Leadership: Who’s on your bus this year?

As we are all aware change is the only constant in technology, marketing and media today. Sure knowledge and experience of change management is helpful here but I am intrigued most about the  leadership skills of those managing change in organisations. All too often I see, hear and experience far too many people focusing on the what and not the who of the challenge ahead.

It’s not surprising that this is the case as the challenge ahead for many is one they have not experienced before. In the media industry traditional business models that have supported the industry for decades are crumbling. In the technology business, the lifecycle of products and hype cycle is shorter and quicker than ever with the cloud computing revolution ensuring barriers to entry are now extremely low. As for marketers, with the worlds of paid, earned and owned media converging combined with the challenge of how to take advantage of the opportunity in content, inbound, big data, analytics and marketing automation its no wonder leadership skills are much in demand.

This is where I believe we need to look back at some classical leadership lessons provided by the inspirational work of Jim Collins, author of all those wonderful books including Good to Great, Great by Choice, Built to Last and How the Mighty Fall. I know many of you, like me have read them cover to cover but it is all to easy to forget some of the key learnings so heres a little reminder for all of you leading a change process right now.


First Who then What: The most important lesson of all and often the hardest in organisational contexts. Ensure that before you start thinking of what you are going to do in your organisation, decide who you will do this with. Ask yourself the hard question; Do all the people on your current team have the requisite skill sets, experience and engagement to meet the challenge ahead. Usually the answer is no so be a leader and either develop the people you have that can be developed or add the right skill sets to the team that you need to be successful. Standing still with the people and skills that you have already got is not an option. As Collins says get the right people on the bus and ensure they are in the right seats, then and only then turn your attention to solving the problem.

For me we need to take inspiration from the startup world. This process is a natural one prior to any significant funding rounds. Technical and business competencies find each other and form great teams which is ultimately what investors bet on as much as business ideas and slide decks.

When you are satisfied with the who , then you will be effective at the other Collins leadership concepts of: Confronting the Brutal Facts with a little help of the paranoid neurotics in the team; Developing a Hedgehog Concept which combines passion, what you can be best at and your economic drivers; Developing a Culture of Discipline and using  Technology Accelerators to optimise the entire development process. The one that always throws me is the elusive Hedgehog – don’t forget based on Collins research it took on average most organisations he studied over 4 years to develop their hedgehog so don’t stress if you can’t do it in your next team off site or workshop.

Most of us in technology, marketing and media have massive challenges ahead. My one tip today is to put away any thoughts of business ideas, strategy, tactics or technology and put on that bus drivers hat. Ask yourself one simple question; Do I have the right people on the bus and in the right seats? Once you have a ‘yes’ to that question it will still be a hell of a ride but much less bumpy.

(Image via David Fisher http://www.flickr.com/photos/davef_iow/3952191881/)

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