In every organisation, there are blind spots, power vacuums and no-go areas where money and opportunity leak away into a void where nobody seems accountable. There may be several root causes – too much power accumulating at the top of the organisation, a lack of strategic clarity, poor organisational design or weak leadership. Its effects are corrosive on engagement and performance.

A Senior Vice President, heading up a multi-billion dollar division of a one of the world’s largest software companies, told us: “We’re asked to think and act as CEOs of our own company, but in reality, we have little real control over how we run this organisation – we operate it, we don’t run it.” Our experience tells us that this is a common characteristic, leading to a ‘control gap’, or a ‘No Man’s Land’.

Leaders and managers focus their attention on what they don’t govern, leading them to weaken their grip on what they do control. This can be seen very clearly in the case of an intervention we conducted with the UK division of a global manufacturer. We asked its leadership team to rate the control it exerted over 16 strategic decision areas (e.g. budgetary allocation, sales targets, marketing spend, headcount investment, training and development, research and development). We then asked them to rate the control exerted on those decisions by their line managers at the head office. Combining both sides, the maximum control was 100%, split between the UK division and the HQ.

What they didn’t know was that this exercise was being conducted simultaneously with their bosses, 6,000 miles away. When the data was compared, the average ‘control gap’ was a factor of nearly 40% across the board: the UK team believed it had 30% control over the development of its customer management system, whereas the HQ believed it had less than 10% control. In the majority of the 16 factors, the head office managers perceived that the local team had considerably more autonomy and control over decisions than the local team believed.

The basis of this astonishing gap is undoubtedly a dearth of effective relationships, trust and dialogue, but at its real heart is individuals’ judgment being emotionally distorted by the perceived lack of being in control. What we’ve found is that typically, one or two negative, but relatively minor trigger events or symbols – “we’re not allowed to decide the timing of an event” or “we can’t flex our budget between teams” – lead managers to project a lack of control across the board. This creates a vicious cycle of diminished accountability, with an underlying narrative of “I can’t”. If leaders feel like this, imagine the downstream effect on their people. Regardless of the words they might use, their mind-set of diminished power casts a long shadow over the organisation.

With the rising demands on locally facing parts of organisations to respond ever more rapidly to customer needs, is ‘just’ managing the business enough? Leaders now need to exert maximum control over local needs for innovation and responsiveness. The no-man’s land of turf wars or expedient leadership behaviour increasingly won’t cut it.


The V People Way: Building Skills Through Competence, Confidence and Caring

When Tim Weir, V People’s Director of Global Asset Protection, visited my office for a leadership talk, he quoted former V People CEO Bill Green, saying, “being competent, confident and caring are the keys to successful leadership.” As a new analyst, this ideology has guided me through an awesome 6 month transition from college graduate to Systems Integration Consulting Analyst, and I’ve come to realize is at the heart of the Accenture Way.

The V People Way is all about how we do things. I see this manifesting in our clients, teams, performance and the way we interact with the community and marketplace to build a better future. Whether I am developing a tool that will support my project’s 20+ member leadership team, volunteering in the local community, or attending a lunchtime workshop on the latest in SAP, I see the Accenture Way at work.

A recent example was when I volunteered through our Christian Employee Resource Group. A software giant hosted Accenture volunteers, a non-profit and about 20 high school interns for a professional development workshop. Every time I volunteer and meet individuals from around the firm, I am reminded of how awesome our people are—especially when it comes to helping the community—and this time was no exception.

On paper, the Accenture volunteers simply showed up to the workshop, told fun facts, presented a presentation and worked with the students on their elevator pitches. However, we accomplished our objectives in the short 2 hours allotted for the workshop. In my group of students I talked about long term goal planning, implementation strategies, adaptation to a changing environment, and competitiveness, using an “elevator pitch” as a frame of reference. In the end, we left our “clients” (students) requesting we come back again the following month because we were their favorite and most engaging group yet.

In listening to the students present their elevator pitches and the Q&A that followed, I realized we hadn’t just facilitated a workshop; we made a lasting impact, resulting in exceptional outcomes. That evening, there was a consistent trend of deep and wide competency, unwavering and reliable confidence, and genuine compassion that was exemplified by my co-facilitators. In observing how this workshop was planned and executed, I see why our clients trust us year after year. Not only do we have awesome people, but we deliver unrivaled results no matter what we’re doing, living up to our mantra of “high performance.”

Vpeople Blog

<p>Most people in the industry recognize that Bain &amp; Company and
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leading advisor to the private equity industry and its stakeholders.</p>
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