Book Review: The Change Makers

October 17, 2019 by Avondale Business School

If you could be in the same room as Julia Gillard, John Howard, and 25 of Australia’s key leaders, what would you want to know?

Shaun Carney, in his book The Change Makers (2019, MUP) has given us the opportunity to hear directly from some outstanding leaders in Australia (ranging from sport, science, business and more) ab out what is good leadership. Their insights are many and varied, and at times even contradictory. But one thing they agree on, is that leadership is learned, and good leaders are continually learning.

There are a variety of styles in this book, as each leader presents their story and ideas in their own words, adding to the authenticity of their words. At times I wish I could have interjected to ask more questions, but that is just testimony to the quality of this book.

This book is highly recommended to anyone that leads, or wants to lead as it gives a wide variety of ideas, views and perspectives.

Reviewed by Dr Warrick Long, Leadership Studies Coordinator, Avondale Business School

The Problem With Culture

October 13, 2019 by Avondale Business School

It is highly likely you will have heard much in recent times about the culture problems of some of Australia’s leading financial institutions. The drivers of these cultural problems have been identified also, including boards that lack sufficient oversight, troubling remuneration policies and unacceptably high risk appetites. New evidence however, suggests that these issues are not limited to the financial sector, and there is actually reason to believe that financial and insurance services firms have less significant cultural problems than firms in some other industries.

A new report by the Australian Human Resources Institute and Insync has some interesting evidence of this ( A survey of almost 1000 respondents from a range of industries and roles identify that cultural problems exist in most industries. But the most alarming finding is that organisational leaders don’t see the same need for change that so many of their employees do.

While a recent cry has been for organisations to no longer tolerate ‘brilliant jerks’ – individuals who get results but often break rules or hurt culture doing so – the study found that there was a significant discrepancy between leaders and other employees when asked whether their organisations should tolerate such individuals. There was indications to suggest leaders lack the confidence and willingness to take action on issues of behaviour and performance.

As CEO of AHRI Lyn Goodear said in a press release, “Despite the wake-up call delivered by the Hayne Royal Commission, it is alarming to see a clear disconnect still remains across Australian businesses between the CEO’s impression of company culture and what is being felt at the frontline.”

While some interesting ‘truths’ are found in the report, including the need for HR to take on a much stronger role as culture partner, HR is not the complete answer to cultural issues. The report offers several recommendations covering different stages of culture and are well worth exploring in more depth within organisations.

Dr Peter Williams, Senior Lecturer, Avondale Business School

Strategy or Structure?

October 13, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Which came first, the organisation strategy or the organisations structure? In best practice, structure should follow strategy, but too often strategy is forced to “fit” the structure, and often its not a good fit. PWC have released a very interesting article (read it here) that addresses this very issue.

This article outlines some fundamental guidelines that help reshape organisations to fit their strategy. PWC claims that for a redesign to succeed, “a company must make its changes as effectively and painlessly as possible, in a way that aligns with its strategy, invigorates employees, builds distinctive capabilities, and makes it easier to attract customers.”

So what are the 10 principles? Each one follows, with just a very brief description, and I would really encourage you to read the full article and get the full benefits.

  1. Declare amnesty for the past – explicitly decide that you will neither blame nor try to justify the design in place today or any organisation designs or the past, its time to move on.
  2. Design with “DNA” – PWC identify eight universal building blocks that are relevant to any company, regardless of industry, geography, or business model. These building blocks will be the elements you put together for your design.
  3. Fix the structure last, not first – you’re not setting up a new form for the organization all at once. You’re laying out a sequence of interventions that will lead the company from the past to the future. Structure should be the last thing you change.
  4. Make the most of top talent – you must ensure that there is a connection between the capabilities you need and the leadership talent you have.
  5. Focus on what you can control – taking stock of real-world limitations helps ensure that you can execute and sustain the new organization design.
  6. Promote accountability – design your organization so that is easy for people to be accountable for their part of the work without being micromanaged.
  7. Benchmark sparingly, if at all – if you feel you must benchmark, focus on a few select elements, rather than trying to be best in class in everything related to your industry.
  8. Let the “lines and boxes” fit your company’s purposes – think through your purpose when designing the spans of control and layers in your org chart. These should be fairly consistent across the organization.
  9. Accentuate the informal – norms, commitments, mind-sets, and networks are essential in getting things done. They represent (and influence) the ways people think, feel, communicate, and behave.
  10. Build in your strengths – there are always strengths to build on in existing practices and in the culture.

PWC assert that these 10 fundamental principles can serve as guideposts for any reorganization, large or small, which can help you avoid common missteps and focus instead on the right blueprint for your business.

Younger Employees Need Your Help to Succeed

October 3, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Young people entering the workforce need support and coaching if they are to gain confidence and grow. Jerry Connor in a recent article in HBR online (read it here) believes there are four conversations managers and supervisors can have with the young employees to ensure they are set up for success. Connor gives details of what the conversations can look like, so do read the full article, however, a quick summary follows:

  1. Help them build resilience – It’s about helping them figure out how to balance their thinking, drop their judgements, and focus on the one or two positive choices they can make to learn and move forward.
  2. Help them influence others – help them to see situations from other people’s perspectives and find new ways to engage and build relationships.
  3. Help them to job craft – help employees reflect on what’s most important to them, so they can shape a compelling vision for their future.
  4. Help them break out of a mental rut – don’t provide solutions, but help employees clarify the questions they’re trying to answer, push them to gather perspectives from diverse sources, and reflect on what they’ve learned in order to come up with a new and better strategy.

Managers who invest time in addressing these issues not only increase employee retention but also build connections that keep their teams inspired, innovative, and doing their best work.

ABS Presents at Year 12 Graduation at Central Coast Adventist School!

October 1, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Presidents’ Award Winner Emilie Jackson

Congratulations were in the air at Central Coast Adventist School (CCAS) for the Year 12 graduation, where Emilie Jackson won the prestigious “Avondale Presidents scholarship” worth $8,000.00 toward her tuition fees for 2020. The process included an application, references and an interview to secure the award. The award was presented by Head of Avondale Business School, Associate Professor Lisa Barnes, who also presented the Business Prize to Isobel Walshaw the student who received the highest marks in the Business Studies unit for 2019.

Services and Leadership Award Winner
Tahliana Tikoicina

But the celebrations did not stop there, with the coveted award for “Service/Leadership” which is only awarded to a

limited number of students in Australia, awarded to Tahliana Tikoicina, for her service to school, community and Church. It included a scholarship of $5,000.00 towards tuition at Avondale in 2020.

It was a lovely graduation ceremony, where students reflected on their journey throughout their school life. The students presented roses to their families for all the support they had received in their schooling.

Lilly and Proud Mum Lisa

Of the 77 graduates, there were approximately 20 students who had completed the journey from Kindergarten through to year 12 at CCAS. One of these students was Lilly Barnes, daughter of Lisa Barnes, who posed for a quick picture with Mum!

Thanks CCAS for a great day for the students to celebrate the end of their formal schooling, and for the opportunity for Avondale to congratulate and award 3 students in recognition of their efforts. Avondale Business School wishes all Year 12 students the best for exams, and hope to see some of them as our first ever cohort as a University College in 2020.

You WILL Face a Corporate Crisis

September 26, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Organisations face a 70% chance of a major crisis within the next 5 years! A fascinating and very helpful report just release by PwC addresses the issue of crisis management, based on research involving over 2000 senior executives from 25 industries across 43 countries (download it here). As a result, their report is full of observations and advice on how to prepare, and even benefit from a crisis.

I really recommend each leader access and read the report, and consider its implications for your entity. However, a quick overview of some of the reports key points follow. The top 5 observations from the research are:

  1. It’s not if. It’s when. No one is immune
    69% of leaders have experienced at least one corporate crisis in the last 5 years, and the average number of crisis experienced s 3.
  2. The diversity of crisis keeps companies guessing.
    The big three types of crisis were liquidity issues, operational, and tech-related. In Australia, technological or operational disruption were most frequent.
  3. The most disruptive crises aren’t necessarily the most newsworthy.
    If the most disruptive crises aren’t the most newsworthy, the most newsworthy may not be the most disruptive either – a potential blind spot when it comes to crises-readiness.
  4. Who’s responsible for crisis management? Everyone – and no one.
    The “ownership map” clearly highlights the overlapping roles of responsibilities, which should cause some concern given the importance of efficient coordination, communication and decisions in crisis. Nearly three quarters sought outside help.
  5. Companies that emerge stronger from crisis do specific things.
    What doesn’t; kill you makes you stronger. Here are a few of the things companies did that made then stronger:

(i)   Allocate budget to crisis management – before it hits;
(ii)  Have a plan – and test it;
(iii) Adopt a fact-based approach – and don’t neglect key stakeholders;
(iv) Perform a root-cause analysis – and follow up;
(v)  Act as a team, and hold to your values.

The report stresses that the chances of corporate crisis are growing, and will be played out more publicly, hence the need to have a plan of action now. Do yourself a favour, download the report, read it, and incorporate their principles into your organisation.

The CEOs Role in a Strategic Board

September 23, 2019 by Avondale Business School

The role of the Board has changed, and it needed too. No longer is the board a group of old school cronies who get together a few times a year to catch-up on old times. Today’s board needs to be a massive strategic asset to the company, or risk falling behind in the market.

Deloitte recently published an outstanding paper on how the CEO can help shape the board into being such a strategic asset (read it here). They note that directors want to be more involved in strategy and discussions at the top level. To help with this, based on their research, following is a summary of their seven tips on how CEOs can engage the board in becoming a “strategic asset”:

  1. CEOs, it’s really up to you – it is incumbent on CEOs to take the lead in cultivating the shift to a “strategic” board.
  2. Be fearlessly transparent – “CEOs who think they are God’s gift to the business world are not great listeners”
  3. Take advantage of tension – constructive tension may even be necessary to bring the best out of a board – to drive higher-quality dialogue, and therefore higher-quality outcomes.
  4. Facilitate the board experience, not just the board meeting – a CEO can help take a more strategic role by influencing what board members experience outside the boardroom – for both the full board and individual board members, including interacting with board members between meetings.
  5. Curate information, and then curate it again – Boards are only as good as the information they have access to, so ask the board what’s working, are they getting the right information, what do they need, and what information should be left out.
  6. To chair or not to chair? Think about it very carefully – no one size fits all and the leadership structure is somewhat dependent on the individuals in the roles.
  7. Say your piece on board composition – CEOs should not be shy about proactively and strongly signalling what specific capabilities are required of a board that is truly qualified to weigh in on matters of current and future strategy.

The full paper is easy to read, and packed full of really useful information. So take the time to find out how to make your board a true strategic asset.

ABS Student at International Leadership Symposium

September 18, 2019 by Avondale Business School

In August of this year, ABS student Craig Louwen represented Avondale University College at the 10th University Scholars Leadership Symposium, organised by Humanitarian Affairs Asia. The symposium was held in Kuala Lumpur. Craig self-funded this trip, joining with 1000 other students from across the world, and gave up part of his mid-year break to do so. Only students who demonstrate leadership potential, and who have a desire to improve society, were invited to apply. Despite the opportunity to draw from students across the globe, Craig was selected as a delegate, and attended the symposium which provided these student leaders with an understanding of key sustainable development changes. A series of talks by international trainers and humanitarian leaders, and presentations by Malaysia’s Prime Minister, the founder of community-building charity Sunrise Cambodia, and Hillary Yip who founded the language-learning software company MinorMynas at age 13, motivated these delegates to realise their potential as agents for change. Craig is confident the experience will prove to be a beneficial one, allowing him to grow in both skill and attitude, and with opportunities to interact with child refugees, the symposium encouraged him to “be bolder in making a change” for the betterment of society. Read more about it here.

Guest Speaker Dean Banks Inspires ABS students

September 12, 2019 by Avondale Business School

ABS welcomed Dean Banks, Leadership and Professional Development Manager from South Pacific Division (SPD), who gave a talk to the students about the importance of writing your CV. He talked about the fact that students have about 60 seconds for a potential employer to engage them in their CV, and that it needs to be a summary of career to date, key skills and strengths, and should be prepared with attention to detail to improve chances of being selected for an interview.

He also answered the many questions about do’s and don’ts such as not including a photo, not including salary expectations, or religious, political or social affiliations. He also stressed that students should be truthful, logical & precise, and should draw attention to their values, accomplishments & contributions.

The students were given a workbook specifically prepared by Dean which also gave them an opportunity to draft their CV, with a CV Quality Checklist and CV Samples. The students really valued the opinion of such a well-respected Leadership & Professional Development Manager, and for ABS it strengthens our engagement ties with SPD and furthers our endeavours to bring outside real-world experts into the classroom for our graduating students.

Measuring Culture – The Impossible Dream?

September 12, 2019 by Avondale Business School

To cry and change organizational culture (‘the way we do things around here’) can be like trying to turn an aircraft carrier around – it is possible, but takes a long time and loads of energy. So when an organisation does get into a change program, it is important to ensure you can reassure people that it is happening, and things are getting better.

How do we do that? By measuring the shift in culture. A great article about measuring culture (read it here) provides some great advice on tools that can help with that. Because as anyone who has tried to measure culture knows, it ain’t easy!

When looking at ways to measure your culture, the best tip in the article is to not spend too long trying to find the perfect metric, but instead to find something ‘good enough’ to start with and get doing. Be prepared to adjust along the way. While the article has full details with examples, the four types of customizable measurement they suggest you can use are:

  • Program/rollout KPIs – which assess the level of participation in the efforts.
  • Anecdotes – share across the organisation personal observations of people doing something that supports the effort
  • Behavioural KPIs – periodic pulse surveys that track how behaviours spread over time.
  • Business KPIs – relevant business KIs that may be affected as a direct or indirect result of the efforts.

While measuring the impact of a cultural transformation may be complex, it is achievable, and more importantly, necessary. Use the measures to encourage your organisations team that change is happening, good things are resulting, and we are in a better place.

Avondale Business School can help you with your change process, contact Dr Warrick Long to chat about how. or 02 480 2168