bloggulentgreytripe

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Essays on power and change in Western democracies: Intersections of rhetoric shaping the civil landscape

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2020 at 2:55 pm

THE DREAM CITY megachurch Phoenix, Arizona, hosted Donald Trump last month. Supporters waited in 110-degrees for the Students for Trump event. Covid’s damage to the US economy is affecting Mr Trump’s re-election chances. 128,000 deaths are a tragedy. Politically it is clearing some of the path for rival Joe Biden. During his Arizona trip Mr Trump autographed a plaque at the 200th mile point of the US-Mexico border wall project. But there are changes he cannot effect. Universal health care moves forward gradually. Mr Biden will aid its journey if elected. He will also turn the country towards net-zero emissions and new foreign policy relations. But what of the deeper historic divisions? Last week the Governor of Mississippi signed into law the bringing down of the Confederate battle flag. It had flown from the Capitol building since 1894. It is the final state to unpick the emblem from its official symbols of office.

For the present America has returned to the level of rhetorical warfare worthy of Richard Nixon’s period in office (’69-’74). Only a few weeks into Mr Nixon’s presidency he ordered the air force to start bombing Communist supply lines in neutral Cambodia. But, the bombing was kept secret until the New York Times broke it as a front page story. Mr Nixon called in FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to install wiretaps on the phones of four journalists and thirteen administration officials. History records Mr Nixon prolonging the Vietnam War, pitching white against black with his “southern strategy”, and causing American citizenry to regard each other as enemies. All, one biographer argues, for his own political ends. He was the only President to resign in shame. The parallels with Mr Trump’s tenure have already been rehearsed.

On 27 April 1994 Reverend Billy Graham delivered the sermon at Mr Nixon’s funeral. It was a peroration that sanctified: “the world has lost a great citizen”. Mr Nixon’s record was momentarily reborn and deeper questions flattened. Importantly the presidency was resurrected through hi-spiritual rhetoric. Keeping faith with the office of president is a non-negotiable element of America’s wars of rhetoric. Mr Graham’s narrative was a rescue mission which worked for a congregation already sitting awkwardly knowing what they knew. Elsewhere, away from the grieving, Mr Graham further absolved human frailty by stating Mr Nixon’s ‘drugs and demons’ had ‘play over him’. It is easier to blame demons after death than face them during life. Whether the office of president was a demon that had play over Mr Graham and now other ‘white evangelicals’ is a rhetorical battle still in play at the White House.

For America democratic change is proving painfully slow. In Alexis de Tocqueville’s celebrated analysis of American democracy in the 1830s, he noted the curious paradox of America’s commitment to free speech being undone by an absence of independent minds. In 1963 writer James Baldwin argued this absence was rather: “White Americans… [who] are terrified of sensuality…,” adding: “It will be a great day for America… when we begin to eat bread again, instead of the blasphemous and tasteless foam rubber that we have substituted for it.” For Mr Baldwin foam rubber stood for the ‘apprehension of life’ and the ‘historical role… Christianity’ had played in shaping the American consciousness. But more importantly its unconsciousness towards America’s unequal sociopolitical systems and structures. Kelly Brown Douglas writes: “…fundamental aspects of Christian theology have been used to legitimate white supremacist realities and have become a part of the collective theological consciousness.”

Great American Paradox: The extent to which critical writers like James Baldwin reflect aspects of the New Testament’s emphasis on power and change more acutely than institutional religion begs the question of the relationship between Christianity and the sociopolitical systems to which it has climbed into. James Baldwin wrote: “To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the breaking of bread.” The potential for a new American Identity may already be planted in its marginalised communities. To this possible end The Episcopal Church’s Virginia Theological Seminary ‘has set aside $1.7m for a reparations fund… Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey… $27m’ (Sojourners, July 2020).

America’s troubled soul is self-evident. Its social contract is being written long after its Constitution. With its truths drawn from an indeterminate mix of Enlightenment philosophy, Thomist natural theology and traditional Judeo-Christian revelation the Republic could still be lost. These contradictions are often revealed in the power politics of American Christianity. It still is a young country. Double Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel’s trilogy on Thomas Cromwell reveals what an old country England was even in the early 1500s: “You can write on England, but what was written before keeps showing through, inscribed on the rocks and carried on floodwater, surfacing from deep cold wells.” America’s Constitution not so much ‘shows through’ but overshadows.

Did a conflicted soul make it easier for George W Bush to be ‘transformed by 9/11 from a compassionate conservative into a neocon who started two of his country’s longest wars’? Or the anti-intellectualism of Mr Trump’s base joining with the White Christianity of middle-America? They have both turned Right for their ideology’s salvation. Either way it is a turn away from the complex nature of the relationship between faith and justice. Not helped by American Protestantism taking the form of a solus ipse spirit; to go with its Reformation sola fide and sola scriptura. A confidence in self actuality rather than a communal interpretation of ancient meaning. This individualist brio became an almost perfect partner to neoliberalism’s hyper-individualism. But the power of American Optimism struggles to come to terms with limitations.

The American writer Saul Bellow called death the black backing on the mirror. It enables us to see our lives and selves in reflection. And White Christian individualism has not evolved a theology of death that sits well with eternal optimism. James Baldwin opened profound theological questions in Sixties America. But mainstream Christian apologists such as Billy Graham would not engage in dialogue. Mr Baldwin was a symbol of a growing black consciousness. This contrasted strongly with Mr Graham’s evangelicalism, which was a symbol of a persistent spiritual innocence that is still pervasive today.

It is important to remember that Billy Graham-style evangelical rallies were vast. So much so when you got up out of your seat to respond to the nightly altar call, there was a very real danger that you would not find it again. And that is the challenge of American quantification. To reach a mass audience exaggeration is essential. For square-jawed evangelists to convince an aircraft-hangar-sized congregation with Sixties amplification ar-tic-u-la-tion of the gos-pel in hyperbolic form was needed. For the message to reach the back row it had to have been launched with such force those in the front rows were transfixed. Megaphones need monosyllabic language to travel through the air. Subtlety is stripped off and the remaining bones are chewed for nourishment. Mr Graham’s speechness invited no echo.

Homespun religion was a coherent personal theology that did not invite a discussion. It was a style of faith that releases the self into a private internal struggle. But private crises are rarely resolved through private reflection. Mr Baldwin’s critique of white culture with its plastic bread that tasted of nothing could be seen in white evangelicalism. White Christianity could see the murderous violence of segregation. But it relied on changing the human heart. Not addressing discrimination meant gagging the raging prophets from the Old Testament who burnt incandescently for justice above ‘harps and sweet music’. Where Martin Luther King Jr offered the prophetic, and generated collectivised power, Mr Graham offered a depoliticised Christianity.

The power of crowds should not be underestimated. Despite the hubbub oratory was personal. When the Sergeant Major bellows on parade, soldiers are convinced he or she is the ‘orrible piece of work needing extra drill. When troops overseas have been in male-only company and a comedian is sent to entertain invariably a small female dance troupe go along. Every man believes the impossibly unmale vision has eyes only for him. The impossibly certain pastor poses, pauses and pounces; and all believe it is to them this message is supernaturally directed. Today’s mass rally, political or religious, is held together by stagecraft and nervous expectancy.

This command-from-the-stage steers White Christianity to choose low powered targets. Conservative evangelicals sometimes gather against the arts, rather than for them. Often in protest against artful representations of Jesus. Their sensibilities are hurt. Accompanied by guitar choruses heavy with mawkish sentiment. Folk religion without any edge is prone to flat earth anything-goes-thinking.

Mr Graham I argue would privately agree with me. He cited the 20th century’s leading theological voices. Reformed protestant giants Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann. They wrote a withering critique of a paganised Christianity that had become a God is Great reduction. From the story of the builder from Nazareth, White Christianity had created the Christ Idol. This figure loomed with threatening texts on the walls of Christian homes. But Mr Graham bowdlerised Barth’s critical message. Barth accused White Christianity of presenting God as a ‘simple, absolute being… a cosmic dictator’.

Instead Mr Graham postured and brought all to attention. The ancient text was a divine codex. And looking back it is possible he struggled to understand its core themes beyond headline messages. At times he held it in such a way that he feared its spontaneous combustion. Whatever I’ve got here is beyond my literal reading; I’m scared of its mysteries and you can feel my own fear. If I don’t tell you just how scared I am then we’re all in danger. His honesty was American. A lot of the genius of America is in its fronting up. George W Bush would say: ‘Iraq is a war of revenge’. No guile. Gothic bare boards of truth.

A Product Of Americana?: Chronicler of American provincial power Philip Roth wrote a response to President Richard Nixon’s politics by re-characterising “The president’s chief ally… [as] the Reverend Billy Cupcake—a stand-in for the granddaddy of the religious right” (Greenberg). A republic constantly in danger from its own energy is likely to produce figures whose popularity stems from their ability to flatten out the stark contradictions between modernity, America and Christianity.

In contrast Martin Luther King Jr read his ancient text and it was a reportage of present day Black American experience. The violence of crucifixion and exile in Egypt was another front-page story from within black communities. When George Orwell trundled out of Northern English coal mining communities, his Southern benefactors refused to believe Great Britons lived in abject squalor. They recoiled from its implications for their own lives and communities. Mr Graham’s rural theology was in no position to face the reality of African-American experience.

Ultimately Mr Graham’s Kingdom was a bit too much like Oz, far off and magical. And a misreading of New Testament theology. He found it hard to tell truth to charismatic ceasaresque power. He was resistant to Barth’s opus magnum. A radical new relational ecology far from the production economy at the heart of neoliberalism.

The backdrop of post-war America did not invite cool reflection. Images of ICBMs raining from open Kansas skies and America’s superpower status being erased steadily in the jungles of Vietnam kept folk flocking to apocalyptic preachers like Mr Graham. The Barth, Bultmann et al corpus argues what Mr Graham missed was the Christ Event’s metaphors. The apocalypse related to humanness in all its potential. New Testament theology was a restoration of the Human Epic. The Kingdom narrative was ‘life now’ as counter to the ennui and anomie of industrial living. Rather than ‘life future’ as captured by the American Dream and Western Civilisation casus foederis. That is not to say people could not find a version of Jesus through Mr Graham. But his conversion experience was devoid of Jesus the revolutionary, and Jesus the ‘essence of reality’. This figure physically and metaphorically attacked the temple complex’s alliance with Romanus Economicus. Instead newly minted evangelicals would not look at top shelf magazines again. But now they were in danger of not wanting to look if they were not careful. What the original Martin Luther might call a spiritual death by religious legalism. For both Calvin and Luther reckoned if the human spirit was not engaged then everything else was superficial nonsense.

Early on American Christianity broke off from a European magisterium and evolved into a culture that was stripped of cultural handrails. A pure liberal ‘eat what you kill’ existence. Mr Trump’s often poor Republican base is voting for tax breaks for the rich based on the remotest possibility they too might ‘make it’. Such ideological patriotism remains hidden in plain sight. It is partly fuelled by conservative Christianity’s tacit support for feudal capitalism.

Lazy preaching also fitted TV too well. America was a TV nation. Its role in shaping the national consciousness cannot be underestimated. Preachers could be dazzled by US presidents who knew the political value of a religious talisman. Mr Graham’s puritanism did not allow him to think ill of these men. They remained flawed but because they told him they meant good, and said it in homespun inflections, we should believe them. Such grand naivety set the tone for the hokey spirit. The Holy Spirit was found amongst the dust and devastation of crucifixion. A peculiarly sadistic end reserved for the detritus of the Roman World. It brooked no televisual quality as popular culture ruled the airwaves.

Preachers were spiritually formed in religious seminary climates almost unique to the US educational scene. Where private institutions proliferate. Unchecked lecturers could avoid giving off the dank odour of intellectualism. Intellectualising was a dark European modus that would lead to the sordid perversions of liberalism. Or worse, Communism. Newly fledged college minds tended to look at nuance as if it was sexually ambiguous. An androgyny that robbed economies of their animal spirits. Much of this is found in the Make America Great Again narrative. Mr Trump, like Bill Clinton, borrowed this phrase from Ronald Reagan. It has the megaphone quality that travels to the back of the arena.

Mr Trump said earlier this year during a live briefing session: “Why is it three or four times more so for the black community” to be impacted by Covid-19? Writer Kierra Jackson noted that social media reacted with: “The white man said it, but we have been screaming this for years,” with another adding, “Blackness is not a risk factor. Anti-blackness is the comorbidity.” Also a registered nurse Kierra Jackson cites US Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams: ‘Minorities are not more predisposed to infection “biologically or genetically,” but rather they are “socially predisposed” to it’.

What the pandemic is doing is opening spaces to recognise how White Christianity has struggled to pull its theology back from Christian nationalism and importantly an unquestioned authoritarianism.  Martin Luther King Jr argued many remain “silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.” In an article by Sophie McBain the New Yorker columnist Masha Gessen talks of the pandemic as an ‘amplifier’ and that the lockdown plus protests ‘have provided a renewed sense of purpose and connection’. These are the sorts of debates that James Baldwin was surfacing back in 1963. Gessen describes this as a journey out of a tacit authoritarianism. Ultimately is the pandemic a key moment, the backing on the mirror? Of course White American Christianity is not ready to see itself. It is still too busy exporting its cultural artefacts. But this is the nature of authoritarian hegemonies. Hegemonic power is held in a constant transmission of its reasons for existence. Rome’s collapse was due to rampant inequalities as wealth was concentrated in the hands of a senatorial clique who refused to act.

Pathways to reform: Economic recovery will rest increasingly on new levels of mutuality and tolerance

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2020 at 2:31 pm

ON the morning of 26th July 1945 Britain woke up to the results of the General Election. The Daily Mail newspaper warned the Labour Party to ‘accept an adverse verdict like men and not like spoilt children’. As the day wore on it became clear the Conservative Party were in trouble. Duncan Sandys, Winston Churchill’s son-in-law, and wartime Minister of Works lost his seat in Parliament; so too Churchill’s son, Randolph, turfed out of his Preston constituency. By 7 p.m. Labour had gained 225 seats, up from 165 to 390. At No. 10, as Churchill packed his cigars away, apparently in ‘good grace’, underlying concerns rumbled: could the new Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, stand up to Stalin?

Leo McKinstry’s study of Churchill and Attlee’s wartime partnership reckons that it survived because it was “partly a reflection of Churchill’s greatness and partly of Attlee’s patience”. Churchill would be known to pontificate: “Well, gentlemen, I think we can all agree on this course,” with Attlee responding: “You know, prime minister, a monologue by you does not necessarily spell agreement.”

1st February 2016. The start of the American primary season. Donald Trump had as yet no support from major Republican backers. From nowhere Trump started to win: New Hampshire, then South Carolina. The endorsements grew. No-one was more terrified of these events than the Republican Party itself. The senior guard fired off warnings, only to end in damp squibs.

Any student of American politics knows that when the campaign trail commences political issues get thrown overboard. For America is the land of ‘reaching out’ for ‘consensus’. Its main chambers are curved with opposing parties effectively shoulder to shoulder. They face the Speaker, unlike the adversarial House of Commons where opponents are two sword lengths apart. Just enough thinking time before delivering a fatal blow. The discomfit we feel about British political life is the shift from statecraft to US-style cheer-leading. Dominic Cummings is in the mould of the professional campaign manager whose focus is ‘authoritarian alignment’. Here is the failure to gate-keep both US and UK political systems.

Rome’s ancient Forum complex: The model for every town centre in the UK. The institutions of state gather round an open space where they are intended to echo ‘the voice of the people’. Or as they used to say in Rome on a Friday night: “Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit.” Meaning: ‘And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness!’ The elections of ’45 and ’16 reveal a ‘mass society’ struggling to voice its desire for a new social order.

Both 1945 and 2016 reveal the tendency for underlying human affections to remain hidden from view. No amount of punditry or prophecy can predict. But more critically little of the surface events of the election circus dent the institutional layers beneath. For western democratic institutions do ‘know’ in an almost biblical fashion ‘their people’; as they are in fact ‘the people’. Dedicated citizenry run the machinery of nation states but no journalist is going to write about the boiling intrigue within the finance function of St Godric’s Borough Council. Virtually all our media attention is directed towards agents who have little genuine power.  

Paradoxically the core of Western democracy is its ‘separation of power’: this is the style of architecture that bogs down political charisma in protracted committee room processes. As intended. This truism ties nations like Britain and the US into the same category. What separates us quite violently is the social landscape.

As a grandee of American literature and even greater political polemicist, plus darling of the liberal intellectuals, Gore Vidal, points out: ‘Empires absorb energy, they give out energy, but when they’re over they are like a cold dead mackerel at five in the morning’. Europe after WWII is by comparison to the US a collection of dead mackerels with nearly all its hopeful attention turned towards the supercharged American landscape for inspiration. With US soft power reaching far beyond the gunboats of the British Empire, it has proved more effective at drawing people groups towards change.

Currently what the Trump presidency is doing is offering a portent of America as a ‘dead fish society’. And what we Europeans are wondering is what state will its institutions be in after their world dominance reduces. As up for grabs is America’s core notion of freedom, one that was written into its founding documents. This is of little value if their institutions cease to function due to a hobbling of essential components: that of mutuality and moderation. For Western democracy is rooted in a level of civility and shared purpose that defies easy recognition.

After Attlee’s victory the new consensus is as striking now as then. Clapping for the NHS revealed the durable goodwill of the British people to suspend the Brexit divide and collectively support  what remains a British Project. That of the British socialist/capitalist hybrid of welfarism and market forces. To sustain this requires ongoing post-war mutuality of the voting public. On the day of Attlee’s victory a docker in the East End of London carried a placard with the words: “This is the hour of triumph for the common man”. Few at the time had read common woman’s true intent but the social shift was profound.

What remains unexplored is the new emerging mutuality post Recession 2020. Although we don’t know it publicly we are about to re-negotiate the social contract, whether we like it or not. What WWII illustrated was the preparedness to fight for our version of civilisation. It was not a foregone conclusion as no-one knew that an isolationist America would get involved in what was another European war. There is of course no special relationship between Britain and America. It is a ruse for public consumption. Roosevelt regarded the Europeans as leaving the ‘stench of Empire’ wherever they set foot. Plus he wanted in on Britain’s imperial markets. Which we effectively gifted away early on in WWII.

The rapid collapse of colonialism left a huge vacuum. The only possibility to fill this gaping hole was newly minted liberal democratic systems. The NHS being a shining and more obvious institutional symbol. What makes the NHS an almost sacred emblem, one that not even Atlee’s 1945-’51 new government could have foreseen, is how an aspiring working-class made its social-economic journey in willing lock-step with this particular bureaucratic institution.

Such mutuality is at the core of economic adjustment. Without the new middle-classes tied into national direction Western democratic principles become eroded. Why Westminster style adversarial politics can continue to square up to each other is because its institutional architecture offers a reflection of its wider core values. America is desperate for a new consensus but it is currently finding none. It is throwing its nascent civility out of the window leaving its notion of free speech tarnished. Britain is therefore in a remarkable head start as its ability to hold a civil national and international conversation is considerable.

Far from wishing to tear up its institutions ‘common woman’ wants to deepen her partnership. But this still means opening institutions up for new dialogue. With the coming pain new spaces will have to open between all institutional players. Where America is a country that has ‘written itself down on paper’ Britain can still write itself new versions of history. If Americans do not really know what ‘life, liberty and freedom’ mean because they cannot as yet hold a meaningful exchange due to their social landscape Britain can open up the public sphere with confidence. Vidal called the US a country that is obsessed with the ‘foetus and flag’. And one that has yet to let go of the ‘conquest model of leadership’. A deeply socially divided nation cannot yet find the forums to exercise its freedoms. The quality of debate has yet to match the quality of its constitutional vision. We can take great pride yet in our community’s ability to exchange deeply opposing worldviews without descending to screaming.

For it is one thing to have forbearance written down as a principle it is another to educate people to understand how to compromise on their individual desires. Britain’s future will be based upon the principle of a new generosity towards concession. That communities collectively agree what is important over and above what is desirable will be a shift as great as the post-war dividend of a welfare system. In ’45, despite 200+% debt to GDP ratio, new lock-step institutions staved off unrest.

This is about solidarity with future generations and interpreting well their investment in partnership with liberal democratic systems. For sure America is a land of great contradictions. There are few greater contradictions between the grand rhetoric of American aspirations and provincial life. Philip Roth’s The Human Stain reveals the difficulties of language and meaning in the pressure pots of small town America: “People are bored here, they are envious, their life is as it is and as it will be, and so, without seriously questioning the story, they repeat it…” Like small town provincial Britain what is said by the external ‘rooted cosmopolitan’ voices has to be re-voiced when it travels into communities. And vice versa.

And this is part of the pathway to reform. As the joke goes it doesn’t matter what American politicians say about Make America Great Again; as the American citizen imagines greatness to be a society of prosperity, democracy and security, along with good government. Currently that society is called: Denmark! If America wants to get to Denmark it is not going the right way about it. As America creaks from the power of the lobbyists buying off its politicians the question for Britain is how it establishes a fuller alignment of its bureaucracies to public purpose in the way the Danish have.

It’s difficult to see this transition in Britain without leadership that re-engages the provinces on their aspirations and invites regional leadership that voices these desires. This then is an extended and tolerant dialogue across the whole community at all levels. Grassroots mobilisation is closely linked to education. For education gives access to economy and economy gives a politically charged voice. The ability to translate a complex British landscape within local communities is a task for gifted facilitation. The ability to understand the balance between state, law and accountability is a crucial component for a recovering economy. Unless regional communities can argue their broad interests then full progress will inevitably be slowed.

Core institutions then are in a powerful interplay. That doesn’t mean an automatic devolution of power will equal vibrant and newly engaged communities. But it does mean exploring Weber’s relationship between traditional charismatic and rational authority. The spiritual energy from traditional communities has to interface with the institutional rationality of a functioning state. This is where we are back to fostering significant compromises between competing aspirations. Mixing the vibrancy of the pluralistic and cosmopolitan into the provincial and traditional requires patient debate about what we mean by social mobility. Nonetheless, this will be traumatic.

American despair currently is less about Trump but rather the inability from the 1950s onwards for successive US administrations to appease a newly socially mobilised populace. Its post-war society had heeded the call to get a college education, tempted by the promise of middle-class rewards. But the fruits of ‘hard work’ didn’t materialise in lock step. As social mobility crawls along in Britain, despite the efforts of the Blair government to expand education, the ‘hot debate’ that is brewing is about the relationship between expectation and government accommodation. This isn’t all bad news. But it will require mature public spaces. Facilitated by even more tolerant and patient forms of leaders who understand the under-currents of public opinion. They weren’t read well in ’45 and ’16 but presently they are shifting firmly towards a new social contract which could be as radical as we have ever seen.

How to develop shrewd senior leaders who will address northern Britain’s productivity challenge (and Covid-19 recovery)

In Uncategorized on April 6, 2020 at 11:17 am

ONCE UPON A TIME an organisation had supercharged leadership, new buildings, expanded vision, ‘wrong people’ fired, ‘right people’ hired, but, the toilets did not get cleaned. Then, by magic, they were sparkling. What, pray, made the difference?: “Management spoke to us,” said the cleaning staff. And so they lived happily ever after in the Land of Increased Productivity.

Covid-19: Our greatest strategic leadership challenge since the 1970s? UK premier Margaret Thatcher was a ‘declinest’, viewing post-war Britain as a failed state, and one needing her drastic surgery. Others viewed the transition from imperial power, establishment of the NHS and a welfare society, to membership of NATO and the European Union, as a great achievement of social economic transformation. The scale of the current crisis is still being calculated socially as well as economically. Is this further decay of the Western model, a super-test of civic resilience, and possible evidence other social fabrics are better woven for future trading?

This story is not quite true. But the truest bit is management action is oft presented as fairy dust. Sprinkle and productivity transforms. We love magical change. To portray northern Britain’s productivity crisis, however, gritty realism is our genre.

There is good news. Britain has a greater number of high productivity companies than France and Germany. The bad news is, we have a longer-tail of below-average companies dragging down the whole. Many of these are in the north. Northern leaders are focused and assertive, if not aggressive, but ‘like fairy gold, it will be dead leaves in the morning’ if we do not unpack this puzzle together as we head out of the EU.

How did we get here? Well, in 1960 the UK had the highest productivity in Europe. Over the next 50 years, our performance increased (yay!) but at a slower rate than our major competitors (boo!). And then slumped dramatically following the financial crash (eek!); down to 0.4% (from an annual average of 2.4% growth). Today we are 16% less productive overall than our G7 partners (leading advanced economies). And now with Recession 2020 via Covid-19 we are facing our greatest strategic leadership challenge since the 1970s.

Growth in finance and professional services was stellar up until 2007 but these stars are slightly less bright. The top performers tended to mask the wider picture. Now, even the most productive companies have also slipped out of the fast lane.

This then is a story of lost-momentum. Especially in northern regions. This is also a story of management and leadership, plus ye olde story of skills. More so, it is a riddle inside a puzzle. Certainly a whole region conversation. We can point to tendencies, the toxicity of control freak management, underinvestment, difficulty measuring the emerging economies, London, Brussels, low wage rates, fractured communities…  stop! You say.

There is no single solution, not even Boris Johnson’s infrastructure stimulus. No Sir Lancelot Spratt to come onto the Sick Man of Europe ward and bombastically order cod liver oil for all. As the picture is so contradictory. Hamletian ambiguity is with us. And returning to a Frankensteinian mechanistic management toolkit will prove lethal. When performance drops, the temptation is to run faster. Tighten the nut by all means, but you are still holding a spanner awaiting the next rupture.

Currently, the most productive firms are exporters. Businesses focused on local markets are part of the UK’s long-tail of underperformers. But, you might say, we all know businesses that are surviving despite the chaos. I can name a few high street top brands who still have pennies in the bank, but are dying before our eyes. Their management teams fiddle, destroying brand value. Pragmatic management can be prone to saying ‘cash is king’. But these poor performers lack the ability to stand outside of their institutionalised selves.

Under pressure, tunnel vision becomes a condition. Boardrooms are messy places and some senior figures will hammer contradictions flat rather than explore through dialogue. It is always a matter of time before loyal consumers become adulterous. Spotting their first flirtation is leadership’s responsibility. Cash then is not the same as value and does not signal loyalty. The opportunity for UK plc is to wrestle better with the amorphous notion of complex change along with the even more foggy notion of economic value. The company accountant and Finance Director, for all their virtuosity with balance sheets and investments, still need to be in an extended dialogue on value creation. Activity x rarely leads to profit outcome y.

This requires renewed imagination to conceive the complex web of value-adding activity. Science only first conceived of the human body’s network of blood vessels when the scientist pictured it as a possible interconnected whole prior to full dissection. Extending a glimpse into a 3-D hologram that is projectable onto the boardroom wall is as vital as any pithy bullet-pointed executive summary.

We have been guilty then of championing evidence-based-thinking. Just because it is visible? No, because, as T. S. Eliot said: ‘our modern eyes have been cut wide open’. We are dazzled by the bright glare of so-called evidence. A collective shooting from the hip. Bright data gets us through scrutiny sessions but not into the grey corners of long-term value. Of course any data from any source, are still tiny fragments of a whole, by definition. 0.01 is easily presented as 0.99 from under-pressure directors. Why? We have the tendency to prefer answers to questionsExplanation has become Caesar’s thumb. To explain of course is to close inquiry, and just when we needed to open up an extended search for new understanding. This is the weakness of our modern minds which prefer dialectics (systems thinking) than dialogue (holding competing logics in play).

I term this tendency ‘sunshine leadership’, one that seeks to fix the weather, ignoring the vast ecosystem of contradictory data. Rainy days are not to be despised. This a shift in the image of future leadership. A chance also to refresh the national fish tank of intellect through which new senior minds are formed. Leaders who recognise the ecosystem’s complexity, collaborate, hold dialogue and craft new business models cut shrewder figures. When a leading North West CEO recently mentioned Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (master of irony over chop logic) in the same breath as Friedrich Hegel (suggested father of modern systems thinking, if not modern thought generally) the sea state has clearly changed. The French champion their philosophers over their entrepreneurs, surely?

This is, of course, a story of post-war Britain. UK plc struggled to distribute its industrial largesse to the people who dug coal, built planes, and fought epic wars. The NHS and welfare state were hurried actions, part of the double movement of free-market societies. A correction to the turmoil of market revolution. However, post-war Germany and France invested in technical colleges while Britain invested in high-sciences. Its applied science vision evolved a middle management ethos that could translate concepts into products where UK management inherited a patriarchal and patrimonial legacy that was radically out of step with a liberalising workforce.

We conceived of beautiful concepts but could not convert them into durable products. New Jaguar motorcars sat beside the road with their owners puzzling at the engine’s failure, to discover later that the undertrained workforce had (folklore tells us) poured sand into the radiator as a means to communicating with untrained managers. A major failure of both irony and logic.

And British public and political life is going through this rupture still. Britain is torn between professional management (meritocracy) and continuity management (institutional). The UK’s slow rise of professional management and leadership capability is because at heart UK society still values continuity over change. Typical of a non-professional craft-based British model that served its industrial growth through to the beginning of the 20th century. I argue neither are silver bullets to increased productivity. Both have important offerings and should be kept in tension. We need our crafts, arts and sciences in healthy balance.

A fully modern meritocratic Britain is then on hold. The rise and rise of the professional politician/lawmaker is not addressing Britain’s performance on the world stage.

Productivity itself is a combination of business efficiency enabled by a nation’s institutional efficiency. Business will take the hit via its order book if we invest in grand infrastructure projects, but not schools, roads and rail (HS2 being a chimaera). Ironically and logically, productivity is a whole nation exercise and it is an exercise in creating a climate where the loos are cleaned because of a purpose well beyond management’s ingenious ‘employee of the month’ scheme. Tokenism, gimmickry, gestures are just that. The value of effort is measured by alignment to long-term outcomes. Business leadership and political systems being in a lively dialogue achieve this. We have seen this dialogue strained through over-regulation. But also we are looking for leadership that is capable of speaking into these issues. And often we continue to appoint leaders who are technically adept, pragmatic, excessively action-orientated but unable to hold dialogue overtime on evident complexity.

Leadership development activity that expands space for competing systems of thought, their ambiguity and ecology, is enabling. We can aid leaders to walk for longer, and more happily, in these dialogue spaces, renewing their capacity to lead into future economies. Such patient vulnerability is genuinely ‘strong leadership’; and tends to lead to creativity, with this shrewd figure seeking conversations that carry their message across an ecosystem.

It is true to say Frankenstein’s monster was erudite, intellectually sensitive and motivated. But dissolved when his myopic goal was thwarted. Hamlet cuts an even more flawed figure, and one moving into the shadows and out again. But, as Wilson Knight suggests: a ‘man almost supernaturally shrewd; he has ‘seen through humanity’’.

From Churchill to Covid to the collective good: in a media-saturated now a voice from elsewhere

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2020 at 5:32 pm

IN a media saturated moment here are some tangents that offer a ‘voice from elsewhere’. With the leadership space being dominated by the Immediate Actions of crisis leaders this is in the spirit of dialogue-on-the-margins which travels a little more slowly through this period. There is a suggestion here that a ‘dialogical approach’ is useful at this stage as we search for deeper understanding.

Link below:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/pjjup41v92bo9rs/Churchill%20to%20Covid.m4a?dl=0

undefined

Avoiding organisational burnout whilst increasing your profits: through balancing leadership and management

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2019 at 10:20 am

ONE very successful CEO said to me that every now and then he enters his office, shuts the door, drops the blind and does nothing all day and then goes home.

As shocking as that is to a workforce who can’t do that, or can’t do it as easily, the truth is that often when a leader leaves well alone the organisation he or she is responsible for ‘gets on with the job’. That particular CEO has been known to arrive on the shop floor and do the opposite, which he regrets later. He says he can’t help himself. It relieves his stress. But not the company’s.

Good management then can be a beautiful thing. And leadership can be very costly. But good managers are sometimes as rare as a completely dry day in Cumbria. When you have one cherish them. As good management remains the zone of efficient profits, effective communication, service quality, sustainable change and settled human relations.

I say this because organisations, from businesses to churches, last only 30-40 years on average. An organisation is born, grows, plateaus, and either grows again or declines and dies. And leader-founders whose drive is the source of the ‘birth phase’ are prone to throttling it at the plateau stage: ‘The seeds of demise are frequently sown during periods of success’. But what I term ‘the small town leader or entrepreneur’ can learn early to delegate daily operations to their staff. And sometimes this simplified but not simplistic truism remains ‘the art of leadership’. And who better to leave it alone to other than: the gifted manager. Who should be rewarded for their profit potential.

When I say leadership is costly I mean that as an organisation grows, both in scale and value, it’s able to produce more from less. And this is the moment when leadership must give way and enable management systems and practices, as boring as that is. And humans need boredom as unrelenting novelty is damaging (note the often failed but fashionable ‘change programmes’).

When a family firm employs its first agent (manager) it buys the manager’s ‘general management’ skillset. The General Manager takes the passion (blood, toil etc) for the organisation’s mission and converts it into a set of processes that gradually reduce the need to interrupt the leader (who periodically should be up the mountain top surveying the surrounding landscape). It allows decision-making to turn from the leader-founder out towards procedures and their managers, and then further to the administrators, who are diligent bureaucrats, and likewise often beautiful creatures.

The Western world in its relative success is run by faithful bureaucrats. During the now faltering Arab Spring one protestor spray-painted on a wall: “We need institutions!”. Evolution is less brutal than revolution. The French Revolution still rolls on of course. As Macron is finding. It’s fashionable to knock bureaucracies. But business success is reliant on its state’s institutional efficiencies. From banking to taxation. And business leadership is reliant on instituting its core values through good policies and systems.

The leader delegates to management, management to administration. And the world goes round. The firm expands its capacity. You all know this but it is worth rehearsing as 96% of the UK’s businesses are micro-businesses. And most want to grow. And relying on the first stage rocket fuel of leadership or entrepreneurial spirit is a costly exercise.

What management has sometimes been able to do in its 100 history is re-capture the core values of a functioning human society. When it doesn’t ‘managerialism’ arises. This is where systems serve themselves not the mission. Of course much of our organic society was ripped up by industrialisation and urbanisation which gave rise to the ‘modern society’. And management as a profession is in some self-reflection. Is it an exercise in modern progress (modernity = building a free society via capital owning individualists) or aiding ancient institutions (tradition = restoring an ordered, natured pastoral society based on solidarity between the generations). This is a paradox for later discussion.

Of course currently we want both: ancient and modern. A loving home, supported by ancient institutions within a law-abiding safe society, but with the freedom to escape via technology. We probably can’t have both in their fullness which the Brexit debate has discovered.

So, leaders then are required to establish good governance frameworks. They either hand over decision-making authority to appointed managers or potentially restrict their organisation’s longevity. The American corporation boomed in the early 20th century in large part to their exemplary ability to delegate responsibility as part of the impressive American management ethos. For professional management is very much the vision of the American corporation. Britain, renowned for its inventive spirit, struggled to form an egalitarian society and engage its workforce in adaptation. Its social fabric tore in the 1970s as it recognised too late its economic model was long dead.

In response, British management has followed its American counterparts into business school classrooms to place the art and craft of practice alongside the science of organisational study. British managers have over the decades begun to discuss ‘strategy’ and ‘leadership’ through the lens of the theoretical as well as the lens of experience and pragmatism. All lenses are needed to compete.

What this academic contribution won’t do is limit the impulses of leaders to either have the arrows of decision making pointing in towards them or out towards the members of the organisation. The role of the leader-founder is to recognise their consciousness might be 100 feet wide and their colleagues’ consciousness 50, but once you combine and collaborate with colleagues’ thinking it forms a much greater whole.

If our bi-weekly refuse collection relied on an entrepreneur’s ability to manage it we will have the streets piled high. Human society needs ritualised practices that require institutionalisation of the organisation. As dull as that sounds. But this is where the tension between leadership and management lies. My own ritual of teeth cleaning every morning and evening is done in an unconscious back of brain fug of unthinkingness. Such ability to pass front of brain activity to the rear (I know that’s not scientific) means human energy is conserved and my frontal lobes can get to work on new thinking. And so the organisation that constantly has to think and discuss its regular activity will burn out. Often because of a leader’s need to be at the centre of activity is a deeply personal one. The leader who recognises their role is a servant of the wider good will happily give away responsibility all day long. Usually to the grey-suited general manager. Who are beautiful things.

First published for University of Cumbria: https://www.cumbria.ac.uk/blog/articles/avoiding-organisational-burnout-whilst-increasing-your-profits-through-balancing-leadership-and-management.php

Where will The North find its authority?: In the soft power (Nordpolitik) of British institutions

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2019 at 2:33 pm

AUTHORITY is not what it once was. In 1950s Britain it was located within social hierarchies, collectivised industries and nation-based politics. Efforts to distribute that power via popular culture were successful. My four older sisters took to Sixties culture in various forms. Our Edwardian, war-time and now late parents looked on mainly in bemusement, remaining at a safe distance. Having obeyed social convention, duty and family they assumed these pillars were a sound basis to govern. The seeds of a New Modern Civilisation planted in the early 1800s bloomed colourfully in the 1960s. A warfare generation climbed out of austerity into full employment. The new National Health Service distributed the pill. And mothers gathered less in church halls to share the burden of child-rearing. The nation-state gradually took on its welfare role. Sub-urban developments drained mass inner-city housing projects and council estates.

Continuing to dive deep into this debate: Britain flattened its social ranks and shed its remaining communitarian culture in an expanded middle-class vision of ‘cosmopolitan living’. Socialism was  dealt Thatcher’s coup de grace: home ownership plus privatisation of collectivised industries. Authority then went into capital owning organisations who could meet the needs of the hyper-individual. And into the hands of the consumer, whose growing discretionary spend would shape government policy. Neo-liberalism celebrated the liberation of capital. Capital had gone mobile. The moral argument from neo-liberals was people would buy justice for themselves. A socialism by the back door. Capital had come out of bank vaults into Joe Public’s purse, and she will decide where it goes. Those on the margins would surely follow suit?

Authority drew its new power from distributed capital. Liquid capital in the form of Coca Colonisation brought down the Berlin Wall. Levi Jeans proving themselves seductive to Soviet citizens trapped in bread queues ended the nuclear arms race. With the end of the Cold War globalisation could accelarate the power of organisations unabated. This second Great Transformation was a new game with new rules. Brexit further revealed how the ‘nation state’ has lost its authority to direct its affairs. Authority was spread across global actors and Brexit is attempting to gather up the marbles.

Nordpolitik meets Ostpolitik agenda: Tempting to recall Willy Brandt (left) and Willi Stoph in Erfurt 1970, the first encounter of a Federal Chancellor with his East German counterpart, an early step in the de-escalation of the Cold War. Re-unifying around the symbol of the nation-state appears inevitable. It is the preferred arena to debate our collective will and identity. Northernness offers a growing symbolism for the re-reunified nation known as the United Kingdom. Northernness (Nordpolitik) appears to be a counter-power to the cosmopolitan-vision of a global-citizenry whose place is unknown, and identity is homogenised. A citizen of nowhere-ville?
Nordpolitik meets Ostpolitik agenda: Tempting to recall Willy Brandt (left) and Willi Stoph in Erfurt 1970, the first encounter of a Federal Chancellor with his East German counterpart, an early step in the de-escalation of the Cold War. Re-unifying around the symbol of the nation-state appears inevitable. It is the preferred arena to debate our collective will and identity. Northernness offers a growing symbolism for the re-reunified nation known as the United Kingdom. Northernness (Nordpolitik) appears to be a counter-power to the cosmopolitan-vision of a global-citizenry whose place is unknown, and identity is homogenised. A citizen of nowhere-ville?

Not good news for Old Labour Left. Their international socialism is not the rip tide against resurgent nationalism. Their efforts along with the reactionary Right were to give voice to those who have not found a place in a ‘cosmopolitan vision’ of Britain. Their appeal is to nation-based political power. Just as politics has lost much authority. Workers in the North of England face uncertainty as global capital will seek new sources of cheap labour in the open markets of India or Eastern Europe. It is maybe no comfort that wealthy European welfare states are facing the same dilemma. The increasingly global citizen is unable and unwilling to move as fast as global capital. The newly won authority of the cosmopolitan world citizen, freed from social convention by capital and home ownership, is facing a more precarious future than their socially constrained collectivised forebears.

But just as The North is enjoying new social freedoms through capital ownership its economic balance is about to be rocked. The EU was a bulwark against aspects of global power, enabling its wealthier welfare members to retain their bloc power against rampant globalisation. As The North of Britain now looks to nation-state-power to develop its strategies rather than EU power it is asking where it will sit in the new post-Brexit world.

The London-Brussels nexus did well for London. It sits atop the globe as one of the most dynamic cities for global business. When the EU thought Britain it frequently saw London. Its transport and finance infrastructure is impressive. Talented jobless young southern Europeans flooded London. In one sense they were departing Europe as much as coming to London. The Anglo-Spheric Britain and America share joint capitals in London and Washington DC. Both centres retained the desire to distribute risk to its citizens in a way that is at odds with the European Project. The EU has found itself in a No-Man’s Land ideologically. Its desire to lower nation-stateness of its citizens to create a bulwark against globalisation and American neo-liberalism has floundered by becoming a supra-nation-state. It has unwittingly proven that nation-states are persistent and enduring. More importantly institutions are not being swept aside by globalisation. Formed over centuries institutions are enduring. And it is where citizens turn in the face transnational corporate power.

This is the curious outworking of the cosmopolitan vision. It turns out it was not a vision after all. It was an amorphous notion with no real handrails. As party-political membership plummeted from the Sixties (membership was often a symbol of social ranking) membership of societies such as The National Trust have rocketed. These now treasured institutions are lightning rods for the hyper-individual as they collectivise around national priorities. And these institutions lobby nation-states to focus on their value-based priorities. As the green movement in Europe indicates, rowing back from the hyper-notion of a global cosmopolitan citizen, there is the rise of a newly conscious conserving citizen.

Despite fogey Jacob Rees-Mogg Esq.’s re-heated 50s patrician shtick, there is a new admiration for British institutions. As Corbyn similarly re-heats class struggle there is an emergent movement in The North. Educated vocal leaders recognise the power of British institutions, from the church to enduring social structures. The archetypal Young Person walking into a cathedral and asking ‘so, where did this come from?’ might be overplayed but you get the image.

What global capital seems unable to overpower then are non-modern institutions. It is of course trying hard to measure institutions by commercial economics. But global capital’s hard power when measured against institutional soft power is interesting. If the resurgent nation-state is anything, it is a collection of institutions as first agents. Politicians are largely lawmakers. However, institutions operationalise new legislation. And what are British institutions? They are traditional social hierarchies. Despite modern liberal politicians’ efforts British institutions have resisted efforts to modernise. Largely as ‘modern institution’ is a contradiction in terms. To institutionalise is to withdraw from economic measurement in large part.

If plastic capitalism and junk culture have become synonymous with a homogeneous global culture then the reaction is felt in The North by those who choose to stay and build a future. If a cynical South has imbibed a nowhere society where there are no patterns of identity The North has retained its social frameworks. The North as a public sphere offers an important dialectic between its heritage and future. Something almost unheard of in The South. Where there are no dialectics of identity.

Where students pre-austerity imagined working three days a week, playing in the band on Thursday, five-a-side on Friday austerity Britain has refocused education on its economic role. Where a global citizen imagined their lives in the abstractness of a global cosmos the combined effects of obscene property prices and low-waged economy have induced a serious interest in nation-based politics and a search for power. There is anger in the air for those who see their parent’s sacrifices and property-owning prosperity as an aberration. A willingness to re-invent politics at grassroots level via a Northern Leadership that has found legitimacy and entitlement through a reflexive spirit is more than a hopeful wish, it is a growing reality. What I mean by reflexive is the ability to enter the debate armed with the same power of reason and self-awareness as the traditional British Brahmin. It is curious to hear Mockney accents of Tony Blair, George Osborne and David Cameron, even Prince Harry, as they try to mash together their Standard Southern Dialects and Received Pronunciations with regional South East dialects, not without a hint of African-American Vernacular. This search for authenticity by those without Northern Heritage is curious. The social history of The North offers its own authority. Having established a distinct cultural position it has successfully challenged the dominance of The South as a de facto national centre of gravity. The direction of travel is north politically and financially.

As the frenetic attachment to global economic measures falters, there is the return to traditional notions of domestic policy and nation state governance. Britain PLC will not be able to divert its attention from domestic politics through the vision of a European federalism paying back at some point. The fruit of funding Greek super-highways is now unlikely to be seen. As attention turns to the North-South economic and social contract, symbolised by the wobbly nature of High Speed rail projects and Northern Powerhouse (note the hyperbole), there will be a pressure to turn dolls house projects into a more serious debate. And probably only a Northern Spirit can successfully speak about the Future Shape of Britain and its institutions. It is our turn. This is the era of Nordpolitik and the underlying symbols of Northernness informing institutional power. The good news is that symbols themselves are not subject to the dramaturgy of the media. Symbols grow and fade without human intervention. They are the root of institutional power as institutions form round their immanence. Global capital will bend, as do markets, to the power of homo economicus’s preference for ‘a good life’.

Regional economies leading the global post-Brexit charge: breaking free from the benevolent state through networked leadership

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2019 at 11:41 am

English philosopher Gillian Rosemary Rose died tragically young. Her thesis is that contemporary lives are functioning in ‘the broken middle’ between the ideal and real. My thesis increasingly is senior leadership is working in this space. Between ecology and economy, law and ethics (life), church and state, theory and practice, charisma and thought and so on. Brexit has been largely a failed attempt to spin centrifugally towards unified ideal systems. The Utopian traditional pastoral on the Right or the Utopian modern socialised on the Left. We are stuck in the gap between modernity and tradition ever more firmly. And our western democratic process has thrown everyone back into ‘the broken middle’. Extended dialogue through parliamentary process has saved us from alienating one half of the nation. All hail parliamentary democracy!

What are the narratives of power behind these competing images. In fact what does Brexit mean for the regions? Well, we are stirring through the oil of European doctrines and the water of Anglo-Saxon pastoral feudalism. To be European means to imbibe european humanism, placing the individual at the centre of policy making. To be Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-American means to explore a solidarity with a natured society (liberalism), one closer to organic structures, a natural order of being. It is these two holograms that are competing.

asphalt communication commuter danger
Suddenly a space has opened: “All the debates… of the modern state and society… have been re-opened,” Gillian Rosemary Rose (1947-1995). Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I like both. Hence I like Rose’s appeal. And make the appeal myself for us as leaders to work in The Broken Middle. This is where the Regions are. Between centralising power and Domestica/ordinary life. The regions connect home and State. And this is a good thing. To re-visit the social contract in the regions cannot hurt. As rules-based supra-national bodies like the EU decay they create a space into which regional leadership has been waiting to step. But there are many other gaps in a Western post-war rules-based globalising world. And we are prone via Brexit fatigue and fear to question ‘what is the Good Society?’.

The great journey of western philosophy was to attempt a resolution between reason and experience and the noumenal (the world beyond our senses and logic). The good society would hold these competing narratives in tension. The church for example was re-balanced via the Reformation as one component of the nascent nation state. And lately modern secular society has privileged the rational technological urban life as the fruit of that re-balancing. But it is this assumption that Brexit has attacked. The provinces are wanting a voice in the social contract.

Contemporary theologians argue we are now in a post-secular society. That faith not only survived communism and revolutionary republicanism but continued to thrive. Yes, the French Revolution had propelled a ‘grown-up’ society into the unquestioned modern secular world, where knowledge reigned supreme, and we should ‘know how’ to lead and be, but modern economics is no match for ecology. Burning vast amounts of bio-matter to make decreasing amounts of metal is looking increasingly troublesome.

So the emergence of the post-secular reveals the limits of knowledge itself and more so the rational society. It is rational to help you to live to 105 as this is measurable, but the quality of your life is too ambiguous so we will not ask you your perspective. What you measure is what you get. Even the hyper-rationalist existentialist Sartre noted we cannot be ‘complete’ in this life. Which means we cannot find completeness through Knowledge of the Self in a modern individualised society. His rational introversion flushed out the self not in dialogue with the world around but as alone, removed and overly simplified. Not the vision the regions have of themselves.

The regions are saying to the urban liberal politico we cannot completely know ourselves from an isolated vantage point of city based society. UK cities are no longer the model society. This then being the end of the road for a Cartesian world of ‘I think therefore I am’. We are increasingly comfortable with Heidegger’s ‘I’m here, aren’t I!?’. I am here in the regions and it is where lived-life is far more real than in the brutalist landscape of the non-communitarian. Modern secular technological society remains two-dimensional.

The modern secular self was an attempt to reason and explain our existence. The rise and rise of Freud and Jung via rationalised descriptions paralleled the urban self missing their communal narratives, stories and myths. But psychology remains a pseudo-science. Psychologists study the objects generated by language. It remains an empirical lens, and cannot peer into the human consciousness beyond the objects language generates. And we are increasingly agreeing Subjects are not Objects. And Subjects are only Subjects when in communal living. The only mirror to form a coherent self image is not pop-psychology but Other Selves. Dialogical living. Of course the city is a great melting of Other Selves. Let us not get too purist here. But the city is being purged of its mixed citizenry. Not just gentrification but the creation of ‘prickly spaces’ as Bauman puts it. Spaces which are clearly designed for commerce not living.

So, the ‘broken middle’ is the gap between the limits of reason and empiricism (objects of knowledge) and the flourishing human being (the subject in the process of becoming). Becoming a leader, a father, a daughter etc. The subjective self refuses to be objectified as knowledge. The self only becomes when it leans into life and asserts its self as a self. Here I am! And to be a self means using knowledge but knowing its limits. Rose attempts to say that reason has been misused. As many writers who were proto-post-secularists would concur. The ancients (not the stoics) to romantics warned against reducing human society to a system of knowledge devoid of human relationships. The social contract must find a way to recognise that the masses do not want to self-actualise through knowledge, but through living.

A knowledge society is giving way gradually to the emergence of a network of relationships as western minds search for meaning ‘in relationship’. The collapse of the ideal state, which was a combination of moral absolutes reflected in the state’s legal architecture, has been devastating for industrial economies. Up until the First World War leading european nations, and America, were building the New Jerusalem. America still is. But the devastation of Flanders ripped up the symbiotic relationship between the church and State. It was the church and its narratives of life and the self that operated as a barrier to the market. And the church, as the counter to economics, has struggled to resist State power.

German reformed theologian Karl Barth’s Barmen Convention in 1934 sought to reverse the Nazi’s overpowering of the German Christian Church. German theologians before WWI saw a biblical rightness in the unified ‘God ordained’ nation state going to war to protect its sacred existence. Barth’s dismay at the church getting immersed in propping up the State led to him being among a depressingly few Protestant German Christians who would stand against Hitler’s ‘ideal state’.  Germany’s Confessing Church is much celebrated amongst Trump’s American evangelical base but we see again a depressingly few leading Protestant figures in the Christianised gospel-soaked States wishing to lose their social standing. Questioning the direction of travel for a Make America Great Again re-heated nationalism that borrows its legitimacy from bible belt is not easy for a moralising society: ‘one nation under God’.

And it is worth deviating here into a reflection on the pastoral role of the Church in our social contract. The journey of the church reveals much as it was was meant to be counter to hyper-rationality. A place where reason and life were held in tension.

The collapse of Christianity into a moral stated society has meant the church has lost its abrasiveness. It is difficult to be salt and light whilst being so respectable and polite and conformist to state agendas. The return to Pauline teaching by New Atheist thinkers is interesting here. The rationalists went for the church’s dogma. The excoriation of bland churchianity by Dawkins was much needed. Burn off my rusts said John Donne. And there is a lot of rust in moralising Christianity. Saul of Tarsus was not respectable or polite. Torturing the Christian sect at its outset required an educated conscience. But a warm Sunday Christianity generally avoided Paul, its founder. The evangelicals focused on the gospels (the Starter), the charismatics on the Acts (the Dessert), but avoided the epistles (the Mains). The epistles, letters, are where the church understood the source of its power: in unity. Marx sought power from the working classes. Paul sought power from all in the church, united with the apostles in shared mission, but not identity. Whatever shade or persuasion unity was not ‘sameness’ it was an alliedness with what had gone before. Where the law excluded, grace included, as it resolved the questions of justice.

Power and legitimacy come into tension. Christ’s sustained legitimacy was secured from his irrevocable non-violence. And subsequently Paul’s. Religion exercises violent authority frequently, lowering its legitimacy. Marxism likewise lowered its legitimacy through violent struggle. Sustainable power requires legitimate use. The power of Christ is raised by legitimate reflection within the church.

To deviate further, once an enthusiastic Christian arrives at Paul, the Paul who has spent ten years back home in South East Turkey, his ears still ringing from his breakdown on the Road to Damascus, it gets messy. Paul is not just a serious Pharisee, he is a serious scholar who has just re-read everything over again. And finds the gap between the law and grace vast. He writes a deeply philosophical treatise in his letter to the Galatian Christians. A book which evangelical/Charismatic teachers tend to avoid after theological college due to its Greekness. That is its rational outworking of the law and its intent. In effect the law is not what you think it is. It is not the objective. The end game. The law is not a criminal code.

In short Paul realises the law is a temptation. To stand on the law and profess yourself judge is sin itself. Not so much breaking laws (all 613 of them) but casting judgement using the law to achieve power is sin. It sounds like a trap. And to some extent it is. Paul spends a bit longer revealing this but in essence the law is frail he says. It is only there to reveal our religious fundamentalism, our reduction of human beingness. To pronounce judgement on anyone using the law means! Wait for it. We are now immediately bound to live by every jot, tittle, iota, circumcision of legal code. We cannot pick and choose. To live by grace means to know you cannot live by the law, cannot stand in judgement. Unless you condemn yourself. Here is Paul’s message in a nutshell.

So, for Paul, the law is temptation. A society that co-opts Christian legalism into its nation stateness, and says it is being Christian is condemning itself to a shadow of what it could be. Here is America’s problem. Its Constitution is forever being seen by some as a legal constitution. Just as the Protestants are prone to use the New Testament as a legal text, and misread its intent. It is a revelation of the law as purely a stepping stone to lived-life. This then is not a deficit theology any longer. Thou shalt not is replaced by ‘try and stop me’.

What does this maze like wander into Christian theology have for UK regions and their renewal? Apart from the fact that the provinces have a social conservatism woven with Protestant narratives. It largely means the social contract needs re-balancing. Where the individual has looked at the state and seen it as a mirage of, say, a benevolent church like structure, she has sought a kind of absolution. The breaking up of a nearly theocratic Britain during the First World War has left extended confusion, or what Eliot termed The Waste Land. How could european Powers who were quasi-sacred God ordained structures reap such destruction on their congregations? The state had invited unquestioning conformity to a socially conservative agenda. And now the state had been unfaithful itself. Disillusionment with church extended to dismay with the state and its power.

This means then a separation of not just church and state however. As Brexit is as much about disentangling collapsed entities. It means restoring the separation between knowledge and life, action and talking, money and value and so on. The UK regions have largely accepted a collapsed middle as the power of money has increased. Centralised government remains a benevolent dictator measuring by economics. As one local leading businessman said recently: ‘Brexit is the kick in the backside Britain needs’. Meaning we need a space for dialogue on how we shape regional growth and separate out life into its constituent parts.

Back to Pauline theology. Bureaucracy in Britain has grown to become a replacement for more leaderful regional economies. The Regions are tempted to accept the status quo of Westminster policy making as regional legal structures often see themselves as powerless. When the regions receive the law they enact it with diligence. This of course is unfair as we are served by faithful regional servants but their hands are tied by a nervous centre. As Paul is on his fifth flogging by the authorities for trying to get his point across that the law is not an end in itself you cannot blame him for feeling a tad irked at the slow take up of his mission. But he knew that blind obedience to statute was death itself.

The UK regions, in their fatigue, are finding new impetus through recognising their future is working between Westminster and their only power base, networked leadership. When regions move further into collaborative networks their power to shape policy grows considerably. Westminster is very sensitive to the ‘general will of the region’. The Nation State may think it has power to act, but in essence the general will of the people judges the good and the bad. A regional network is made up of a number of institutional actors who through the Blair years were pulled closer under central government. The government ministers who said they wished to modernise their departments really meant they sought to gain control through modern management. Osborne continued Blair’s modernising mission but as the Brexit process has shown you cannot ‘manage’ complexity. You have to structure central and regional government in such a way that you protect its ability to act autonomously and freely. Once you pull the control strings too tight you get a loss of leadership across the whole.

A grand process of re-balancing is taking place, and should continue to take place, which includes devolution. The law of modern management has reached its limit and the spectre of automatons is laying waste to their departments. Institutions are by definition not modern. They are ancient structures where The Law is interpreted. They lead by a form of grace not the law. Slavishness to legal prescript by overpowered regional structures has rendered central government overwhelmed. The tumult over Brexit is the space for UK regions to shoulder bravely the load via networking  their leadership locally and globally. We will have to make global connections just to live. But this is ultimately the space Britain works best in. Between the EU federalist vision, the American liberal project, and emerging markets. Of course the EU is a network, but one that got bogged down in its legal prescription. Highly rational, logical and bureaucratic but not a body that invites shared ownership across its membership. The people of the North West England would find it difficult to own the problems of the Latvia rail service. As much as we value it, the general will of the ordinary citizen is towards its region. There is the moral imperative.

Re-telling the business model narrative to capture new value: the CEO as revisionist narrator

In Uncategorized on May 31, 2019 at 1:01 pm

WWII is high up the media schedules with this summer’s 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Listening to British journalist Richard Dimbleby reporting during the early hours of 6th June 1944 as British 6th Airborne Division aircraft take the first paratroops into action is breathtaking sound and text. The story of that war remains up for re-telling. And how little at times we know about our own history. The 2017 film re-telling of Dunkirk for me caught the truth of a nation unprepared. It forcibly reminded Britain was hours from being knocked out of the war at its outset.

Politics had gambled and lost leaving young lives to pay. Christopher Nolan’s version was intellectually more honest than 60s’ Hollywood. So honest I had to see it a second time as the first viewing leaves you wrought. I argue that these better re-tellings are due in part to courageous British historian A. J. P. Taylor. Taylor dented the Nuremberg Thesis on WWII origins in his masterpiece The Origins of the Second World War. Long story short, Germany was no different from other Western Powers in their aspirations for power. WWII grew out of the Western power struggle rather than nefarious and cunning planning by Hitler. Dry reasoning maybe. Such as the inadequacy of the Versailles Treaty in neither crushing nor successfully re-building a settled society. Taylor offered these awkward nuances contrary to the popular narrative of a demoniacal Fuhrer. (I and my family happened across A. J. P. Taylor’s son, no less, and family whilst on a holiday campsite in France many years back and we joined together to form a pub quiz team one night. Not one history question! Not one!)

Taylor annoyed popularists by re-telling WWII in the necessary and ongoing work of revision. Narratives surrounding markets and industries require similar re-telling. Often opening up new revenue streams based on established capabilities.

But Taylor-Snr’s work arrested popular myth and invited a new search for critical meaning. It’s this ability to re-tell and concentrate narratives which appear critical to strategic leadership as we balance industrial and post-industrial strategies in the UK’s new economies. And this is particularly critical for the North West, which has diverse revenues. From tourism, via its rural expanses, to world leading major global manufacturing and chemical production. Not forgetting the biggest media hub outside of London. And especially not forgetting the micro-businesses who possess growing confidence. (And who are taking to education via new programmes of study aimed at their type of business.)

Companies in this region have built on core competencies in engineering, chemicals, textiles and shipping by diversifying into modern high technology industries. Due strongly to senior leadership being able to offer narratives about change. These have travelled well through organisations and sectors. Good narration creates intellectual handrails for investors and stakeholders to see how any new business will evolve. And how core competencies can stretch onto new markets in the next season.  Thereby a business model is a combination of appropriate goals and objectives, but, critically, articulated as a narrative that investors can believe in.

This is not to deny old sources of senior leader authority such as personal charisma, position-power, experience, qualifications, support by the masses, an acute assessment of reality, a richer ‘big picture’, and gifted language use. However, in shifting a business model both good numbers and articulation remain key tools for CEOs.

Furthermore, in the new economies, the CEO must be willing to position their change strategies into a much wider pool of meaning. Not unlike Taylor’s revisionist history the board can and should change its narrative when needed. Headline thinking must be followed by diligent attention to subtle shifts in trading landscapes. A poor business plan will miss critical signals. Markets are not bounded entities in the way traditional demographic analysis used to infer. Take the staggering losses of the American car industry. It’s possible to see now how poor interpretation hamstrung this industry’s evolution, potentially for decades. Grabbing a window of change is the board’s key role, and its CEO is there to enable early adoption of difficult narratives. This is no longer the realm of the ‘how to’ airport text but of working in the ‘difficult middle ground’ between competing company visions. The CEO works between her directors’ complex and often contradictory needs, and searches for common ground that facilitates competing elements of an organisation’s activity. Of course the CEO can overpower all, necessary sometimes in a crisis, but often deeply destructive of value when a mature business needs revision during key periods in its lifecyle.

Taylor’s role now in the WWII narrative is one of iconoclast. Criticised for relying on German emigrees for his thesis. However, his assault on the sacred ground of WWII origins opened the door to a more grown-up debate. We accept now that the Soviet Union was the only coalition capable of depleting Axis power. It puts the West into a more honest frame of mind. Plus a quandary. Stalin was our ally.

Lighter business models are innovative strategic leadership response to both the 4th Industrial Revolution and increasingly mobile consumer

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2019 at 12:38 pm

UK businesses responded to the 2008 global economic crash with admirable flexibility. Re-structured working arrangements avoided knee-jerk redundancies typical of market down-turns. I put this down to three things: a) better business-educated UK management, b) willingness to collaborate across the workforce and c) the shift to what I term ‘lighter business models’*. Management education and workforce collaboration are well rehearsed conversations. They are necessities not choices. But the notion of operating a lighter business model however is only now moving to the front of our consciousness.

And this does not necessarily mean capital-asset lightness. To consider business model reform in the current season means recognising lightness is situated in the uniqueness of your business and the first step to lighter business models is avoidance of prescriptive best-practice. It is a willingness to work at the level of the conceptual with sometimes fuzzy meanings that only later cohere into concrete action. This sort of discussion feels a little like being in the 2013 Sandra Bullock/George Clooney film Gravity. To survive you have to let go of the umbilical cord that straps to heavy language as well as structures.

The first thing to jettison is the language of solid certainty, with all its comforting scaffolding that held us tight. Saying “I know” looks increasingly precarious but can be replaced with “What do you think?”

What do we mean by ‘light’? Well, as Cliff Richard, Britain’s answer to Elvis Presley put it, Travelling Light is: “Got no bags and baggage to slow me down I’m traveling so fast my feet ain’t touching the ground”. Lightness has all sorts of implications and when coupled with the advent of 5G (China or non-China supplied!), Artificial Intelligence, big data sets, robotics and other manifestations of revolutionary turns in global business we need to consider their combined impact on the business model concept.  This affects everyone and some are more resistant to change than others. Airline, car and retail industries have all seen heavy business models resist transformations. Leading UK retail brand names have missed major social restructuring, with communities for some time increasingly ambivalent towards the high street. The car industry assumed its mass market data sets were reading consumer taste accurately. Major airlines got too close to regulatory bodies creating unwieldy structures that are now being prised open.

Of course the structure of global trade has been shifting quite subtly over the past thirty years. Deregulation of the banking sector made UK PLC a lighter business model in itself. With owners of Capital privileged above smoke stack Labour reliant industry. Labour is increasingly seen as part of the heavy architecture of our solid industrial past. Not that heaviness is going away. Re-nationalisation makes Institutionalised and thereby heavy structures more probable. But Institutions are substantially different here to a commercial organisation. Institutional heaviness and stolid mood are required as unmoving objects to allow a nation-state to function with a comforting machine-like thrum and burble. They’re necessary pillars. Commerce however is different. It can’t afford to Institute all its practices without excessive risk so rightly it pursues a low-baggage policy.

For a commercial entity to re-shape its business model is not just to manage the relationship between Capital and Labour, but to consider the whole of its activity. What is termed a ‘whole life economy’ of organisation. If we ask our Finance Director to bump up this year’s profits Labour remains the easy target. And it is an easy win to slash overheads. All savings go direct to the bottom line. But since we’re ‘business modelling’ as strategic leaders we must very quickly ask the FD the impact on the value of any overhead reduction. What is such a saving going to cost my business in real terms and over what period? The unreconstructed and often Alpha Male CEO might win kudos for slashing and burning seemingly unprofitable elements. But any activity is interdependent on others. It would be easy to identify a 20-mile stretch of rail line between the new London to Birmingham High Speed rail link as unprofitable. Removing it will indeed save costs… but!

The root of heated CEO-FD tennis matches is this. Do all those around the board table understand the business or businesses’ source of value? It is quite possible much of the MD or CEO’s time is spent internally communicating sources of company value. She wrote the business plan so knows how value is made and shaped; and understands the relationship between different revenue streams and why a weak or heavy business activity might still be a key component in the overall mix. However, CEOs do lose sight of value. The hubris that drives leaders is often their Achilles’ Heel when admitting a business model is flawed.

But if we’re considering the whole activity through the lens of the Capital-Labour relationship we want to include quite a range of senior staff. This mitigates the CEO’s drive on occasions. Asking what we offload over the side of the ship, or take on board in the coming years, should become a healthy and stimulating debate. Importantly, and crucially, this discussion is driven by the increasingly fluid end users’ (consumer) nomadism. Like the film Gravity our end user is travelling light like never before and floats away with a greater confidence. They are hunting for new relevance as Information Masters (hyper informed citizens, hungry for exercise of their new worldly knowledge). The expanded middle-class across the world are wont to assert their forms of freedom, which include using their increased product knowledge to justify lighter relationships with the world in general.

The end of the Joshua Environment (Modernity as a purposeful destination) at around the time of the end of the Cold War marked an interesting moment in global structures. And evokes a discussion about boundaries. Cities being the operative metaphor. And thereafter nation states, and then supranational structures like the EU. But let’s not go to BREXIT just now. Cities are increasingly the most popular (or inevitable) place to ‘do life’ in the 21st century. They were the place where our Modern Western existences were conceived. And for Modern read Globalised. The Capital-Labour nexus is understood through a modern globalising of life. That is, we left behind Tradition as a natured communal existence. To restore tradition into city life is to arrest what from the 1800s was a radical New Civilisation. For existence took a rapid turn from the heavy rhythmic objects of the Altar/Throne/Nature to subjectivity, relativity and The Self. The consumer became a self, set apart from her community. Armed with a mobile device, scanning 350,000 tweets per minute, she represents now a hyper form of already hyper-individualism.

This radical New Civilisation is driven by the ‘citizen of the polis’, a free-wheeling character at large, the flâneur, with leisure time to observe and graze onwards. This person then met a key moment in the period of late-capitalism. Be it through Thatcher’s home ownership, share-owning, loadsamoney debt society of 1980’s Britain (a deliberate distribution of risk), or the nouveau riche inheritors of a property windfall since the early 90s, due to UK land rents rocketing, owners of personal capital are presented with a modern (relentlessly new) society that won’t ultimately cohere to the original and heavy New Town and Metroland planner’s dream of sub-urban bliss. The increasingly precarious consumer rather now experiences their version of Modernity quite differently from the previous generation. The socially mobile post-war consumer made not just one leap into the middle but several. This advancement has slowed and they have turned inwards towards the structure of lived-life and its relationship with commerce. Escape and movement is not found in acquisition of ‘the heavy’. Meaning is being sought but beyond material experience with a shift towards networks of relationships: An Age of Sharing.

Late-modernity/late-capitalism is offering a highly fluid landscape for our end user, such that politics is offering new boundaries in the form of popularist claims to restore the old handrails of nationalism, and often hiding in the respectable clothes of tradition. Conservative parties across Europe are divided between liberalising tendencies and reactionary forces, leaving some voters looking for single cause parties as an alternative. Or just to cool down their confusion.

Also, the nation state is up for debate. Is it a place of common ownership and shared ideals anymore? Of course this works horribly against what businesses always prefer and that is certainty. With the hope that business models will be coherent and stable over time. And, containing a steady outworking of the Board’s vision, mission, strategy, goals and objectives. But it’s this linear planning that is now being eroded by the volatility of the end user. Many of whom have accepted a Risk Society is going to spread. So they react accordingly.

So, planning processes that saw capital-P Planning (heavy hard system led development) as arresting market chaos are themselves requiring revision. Some of the dominant management theories of the 20th century were largely inserting linear models into messy changing markets. With mixed results. The ability for the CEO or MD to stimulate such a complex discussion places increased pressure on their own intellectual capacity. The classic pragmatism of the UK boardroom won’t go away but it does need to increase its capability to look at the subtle nuances of unbounded consumer lives. Creating lighter business models that recognise Labour will need to be able to flex to new skills might mean considerable workforce re-alignment and/or investment.

But it’s the right discussion to have. The boundaryless end user is unlikely to do anything other than exercise their right to convert their precarious lives into unfaithfulness to heavy business. If business is spreading Modernity (constant novelty, fleeting experience) then it might be business will pay the price ultimately for end user ambivalence to their brand offering. Business then has to respond by recognising what forms of leadership are required in the coming economies.

Leaders educated and socialised to create heavy businesses as places of certainty and stability that offer repeated patterns of business life are under scrutiny. Willingness to debate business model reform comes increasingly from an orientation towards a discursive and digressive boardroom. The tendency to acculturate middle-management into adopting heavy business cultures is less likely to invite their flexibility as they climb the promotion ladder. They will be adept at regurgitating heavy cultures at the price of the speed of change. Letting middle-management find their voice in the boardroom is vital to considering lightness.

Traditional company structures persist of course but often these recognisable frames can be places of considerable business model innovation. An old shell can rather brilliantly and paradoxically contain new conversations about how value will be generated from the changing end user. These are probably very unsatisfying and confusing boardroom discussions, but vital. Allowing the academic or abstract to compete with the pragmatic or utilitarian modes of business debate is an appropriate response to the volatile ecology of 21st century markets. This means taking an in-depth look at the alignment between Human Resource strategies and future horizons. It might also mean considerable facilitation by outside agents to enable a board whose picture of value is difficult to shift.

But this struggle to see how a structured and ordered Modern global trading environment has shifted towards a fluid network society could pay considerable returns. If lighter business models mean faster responses to end user movement this reduces restructuring costs. The heavy process of re-skilling Labour is potentially replaced by subtle movements that may not even be noticed as a light business model prefers leadership to be much more deeply embedded through all layers of the organisation.

*A business model is seen here as the sum of all decisions.

Long-term value: Improving your board’s strategy processes in 2019

In Uncategorized on January 2, 2019 at 2:40 pm

UK senior leaders with a genuine concern for long-term sustainable value will not be surprised to find boardroom discussion being dominated by strategy considerations in the next few weeks. Not just because access to European markets is uncertain but because globalisation offers interesting opportunities.

Boardrooms are often referent to their organisation’s concept of ‘the strategic’. Founding principles cast long shadows over senior practice and even the most mature company finds it difficult to adjust deeply persistent perspectives about value creation. Companies that collapse or lose touch with market changes can often trace the start of strategic drift to the board’s ability to give voice to early signs of consumers’ unfaithfulness. Directors wishing to signal more fundamental movements in markets will often be alert to their senior board’s ability to receive unpalatable news.

Creating a board culture that is not fragile is a matter of skilful leadership. Mature Chairpersons and CEOs will shape a strategy climate that enables early engagement with any faint signs of change. Of particular challenge is receiving signals that hint at possible changes to the structural make-up of the organisation. Again, senior figures are quite often adept at extrapolating the implications of external factors. If a closed communication culture persists it will limit important conversations and their ability to reach the board with sufficient speed for timely action.In practical terms this means boards should assess the ‘strategy processes’ that foster a high functioning board activity. Boards are often focused on ‘strategy creation’ from within the normal agenda of regular board meetings. With the challenge that strategy dialogue can be eclipsed by the operational demands of the trading cycle. Current events put pressure on the board’s capacity to explore creatively the more subtle elements of strategic conversation.

Whether boards separate ‘strategy creation’ from ‘the business agenda’ becomes a consideration. This is dependent on the needs of the organisation but increasingly creating an open space with a different texture for strategy conversation offers the potential for spotting and protecting long-term value. This may also include pulling in a wider pool of leaders from across the organisation, including middle-management. Middle managers are acutely aware of the organisation’s change pressures but can be either enabled or restricted by their chain of command and quality of departmental/divisional communications. Giving middle-management the opportunity to ‘speak up’ within a more broad-ranging strategy process offers early insights on both internal and external factors. The assumption that regular data gathering within the organisation will provide the board with an accurate picture should be regularly tested.

The Chair has an important if not critical role to enable the CEO to create dynamic strategy processes. If the CEO becomes too intimately involved with some elements of the cycle it may restrict the quality of engagement by the wider team. Allowing line management and support staff to influence the process has value given the interdependence of organisational functions. The possibility, say, for IT strategy to more closely align to the coming demands of future trading can only be of critical concern.

Creating and enabling the above requires patience and determination by Chair and CEO. Their relationship emerges as increasingly important as global markets shift in 2019. It is possible to foster effective Chair/CEO relations that then filter down into the strategy environment. The increasing need to be both sensitive and resilient to change signals grows as markets behave with greater discontinuity. The emphasis is thrown back onto ‘strategic leadership’ and its ability to nurture a senior board who share a sincere concern for the long-term in the face often of significant short-term pressures. But these pressures are also a catalyst to set-up good strategy processes (architecture) that gives real capacity to a busy senior team who need reassurance that their insights will feed into future direction.

If you are a senior director interested in talking further about strategy process then call me on 07544 581601