The Danger of Teams

May 8, 2015
A lot is said about the power of Teams and about consensus based decision-making. Working with more or less democratically organized teams seems to be the standard mode of operating in most companies.
How much is said about the danger of teams and the disadvantages of seeking consensus?
First of all, usually people talk about The Team, and: you are either in it, or you are not. So although a team suggests cooperation and inclusion, it also excludes a lot of people, who are not on The Team. The notion of having a team, deciding who’s on it, and making sure the team is successful seems over valued. The team should be a means to an end, such as implementing the company strategy, not an end in itself. In my experience teams are kept together for much too long, even when it has become clear that the team dynamics are not advantageous, and far too much energy is spent on fixing the team, rather than on fixing company issues. All energy is spent on off-sides, team meetings, assessments, external help, rather than on customers, the product and on growth.
This would perhaps all be worth it if teams would make better decisions than individuals, but this is arguably not the case. On the contrary.
How decision-making works
Some background on decision-making, from the must-read book by Nobel Prize winning author Kahneman: Thinking Fast and Slow. He won a Nobel Price in Economics, but Mr Kahneman is a psychologist and his research was on Decision-making. He is not optimistic about the quality of decision-making. In fact for most decisions the outcome is better if you have a monkey throw a dart at a dartboard to select an option. In particular he is fearsome of decisions made by experts or by teams.
Gorilla
In thinking in general, and in decision-making in particular we have two systems we can use.
System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control. When system 1 gets into trouble it feeds system 2 with impressions, intuitions, intentions and feelings. System 1 has biases, has limited understanding of logic and statistics, and is lazy. It sometimes replaces difficult questions or choices by simpler ones, and easily jumps to conclusions.
System 2 allocates attention to the effortful and more complex mental activities that demand it. The operations of system 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice and concentration. System 2 is also credited with the continuous monitoring of your own behavior – the control that keeps to polite and alert and it is the source of doubt and judgment.
Why teams lead to bad decisions
Biases are a major reason for bad judgement. And bias is strengthened in teams by Priming effects like Framing (presenting information in a certain way, Halo effects (the one who brings his point across first or most assertive is usually followed). Another form of bias that often causes disturbance in teams and is not easily controlled is “availability bias”: members of a team usually feel they have done more and contributed than their share, and also feel that the others are not adequately grateful of their individual contributions. When individuals are asked what their contribution has been, the total almost always exceeds 100%. Typical System 1 thinking. This system is heuristic (it works with “rules of thumb”). Only when system 2 is engaged with its focus on content and analytics a more realistic picture arises. Unfortunately this seldom happens in discussions. Or, as psychologist Jonathan Haidt said: “The emotional tail wags the rational dog”.
Another problem, where a team could add value, but usually does the opposite is: collecting and analyzing information. Instead of bringing all available information to the table, team members often feel reluctant to do so. Social pressure plays a role here, which leads to people to silence themselves because they fear the disparagement of powerful others. Synergy is usually an illusion. In fact, even when they would speak up, their influence would be limited: information held by all or most group members has a lot more influence than information held by one member. This is called “the common-knowledge effect”.
This is actually quite comforting for decision makers. It is only natural to build the best possible, coherent story with limited information available to you. With little information it is easier to construct a story that makes sense. The reason behind this: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.
So we have bias, we have limited excess to information, and we overestimate what we know. As if that was not enough: we are naturally negative and resistant to change.
Negativity and loss aversion are purely human emotions, and they tend to win from positivity and curiosity. It is an evolutionary survival mechanism, and causes us to be driven more by the aversion of losses than to achieve goals. In a team this gets stronger and is reflected in goal-setting. Therefore goals will be set without much ambition: not achieving a goal is a loss, exceeding the goal is a win, but the aversion to the failure of not reaching the goal is much stronger than the desire to exceed it.
Funny example for golfers: after analyzing 2.5 millions puts by professional golf players it was discovered that putts to avoid a bogey were significantly more successful to putt to achieve a birdie.
In a team, this behavior leads to resistance to change. Plans for change or reform almost always produce many winners and some losers while achieving an overall improvement. However, potential losers will be more active and determined that potential winners. The outcome will be biased in their favor and inevitably more expensive and less effective than initially planned.
The conclusion, as we can also read in Cass Sunstein’s book Wiser: Groups usually do not correct individual mistakes, as is the general consensus, but actually amplify those mistakes.
How to fix it
So is there no hope? Of course there is. The alternative is avoiding teams as a goal, but organizing knowledgeable, committed and responsible individuals in changing teams or  ecosystems with some simple rules and a clear process for collecting and assessing information.
Ecosystem
If people in organizations, as animals in nature acknowledge their interdependency and take responsibility, adaptation to changing environments is enabled. Divergent perspectives will be respected and valued. Conflicting opinions will be seen as options based on data and members’ individual knowledge, to be evaluated and ultimately decisions will be by those who have been authorized to do so. To create such an environment you have to pay attention to several rules:
Rules
Rule 1. Assigning authority and taking responsibility.
The accountable leader will have to surround himself with knowledgeable people, and ask who will take responsibility for what. To the individual who is responsible for something authorization needs to be assigned. It might help to agree that these authorizations are by definition temporary. Individuals should not become attached to them, or feel they own them. Always the starting point should be: what is best for the organization at a certain point in time.Compare this to a national soccer team. Even if you are selected to join the team, you don’t know if you will play. And if you play, you cannot be sure of your position on the field. It all depends on fitness for the job, on the adversary, on the available alternatives and on a lot of other circumstances. But everyone’s goal is to bring the cup home.
Rule 2. Differences
Leaders create a safe space to disagree by his own behavior and by making explicit the expectation that conflicts can be surfaced and resolved. Teams need to commit to listening with respect, debating and deciding. This needs some ground rules that need to be enforced. One of them is to tolerate the discomfort of divergent and passionate viewpoints, despite the tension it may raise for the team. Another one is that ultimately agreement between all is not necessary. The responsible person can, or maybe should say: “Thank you all for your input and for the discussion. I will let you know what I have decided.” After that the whole team must commit to executing the decision as best they can.
Rule 3. Interdependence
A key opportunity for interdependence exists if team members support each other’s goals, and seek each other’s  expertise and perspectives. Feedback, especially on behavior should be given directly to anyone and by anyone. Complaining to others afterwards, creating kongsi’s or lobbying for support in upcoming meetings is undesirable behavior and should not be tolerated.
Rule 4. Engage others
Teams can become insular and self-referential. It might be necessary for the leader to re-assign responsibilities, swap team members, encourage an inward-looking team to ask stakeholders for input and alignment on both operational and strategic matters. This can be done by inviting other stakeholders or subject matter experts to attend meetings, exchange information or just listen in.
Kahneman believes in rule based decision-making. Select the most important variables and come up with a simple algorithm, and score the variables, based on collected data. An example: the apgar score for newborns. Selection of candidates, chosing stocks to pick? Follow the best algorithm you can come up with and refrain from sticking to your first impression or your intuition.
Process
The best way to deal with coming to new ideas and new solutions is to create a two stage process: first collect as much information as you can, preferably anonymous, or brainstorm for new solutions. In the second stage critically select the best solution from those identified in the first stage.
And finally: if there are people with irrational or destructive behavior and personal motives, no ecosystem, no rules and no process will help you. You will have to confront them and ultimately remove them.

Coaching, Cooperation and Confidence

October 30, 2014

One of the finest moments in the life of a parent, and one of the most decisive moments in the life of a child is when he is better at something than his father or mother. For fathers is often a sport, and when it comes to football that moment is near for me. Sometimes we bring that moment closer by letting our kids win a game, but they don’t really believe. It does make them happy for a moment, but for their confidence it does not do much.

 

In companies it is often the other way around: the managers are usually afraid that their staff, or others in the company, will become better at something than they are. Sometimes they already are. They keep their team on a short leash and take a position of seniority by instructing their staff which method to use, and thereby create a dependency, because they are the experts. This serves no other purpose than boosting the ego and amplifying the senior position of the expert manager to confirm the power-relation. These people emphasize their own interest in an organization by claiming successes that should be attributed to others.

 

Leaders who hire people who are better than they are quite rare. Perhaps out of fear of being irrelevant.

 

This is a pity of course, because the organization will be weaker rather than stronger, and the full potential of the organization is not utilized. Moreover it is quite frustrating and demotivating when someone hijacks your successes to secure his own position. It will lead to conflicts. And: “Internal conflict is like an autoimmune disease: the technical cause of death may be pneumonia, but the real cause remains and hidden from plain view.” Negative circle …

 

We have a tendency to instruct. People working with me might recognize that. We think we know how things should be done; we give the order and request an update on the results a week later. In an environment with a lot of educated content experts this is not surprising: since our schooldays this is how we acquired knowledge: the teacher instructed us, we did our homework, and then she tested whether we had done well.

 

It may work, but this may not be the most motivating method.

 

There is also much talk about the “Master-Apprentice” principle. The Master passes his knowledge and experience on to the Apprentice, who goes to work right away, is continuously instructed and corrected and sometimes gets assignments to figure something out for himself. I would call this mentoring.

Mentoring comes from Greek mythology, where Odysseus, when he left for Troy, entrusted his home and the education of his son Telemachus to his friend Mentor, with the command: “Teach him everything you know.”

 

mentor

 

 

 

 

 

Still a lot like the schooldays.

For those who have no insecurities about their own position and relevance, and who dare to look at the potential of people rather than just their current performance, there is a third way: coaching.

If we create a coaching culture and use a management style that focuses a bit more on coaching instead of directly diving into the facts and methods, we could cooperate in such a way that our coworkers become aware of the possibilities for working smarter, and for removing obstacles to success, without handing over the responsibility for their work and their own accomplishments. Then everyone can claim his or her own success.

Success builds confidence, confident people to take personal responsibility, and so on. Positive circle!

 

Let’s help each other so, instead of trying to outsmart one another.

Not that this is exactly easy. John Whitmore, of whom more later, said: “It maybe harder to give up instructing than it is to learn to coach”.

 

My own first experience with coaching was not entirely voluntary. I will explain why. With one of my best friends I have a deal to learn something new together every year. We do this mainly because we’re both busy and otherwise we might spend too little time with each other, but also because new things are interesting. It was not easy to agree on what is interesting enough to learn, though. We looked at twenty weeks of furniture making, at ten days cooking course at Le Gordon Blue in Paris, at a curriculum at Harvard, and at some other things, but consensus was not reached. Therefore, the deal was adjusted: one year he decides, the next year I will. My choice for example was to follow a curriculum of Art History at The Hermitage. Ten weeks, one evening per week. For me a nice and safe option, with a classical education, and a history as a gallery owner in Amsterdam. Maybe I wanted to start my learning experience as an expert, and not feel inadequate or look like a schoolboy. When his turn came up last year he got back at me and opted for a course in Professional Coaching” I guess because he knew that I would otherwise never do that. I’ve already written about this before, and I am very glad we did it. Incidentally, as my revenge, next year we will follow a training course in Skydiving. This was my choice, because a long time ago he was selected to train as an F16 fighter pilot. He had to parachute jump, too. For some reason, after two jumps, he did not dare to jump out of a plane anymore. Dream gone, and replaced by a career in e-commerce, which turned out rather well. But still, this fear has always bothered him, and now he has to get over it.

 

jump

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes we need a bit of external help and pressure to make you us aware of what we do not know or what we can do but are not doing. In the end, it remains our own responsibility what we do with it.


How to build a business – Strategy Execution Cycle

August 3, 2013

Building a Business starts with an idea, which is then converted into action.

Simple and straightforward, but not always enough to be successful. Libraries can be filled with books about how this conversion is done, and usually the terms Strategy and Management are introduced on the first page. It is not always clear what is meant by the terms, and the explaining usually involves many more terms, like mission, vision, leadership. Once you are sufficiently confused you are lucky if you can understand where the author is taking you. Bullshit Bingo is never far away.

What is a Strategy really: is it a statement, or a plan, or just a hypothesis about value creation?

And what about Management? Sometimes you are introduced to the world of let it all run it’s course, your people will know what to do, the collective will manage itself (as Ricardo Semmler does), and sometimes to give every single employee a specific responsibility and task, and constantly measure how the task is performed, with Key Performance Indicators (Robert Kaplan).

Unless you want to turn into a one-man show, it is important is to be able to share your idea with others: Why do you want to do it, what do you want to do and for whom. And how will you be successful: Can you identify what the success-factors are, decide which of the underlying activities are vital and are you able to measure if they are performed up to the standard you have set for yourself and your business?

There is no single truth of course: are we talking about a bar in Berlin, a multi-national enterprise run from the United States, or a Production Plant in China? Hardly the same thing. Where you do it matters a lot: Context is crucial.

Equally important is who you have around you. Can you inspire them and share your vision and some of your responsibilities with them, delegate some of the vital activities to them? Time to get organized.

This requires planning and probably money. Decisions are needed on what initiatives have priority are and how they are funded.

Once you are in business the execution of your idea needs constant evaluation and adjustment, just like a hypothesis needs testing and change.

We believe these are five steps that not only reflect common sense but are also universally crucial to bring a business idea to fruition. We have called this approach SCOPE. An acronym where each letter represents a stage in the process of Strategy Execution:

Strategy – Context – Organisation – Planning – Execution

For Qhuba and its clients we have taken the “buffet approach”. You will pass all the five stations, but what you use from the process and the templates depends on your needs and appetite. The full cycle looks like this:

Slide2

In the middle the basic templates for communication:

  1. The Business Blueprint, which describes the building blocks behind the idea: the values, and the vision, the words you want to own and the x-factor you think you have. In short: the success-factors
  2. The Strategy Map, which describes the value creating activities through series of cause and effect linkages, clustered per success-factor
  3. The Scorecard, which describe the objectives per activity per success-factor.

Nothing is new here, nothing is revolutionary. The Plane, the Crew with the Flight Plan and the Cockpit, if you like analogies.

The only aim is to make a clearly defined approach with unequivocal terms and definitions and some practical tools available for all.

In five short articles we will describe the five steps, as well as the three tools, and then we will go through the whole sequence for our own company.

If you like the approach you might want to do the same for yours.


How to build a business – Conversations

January 27, 2013

In the KLM lounge of Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, waiting for my return flight to Amsterdam, I  am going through my notes. The last two days were good: lots of conversations with people in charge of Telecom Operators in both Turkey and Saudi Arabia. This involved multiple diners and lunches, and real exchanges on personal, business, political and cultural subjects. In Europe, a meeting usually lasts exactly one hour, involves one cup of coffee and one topic. For people in sales chances are they want to pitch something, hoping this is a solution to the problem they assume their client has. If so: deal. If not: off you go.

In our business, we believe finding the problem, or the opportunity is more important than solving it. So we want to listen, ask questions and find out what is driving who, and why.

Now I am going back to the first pages of my notebook, and find scribblings I made last summer. I think I turned them into another blog posting already:

In our search for what is cooking in our network and in the world of Strategy Execution we have organized What’s Qooking events: a combination of content and cooking in a workshop format. With small groups of twelve to fifteen people we have listened, cooked, discussed and eaten. To take this one level higher – and because cooking with a group involves quite a few concession in timing and results – we have decided to look for top chefs to do the cooking for us. Where to find the chefs?

Looking for a book called ‘In search of the stars”, about all he sixty-eight three star restaurants in Europe, I went to a bookstore and guess what: the clerk was a foody too. High class cooking, but lately mostly with insects. The new world: as nutritious, and much less of a burden on the environment.  I was not immediately enthusiastic, but he invited me for a workshop anyway. For this, he had chartered a local chef to cook in the bookstore. 

Now this chef had once had a very talented sous-chef, who became a freelance home-cook, and was looking for new clients. Introductions were made.

This is the point: you go somewhere to buy something. A simple transaction. But when you have the time and the curiosity to turn a transaction into interaction you will discover the Power of Conversations.

So, this is how we got to know a very enthousiastic young cook, who now cooks at home every month, for a group of ten to fourteen people, who do not have to participate in peeling the potatoes and cutting the onions, but can spend an evening having conversations. We call them the Third Thursday diners and believe me, everyone is looking forward to What’s Qooking this month.

And something else about questions and conversations: they are not only the key to finding things out, and getting to know people, they are the key to sales as well.

Sales has for a long time been our biggest challenge. Not because we could not sell, but because we did not want to.

In our network, where prospects or clients can be tomorrow’s staff or partners, we prefer interaction over transaction. Actually we want someone we are having a conversation with to clearly indicate that he wants to be a client for a while, instead of us telling him we want to be a supplier.

This posed two problems: our partners, who felt this way, were reluctant to show commercial behavior, and our commercial people, who did not have this reluctance, did not have peer-to-peer conversations.

The conversations of course serve many purposes (relationship, interest and curiosity) as well as finding the issues that keep our clients from sleeping at night, or from implementing their strategies. So finding the problem is not the issue, positioning ourselves to solve the problem is.

Traditionally, the ABC of sales people was: “Always Be Closing”.

Daniel Pink, in his recent book “To sell is human” proposes to replace this with a new ABC: Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity.

Attunement: Bringing yourself in harmony with individuals, groups and contexts. This takes a bit more humility and curiosity than most people can muster. If you do not connect, and if you do not both inspect (ask questions) and respond (listen to the answers and do something with the information provided) you will not sell.

Buoyancy: Dealing with an ocean of rejection

Clarity: the capacity to make sense of murky situations, as Daniel Pink says. Identifying and framing problems takes two long-standing skills and turns them upside down. First in the past salespeople were adept at accessing information. Today they must be skilled at curating it – sorting through the massive troves of data and presenting to others the most relevant and clarifying pieces. Second, in the past, the best salespeople were skilled at answering questions. Today, they must to be good at asking questions – uncovering possibilities, surfacing latent issues and finding unexpected problems.

Big words. Not sure if they will stick. We are not sure if they cover the whole approach we have to sales either. Our way is CCCCC: Connections, Confidentiality, Conversations, Clarity, Cooperation. We hope they are so obvious  they don’t require a book to explain them.


How to build a business – the American Dream

October 29, 2012

The American Dream: it does not exist.

From rags to riches on the basis of an excess of ambition and talent is a nice story, but in practice there is more to it. Malcolm Gladwell, who previously wrote books like The Tipping Point and Blink published an entertaining book about why some people are much more likely to succeed than others. Outliers.

The summary: origins, environment, and coincidence are just as important as intelligence, talent, ambition and perseverance. It would like to add (Gladwell does not): the ability to recognize opportunities and to grab them with both hands. I have written a blog about this ability – Effectuation – earlier.

Therefore, contrary to the stories that usually circulate about highly successful people – a story that focuses on intelligence and ambition, Outliers argues that if we want to understand how some people succeed, we must study in detail things like their background, their generation, their family, their place of birth, and even their birth date. These usually drive the coincidences that make them who they are. There is also such a thing as “making enough hours”. This is the “10,000 hours theory”, developed and popularized by Dr. Anders Ericsson, who basically found out that spending massive amounts of practice hours on a specific subject will lead to expert mastery in that field, more than talent will. Or the other way around: virtually no one who did not spent ten thousand hours of something, became really good at it. Whether a person has the opportunity to make those hours depends on… coincidences and perseverance.

The story of success is much more complex and interesting than it appears to be at first.

The logic that Gladwell uses to explain the success of the Beatles, Bill Gates, Asians in Mathematics, Jewish takeover lawyers and others is peculiar and interesting. It is all about coincidences. For Gates: the availability of sufficient computer time at exactly the right time, for the lawyers: they were all born from garment makers around 1930, they do not have to fight in the war, were not eligible for the WASP Wall Street firms, and had, around 1970, sufficient experience with acquisitions, which until then were not fancy. Before 1970 Yankee law firms refused to do this inferior work, which after the ‘70s was considered to most prestigious legal work.

So it boils down to: talent, ambition, and ten thousand hours of experience. Character and competence. We should start asking our candidates whether they have ten thousand flying hours. For those who join us as Professional (sometimes call the “professor” role) this will not be a problem. For entrepreneurs (the pilots in the plain), the headhunters, the networkers and sales-people that might be a challenge.

 

Thousands of hours experience with a specific task, seems contradictory to what Ricardo Semler propagates in his book The Seven Day Weekend.

The title is misleading. Weekend does not mean doing nothing but: do things that you like and make you happy. Semler, then CEO of Semco, a company with roots in Sao Paolo,  introduced a style of leadership that took liberalism and democracy as a starting point. Why do most people in most countries agree that democracy is the best way of governing, but why are most businesses organized along dictatorial line? Companies and the Roman army have many similarities. Companies and kindergartens have many similarities. What are the similarities between armies and kindergartens? 1. Decisions are made for you. 2. Personal initiative is not really appreciated and 3. Hardly anyone really enjoys it.

Semler turns it around: If employees care first and foremost about their self-interest, if Management refuses to impose (or even take) decisions, if there is a culture of transparency and trust, intrinsic motivation and peer pressure will do the rest. This involves making employees responsible for a lot more than putting in the hours.

It has taken decades to turn his business around to a democratic, innovative and successful enterprise, where employees determine their own working hours, their own salary, their location and decide who will be their bosses and their colleagues.

How nice is that: A company where people may attend the meetings they want to attend and all business information is available for everyone.

Employees are no longer just a means of production, but adult people with talents and ambitions who are asking, as many times as possible, the question “why?”.

It would be quite something if this could work, and I am convinced that it can work. I am not so sure if we have the patience and time to make all the mistakes, and to accept everyone making all the mistakes that are part and parcel to such a process.

 

But then, why not? If we are able to select and interest only the most talented people, with the highest integrity, and if we can all be fully transparent about our intentions, we will get there. First we will be looking for people with 10,000 hours on the clock.


How to build a business – Ten Questions

October 16, 2012

We have been in business for several years, we have more than sixty world-class people working with us, worked for eighty-eight world-class clients, held one hundred and fifty-three management meetings and published numerous internal and external documents. At some point it seemed to make sense to bring it all back to ten basic questions. The answer to those questions should describe all the major aspects of our business. Answers that all of our people should be able to give, when the questions are asked.

 

Here are the questions:

1. Where do we come from?

2. Why do we exist?

3. What do we look for in our resources ?

4. How do we behave?

5. What do we do?

6. How will we succeed?

7. What is the one most important thing right now?

8. Who must do what?

9. How are we organized?

10. How we make decisions and deliver on them?

 

And here are the answers

 

1. Where do we come from?

Qhuba, founded in 2007, is a fast-growing network organisation with more than sixty Partners, Staff and Associates (‘Qhubans’). Qhuba means drive, the drive to work together, to learn, to grow and to succeed.

 

2. Why do we exist?

We exist because we believe running companies can be fun and strategies can be implemented successfully when people of character and competence work together.

Qhuba believes that strategies are best executed by a multi-disciplinary leadership team that takes collective responsibility.

 

 

3. What do we look for in Qhubans ?

Regardless of whether they are Clients, Candidates, Network Partners, Prospects, Associates, Staff, Associate Partners, Partners, Managing Partners, Equity Partners, Practice Directors, Shareholders, or Friends, we expect:

  • Character (Integrity and Intentions)
  • Competencies (Hard and soft skills)
  • Network
  • Track record
  • A drive for Autonomy, Mastery, Contribution and working with Peers.

 

4. How do we behave?

We are Independent, Reliable, Uncompromising, Connected

 

5. What do we do?

When organizations look for support in the successful execution of their strategies, we provide (introductions to) people with the right character and competence. We can do this based on Client Value Pricing, on temporary assignments, on the client’s payroll, for a success fee or without a fee.

 

6. How will we succeed?

Together Qhubans use conversations to build a network of world-class professionals to make clients successful by providing capable people and by arranging introductions, opportunities and exposure, meanwhile building a highly recognised organisation as a platform for professional and personal growth.

 

7. What is most important right now?

Increasing Reputation in our network

  • Increase NPS with clients by delivering results
  • Increase credibility with prospective clients through content-marketing, sales and references
  • Increase Trust within Qhubans through growth and success
  • Increase Reputation with candidates through marketing

 

 

8. Who must do what?

Strategy, Structure and Reputation:   Wouter Hasekamp

Network:                                              Tjibbe van der Zeeuw (Liesbeth Hans)

Knowledge and Research                   Liesbeth Hans

Publications:                                      Hotze Zijlstra

Marketing:                                           Wouter Hasekamp, Rachelle Nall

Enablement and Support:                  Dennis van Alphen (Tom Kisters, RikJan Kruithof)

Portfolio:                                             Partners and Practice Directors (Peter Rappange, Mohammed Chaaibi, Gerard Kok, Evert-Jan Tazelaar)

Sales:                                                 Mario School (Susanne van Kleef, Gerard Kok, Evert-Jan Tazelaar)

Delivery:                                             Tjibbe van der Zeeuw (Beatrice Friebel)

 

 

 

9. How are we organized?

Qhuba is organised in Practices that address specific areas of expertise, without losing sight of the collective goal: strategy implementation across disciplines. Practices in the portfolio of Qhuba are:

  • Interim Management
  • Recruitment & Executive Search
  • Programme and Portfolio Management
  • Lean and Transformation
  • Finance and Benefits Management
  • Sourcing Support
  • Lean IT
  • Cloud Consulting
  • The Qloud Company

 

 

10. How we make decisions and deliver on them?

We believe in Collective Leadership: given our values and despite different intentions and goals we want to be able to operate as a tribe of peers, each contributing as a person and as a professional, without giving up our autonomy. Starting points for this ‘Tribal Democracy’ are:

  • Freedom of Thought
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Freedom of Choice
  • Freedom of Dissent
  • Radical Transparency

 

 

Conditions for participation in decision-making are:

  • Trust, which consists of Character (Integrity & Intentions) and Competence (Capabilities & Results)
  • Transparency of Information and Opinion. Silence equals disagreement. This is our first rule of engagement.
  • Commitment, both active commitment and formal commitment. This is the second rule of engagement
  • Accountability; there is zero-tolerance for lack of Trust, lack of Integrity, lack of Transparency, lack of Commitment, but also for Passivity, broken promises, non-performance
  • A shared definition of success made measurable and a focus on results. One team, one goal.

 

Success is measured by:

  • Client Benefits Realized and Nett Promoter Score
  • Staff retention en recruitment
  • Revenue – Margin – Profit

How to build a business – What’s Qooking

May 26, 2012

In our search for what is cooking in the Qhuba network and in the world of Strategy Execution we have organized What’s Qooking events: a combination of content and cooking in a workshop format. With small groups of twelve to fifteen people we have listened, cooked, discussed and eaten. To take this one level higher – and because cooking with a group involves quite a few concession in timing and results – we have decided to look for top chefs to do the cooking for us. Where to find the chefs?

The Michelin Guide seemed a logical starting point.

Since the weather was nice and I was in town anyway, I decided not to use Amazon for once, but to walk to the good old-fashioned bookstore. Not the most efficient way to buy a book as it turned out. The first bookstore did not stock Michelin Guides, but was kind enough to direct me to a colleague which they assured me would have them. So I walk further into town. On my way to the second store I passed my tailor. He called me in for an espresso, and enquired about the suits he had sold me earlier. As I explained why this was not a day to buy suits (too warm to try on anything, and besides the suits he makes last too long) and where I was going, we came to talk about three star restaurants. He warned me not to try to visit them all, because the last guy who tried – probably – did not survive.

In the summer of 2008 the Swiss gourmand Pascal Henry executed his plan to visit all sixty-eight top chefs in Europe in sixty-eight days. Everyday he ate at a different restaurant, drank a few glasses, and spoke at length with the chef. Henry kept a diary with notes, menus, and occasionally a note from a chef or sommelier. On the fortieth day of his journey he was in El Bulli. As usual he had ordered the Chef’s menu which here consisted of many small courses. His hat, his notebook and wallet where – this was also usual – on the table. Towards the end of the meal he walked out, never to be seen again. Maybe he jumped of the cliff, maybe the idea that he would for the rest of his life have to make the concession of having to eat less exquisite meals, maybe he was abducted by aliens who wanted to know how eartheners eat. We don’t know. This story is written down in a book by an author who has also written a book about etiquette together with my tailor.

intrigued, but not deterred, I continued to the next bookshop, and then to the next. A good time to reconsider the merits of e-commerce, with their long-tail strategies. Online you will find it all. But what you mostly find is transactions, less interaction. And that is exactly what you get with people, in shops.

The last shop I visited did stock the Michelin Guide. The guy behind the counter advised me to also have a look at a book called “In search of the Stars”, written by a Dutch chef, Paul van de Bunt, who undertook, with his wife Sandra, a similar journey as Mr. Henry. The differences are clear: they took a year to visit all fifty-four three star restaurants in Europe, and they lived to write a book about it. The book was not the goal by the way. Paul just wanted to learn, to see and taste the innovations, and to talk about them with his colleagues. Then for every restaurant he visited he created a dish, inspired by the chef he talked to. Obviously, he did not see them as the competition, but as people with a shared passion.

Cooking appeared to be a passion shared by the bookseller, too. When I told him about my “What Qooking” plans, he suggested that our first stop should be a new restaurant in Utrecht, called Podium. The chef Leon Mazairac worked for Alain Ducasse in Paris.His style he described as “no pretentious but lots of ambitions”. That sounds about right for us.

He just happened to have the chef’s business card in his pocket, and – talking about innovation – invited me to come to his bookshop next week where the chef would prepare insects, which are not only an answer to food shortage, the inefficiency of raising cattle for consumption, but are apparently quite tasty, too. I asked him if he would eat them, and of course the answer was yes.

 

To prove his point he produced a package of dried grasshoppers that he was going to prepare that night. Quite interesting. Probably coincidence. Wonder if he would have produced as double edged commando knife if I had asked him about the “SAS Survival Guide”. Quite a useful little book, by the way.

Anyway, I have all the information to plan our next What Qooking event, and however convenient e-commerce portals may be, they do not offer the Power of Conversations. As I said: the network enables interaction rather than the transaction.