NZIM PEOPLE: NZIM’s David Chapman – Signing Off After 17 Years

Always impeccably groomed and tailored, David Chapman looks every inch the diplomat. He wasn’t, in fact, plucked from the ranks of the foreign ministry, though he did work for the nation’s public sector, marketing New Zealand’s tourism industry to Americans during the ’80s as the senior travel commissioner in North America and, coincidentally, the country’s Vice Consul General in Los Angeles under the integrated foreign service set up at the time.
Looking the part or not, Chapman was told by NZIM’s then National president Lindsay Fergusson, that he was chosen for the National CEO’s job because of his diplomatic skills and ability to manage the Institute’s federal governance structure.
Chapman concedes he had no grandiose plan for approaching the task but he did set himself some simple goals including:
• positioning NZIM as the lead body for management and managers;
• lifting NZIM’s profile and building strong brand;
• increasing NZIM’s influence with industry and government agencies; and,
• developing strong, sought-after portfolio of NZIM certificate and diploma programmes.
NZIM’s five independently governed regions with its overlaying national board and office structure was, when Chapman moved in, “largely dysfunctional”. He set about building trust and creating new process initiatives, included Chairpersons’ Group to deal with regional differences, signed agreement on operating protocols, and Brand Licence Agreement. The agreement acknowledged that NZIM National owned the NZIM brand and regions were franchised to use the brand, paying the National office levy for the right. The approach led to broad agreement on the complementary roles of the national and regional offices and provided blueprint for the continued success of NZIM as leading-edge management organisation.
“I became something of an expert at managing federal structure and my views were often sought by similar organisations that had difficulties with the leadership vagaries federal approach invites,” he says.
“My management style is to work through people,” he adds. “By empowering, motivating and encouraging them you can achieve lot with small team.”
He cites the long-serving tenure of his national office staff (11, nine and seven years) as testament to his success as manager. “My focus was always on integrity, respect and trust. Colleagues knew they could trust me and this was an important aspect of building relationships.”
Chapman is an advocate of the “leader-as-servant” approach to leadership.
“The leader sits at the bottom of the organisational triangle – serving those above and in the case of NZIM, management and members.
Over the years, he has established international links and partnerships to help NZIM expose local managers to international management trends and best management practice. He brought management guru, Charles Handy, to New Zealand for sell-out one day conferences in Wellington and Auckland, and secured top selling US management author and consultant, Jim Collins, as the keynote speaker for an international summit in Auckland.
He established strong relationship with US ambassador Chuck Swindells and more recently, Bill McCormack, which led to setting up NZIM’s televised international speaker programme from the US.
The relationship with the Australian Institute of Management resulted in Chapman securing New Zealand franchise for the Front Line Management programme. He negotiated NZIM’s rejoining the Asian Association of Management Organisations, which helped build links with the American Management Association and the UK Institute of Management.
He also set up OSH programmes with Australia principal consultant Gavin Johnson culminating in the world-class NZIM Diploma in Health and Safety Management, which has now been running for 12 years.
Chapman is pleased with the strength of the NZIM brand. This really reflects the way all parts of NZIM go about their business, “the way things are done around here”. Along the way he established, with NZ Management magazine, the NZIM Young Executive of the Year Award, premier event that recognises aspiring managers and leaders.
Chapman championed the establishment of the NZIM Foundation with capital fund that allows it to operate successful annual overseas study scholarship programme. He introduced Managers Update, monthly one page electronic newsletter for managers and decision makers, and established the NZIM Business Challenge – now in its third year.
NZIM’s work with other industry and business groups resulted in it becoming founding member of the Business Capability Partnership, public/private sector initiative designed to lift business and management capability in New Zealand. Its membership includes the Ministry of Economic Development, NZ Trade & Enterprise, Business NZ, Institute of Chartered Accountants and Chambers of Commerce. This cooperative venture led to the setting up of Management Focus and several very successful projects throughout New Zealand highlighting the importance of good management practice.
The NZIM research programme under Chapman’s guidance is another success story. It has led to the development of Management Capability Index, now accepted as an international benchmarking resource. NZIM research also established the NZIM Wevers Human Resource Management Index which measures best management practice.
More recently NZIM became the NZ partner for the IMD World Competitiveness Report, an internationally recognised research study that tracks critical competitiveness trends in 60 developed economies.
Chapman’s list of disappointments is nowhere near as long. He has not, in his opinion, “persuaded sufficient managers that looking after their people offers, far and away, the best return on their organisational investment. Motivated, happy staff will exceed your expectations and can move mountains,” he adds.
He is disappointed with the New Zealand Qualification Authority’s foot-dragging on including NZIM school study on the NCEA Record of Learning. NZIM papers are currently delivered by more than 60 schools and students can earn credits for NZIM qualifications and NCEA, but NZQA has not yet made the move to include these credits on the Record of Learning.
Hand-in-hand with that, he regrets the demise of the Management Development Council which was originally set up by NZIM with the support of NZQA as prospective Management Standards Body.
Chapman is also concerned that he did not entirely persuade NZIM’s regional managers of the real value to NZIM of its national role and this has resulted in the NZIM board decision to move to new matrix structure which disestablishes the role of National CEO.
“But,” says Chapman philosophically, “it has been stimulating and exciting job. I was privileged to work with some great staff and colleagues in education and industry. Now it is time to move on,” he says, extending his best wishes to NZIM for the future.

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