Gina Lazenby at the book launch with author Prof Vlatka Hlupic & launch MC Philip Whiteley, business author & champion for re-humanising management

It would be an understatement to say that the world needs change….. I am not going to waste your time here by listing everything that isn’t working in this economic and political mess. If anybody interested in political change thinks that voting for UKIP in the UK is a real vote for a real party with actual practical solutions they must be .. no, I am not going to use any adjective there. Suffice to say I don’t agree with them.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 9.24.32 amSo, when you come across a discourse where a new voice is presenting new solutions it is indeed refreshing. And I was there last week.  It was the launch for The Management Shift, a book by consultant/academic and Drucker Society CEO Prof Vlatka Hlupic.   Some may say her ideas are not new at all, that they have been around for years and it’s certainly true that her dialogue is very familiar to me from 20 years of being involved in leading-edge thinking and ideas. What is new is that Prof Hlupic has created a roadmap around a conversation of change in business that has a real track record of success.

A Call to Break Out of Traditional Management Structures
At the heart of what she is offering, Prof Hlupic provides a language that describes most approaches to business today as being “Traditional” and what she calls Levels one, two or three:  wedded to hierarchy, fixed on control and often deeply unpleasant and toxic places to work where extensive research says only a small percentage of people are happy and engaged. That’s no way to work or live for that matter.  And Prof Hlupic points out that’s no way to achieve growth and profit either, with much research to back up her claims.

When organisations start to shift with the right visionary leadership at the top, and an equally engaged grassroots commitment for change, Prof Hlupic says that “magic starts to happen” and these places transform into what she refers to as Level four businesses becoming “Emergent”. Those that have successfully shed their “Traditional” ways have been shown to increase their profits by 200-1000% in a year or two. Her book presents many case studies and testimonials of businesses which have successfully created the kind of magic required to move from Level three to Level four and achieved this “Shift”.

I am a woman who loves magic. I know what she is talking about. Changes in behaviour and thinking, environmental adjustments that shift the culture of a place and create new ways of working…. all these can have a massively transformative effect. Yet we humans, stuck in business tradition, can find it so hard to change! Where we have complex problems it can be tempting to think that the solutions have to be equally complex.  Not so at all.  However, when we do find simple ideas that work, it is almost human nature to resist them.

A Female voice for the Feminine Future
I am always looking to bring in the feminine perspective and the role of women so there are two things to note here. Firstly, this is a well-researched futuristic business book that has been written by a woman. I do need to flag that up because so few books are. There are many leading-edge thinkers in business, management and leadership and brilliant as they are, they are invariably male. It really is time to champion the few female voices in this field, especially since the future does look so feminine.

Secondly, without any reference to gender, much of what Prof Hlupic articulates in the book really does put centre stage the feminine way of working with the emphasis on how business needs to focus on people. As management guru Peter Drucker has said, people should not be seen as a cost centre or a resource to be utilised but as an asset for the business. Prof Hlupic says that business will become Level four “Emergent” organisations because they focus on their people by valuing connection, prioritising relationships and demonstrating caring and compassionate policies and practices.  Emergent Level four businesses will have dispensed with top-down hierarchy and will find more success by shifting to structures of smaller self-organised teams and groups making their own decisions.

Next Generation more adept at Emergent Thinking
Those organisations that remain stuck in the more “Traditional” ways of focussing on targets, leading and directing from the top, and running on the fuel of fear will increasingly find their success to be short-lived and unsustainable.  There’s no value in saying “but that has served us well so far”…… not in today’s brave young world where a college graduate working in his dorm can create a trillion dollar, game-changing platform on which the world now connects and ends up a billionaire in his twenties. That shows that there is a very different game being played, with different rules and in many cases … younger players with a much greater appetite for “Emergent” ways of running business.

Previously, Game-Changers and Titans of industry have been much older and earned their money out of building or moving actual physical things (roads, ships, mines, steel) rather than facilitating connection between people. Who would have thought that was possible?

Not only that …. what worked last year might not work next year, or even now. The game is constantly being changed so agility, innovation, flexibility and  creativity are critical, and it’s almost impossible to respond to the precociousness and fleet-of-foot nature of the current economy, with a “Traditional” business culture.  The strong addiction to hierarchy makes it difficult to respond to fast market changes and appetites with the kind of speed available to those that have shifted to being “Emergent” businesses.

IMG_0409 - Version 2Of course, the high profile poster boy for today’s “Traditional” Level three business is Lord Alan Sugar who points his finger at your face and shouts “You’re Fired!” at one of a group of terrified wannabee business hopefuls on the TV programme, The Apprentice. The programme might have run for a decade as a top BBC show, but it does not in any way shape or form reflect the future. No. No. NO!

Women can show the way to a kinder, more compassionate future that is more profitable
The future is actually much more aligned to how female CEO & industry leader Martha Stewart talks to her Apprentice hopefuls over in the USA. No finger pointing for her. She very gently smiles at them and says “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to let you go”. As they leave, she picks up a pen and starts to handwrite a sweet note to thank them, pointing out what they did well and what they can take away from their experience.  Of course not all managers are like Alan Sugar, and maybe all women are not like Martha but with so few women at the top, it’s hard to really recognise the difference that women can bring.

This vignette of Martha smacks very much of a way of being that is kind, thoughtful, more productive and one that women find more natural and authentic to them, yet these ways have not really been welcome as standard business practice. Prof Hlupic says that human caring practices are not only nicer for stressed workers, they actually make the organisation more money.

Undoubtedly we need more women at the top and exec levels of business. With only two of the top 100 firms in the UK having female CEOs, there is a clear imperative for a greater QUANTITY of women. However, if companies want to accelerate profits then bringing in more women is only part of the story …. welcoming the QUALITY of the feminine with a shift in values and traits is equally important and that involves men too, in creating a culture of kindness and caring focussed on people.  What is true is that these more feminine ways of being can certainly be expressed by both men and women and flourish in business cultures that support people being their authentic selves.

In her book, Prof Hlupic outlines a proven model for how a business can create that Magic Leap from “Traditional” Level three to becoming an “Emergent” Level four organisation….. where people and relationships are at the very heart of the business and how a more caring culture will be the reason for its greater success. Amazon link for the book.

I love this new and simple roadmap for a world in need of change!