Monday, February 5, 2024

The Function of Leaders is to Produce More Leaders

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

In an era of breath-taking innovation, is there anything more important?

The ‘Essential Eight Technologies’ – Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Drones, 3-D Printing, Big Data Analytics, and Distributed Ledger Technology (‘Blockchain’) – make disruption almost inevitable.

Prosperity, and in some industries, survival, depends on an organization’s ability to continuously solve complex problems.

And that entails leadership at each level. The internet, our era’s central metaphor, is in my view, an appropriate model of the successful organization.

There is no ‘center’ directing the actions of the myriad nodes. Instead, there is intelligence everywhere solving the relevant problems.

To be sure, Strategy development and deployment, remain core responsibilities of senior leaders. The core questions have to be answered:

Where are we going? How do we get there? What’s preventing us? And the deeper questions: Who are we? What do we believe in?

What is the purpose of the Human Resources function?
  1. To grow more leaders
  2. To create flexible, capable team members always looking for a better way
Let me suggest that core HR processes – Recruitment, Training & Development, Compensation, Performance and Succession Planning – must evolve accordingly. And so must corresponding methods.

It has to be easy, for example, to measure capability, so we can answer the core problem solving questions: What should be happening? What is actually happening?

A big challenge, given the secondary role HR plays in many organizations!

Deepening & extending the mindset of senior leaders is another big challenge. Most have grown up in a very different world, where developing more leaders was rarely recognized or rewarded.

Much of our LPI practice entails coaching senior leaders. The very best are those who have internalized these ideas. A salient quote: “My job is to develop capability – of people, processes and machinery.”

So what to do? A good start would be to explicitly include ‘Growing Other Leaders’ in performance contracts, and succession planning. (If I may suggest, providing capable coaches also makes sense.)

At our old Toyota plant, if you hadn’t ‘left a footprint’, promotion was out of the question. And so, we focused on creating capability – of people, processes and machinery. It’s how you got promoted.

Toyota’s superb internal senseis helped immeasurably. As did Toyota’s HR processes and policies. It was easy, for example, to measure capability of people, processes and machinery.

Thus, we could apply the Plan-Do-Check-Adjust cycle and practice root cause problem solving. We could run experiments and learn what worked and what did not.

Building the capability of people, interestingly, is not that different from building process capability.

All for now. More to come on this juicy topic.

Best regards,


In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Complexity is a Crude State, Simplicity Marks the End of a Process of Refinement
Can Lean & Agile Help to Fix Our Courts? Part 4
Can Lean & Agile Help to Fix Our Courts? Part 3
The Role of Senior Leaders (Part 1)

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