There is still more to learn from The Leadership Changes in New South Wales

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For us as leaders and managers the learning keeps coming following Barry O’Farrell’s resignation last week as New South Wales Premier and election of Mike Baird as the new leader. What’s always fascinating with a new political leader is the ever-present speculation in the popular press “will they ‘reshuffle’ their front bench?”

Sure enough within hours of taking up his new leadership he announced there would a front bench ‘reshuffle’ which is code for the organisational term, restructure. The question is why and what is the basis for it?

It was Alfred Chandler back in the 1920’s who suggested that Structure follows Strategy what he meant was a structure is created in order to implement a given strategy which means that the strategic direction has to come first. To date we have not seen any new or reaffirmed strategic direction for the State of New South Wales, yet we have had a ‘reshuffle’.

For us as leaders and managers the question remains, was this change in response to performance issues relating to some of the top team or was it strategic? Is it that he wants to place more strategic emphasis on certain areas and therefore wants to bring into his team people with a stronger knowledge, skill and experience?

We can only hope that it is for reasons of skill and experience and not for reasons of performance as most leaders would agree a restructure/reshuffle, call it what you will, is one of the least strategic and ineffective ways of dealing with performance issues.

In considering this further I am also reminded of the remark Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast attributed to Peter Drucker whose writings provided much of the practical foundation of modern business. It was Mark Fields, president of the Ford Motor Company, who brought this phrase into popular use because he realised that no matter how far reaching a vision is and how brilliant a strategy is, neither can be achieved if not underpinned by a strong constructive culture. Something which is lacking and lies at the heart of the challenges this State is facing with the behaviour of politicians irrespective of where their loyalties lie.

Strong constructive cultures provide a way of managing risk that cannot be obtained through strategy and structure alone because people in any organisation are more committed to the culture than they are to the strategy. Strategies can be copied but the culture is like a fingerprint, no one can copy it, it is your invisible advantage.

For us as leaders and managers we have to maintain focus on Culture, Strategy and Structure in this order. The majority of organisations have a strategic plan, in our experience few have a culture plan.

We have seen the ‘reshuffle’; it remains to be seen if we will see a new strategy emerge and whether steps will be put in place to change the culture. We will watch with interest.

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