Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

Book Review: Turn the Ship Around

Monday, January 7, 2019

Control, competence and Clarity is the three-pronged approach former submarine commander David Marquet used to transform the US Nuclear Submarine Santa Fe into the most successful submarine in the US Navy. He tells this story in his 2012 book “Turn the Ship Around: A Trues Story of Turning Followers into Leaders”, published by Portfolio Penguin.

Marquet believed that every follower can be a leader, and that through them becoming leaders in their own right, the organisation would thrive and grow. His approach proved right and transformed the Santa Fe into a highly efficient and effective network of people. Divesting control, developing competence and providing clarity are the key components of this strategy.

Detailing how he implemented this when he took over command of the Santa Fe, Marquet provides a look into the inner workings of life on a submarine. The book is a great read with examples and stories that make the practical application of his ideas easy to see and readily apply into other workplace contexts.

What I particularly appreciated was the stories of things that did not work, and how these “failings” were part of the learning process.

The book is well written, organized well and flows easily. This book is now one of my favorites and I would recommend it to any leader looking to take their leadership to the next level.

Reviewed by Dr Warrick Long, Lecturer at Avondale Business School

Book Review: Leadership in Action

Monday, January 7, 2019

Rising over 40 years from the rank private to two-star General in the Australian army, John Cantwell has spent a lifetime leading Australian men and women in challenging and sometimes deadly circumstances. Using practical examples of what did and didn’t work during this time, John Cantwell lays out his thoughts on leadership in an excellent book “Leadership in Action – Lessons for the real world from a real leader”, published in 2015 by Melbourne University Press.

Believing that anyone can learned the skills of leadership, Cantwell puts together a simple to read but highly effective book on the essential elements of leadership, within an Australian context.

The book is a great resource for new and aspiring leaders who want to find the key areas for their development, or to lay out a strategy for their leadership. It is also a very timely reminder to established leaders of what their leadership can be if they are prepared to continue learning.

The organisation of this book is very logical and straightforward. In fact, you don’t need to read cover to cover, but can pick out key areas that you may particularly want to focus on. The whole spectrum of leadership is covered, but in bite-sized chunks that are quick to read and easily transferable to the workplace. This is a very well written book that should appeal to all leaders, new and established and a highly recommended read.

Reviewed by Dr Warrick Long, Lecturer at Avondale Business School

We Need To Talk About CFOs

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Apparently few others really understand what the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) thinks is important. The most recent survey by McKinsey and Company on CFO’s reveals a range of issues relating to CFOs (read it here). While the whole article deals with a number of observations from the survey relating to the CFO and their roles, one in particular highlights how important it is for the key leaders of the organisation and the CFO to have a conversation to be on the same page.

The following table lists the top 10 activities the CFO believes they have engaged in which adds financial value to the organisation. Next to that is the ranking given to the same activity by other leaders in organisations:


CFO Ranking

Other Leaders Ranking

Performance management (e.g., metrics, value management, incentives/targets)



Strategic leadership



Traditional finance roles (e.g., accounting, controlling, planning and analysis)



Organisational transformation (enterprise-wide or within finance organisation)



Finance capabilities (e.g., finance-organisation talent pipeline)



Speciality finance roles (e.g., treasury, audit, investor relations)



Cost and productivity management across organisation



Support for digital capabilities and advanced analytics



M&A (including post-merger integration)



Capital allocation (e.g., capital-expenditure allocation)



Pricing of products and/or services




It is interesting that so much of what the CFOs think is important other leaders place less importance on. The risk with this is that the CFOs will be spending time on activities important to them, but not necessarily important to the rest of the business, potentially causing tension and issues between the leadership team and business units. It is important that leaders within an organisation have the conversation to ensure everyone agrees with what is important, and remain focused on those.

And Avondale Business School (ABS) can help you achieve this, and indeed with any aspect of your business. Simply contact us a or call on 02 49802168.

When Being on the Same Page Is Bad For the Organization

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

“All our employees are on the same page!” “We are united as a team!’ “As an organization we move forward as one!” Really? Are you sure everyone in your organization is on the same page, united as a team, and moving forward as one? It is more likely your employees hold different values and perspectives, are too reluctant to speak up against the prevailing view, and as a consequence are less committed to their tasks than you would like. These are the conclusions I drew from reading an excellent article from Maud Lindley, Jeffrey Schwartz and Malcolm Thompson entitles ‘When Cultural Value Leads to Groupthink, the Company Loses’ (read it here), found in a recent online edition of strategy+business.

Drawing on some recent Australian experience with values and perspectives in the public and corporate arena, the authors note that even company values like “courage” and “excellence” can negatively impact on people in their organization. So the key is to develop a workplace based on authenticity, which is described as creating “a context for dialogue in which the organization’s leaders and employees can talk openly and genuinely about the values of the enterprise, and why they agree or disagree with those values”. Without having such safe places for such discussions, hidden conflicts develop that can diminish people’s commitment and increase their cynicism. And it’s not about changing people’s minds, or getting them to al think the same way, it is about ensuring employees “feel that they can contribute freely and bring their whole selves to work”.

If you goal in the organization is to avoid conflict, then the authors note this to be a bad decision. They draw on the work of Patrick Lencioni who advocates conflict, and to avoid it is to put temporary comfort and the avoidance of discomfort ahead of the ultimate goal of the organization. Bringing painful issues to light and dealing with them constructively is the best course of action.

The article describes three capabilities effective leaders have that can help manage diverse perspective:

  1. Mental Agility – being able to recognize the existence of different perspectives and the reasons different people might hold them. These sorts of leaders consistently invite others to voice opinions, perspectives, or expertise that might challenge their own views.
  2. Cognitive Humility – that is, where leaders recognize their own unconscious associations and correct the errors of judgment that result. It involves bring a third-person perspective to their own experience.
  3. The Ability To Foster Psychological Safety – which involves creating contexts where everyone feel valued and heard – where people feel safe to contribute perspectives even if they differ dramatically from the organization’s prevailing values.

Thankfully the authors recognize that not every conversation will lead to a solution, and people may not necessarily understand another’s perspective any better, but it does mean people will “recognizer the workplace as a place with a true commitment to its employees: a place where people respect one another, even in disagreement, and are able to bring themselves openly to work. If you would like to see your leadership and organization become such a place, contact the Avondale Business School on or 02 49802168 to find out how.

Effective Leaders Do This

Sunday, November 18, 2018

So what is it that effective leaders do again? Deborah Ancona and Henrik Bresman in an article in INSEAD Knowledge (click here to read) outline the five key capabilities their research over decades has shown. Below is a brief description of each one, but I recommend you read the full article and challenge yourself on these areas. But don’t be too discouraged if you begin to feel inadequate, the research indicates it is truly rare to see a leader exhibit more than two or three of these.

  1. Sensemaking
    A leader who is constantly looking for more information, and who can then turn that into a “cohesive framework that helps others understand what the next move should be” exhibits this. I know many leaders with a thirst for knowledge, but very few of these are able to then integrate it effectively into their organisations.
  2. Relating
    “The glue that brings people together”. These leaders are able to listen, truly understand, and then rally support – in that order.
  3. Visioning
    This capability entails providing a compelling image of what could be, “linking vision to the organisations core values and mission, imparting optimism in the process”.
  4. Inventing
    “Keeping the trains running” summarises this capability, by “devising ways to bring a vision to life, which may involve reorganizing the way work is done, identifying key performance indicators, and measuring progress.”
  5. Building Credibility
    This is the key capability, which involves “gaining respect from others by keeping commitments and operating with a strong sense of purpose”. That is, they walk the talk and their actions match their words.

Remember, it’s not about being strong in every capability, but instead knowing your strengths and weaknesses, so as to find the right people to build and complete leadership team. And Avondale Business School (ABS) can help you archive this. To find out how, contact Warrick Long on 02 49802168 or

ABS Head Helps Judge Central Coast Business Awards

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The ‘Helloworld Erina Group’ 2018 Central Coast Regional Business Awards were hosted by the Central Coast chapter of the NSW Business Chamber, at Crowne Plaza Terrigal. The evening is about celebrating business excellence in the Central Coast Region. Finalists and award winners across 11 categories celebrated with the evening culminating with the presentation for the 2018 Central Coast Business of the year! The Dress Code was Black Tie & Formal. The evening was attended by Lisa Barnes who was also one of the judges of the awards.

The finalists on the night included the following:

“The judging was a huge challenge as there are so many great regional businesses out there who are doing really innovative initiatives and demonstrating that even though they are regional they can still play in the arena with the bug businesses” said Lisa Barnes. The Central Coast NSW Business Chamber provides a voice for Central Coast businesses. They advocate governments and authorities at local, state and federal levels to create a better commercial environment.

The big award winner of the night was The Australian Reptile Park who took out the award for Central Coast Business of the Year 2018. Congratulations to all finalists and winners on the night.

Organisational Change? – Don’t Forget The Employees

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

While many people thrive on change, there are also plenty of people (most?) who don’t relish the idea of another organisational restructure or “adjustment”. Change fatigue is a very real issue in workplaces. But some change is very necessary for the ongoing success of the business and so the issue becomes how to implement change is the most effective and successful way.

There are a number of resources available on change management (I personally like John Kotter’s approach in his book Leading Change). However, I recently came across a really succinct article on how to ensure employees are engaged and on board with organisational change. If comes from Morgan Galbraith and can be found by clicking here. Galbraith notes that almost one0thrid of employees don’t understand why changes are occurring in their workplace, which is a leading factor why command change transformations fail.

To help with the employee understanding, Galbraith notes four key factors leaders can take on board:

  1. Inspire people by presenting a compelling vision for the future.

Ensure you give a clear view of the path ahead, answering the questions of why the change is important, and how it will positively affect the organisation in the long-term.

  1. Keep employees informed by providing regular communication.

A hallmark of successful transformations is continual communication which is clear and consistent, and answers the question ‘what’s in it for me’ for employees. It is also important to communicate even when you don’t have all the answers.

  1. Empower leaders and managers to lead through change.

Successful transformations also happen because senior leaders model the behaviour changes. But for them to do so, you need to help them understand the fundamentals of change, including how to be an effective leader during that time.

  1. Find creative ways to involve employees in the change.

This is scary, but you need to solicit feedback and engage people in the process, which helps build ownership and makes them more likely to support the change.

The whole article is well worth reading (it only takes 6 minutes), and as noted by Galbraith, companies who are highly effective at change management are three and a half times more likely to significantly outperform industry peers. So remember to inspire, inform, empower and engage. Avondale Business School (ABS) can help you with your change management processes, to find out how, contact Warrick Long via



Do More But Do It Quicker

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

If you have been working for any length of time, you will agree with me that we are being required to do more in less time. And leaders and managers are particularly susceptible to this due to the huge amount of additional information they have access to and the more compressed time frames to make decisions. Consequently leaders are looking for ways to do more with less.

A recent article by Scott Stein for the Governance Institute of Australia entitled ‘How Leaders Can Learn to do More with Less’  (read it here) tackles this issue head on and provides some excellent strategies to achieve this. I am not going to go into the details, but the 5 strategies are:

  1. Limit distractions that steal your attention
  2. Leverage time by hacking your approach to email
  3. Identify the activities you shouldn’t be doing
  4. Boost impact by delegating to your people
  5. Use the right type of team meeting to enable people to do more.

I would encourage you to read the full article to see how these 5 strategies can actually help you achieve more. And the Avondale Business School is here to help you also. Just contact Warrick Long on 02 4980 2168 or to find out how we can add value to your business.

Graduate Returns to Share with Current ABS Students

Friday, September 21, 2018

Students in the Strategic Responses in Business unit were treated to a firsthand account of what business intelligence really means. Mr Todd Saunders (graduate of Avondale Business School), and now Sanitarium General Manager for Australia and New Zealand spent time with the class not only explaining business intelligence, but answering their questions regarding all aspects of the business.

The effective collection, analysis and use of business intelligence is a major differentiator between companies that succeed and fail, and Todd was able to show students all these components from the perspective of Sanitarium. Students had their eyes opened as to how much data is collected, and how it is used, noting that even weather data plays an important role in forecasting both raw material prices and sales projections.

The Strategic Responses class involves students engaging in a computer simulation where in groups they run companies in the computer sensor industry, competing over 8 years (one per week for 8 weeks) against each other. They must make decisions for each round that involve production estimates, marketing decisions, financing options, HR components (including negotiating a new EA with their staff) and R&D strategies. The unit culminates in the last class of semester when students must run and annual general meeting facing their shareholders (invited College Staff) based on their company results.

The time spent with Todd was valuable for the students in not only assisting them in their class, but also bridging the gap between theory and real-world experience. ABS appreciates the time Todd dedicates to assisting the development of ABS students.


Leaders Should Take The Blame?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Corporate culture is very topical at the moment, as we see unprecedented numbers of organisations under scrutiny for inappropriate corporate behaviours. It was hoped that the introduction of corporate reforms (Sarbanes-Oxley, CLERP 9, Etc.) would see a significant reduction in such issues, but has that really been the case?

More importantly, who is responsible for these events. Craig Smith, in a recent article entitled The Critical Consequences of Culture (read it here) provides three case studies of recent failures of corporate culture, being Wells Fargo, Volkswagen, and Uber. In the case of the first two entities, the failures resulted from pressures in either sales targets (Wells Fargo) or product to market deadlines (Volkswagen). In both cases the organisations were fined very heavily, and the people who “did the wrong things” were punished, usually by being fired. The difference with Uber, is that it was the senior corporate executives who paid the price, unlike the first two. Yet when things go well, it is the senior executive team who take the credit (and often the multi-million dollar bonuses).

And that is the nub of Smiths article – too frequently it is the workers struggling to meet unrealistic targets set by the senior leadership that pay the ultimate price. Yet who sets the culture of the organisation? Senior leadership. Smith makes the point that “while individuals must bear responsibility for their actions, the body corporate can also have some measure of responsibility, not least as a result of the goals set by senior management and the culture in which employees operate’.

The challenge for leaders is to think bigger picture to see what the real culture of the organisation is as a consequence of their actions, and whether they are prepared to personally take responsibility for the resultant culture of their decisions. As you consider your organisation and culture, Avondale Business School (ABS) may be able to help to be the ethical company to want to be. Call or email Warrick Long on 02 4980 2168 or to find out how we can help.