Top 40 management models

January 30, 2012

All models are wrong, but some are useful.” George Box, 1979.

Most management models are simple tools, frameworks or checklists. And any self-respecting model also has a self-explanatory (often 2×2) matrix to go with it, of the sort that looks good in a presentation, or on a flipchart or whiteboard. That being said most models are based on theories and have been checked out in practice. They also provide a means of framing (the useful bit!) strategic, functional, process or people-orientated issues; and are of course a source of plenty of new jargon to use in meetings…

So what are the Top 40 models? Here’s a starter list:

The first 90 days

November 5, 2011

I was recently reading The Interview Question You Should Always Expect (HBR Blog), which as the title suggests is written from the perspective of the job candidate, and it reminded me that it’s also the killer question for any interviewer. Afterall it’s not where the candidate has come from that makes the difference, it’s what they’re planning to do next… Not sure what I’m talking about? Read the HBR article.

Why don’t meetings work?

March 11, 2011

The place holder on the left-hand table says 'Reserved', that on the left says 'Extraverted'.Every time I attend a meeting I am struck by the fact that most of what goes on is an utter waste of time. What is it about the situation that just seems to bring out the unproductive in us? Something I have to say which is aided and abetted by the curse of the PowerPoint presentation. A method of boring people that is surely without rival. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a picture and a thousand words, that’s something else entirely.

The reason that most meetings flounder can also be attributed to Parkinson’s Law of Triviality (that’s C.Northcote Parkinson of ‘Parkinson’s Law’ fame). Put simply this draws the distinction between the amount of time that’s spent discussing complex and difficult issues, such as business strategy, as opposed to simple and ultimately unimportant things like the location or colour of a bike shed. Hence the alternative name for the law, that of ‘bike-shedding’.  


We all feel comfortable talking about the bike shed (or the colour scheme to use on the website, the type of water cooler to have etc) because we think we understand what’s going on, and this limits are chances of appearing stupid. But when it comes to strategy there’s far more scope for seeming to be ignorant, if not a complete noodle. Thus the result is one hour discussing the ‘bike shed’, and ten confused and nervous minutes contemplating the strategic direction of the business. There’s also something else going on…

So to add to the Law of Triviality, and Parkinson’s other laws, the famous first law: ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’, and the less well-known second law: ‘expenditure rises to meet income’; I would like to add my law of meetings.

Parkinson’s Law of Meetings

Having studied meetings over the course of many years I can report that the ‘law of meetings’ states that there are only three types of people who attend:

  • Type A: This person does all the talking but knows none of the answers.
  • Type B: This person does none of the talking but does know the answers.
  • Type C: This person doesn’t know why they’re at the meeting.

These types map neatly onto three second-order personality factors: Type A is Extraverted (a ‘do-think-do’ sort of person); Type B is Neurotic (a ‘think-think-maybe do’ sort of person); and Type C is clearly Psychotic (detached, and angry and resentful about having their time wasted).

And this is why so little is achieved, because A+B+C≠Decision.

Oops, must go, I’ve got a teleconference in a few minutes…

Ask the elf for a sword!

October 27, 2010

Do you remember those computer games that were around in the 1980s? They were text-based, fantasy-like things. I spent many a happy hour slowing down the mainframe ‘looking’ for stuff in a room I couldn’t see, talking to creatures that weren’t there. But, as I have recently been reminded (see link below), this sort of scenario might actually make a good ‘aptitude’ test, especially since  it’s now easier to log what people do and to categorise it. I can envisage a business vignette (no elves this time) in which the system monitors the type and quantity of information you seek, the sort of logic you use, any over-riding strategies that appear to govern your behaviour etc – in essence a fusion between traditional psychometrics and what are sometimes called ‘management flight simulators’.

A great book on organisational behaviour!

July 2, 2010

If you want to read a contemporary book on business psychology that spans individual, group and organisational behaviour, which gives you an idea of how psychological thinking has developed in these areas, and brilliantly covers the options for HR and OD practitioners, Eugene McKenna’s slight little 816 page tome is the one for you: Business Psychology & Organisational Behaviour, Psychology Press (2006). Seriously, if you would like to know what it’s all about, this is a very good place to start.

Leadershift: Is leadership DEAD?

June 15, 2010

I am always on the look out for new ideas in leadership and Emmanual Gobillot’s book strikes a chord. In Leadershift he provides a useful insight into four societal trends that are flipping leadership on its head. That’s the DEAD bit.

  • Demographic – we are now leading people we have little in common with, often from really different generations.
  • Expertise – this is coming from all over the place. Mass collaboration, crowdsourcing, you name it, it’s all up for grabs.
  • Attention – all that noise. It’s harder to get people’s attention and reasons for working, and ways of working, are changing.
  • Democracy – this is the big one. Leaders have little direct control over their resources, and the way we feel about organisations changes, routinely. God bless you BP!

I think we may need some new business models and to work out ways for organisations to create their own information space. The book is called: Leadershift: Reinventing Leadership for the Age of Mass Collaboration. Kogan Page (2009).

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

May 21, 2010

The culture-breakfast thing is an expression usually attributed to the great management thinker, Peter Drucker, and is one that neatly captures the essence of business psychology. So plan all you like, if you want to be successful you need to work out what brings you together as an organisation.


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