Publisher’s Letter : Change lies at companies’ core

Two features in this issue illustrate some of the fundamental changes taking place at the heart of high-performing organisations. The cover story, page 22, indicates that people trust their gut instinct about their bosses; that they’re looking for authenticity and inspiration from their leaders. These instinctive ‘felt’ responses are equally as, if not more, important than reactions to the more tangible indicators of performance.
In concurrent trends post GFC and in the wake of recession-led global cynicism about the integrity of commercial institutions, stakeholders are demanding both transparency in the ‘hard’ disciplines of prudent accounting practices and reporting; and values alignment with the ‘heart’ of organisations and their leaders. Companies and their leaders have to perform well and honestly, and do it with feeling. It’s no longer acceptable to be committed to nothing more than increasing shareholder value.
The piece on Designworks as an agent of change, on page 34, reflects the growing trend towards design integration; acknowledging the potential for design to aid company’s transformation from within. Rather than luxury to engage in in good times only, the process of design integration is revealed as re-engineering of organisations to reposition themselves in rapidly changing world.
Common threads across all successful organisations include inspired leadership and vision. Replacing – or at least adding to – the ‘hard’ skills of sound fiscal management and technical expertise as the most powerful tools in the CEO’s armoury, are the ‘softer’ skills of story-telling and good ‘gut’ instinct.
Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe’s record comes up again and again in this space. He won huge support and respect for his response – rapid and instinctive – to the Perpignan disaster. His thousands of loyal employees talk of boss who gets amongst them and makes connections through shared experiences and stories. Pike River Coal CEO Peter Whittall is another exemplar whose name comes up in the cover story.
We’re all on technological treadmill that ramps up speed at an alarming pace. The greater the changes, and the faster the speed of change in the external environment, the more we will look to our leaders for guidance, support, vision and inspiration. Our trust in those leaders will be determined every bit as much by the heart as by the head.

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