The ‘Lone Ranger’ style of senior leader decision-making is a thing of the past; most organizations now bring together groups of leaders (‘ensembles’) for input into different types of decision-making. This Idea identifies approaches for these ensembles to follow in order to make the most successful choices and reach the best decisions when they come together.
Imagine a cellist, taking on different roles depending on whether he/she is playing with a quartet, a chamber orchestra, or a full orchestra. Today’s leaders are not dissimilar; they come together in different arrangements to undertake most of an organization’s decision-making. These groups of leaders, or ‘ensembles’, debate changes in their company’s direction, or draw on close relationships to quickly ratify a decision, or discuss possible solutions to a problem, etc. Different types of decisions require different ensemble configurations. But to lead most effectively, ensembles must understand how they fit into and shape the company’s overall operating model.
These are thoughts put forward by a CEIBS professor, Nandani Lynton, alongside co-authors from the Accenture Institute of High Performance. The importance of leadership ensembles is clear; even though they usually only consist of the top one or two per cent of executives, they bridge a host of differences in, for example, languages, cultures, experience, etc.
Through interviews with more than 50 executives, Lynton and fellow researchers identified four general operating model approaches (or ‘blueprints’) that successful ensembles can follow, which can help frame the context for decision making at the top:
Though all four blueprints are important, ensembles tend to stick to one and have difficulty in switching to one or more of the other four blueprints, even when the one they have chosen is working less effectively than expected.
The researchers highlight that in today’s dynamic business environment, collaborative or ensemble decision-making is often more effective than a solo approach. They suggest the following three steps for organizations to improve their blueprint options, and generally lead to decisions that are more effective:
Blueprints for Ensemble Leadership: Choosing the Right Operating Model, “Thomas, Robert. J”, “Bellin, Joshua”, “Jules, Claudy” and “Lynton, Nandani”, European Business Review, (September 2013).
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