Become a Manager who Leads

Kevin P. Dincher

A long-time client surprised me last week. He called to update me on his pursuit of a new position within his company and in the course of our conversation said that his CEO “is an extremely talented manager but not much of a leader.” The assessment itself didn’t surprise me; I have known this CEO for over 30 years and agree completely. What did surprise me was hearing Dave make the distinction. We have often talked about the differences between managing and leading. Like most people, however, Dave generally use the terms interchangeably and doesn’t really make a distinction day-to-day—just the kind of thing that drives leadership experts like John Kotter crazy.

For over 40 years, Kotter has been on a mission to get people to think about the distinction between management and leadership. Our ongoing transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy, however, has made Kotter’s work much more difficult. We still need to understand the difference between management and leadership, but it is increasingly difficult to be an effective manager without also being a good leader.

In the Industrial Age, ownership of capital—i.e., factories—was the basis of wealth, and in those factories, manual workers were to a great degree undifferentiated cogs in an industrial machine to be managed. Managers didn’t have to give much thought to what they were producing or to the people who were producing it. Managers followed orders, organized the work, allocated resources, assigned the right people to the necessary tasks, and ensured completion of the job as ordered. A good manager was one who could keep a large, complex organization operating reliably and efficiently.

Things are different in the Information Age when the basis of wealth is access to people’s knowledge. As management guru Peter Drucker foresaw, the rise of the knowledge worker has profoundly changed the way business operates (Management Challenges of the 21st Century).  If you are a manager in the Information Age, to be successful you can no longer simply organize work and assign tasks. You need to be a manager who leads.

  • You need to define purpose and inspire results. While manual workers could focus narrowly on the specific task assigned them, knowledge workers can only produce if they know how their work fits into and contributes to the big picture. They need to know the purpose of their work—and they look to you to provide that purpose.
  • You need to nurture skills and develop talent. Continuing innovation is part of knowledge work; therefore, knowledge work requires continuous learning.  In the Information Age, it has become your job to create a climate for learning and to design work not just for efficiency but to build competence. You now need to be a coach and a mentor while facilitating formal and informal learning opportunities.
  • You need to treat workers as an “asset” rather than a “cost.” These days we hear a great deal about employee engagement, satisfaction and retention—and the high cost of turnover. The crux of the matter, however, is that the basis of wealth in the Information Age is access to people’s knowledge. Disengaged manual workers may become slow or sloppy—but the assembly line keeps them moving, and they still need to get the nut on the bolt. However, when knowledge workers become dissatisfied and disengage, then you lose access to your primary asset—their knowledge. Knowledge workers need to want to work for you and your company. Therefore, you have to create the working and cultural conditions in which employees not only feel challenged by their work but are recognized and valued as well.

Engage employees. Nurture skills and develop talent. Define purpose and inspire results. Now we’re talking about leadership rather than management.  There are still good reasons for understanding the difference between management and leadership—and one of them is that it is increasingly necessary that good managers learn to be good leaders. In the world of knowledge workers, Drucker said, “one does not manage people. The task is to lead people. And the goal is make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual.”

Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher


A Rush to Change = A Recipe for Failure

Kevin P. Dincher

It was 1996 when John Kotter first published Leading Change and told us that 70% of all major change efforts by businesses fail. Nearly two decades later there is little evidence that any improvement has occurred, and this 70% failure rate has become axiomatic in business development and change management circles. Despite some individual successes, change remains difficult—and few companies manage change successfully.

A Rush to Change

According to Kotter, there is a common factor behind the vast majority of failures:  businesses do not have the holistic approach to managing change that is needed to see the change through to success. One 2010 study shows that 29% of change initiatives are launched without any formal structure at all. “… [I]n a rush to change their organizations, managers end up immersing themselves in an alphabet soup of initiatives. They lose focus and become mesmerized by all the advice available in print and online about why companies should change, what they should try to accomplish, and how they should do it. This proliferation of recommendations often leads to muddle when change is attempted” (Cracking the Code of Change).

Consultants unfortunately can add to the problem. Too often we encourage you to rush headlong into action by trying to sell our solutions—tools for team building, communication skills training or leadership development programs—rather than selling you our expertise for working with you to identify your company’s particular need for change. In an earlier blog, I described the Organization Development process of INSIGHT-ACTION-RESULTS.  It is easy to skip over insight (the stage of assessment, analysis and diagnosis) to action by proposing solutions without having worked with you to gather information about your organization and without having identified the specific strengths and weaknesses of your organization.  In the hope of standing out among all those who are clamoring for your attention, consultants may run the risk of not helping you develop your business case for the change.Cycle

Connect Change to Business Strategy

Change should only be pursued in the context of a clear goal. Making changes without knowing why your company needs that change or how it will benefit from that change—that is, without having a clear business case for change that everyone understands—is a waste of your time and resources. Moreover, changing just to be part of the latest fad is counterproductive; doing so lowers morale and increases cynicism. Change for change’s sake is a recipe for failure.

Everyone involved must understand the business case for whatever change you are considering. Otherwise, your people will only focus on what they have to lose rather than on what they have to gain. They might comply with the change initially, but they will soon revert to the old way of doing things.

Don’t Skip Ahead of Insight

Organization change is a strategic imperative in today’s fast-paced business environment. Unfortunately in the pursuit of change and trying to be the best, managers frequently chase after the latest and greatest idea. In their haste, they forget the fundamental and sound principles that are prerequisites for successful change to occur.

  • Assessment and Analysis:  Successful change is always data driven and requires that we take the time to gather information and analyze data.
  • Diagnosis:  Successful change is built on your organization’s strengths and addresses your organization’s needs and weaknesses—not some other company’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Business Case:  Successful change requires that you have a clear strategic vision for the change that provides purpose and direction to the change.

Although managing change is difficult, implementing these few tried and true principles can help you improve your organization’s success.

Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

Posted in Change Management, Organization Development (OD). Tags: , , . Comments Off on A Rush to Change = A Recipe for Failure

Why Organization Development? It’s all About Organizational Health.

Kevin P. Dincher

I recently attended a networking event that included both “front line” professionals and senior level executives.  Regardless of whom I spoke with, my self-introductions as an Organization Development consultant met with the same three responses.  A few asked, “How long have you been in HR?”  A handful of others wanted to know what training I specialize in.  The most common response however was the glassy-eyed smile that said, “I don’t know what that is—but I am too polite to say so.”

I am not surprised when business professionals and decision-makers don’t know what Organization Development is.  Saying this won’t make me popular in OD circles, but we OD practitioners do a poor job of explaining what we do.  Sometimes we tell you that OD is just “HR on steroids.”   Most frequently we try to sell you solutions—splashy tools for team-building, leadership development or communication skills training.  At best we make claims about change management and call ourselves change agents.  Oddly at times we just decide not to tell you what we do; it is amazing how often someone on one of the online OD discussion groups I belong to advises not explaining what OD is because it just confuses you!

When we can’t (or won’t) explain OD, when we equate OD with HR, or when we focus on selling tools and pre-fab solutions, then we fail to offer you and your company the one thing of unique value that OD has to offer:  improved organizational health.

Organizational Health:  The Competitive Advantage

In The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business,  Patrick Lencioni explores the advantages that organizational health provides.  Healthy organizations are better places to work, and they consistently outperform their peers. They are more profitable and have higher levels of growth and customer retention. Over the long-term, healthy organizations are more sustainable.

Lencioni describes an organization as healthy when it is “whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations and culture are unified.”  Simply put, everything fits.

  • You know why your company exists—and so does everyone else in the company.
  • You have the right people in the right jobs—and they know what their jobs are, know how their jobs fit with other jobs in the company, and how their jobs contribute to your company’s reason for being.
  • Everyone knows what success looks like and what is important for achieving that success—and everyone has the tools and resources they need to succeed.
  • People, structures, processes and culture all work together to move your company towards achieving its reason for being.
  • Relationships and communication—both inside your company and between your company and any outside stakeholders (customers, clients and vendors)—work in ways that help you reach your reason for being.

Healthy organizations may be more profitable, but Lencioni is right when he says that achieving organizational health “requires real work and discipline, over time, and it must be maintained.”  Achieving organizational health is not easy.

This is Where OD Comes In

At its core OD is about working with you to improve the health of your organization.  When OD practitioners are really doing OD work, here is what they do.


  •  Assessment/Analysis:  First an OD practitioner works with you and your employees to gather information about your organization and then analyze the data collected.  Genuine OD work is always data-driven.
  • Diagnosis:  Then an OD practitioner works with you to review the data and analysis to help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your organization—where things “fit together” and where they don’t—and then to help you identify your goals for becoming a healthier organization along with what resources are needed and available.


  • Treatment/Change Plan:   Next you and the OD practitioner work jointly to define a specific, detailed plan of action that capitalizes on your company’s strengths, addresses weaknesses and moves you toward your goals for becoming a healthier organization.  The “Treatment Plan” will include a wide variety of elements—possibly process improvements, cultural changes, or even some of those glitzy tools for team-building, leadership developing, communication skills training or diversity improvement that consultants are always trying to sell you.  A successful plan requires two things.  First, everything in the plan must be data-driven.  You don’t do something just because it is trendy or because you read an article in a magazine on a plane.  Second, the OD practitioner must have a grasp of the change process and change management.  Remember:  70% of change efforts fail (Kotter, ” target=”_blank”>Leading Change).
  • Implementation:  Then you, members of your organization and your OD practitioner work together to implement your plan.


  • Evaluation:  Throughout implementation and afterwards, an OD practitioner works with you to evaluate what is happening.  Is your company actually changing?  Is your company learning?  Are the changes actually improving the health of your organization?  What more is needed?  This keeps you from getting off track, allows you to capitalize on success, and enables you assess ways of further improving your organization’s health.

That’s what OD is and what OD practitioners do when they are really doing OD—helping you improve the health of your organization—and not  just offering you programs and solutions.

Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

Posted in Organization Development (OD). Tags: , , , , , . Comments Off on Why Organization Development? It’s all About Organizational Health.
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