Reviews “As One” By Deloitte CEO James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai

Share Article reviews "As One", a new Deloitte release on collective leadership. A readable, instructive, and practical management handbook.

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Overall, we recommend this book as essential reading not only for business leaders, but also for entrepreneurs who are building companies

Today’s business world is increasingly complex. And it is equally highly individualistic. Employees are empowered with highly-mobile talents. And they seek their self-actualization in a society of knowledge workers. This means everyone is potentially pulling in their own specific direction. Thus, business leaders face a key challenge – how to effectively harness such people, resources and systems towards a single goal.

Collective leadership, which organizes economic elements for a singular purpose, is clearly the need of the day.

As One, a recent book by management consultant Mehrdad Baghai and Deloitte CEO James Quigley, explores this nascent topic in great detail. The authors offer a structure, taxonomy and vivid case studies for the principles of collective leadership. Baghai and Quigley were independently studying the nuances of leadership. And a meeting of minds has led to an entire management system, culminating in “As One - individual action collective power” recently released by Pengiun. The book is available at Amazon for $22.34.

The book is eminently readable, instructive, well-organized, fast-paced; and indeed quite hard to put down. In a planet with too many management tomes, this one stands out for its good use of real life business and non-business vignettes to illustrate and subliminally instill the underlying messages. While one is drawn deep into the authoritatively written case studies, the linkages to the ultimate management structure are subtly done. The result is that one begins to look at businesses in the same way as the authors, often without even trying. And that is a key win for the framework’s creators.

Baghai and Quigley begin by making a case for collective leadership, in that the traditional management methods of command-and-control are over. A new paradigm is necessary for today’s leaders to meet difficult challenges of getting economic benefit from deliberate collaboration. Real leadership, say Baghai and Quigley, is one that results in a cohesive group of people working together effectively towards a common goal. And while there is such a desperate need, quite sadly, there are no well-thought solutions. So the As One framework sets out to provide a pragmatic, implementable system for leaders to become more effective in collective leadership.

The authors posit that there are eight different archetypes or style/structure for leaders to select in their quest for As One collective leadership:

Landlord and Tenants
Community Organizer and Volunteers
Conductor and Orchestra
Producer and Creative Team
General and Soldiers
Architect and Builders
Captain and Sports Teams
Senator and Citizens

Using such vivid characterization makes it easy to understand the authors’ intentions, as also simple to internalize. They efficiently convey the pinnacle of such archetypes, for these are available in real life all around us. The As One model arranges these 8 archetypes in a circle, a nice imagery that lends itself well to visual analytics. Baghai and Quigley argue that organizations can be described by one dominant or several co-dominant archetypes; or even different archetypes that exist at different sub-levels or different parts of the organization. The key is to match the most effective archetype to what needs to be accomplished by the organization. The Who (needs to do it) and What (needs to get done) are the leader’s goals; and the How (to get it done) is supplied by the choice of the suitable archetype.

We quite enjoyed the breadth and depth of the chosen cases. The book deftly spans decades and centuries, swiftly crosses over continents and goes deep into characters and organizations. Cicero, Gandhi, Omar Bradley, Linus Torvalds, Jerry Bruckheimer, Francois Pienaar and several others are held up as examples for many of the archetypes. Mumbai’s efficient dabbawalas, Cirque de Soliel, W.L, Gore, Medco, Apple and Tata are also prime illustrations of their organizational styles.

With welcome humility, the authors admit that this is only the beginning, and much work is needed to understand all these topics in greater detail. While only 60 cases have been collected to date, the vision is to collect 10,000 (Project 10K) and perform sophisticated analytics to derive even deeper understanding. Baghai and Quigley freely admit that many other archetypes are possible and welcome the public’s input into their case library at The Deloitte Center for Collective Leadership has now been charged with extending the frontiers of this theory.

The real-world application to several ExampleCos makes intuitive sense, but whether such simple models will succeed in a turbulent, non-linear business world is yet to be seen. Deloitte is only at the first steps of a long journey, and as more organizations subject themselves to As One diagnostics (and succeed), the efficacy of the framework can be really tested with living examples. In terms of implementation of As One, a diagnostic of the challenge and opportunity is recommended, followed by a formulation of targeted and effective interventions, and then a system to deepen the implementation of As One as appropriate.

Thinking along the same lines, we may suggest another archetype inspired by the recent and remarkable turn of events in Egypt. We propose “Champion and Crowds” to exemplify how a few heroic organizers with the help of technology were able to organize millions of citizens towards a single goal all across the country spanning all social classes. This archetype fits between Community Organizer and Volunteers & Captain and Sports Teams by including people marching for their individual benefit, yet reacting quickly to changing external circumstances. Perhaps, this will become the As One model for overthrowing dictators and instituting democracy.

The authors appears to love the As One analogy, calling these five letters and two words powerful calls for action – Creating As One, Pioneering As One, Smarter As One, Operating As One and so on. Towards the end of the book, one gets to see the timeline and extreme effort involved to arrive at this intriguing framework. Many Deloitte minds and hours went into the construction of the model, and its validation with some example companies.

Aligning the organization with the most appropriate archetype, in theory, can make the organization move effectively towards the leader’s goal. The challenge however lies in the difficulty of fully implementing this change. The book does illustrate a few good examples, but a long history of successful change in a variety of companies is not yet available. Clearly, As One has worked remarkably well for Deloitte in propelling the firm to be the largest accounting firm on the planet. But whether it will become a consultant and organizational buzzword like Reengineering, Balanced Scorecard or Five Forces is still much too early to tell.

Overall, we recommend this book as essential reading not only for business leaders, but also for entrepreneurs who are building companies. The As One framework is intuitive, and matching the archetype to the current structure in theory is also quite realizable. The roadmap of diagnosis, intervention and implementation can be piloted in one part of a company, and then rapidly duplicated.

The full review is also here.

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Kristy Short
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