at the brown office who will issue a pink form which I can then hand in at the red office (round and round we go, no start or end, just stepping out or giving up). To get the simplest thing done can take months, or sometimes even never. To lose your customers, it is of utmost importance that you authorise your employees with titles such as customer service representative, floor manager, supervisor, etc. But never empower them. Dress them as the batsman but never throw them a ball. And of course, do not trust them. You know, that only you know, how to do stuff…


Now that you know the six secrets, go fort and lose those customers… Let them feel helpless and dependent, and I can promise with certainty, that they will go. It works…


But, if you do insist, that keeping customers is important, well then, you can attend my 'Customer Relationship Management (CRM)' workshop. Click Here for more info... 



This article is adjusted from my 2006 article “The Six Poisons of Government Service”.


© 19 October 2015




© 2015 Derek Hendrikz

  7256 Hits

Do KPI’s actually work?

Do KPI’s actually work?

By Derek Hendrikz


If you do a google search on whether KPI-based systems work or not, the amount of ‘against’ arguments definitely outweigh the ‘for’ arguments. More alarming is that most arguments in favour of KPI-based systems are made by companies who sell these systems.


Over the past 20 years I have touched base with more than 170 companies, and could not really find users of KPI-based PMS’s (performance management systems) who actually has confidence in its application. In fact, in most cases it’s seen as a necessary evil. Mostly it is strategic leaders who, after a strategy formulation session, demands that strategy must be translated to action. Of course, nobody in the company knows how to do this, and then balanced scorecard or other systems are implemented to link strategy to human performance. In the process a huge consulting and training industry is stimulated and, in my mind, this produces very little results.


Now, the problem does not lie with having Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). The term basically says that there are indicators of performance that is key and that we should focus on such. Nothing wrong with that! Thus we start looking for the problem with how we define KPI’s or what their characteristics should be. Still, after all the research and money spent, it ends up being something that everyone within the organisation hates…


Due to my intensive involvement with strategy development; I have been compelled to grapple with this problem for many years now. And it finally seems that I have gained some comprehension to this conundrum. You see the problem never is, nor ever was with the concept, but rather with the belief construct or philosophy that drives the concept. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having performance indicators. The problem is your perception of how to locate those indicators.


All performance management systems that I have ever viewed has a basic process. This process entails creating a strategy, defining a structure, creating job profiles for such structure, developing KPA’s (key performance areas) that link strategic objectives with job profiles, and then creating key performance indicators that assigns specific performance to each job profile.


Although the above methodology seems sound; it has a critical error or rather a fundamental flaw, which is that we attempt to manage the performance of people without understanding the process within which such person must perform. Reality is that no person can perform outside a process. Therefor all we need to do is manage the performance of a process and assign people to tasks within such process. Where an employee is linked to the inputs, outputs and behaviour of a process his or her performance is already defined.


Why on earth would you want a job description if you have a well-defined process, or KPI’s where processes have clearly defined inputs, outputs and behaviour? In fact, even a structure is no more than the mapping out of process relationships; a budget no more than an understanding of the shared fixed cost between processes and the variable cost within a process; a managerial position no more than authority over parent and child processes and asset management no more than understanding which non-human resources are consumed within a process. In effect an organisation is no more than the defining of process relationships and targets are no more than the quantification of process results.


Are most companies barking up the wrong tree? Yes they are! Is this costing a lot of money? Absolutely!


It is time to realise that managerial models have not evolved at the same pace as with most other disciplines. In reality, we are so far behind that it’s too late for evolution. We now need a revolution. In this light I advocate that we should forget about restructuring, reengineering, KPI’s, KPA’s, Job grading systems, structural development and all the other nonsense that goes with this. It’s a trap! We have created experts in HR, Supply Chain, Strategy, Finance, Governance and many other areas that specialise in the solving of problem complexity; but at the cost of failing to understand context complexity.


In conclusion, all the answers you need for absolutely anything within you organisation is captured within the processes that construct your organisation. The intelligence is there - it creates the genetic structure of your organisation. All you have to do is define it, quantify it and measure it. Everything else is simply a result of calculating and presenting the variables defined within process families… In my Strategic Leadership Master Class we thoroughly work with the art and science of understanding, defining, quantifying and practically applying organisational processes…


© 01 June 2015




© 2015 Derek Hendrikz Consulting

  8915 Hits

Can you manage change from the bottom up?

Can you manage change from the bottom up?

By Derek Hendrikz


Where strategic leadership engages in a strategy formulation process to create strategy, the resulting change is purely a matter of execution efficiency, in other words we must translate strategy to action. Therefore it is preferred that organisational change initiatives are part of a strategy development session, for the simple reason that such change will be fully authorised. But, where there are high flyers within the organisation who have great ideas, change management becomes a bit more difficult. The reason is quite straight forward. Change that is not directly authorised will not be executed immediately. Unfortunately, irrelevant of how good any idea is, it will need allocated resources such as money people and assets to manifest. Even where executive management authorises a junior task team to develop an implementation plan for change, such might (more often than not) never see the light.


It is unfortunate that many executive teams fail to milk junior employees for brilliant ideas since the front line who produces the bottom line often knows best what the solutions to complex executive problems are. Frontline employees and junior managers know since they operate where rubber meets road. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney and Oprah Winfrey are but a few examples of employees whose brilliance were overlooked by the companies who employed them. These same employees later became their former employer’s greatest competition.


So what does a young bright employee do to bring his or her great idea too life? Well, firstly, it is important to note that the primary difference between top-down and bottom-up change is that the former is a matter of execution efficiency and the latter a matter of influence. Reality is that most organisational change will take place from top-down since, at some point, change must become authorised and resources must be allocated. The implication of this is that where a junior employee wants to bring about change, he or she will first have to get such approved, which becomes a matter of influence.



Herewith Seven tips to those ‘not so authorised’ organisational rebels who wants to effect change…


1.       Make sure that your desired change will enhance mission and vision. No senior manager will support an initiative that does not strengthen purpose or which does not assist in the execution of strategic intent. Ask the right questions to ensure that there is no strategic disconnect...

2.       Learn to build a business case. Those in power are more interested in the probability and impact of results than they are in the technicalities of your ingenious thinking.

3.       Hone up your negotiation skills. You will need this more than anything else. People of influence have mastered the art of hearing others say ‘YES’.

4.       Practice your presentation skills. Your ideas needs to be heard and understood. Brilliance means nothing if no one knows about it.

5.       Be a bold. You will not succeed if you live in fear of making career limiting statements. Realising change requires courageousness, confidence and taking of risk!

6.       Get into project management. If approved, you will have to prove your ability to execute. The only way to ensure efficient and effective transformation (from idea to practical reality) is through applying proven and tested project management principles.

7.       Build a competent army. You cannot do this alone. It takes one person to generate an idea, but it will take a team to execute.


You might succeed or fail; heaven forbid, you might event get fired! But, you will get stronger. The key is not to give up. Great rewards await those who can bring about change. In fact there is ample evidence that the highest paid employees in the world today are those who can see what needs to change and then effectively produces such…


In conclusion, make the decision and then make it happen… In my Strategic Leadership Master Class we thoroughly work with the art and science of change management…


© 27 April 2015

Strategic Leadership and Organisational Performance Specialist






© 27 April 2015 Derek Hendrikz Consulting

  9637 Hits

What is the difference between Vision and Mission?

What is the difference between Vision and Mission?

By Derek Hendrikz


When dealing with issues of strategic leadership and strategy development mission and vision becomes both first and foremost… But what is the difference, which one first and how do you determine them?


The difference between vision and mission, to my mind, is one of the most confused and misunderstood concepts in any strategy formulation process. Even in fortune 500 companies, one finds missions that should actually be visions and vice versa… In fact, it is often hard to distinguish between the two statements in many companies. If you ask for an explanation on the difference, some senior executive will most probably tell you that vision is where we want to go and mission is how we will get there. With all respect, this conclusion makes absolutely no sense. Firstly, if mission is how we achieve vision, then what is strategy? Secondly, if mission moves us from a current to some desired state then mission should change quite often, yet some of the oldest and most powerful organisations in the world have missions that never change!


This perplexity most probably originated in our early endeavours to control the world with militant action. Armies had mission. This was a project-based concept which aims to conquer, kill and return home. Thus the aim was to achieve a state of ‘mission completed’. As we entered the industrial age, we started companies and corporations. We stole the ‘mission’ concept from our militant past, but unlike our military operations, we do not want our organisations to end. Thus, we created vision; that which cannot end… As we currently go far beyond the information age, the nature of mission and vision has dramatically changed in meaning and application. Maybe the right terminology would rather be ‘statement of purpose’ and ‘statement of desire’…


I believe that those who aim to create a direct relationship between mission and vision cause much of the above confusion. In this article, I intend to convince that mission and vision has no direct cause and effect relationship, but rather that they imply an inverse relationship that directs two very important dimensions within any organised system. These being to stabilise and to change. With this I advocate hat mission authorises processes whilst vision energises strategy. Mission brings stability and order whereas vision creates strategy and brings change and renewal to the system. Respectively, the first empowers and the latter influences. Mission directs processes and is primarily a managerial function. Vision on the other hand, creates strategy and is primarily a leadership function. Ultimately any organised system will attempt to increase relevance of its mission whilst focusing change initiatives that will make its vision irrelevant… The one implies processes-based and the other project-based activity. E.g. if I want to lose 10kg of weight (my vision) and I do so (vision now irrelevant) then my change initiative becomes a maintenance function. Thus a once-off, non-repetitive project became a cyclic process.




·      Authorises the organisation.

·      Ignites processes.

·      Contains risk.

·      Brings order to chaos.

·      Is evolutionary in nature.

·      Should not change, and if it does, change should be slow and gradual.

·      Aims to become more relevant.

·          Energises the organisation.

·          Creates strategy.

·          Creates risk.

·          Brings chaos to order.

·          Has revolutionary nature.

·          New or changed vision implies strategic effectiveness.

·          Aims to become irrelevant.


As with any strategic initiative, we must start by asking the right questions. To do such we must understand our end result. In the case of mission we ask questions that will enhance our reason for existence, thus creating a statement that we will nurture and grow with no end in mind. The end result of mission is therefore clear purpose that directs organisational performance. With vision we ask questions that query our future relevance. These questions will bring doubt to our current process efficiency and critically question our ability to effectively relate to our external environment. We therefore deliberately inject neurosis into our system. And this neurosis must be killed. Thus, unlike mission, the questions that ignite vision has a definite end in mind. We can only claim strategic success if vision dies! Where that which we once desired becomes our reality, we can either maintain such through process efficiency or we can create a new dissatisfied state by developing a new vision. It is for this reason that very old and powerful organisations are mostly process-driven. The Roman Catholic Church, Buddhism, the Rolling Stones, Coca Cola, to name only a few… Thus the end result of vision is a desired reality that will keep our system relevant. Hence, questions that create mission aims to provide certainty whereas questions that create vision aspires to create uncertainty. Together they will provide the organisational equilibrium needed for sustainable growth.


Questions asked to determine Mission:

Questions asked to determine Vision:

·      What is our purpose?

·      Why is this our purpose?

·      What makes our purpose relevant?

·      What must we do to manifest this purpose?

·      Where must we do this?

·      For whom do we do this?

·          Where do we want to be?

·          Why are we not there yet?

·          What if…?

·          What if we go somewhere else?

·          In which ways are we different?

·          When will what we currently do become irrelevant?


As mentioned above, a mission statement should give clear purpose and must direct process efficiency. To me this is the test of strong mission. To avoid confusion, a mission statement should not create a future desire. E.g. “To provide…” or “Being the…” indicates future desired action. A good mission statement implies immediate responsibility for an already existing state. E.g. “We provide…” or “At ABC we are the…”


10 excellent mission statements:

1.       “At Microsoft, we work to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential. This is our mission. Everything we do reflects this mission and the values that make it possible.” (Microsoft)

2.       “We provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.” (ASPCA)

3.       “We work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth.” (Heifer International)

4.       “We fulfil dreams through the experience of motorcycling, by providing to motorcyclists and to the general public an expanding line of motorcycles and branded products and services in selected market segments.” (Harley-Davidson, Inc.)

5.       "We bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world." (Nike)

6.       “People love our clothes and trust our company. We will market the most appealing and widely worn casual clothing in the world. We will clothe the world.” (Laidlaw International Levi Strauss & Co)

7.       “We help all people live healthy lives.” (Becton, Dickinson and Company)

8.       “Our purpose is to create superior value for our customers, employees, communities and investors through the production, conversion, delivery and sale of energy and energy services.” (Duke Energy Corporation)

9.       “We provide our policyholders with as near perfect protection, as near perfect service as is humanly possible and to do so at the lowest possible cost.” (Erie Insurance Group)

10.   “Graybar is the vital link in the supply chain, adding value with efficient and cost-effective service and solutions for our customers and our suppliers.” (Graybar Electric Company)


A vision statement, on the other hand, should create uncertainty and initiate strategy to eliminate such uncertainty. Therefore, vision constructs desire, thus immediately creating a gap between current and desired reality. Finding ways to close such gap is called strategy and effectively closing such gap is called strategy execution. Unlike mission, vision implies a future state that is not yet achieved…


10 excellent vision statements:

1.       “A computer on every desk and in every home; all running Microsoft software.” (Microsoft)

2.       “That the United States is a humane community in which all animals are treated with respect and kindness.” (ASPCA)

3.       “A hunger-free America” (Feeding America)

4.       “Equality for everyone.” (Human Rights Campaign)

5.       “To be the number one athletic company in the world.” (Nike)

6.       “Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online." (Amazon)

7.       “Amnesty International's vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.” (Amnesty International)

8.       "The happiest place on Earth." (Disneyland)

9.       "People Fly for Free." (Ryanair)

10.   “To provide access to the world’s information in one click.” (Google)


One last dilemma that we must work with is which one first? To me this is no chicken or egg situation. No organised system can exist without purpose. It is mission that gives birth to any system. We cannot determine where we want to go if we have no idea who we are… It is, however, common practice in marketing documents to put vision first. This is so since a vision is ‘sexy’; it creates desire and presents the external world with dynamic perception. Yet, the fact that it’s written first does not imply that it was conceived first… The power of vision is dependent on the amount of change needed. Mission can only cease where purpose has become irrelevant. As leaders come and go, visions will be born and will die. But, as long as any organised system evolves and survives, mission will stand strong. There can be no vision without mission!


In conclusion, the difference between mission and vision is not important; it is vitally crucial… In my Strategic Leadership Master Class we thoroughly unpack the nature and methodology of developing vision and mission at executive level…


© 10 April 2015

Strategic Leadership and Organisational Performance Specialist






© 2015 Derek Hendrikz Consulting

  16945 Hits

Strategic Leadership… Not to ask but what to ask – that is the question!

Strategic Leadership… Not to ask but what to ask – that is the question!

By Derek Hendrikz


Strategic leadership and strategy development is all about asking the right questions. What, who, where, when, why and how??? Five W’s and one H… the questions we ask. Commonly known as the Kipling method as made famous by his 1902 opening poem for ‘The Elephants Child’.


Easy to say – just ask the W’s and one H… Yet, how you ask them could make all the difference. For instance ‘What must be done?’ is very different to ‘What has been done?’ or ‘What is the difference between what we do and what the department down the hallway does?’ etc… The first question requires a work definition, the second an evaluation and the third a comparison. In fact, we could probably ask any of the W and H questions in a hundred different ways.


The first problem, to my mind, when working with questions is the reality of ‘personal agenda’. This relates to motivation behind the question. Mostly there is a person with very specific assumptions and beliefs behind any question. It would be naïve to believe that many questions don’t have predetermined answers. The most obvious manifestation of this dynamic would be the rhetorical question; e.g. ‘management would never say that about us, or would they?’ In this example the purpose of the question was to make a point.


The only way to deal with this possible elephant in the room is not to let it in… It is for this reason that there should be rules for questions. In other words, we must create a basic ‘if…then…’ set of assumptions – if we ask questions for this purpose then we apply those rules… In my work I mostly have one of three reasons to ask questions, and I use different rules for each. These reasons with their rules are:

·         If I want to investigate something then use questions that unveil the truth about a past event…

·         If I want to enhance process efficiency then use questions that bring order to chaos…

·         If I want to create strategy then use questions that bring chaos to order…


Below are some samples (but no complete list) of questions that can be asked to achieve different results…


Questions that aim to investigate:

Questions that define process:

Questions that create strategy:

·     Who did what?

·      What happened?

·      Where did it happen?

·      When did it happen?

·      How did it happen?

·      Why did it happen?

·      What is our purpose?

·      What must be done?

·      Who must do this?

·      Which information is needed to do this?

·      Where must it be done?

·      When should this be done?

  • Where do we want to be?
  • Why are we not there yet?
  • Why are we doing this?
  • What if we do this differently?
  • What if we do something else?
  • How did we get here?
  • When will what we currently do become irrelevant?


The article title claims information on strategic leadership, and I have not said much about that… Now, the primary task of leadership is to influence and the primary task of strategy is to keep relevant, thus questions strategic leaders ask would primarily be to influence relevance. Questions asked at operational level have much to do with empowering process efficiency. Therefor such questions aim to strengthen the genetic makeup of any organisational system. Questions that create strategy on the other hand aims to modify the genetic make-up of any system. Thus, the former enhances an evolutionary process of construction and the latter a revolutionary process of deconstruction. Every construction must be deconstructed and strengthened to stay relevant and every deconstruction needs reconstruction to perform. This is an inverse relationship that must be carefully managed. 


Central to all these question is purpose. This is the nodal point of any organised system. The answer to any question only has meaning relative to its purpose. Let me illustrate. If you jump out of an aeroplane at 30 000 feet, what is the risk? Most people reading this would answer that it is a 100% risk, since you will most definitely die! But, you see, there is one very important question that you did not ask, which is ‘What is the purpose of jumping out of that aeroplane?’ If you want to commit suicide, then it is a 0% risk, since there is no uncertainty of the outcome, but if you want to live, then it is a 100% risk. Thus, the difference between a 100% and a 0% risk lies in purpose. Without understanding purpose, no answer has meaning.


Lastly is important to note that asking questions is the foundation of learning. Therefore, the question is more important than the answer, since a right answer to a wrong question will mislead, whilst a wrong answer to a correct question will still teach!


With this I conclude that what to ask is no easy task… In my Strategic Leadership Master Class we thoroughly unpack the nature and methodology of asking questions at executive level…


In the words of Rudyard Kipling…

“I KEEP six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.

I send them over land and sea,

I send them east and west;

But after they have worked for me,

I give them all a rest.

I let them rest from nine till five,

For I am busy then,

As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,

For they are hungry men.

But different folk have different views;

I know a person small—

She keeps ten million serving-men,

Who get no rest at all!

She sends'em abroad on her own affairs,

From the second she opens her eyes—

One million Hows, two million Wheres,

And seven million Whys!”


© 29 March 2015

Strategic Leadership and Organisational Performance Specialist





© 2015 Derek Hendrikz Consulting

  10584 Hits

Translating Strategy to Action – the Great ‘Disconnect’…

Translating Strategy to Action  – the Great ‘Disconnect’…

During the past two decades in working with more than 100 companies in the field of strategic leadership and strategy development, I found the number one complaint from EXCO teams to be “that strategy fails at the execution phase”.

 Harvard Business Review calls this the execution gap (Martin: 2010). According to Fortune Magazine (Fortune 27 December 1982, p38) as well as renowned author, Eric Kurjan (2011), 90% (nine out of ten) strategies fail due to poor execution… In fact if you google “statistics on why strategy fails” you will get 83 000 000 results of which more than 80% tells you that strategy fails due to poor or no execution… Why, Why Why???

A myriad of authors have attempted to explain this ongoing phenomena; thus my attempt here joins a list of many. Nevertheless, I have paid my dues in this field and am confident that I can add to unravelling this predictable misery. I believe, in heart and mind, that this execution gap has three primary sources…

1.       Incompetent EXCO Team…

Amazing how much blame senior management often bestows on the entire organisation for failure to execute strategy. Maybe I’m missing the boat here, but when did life start working this way? For as far as I can remember, where the team loses we fire the coach; where the General loses battle after battle we get rid of him; and yes, where the EXCO team fails to execute strategy, we need to appoint new ones. One of the main reasons for executive failure is the classic case of a Chef who became the CEO, but refuses to get out of the kitchen. Employees are paid to do work and executives are paid to keep the organisation relevant. Keeping relevant carries higher risk than executing work, thus we pay executives higher wages. Now, to keep relevant requires effective strategy. This is all that executives must do, they have no other work. Yet, according to Kurjan (2011), 85% percent of executive teams spend less than one-hour a month on strategy issues. How can this be???

2.       Strategy is only 20-30% of what we do in organisations…

Yes, strategy is 80%+ of EXCO’s work, but this does not mean its 80% of the organisations work. Most of what we do in organisations are process-based. The accountant does the books as she has done them last year and the year before, and she will do so next year and the year after that. Reality is that most employees do what they have done yesterday, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. In fact, process-based work holds much less risk than project-based work (strategy & change). The one is based on a predictable past and the other on a very unpredictable future. And YES, we must work with the future, but whilst a few well paid people do this, the rest of us must keep bread on the table. In psychology this is called countertransference. EXCO has targets and so they push everyone else to follow suit, which is immensely confusing to the receptionist – what must she do now, answer the phone 3.5 times faster than yesterday???

3.       Lack of Quantification…

If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it. Yet, from all the strategy documents I have ever seen, and I have seen many, only about 5% are measurable. Over the past four years I have spent much of my time with other professional colleagues to develop a master scorecard system, which aims to translate strategy to action through quantifying both strategic and tactical work into one scorecard. It is my view that work only starts making sense if we can accurately measure its sum total. In other words we need to create one master scorecard that measures all work within the organisation. Such quantification should be translated to other systems such as performance management, budgeting, etc. But this is a whole new story for another editorial…

      I believe that this ‘disconnect’ between strategy and action starts with a strong realisation by executive teams that strategy is their only work. To become a senior executive, you first need to be fired from your previous job. You are no longer the engineer, the accountant, the lawyer, or the whatever. Your job now is to keep this organisation relevant. Once this awareness has dawned, ask a few simple questions…

·         What must we change to achieve our vision?

·         What must we perfect to stay accountable to our mission?

·         How will we quantify the above into one scorecard?

·         Who needs to take responsibility for what?

·         How will we all behave in executing our task (our values)?


© 10 April 2014

Strategic Leadership and Organisational Performance Specialist




© (c) Derek Hendrikz Consulting

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