Leadership : Four Dimensional Leadership

© Syncopation Management Systems Inc, 1997    

The Challenge

Today’s business world is far more complex than the one in which our current business practices were originally conceived and institutionalized. There is a growing sense of things "out of control", creating a sense of discomfort within each of us. The marketplace is global, the customers are more demanding, the capability to communicate is growing exponentially, employees are withholding their allegiance until incorporated into the decision making structure, and the old rules no longer apply.

These layers of complexity and sense of things beyond our control are but symptoms of our current inability to understand the deeper reality of our business world. We need the courage to let go of the "old world" and begin the exploration of our "new world". We need to abandon our tight hold upon "the right answer"(our right answer based upon experience in a different world than today's). As Einstein is often credited with noting "no problem can be resolved from the same consciousness that created it". We must develop the capability to see our world anew, every day. The rate of change requires it. Our survival demands it.

The First Dimension: Work Processes      

The Ideal

The work processes of an organization should be designed to serve customer needs with the least amount of human or material resources utilized.

The methods for accessing an organization for their products or services ( sales and order entry) are designed for ease of customer access. The process is designed to "consult" with the customer to establish their requirements and match those requirements with the appropriate products or services of the organization.

The methods for producing the product or service are designed to consume the least amount of raw materials and human labor. The work flows from one person or work station to another when it is scheduled and appears in the manner expected. For example, the order appears in engineering with all the correct data and on time for engineering to seamlessly perform their unique, value added portion of the work process to achieve the promised customer result.

The methods for delivery to the customer are designed for customer support, and results in the product or service matching exactly its original design (agreed to with the customer). For example, when the wedding party arrives, the room is configured as agreed, the table settings are as promised, the colors are correct, the right number of seats are present, the music is playing, the nameplates are out, the wine is chilled, etc.

The Reality

Current organizational work processes are a mutation of their original design. Over time, as the complexity of the business has grown, steps have been added to work processes. This generally occurs in an unguided way, without conscious thought of reassessing and fundamentally redesigning the work process for the new conditions in which it will be expected to operate. Layers and layers of complexity are added to work processes over time, until the process neither serves the customer or the organization of which they are a part. Customers are expected to work within our work processes (whether it works for them or not) and employees are hassled with activities which no longer have relevance for delivering results.     

The Symptoms:

The symptoms of uncontrolled and customer unfriendly work processes are: credit memos, late deliveries, expediting, incorrect order information, inter-departmental finger pointing, sales force time spent in problem solving or expediting, rework, scrap, and all those costs associated with less than a seamless flow of activity. This activity includes every step from the customer order through delivery to the customer until the organization receives payment for the product or service ( the customer’s declaration of satisfaction) or reorder ( the customer’s declaration of satisfaction with the relationship).     

The Prescription:

In order to move our organizations from uncontrollable and incapable work processes held together by the "tribal knowledge" of a singular process worker, we must build the following capability into the organization:

  • Leaders must demonstrate through their words and actions that work processes are designed to deliver results to the customer. They must make clear to everyone that no process is sacred. Processes which do not serve customers or serve employees who serve customers must be immediately identified and redesigned or eliminated,

  • Leaders need regular access to customers and valid customer data regarding their needs and their changing business conditions. Work processes must be regularly updated to insure viable, customer oriented results,

  • Everyone within the organization must have a common methodology for assessing and redesigning work processes. The capability must exist at every level and across the organization to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of cross functional teams, where they are needed, for the more complex business processes of the organization,

  • Each individual must take the responsibility, have a defined authority and the necessary skills to systematically redefine work processes to meet the needs of the customer.

The Second Dimension: Management Systems      

The Ideal:

Management systems should provide evidence of the organization’s capability to recurrently deliver to each customer’s requirements. Five systems are necessary to validate this is occurring or trigger actions to bring the processes back into control when they suffer problems in meeting customer’s requirements. These systems are:

  • A Measurement system which proves daily evidence of the organization’s results against its promises to customers. This system must provide for the reporting of all customer problems as they occur -or- more importantly, when they are in jeopardy of occurring.

  • A Problem Priority system which insures the identified customer or process problems receive attention for action based upon an agreed upon criteria of corporate considerations.

  • A Problem Resolution system which insures that identified problems are moved to the appropriate person or team for resolution at their root causes, forever, in the quickest way possible.

  • An Awareness system which insures all employees have relevant customer and organizational information with which to successfully perform their jobs for the benefit of the larger organization of which they are a part.

  • A Recognition system which appreciates and promotes the desired behaviors of the organization: a focus on customers, the identification and reporting of problems, participation in removing the problems forever, and functioning as a valued member of the larger organizational team. 

The Reality:

Typically three company wide management systems exist in business today: a financial system, an employee evaluation system and a business planning system.

Few, if any systems exist for the workers to better manage the creation of a product or service for the organization. Little is known of the specifics of customer disappointments. When a specific problem does arise, usually brought to attention from an irate customer, it is attacked and fixed as if it were a unique problem rather than a symptom of a defective work process. When problems are caused for other parts of the organization, finger pointing and blame fixing are the primary focus, not process redesign.

Employees, in the most enlightened organizations, will have company financials shared with them ( usually not in a manner they easily relate to), information on how their work team is performing ( against arbitrarily assigned targets per their assessment) and little in the way of recognition for their efforts ( except for some perfunctory "employee of the month" contests and their paycheck).

The Symptoms:

  • The symptoms of a lack of management systems to truly "run" the business and improve the business over time are:

  • The word "customer" is seldom used except in connection with a problem,

  • People use vague descriptions of problems which do not lead to analysis and improvement, like "we have a communications problem" or "we have a problem with late deliveries".

  • The majority of management’s time is spent in coordinating fire-fights,

  • There is a general sense of "not enough time in the day" held by everyone within the organization,

  • Interdepartmental communications are characterized by finger-pointing and fixing/defending against blame. 

The Prescription:

In order for organizations to prosper through the utilization of the full talents of its people and to access currently untapped information within the organization, they must design and implement the following:

  • A senior leadership team who is convinced they must understand how the business is disappointing customers, wants to involve employees more fully in the task of satisfying customers and will take the lead in insuring the following defined system steps are designed and implemented.

  • A Measurement system which brings current customer information into the business on a daily basis and shares it with all employees and provides real time data on the functioning of the work processes toward satisfying its promises to customers.

  • A Problem Priority system, linked to the measurement system, which which collects the identified problems and assigns them a corporate priority for action.

  • A Problem Resolution system, linked to the problem priority system, which insures that identified problems are moved into the organization to the appropriate problem solver or team, based upon their priority. This system must monitor the status of the problem and insure that the problem is addressed forever at its root cause(s).

  • An Awareness system which insures every employees receives information regarding customer results and problems, financial results, cross departmental issues which adversely impact the overall organization’s capability to satisfy customers and any changes in policy, procedures, product or service.

  • A Recognition system which is elegant in its simplicity in recognizing everyone’s efforts toward the daily success of the business in satisfying customers. A system which builds an organization of winners, not a handful of super stars.

  • A work force, at all levels, capable of adapting and performing in a rapidly changing customer environment, reconfiguring itself "on the fly" as each situation dictates to successfully fulfill promises to customers. 

The Third Dimension: Leadership Actions   

The Ideal:

The leaders of the organization are the "voice of the customer" in their every action and deed. They provide a clearly defined playing field and the principles of the organization for all its members. They are visible models of the principles for which the organization stands. They realize that focusing upon the customers and the employees of the organization drive the financials, not the other way around. Therefore, they are most visible functioning as customer advocates, cheerleaders, coaches, evangelists and models.

Followers assess them as worthy of allegiance and grant it to them. Every individual, regardless of the function they perform, feels like a valuable, contributing member of the organization. They "feel" the mission and purpose of the organization and understand "for the sake of what" the organization exists and prospers.

The Reality:

Leaders feel as if they are under assault, not only from their competition, but from within their organizations as well. The information they rely upon to make business decisions is seldom based upon relevant customer data. The people who have the customer data ( order entry, customer service, credit, returns, etc) are never asked and never volunteer the information.

People seem to come to work, or don’t come to work, to just "do the job", to comply with what is required. They seem mostly interested in what they can get from the company with as little effort as possible. Morale and company loyalty are not good as assessed by the leaders, yet they don’t know what to do. After all, they have a profit sharing system, people are more "empowered" to do their jobs they way they wish, an employee suggestion plan allows them to win money for good suggestions. Why aren’t they happy?

The Symptoms:

The symptoms of inappropriate or missing leadership actions are:

  • People, at all levels of the organization, seem to work at cross- purposes. It would be a miracle if everyone pulled in the same direction, toward the customer.

  • Employee turnover had increased steadily until the recession. Although it’s leveled off over the last few years, people wonder whether employees are happier or just awaiting a better economy.

  • The last employee survey indicated a morale problem. And experience shows the vast majority of people participate very rarely in company meetings or information gathering systems like the suggestion program.

  • Information is hoarded within functional groups and seldom shared with others. In fact, most interdepartmental interactions are initiated by something which went wrong and are characterized by finger-pointing and blame assigning.

  • When interacting with employees, it is apparent the leadership’s direction and communications have not been heard or have not been believed. 

The Prescription:

A leadership team capable of:

  • Designing and communicating a clear vision of the future which engages the minds, spirits and commitment of every employee.

  • Controlling the organization’s actions through shared values, the vision, personal modeling and communications.

  • Assessing their own behaviors, reflecting upon their behaviors’ effectiveness and consistency with the values and vision, and designing new leadership practices.

  • Coaching for increasingly higher levels of performance and innovation from their direct reports, while building coaches of the same people for their teams. 

The Fourth Dimension: Adaptive Reinvention      

The Ideal:

The organization is a "never resting structure" that constantly seeks its own self-renewal. It holds nothing to be sacred in regard to business practices except its values for dealing with customers and employees. The leadership, as the eyes, ears, heart and soul of the organization, constantly scans the emerging changes in the world and redefines the business in order to increase its viability over time. The organization that exists today is dramatically different from that which existed yesterday or will exist tomorrow.

While the leadership shepherds the redefinition of the "whole", the components are molded by autonomous, value guided local leaders. Based upon the customer results necessary for that day, teams are reconfigured to deliver, as promised, to those customers’ specific requests. This constant reconfiguration based upon changing conditions is done seamlessly within the organization and transparently as far as customers are concerned

The Reality:

Within most organizations, so little has changed ( other than computer technology) that an employee who has been retired for twenty years could step right back into the organization with few ripples produced. Even in the area of computer technology, most organizations use new technology as a substitute for an old business practices rather than as an opportunity to redefine how work is performed. For instance, many organizations have simply substituted e-mail for faxing, rather than using it to create a community of people from diverse locations for a common cause.

Managers attempt to control the organization, command people, and maintain the status quo in the face of overwhelming external evidence mandating change.

When significant changes do occur within an organization, it is generally the result of external pressures imposed upon it, it is forced to react,and is met with defensiveness and turf protection by the managers and employees. Major breakthroughs, if they occur within any part of an organization, have little chance of being adopted in other areas of the business. And, where external awareness and world scanning should be the norm, most managers limit their focus by only scanning their industry and therefore miss the larger reality. 

The Symptoms:

The symptoms of an organization which is not adapting to the changing world around them are:
Market share is falling. Customers are defecting. Each new sale costs more money to secure because it starts with a cold call rather than an inquiry based upon reputation or a referral from a satisfied customer. The organization is forced to compete on price more than ever before.

The people of the organization, regardless of level, do not demonstrate a passion for their work or the larger purpose of the organization. In fact, the longer a person has been employed by the organization, the worse their attitude concerning the organization. Long term employees resist involvement beyond their defined job tasks.
New ideas seldom surface in meetings or discussions but when they do, they are met first with skepticism and then with defensiveness.
Innovation and success seems to be publicized everywhere but within this organization. New technologies never fulfill their original promise for the organization.

The organization’s structure is hierarchical and not much different than it was five, ten, twenty or more years ago. There are more teams and talk of teams, but they still predominantly exist along current organizational boundaries. Where cross-functional teams exist, they have little results to show for the time and effort invested. 

The Prescription:

 "...we need the courage to let go of the old world, to relinquish most of what we have cherished, to abandon our interpretations about what does and doesn’t work."
-Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science.

Leaders must learn to be different observers of the world, themselves and others. They must develop the capability to design new leadership practices in anticipation of changes in the world around them. They must learn to create new interpretations of the past and assist others in making effective interpretations for coordinated action.


There are four dimensions within which an effective leader concentrates his/her efforts: work processes, management systems, leadership actions, and adaptive reinvention. Each of these dimensions is critical to the survival and success of the enterprise they lead.

Let’s assess where you spend the majority of your time in any given business day. Please read through all four statements before assigning values.

Percent of time spent in discussions/meetings responding to customer problems( late delivery, product quality, dissatisfaction with service provided, etc)or work process problems ( delivery schedules, over committed plants or work force, interdepartmental squabbles, resource reallocation, etc)_____%

Percent of time spent in discussions/meetings responding to problems resulting from miscommunications, employee morale, lack of training, deferred preventative maintenance, missing or misapplied policy or procedures ______%

Percent of time spent visiting customers, employees, remote plants or locations, congratulating people, celebrating success, creating legends, seeking process worker inputs, exchanging information with people and reinforcing your mission, values, goals, and corporate initiatives like quality, safety, reengineering, or empowerment _______%

Percent of time spent in diagnosing the changes within your industry and in the world, reassessing the "truths" and assumptions regarding your organization, building a "picture" within the organization of an flexible, learning organization, and reinventing your present and future ______%

We assess that most leaders spend the majority of their time in the first two areas: work processes or management systems. This often results due to one or more of the following reasons: 1) Work processes are not designed to recurrently satisfy the customer or internal demands placed upon them, 2) Managers lack the systems to trigger their proactive responses to customers, operations or problems, or, 3) People don’t take the designed work processes or management systems seriously enough to work within them as designed. Until this is corrected, it is appropriate that the leadership takes the lead on installing these work processes and management systems. However, the greatest leverage for an organization’s success lies within the top two dimensions: leadership actions and adaptive reinvention. 

"Syncopation Management Systems Inc., situated in the beautiful Silver State of Nevada, was founded with the purpose of transferring critical business skills to its clients and redefining their concept of a consulting organization. The difference begins with our name...
Syncopation (Sink-o-pay-shun) is derived from a musical term which loosely translates as "accent on the off-beat". We hesitate to refer to ourselves as consultants because that is not the company which we would like to define us. We are biased toward business action and results as measured by the bottom line and an improved work environment.

We are not trainers, we are coaches".

Contact Syncopation via e-mail at michele@synco.com -or- ZeroDfx@AOL.com

Visit their web site at http://www.synco.com

Telephone at (1) 510- 867-1269 or (1) 702- 849-3585.

2533 N. Carson Street. Suite 1713. Carson City, Nevada 89706

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