About Lars Kolind

Board chairman, entrepreneur, professor, author

Business leaders and politicians wait for the economy to recover. Until it does, they plan for no growth or modest growth, which in my view is a self-fulfilling strategy. So, don’t wait for the economy to recover – create your own recovery!

In my view, the key is to start a new business or to start a new venture. If you don’t yet have a good business idea, it is probably because you don’t have a clear enough purpose. Here is an example: Alexander Kierulff is passionate about helping people to be happy at work (his purpose). He started blogging about it and gave himself the provoking title: The Chief Happiness Officer.

Alexander learned so much from his dialogue with others about happiness at work, that he decided to write a book about the topic. He wrote the book in a collaborative effort and today the book “Happy Hour is 9 to 5” is an international bestseller. Soon Alexander could turn his passion into his job and today his company employs several people and makes a nice profit. Alexander didn’t focus on Happiness at Work for that reason. He chose his cause because he was passionate about it and because he wanted to make a positive difference.

This is the model that I recommend you follow. The UNBOSS puts purpose above profit, but he or she does not forget profit. Profit is essential for anything to be financially sustainable and profit is the fuel that allows you to have an even higher impact next year. The UNBOSS doesn’t know all the answers him- or herself. He or she engages others in the cause and creates a business model that will maintain their engagement out of self-interest. Running a business or an organization that way changes everything: people, structure, processes, marketing, supply chain, communication, R&D – everything.

Just do it! – let me have your comments.

I have a cause. Do you?

My cause is to make the next generation of leaders better than the present one.

What do you think? If you don’t have one, why don’t you? Here is why I love my leadership cause:

  1. The cause is worth fighting for, not only for me, but probably also for you and for many other people. Imagine what the world would look like if we had better leaders: More happiness, more wealth, more dialogue, more understanding and less pollution, less conflict, less stress and less waste. WOW! Can you imagine any better cause?
  2. The cause is realistic, because there are organizations such as Scouting and Guiding which today involve more than 50 Million young people in leadership training. One in three leaders today have already had an average of three years of leadership training through Scouting and Guiding. And we can easily reach more than one half of all leaders in the world.
  3. Everyone can join. Would you think a lot of people would join if my cause was to make money for myself and my family? Absolutely not. They would need to be paid a salary to join. The good thing about my cause is that people join without being paid. They are as passionate as I am.

My cause guides my worklife and much of my other activities including this weblog.

What’s your cause? To make money for yourself and for your family? To become powerful and famous?

I think these two are bad causes because they are only about you. A good cause should be about what you can do for other people. It is about your impact – the difference you want to make.

Everybody can make a difference to other people, small scale or large scale: You can make your community, your company, your country or the world cleaner, happier, more fun, safer or richer. You can develop a skill, a profession, a concept or something else and share it with others. You can fight injustice, discrimination, powerty, pollution or waste.

So in my view, people with no cause waste their lives.

My cause, next generation leadership, gives me tremendous joy. I am never bored: jusk think about how many examples there are of bad management which can be improved. I always have something to ask about and to talk about. Who is the best leader you have ever met? And the worst? Why? I learn every day because I am focused, because I reflect and because I try to apply what I learn.

Be courageous: Share your cause with me and about 20.000 others who read this blog every month. Write a comment below.

China has gone through an almost unthinkable development since reforms started in 1978. Key strategies were 1) Focus on growth, 2) Excellence in manufacturing, 3) Collaboration with foreign companies, 4) Private enterprise in China, and 5) Massive focus on education.

Despite success, the Chinese government and visionary business people realise that the strategy that made China successful in the past, will not necessarily make China successful in the future.

Chairman George Lee at an early stage realised that Chinese business cannot continue to rely primarily on manufacturing; service and knowledge business will become even more important for the living standard of Chinese people to continue to grow. Chairman Lee therefore established the DeTao Masters Academy to engage masters within different fields from all over the world in this development. Each master will open a master studio within the Academy to serve as an educational hub and as a basis for sharing knowledge with Chinese business and society in general.

I am in the process of setting up the Detao Master studio of Leadership and Strategy. This week, executives from 24 Chinese comanies will participate in the first DeTao Master Class on Leadership and Strategy to be held at the Beijing University. We will identify the challenges that Chinese businesses will face in the years to come while building world-class service and knowledge businesses and we will discuss how to move forward building on the strengths and the traditions of Chinese society. That’s where UNBOSS comes in: China is not only about money; it is about values and harmony. China in not only about the individual; it is about the family and the community, and China is open to engage others in it’s development process: i.e. an unlimited approach.

I feel deeply honoured for being involved in this important work. China has more than fifty Million managers and to reach even one per cent means half a Million managers to be trained. This would take decades if we applied a conventional training approach, but in the spirit of UNBOSS we should engage the wider community in this task. The good news are that the DeTao Masters Academy also includes some of the world’s best experts in education and distance learning. It can be done, but we need to start today..

How can this inspire you? Share your thoughts. Write a comment!

Yesterday I met with a director in a big global pharmaceutical company. She wanted my advice on how to organize cross-functional work in the company such as sustainability, social responsibility or ethics. She was frustrated, because whatever she tried to put into the organisational chart, just didn’t work. Either too many people became involved or too few people. Never just the right people.

Here is why: We run inadequate and inefficient organisations because we try to reduce a multi-dimensional reality into just two dimensions. It just doesn’t work. A conventional hierarchical organigram has just two dimensions: Level (vertical) and function (horisontical). The problem is that the world is infinitely more complex than that. Where is the “geography” dimension? Where is long-term vs. short-term dimension? Where are the sustainability, social responsibility or ethics dimensions? And where is the operations vs. business developmen dimension?

 So what do we do?

Throw out the conventional hierarchical organisation chart. Establish a social network of all relevant employees instead. Make each employee enter all relevant information about himself or herself. List all tasks in the company. Assign each employee to whatever tasks he or she is involved in. List all important professions, appoint a guru within each profession and invite each employee to link to relevant gurus. Invite each employee to chose a mentor so that each mentor has 10-15 mentees.

Can you draw it on a piece of paper? Probably not. It is too complex. But does it matter as long as each employee knows what his tasks are, who to consult on professional issues (gurus) and where to go for a talk about the job and his or her future plans. What more is needed?

How do we ensure that cross-functional issues such as sustainability are dealt with? Easy: First add it as a profession and invite all relevant employees to link to the sustainability guru. His or her job is to have his fingers in every project that has a sustainability component. Then go through all major processes and add all relevant sustainability aspects.

The point is simple: You need a different mindset for what an organisation is. Once you put it into action, you will be surprised: The combination of project leaders (tasks), professional leads (gurus), mentors and well-designed processes is just so much more efficient, som much more flexible and so much more fun than anything you can possible draw in a two-dimensional functional hierarchy.

It works for pharmaceuticals. Make it work for your organisation as well. Comments welcome!

 

 

Here is a great example of UNBOSSing a prison. I came across it last week in Granada, Nicaragua.
Most prisons see their primary purpose as guarding inmates safely during their sentence. Chief Police Commissioner (Comisionada Mayor) Teres de Fatima Flores Méndez in Granada thinks differently: Of course inmates should be guarded, but is it not equally or even more important that inmates build a desire to participate positively in society after they are released?
It is, and this lead the Commissioner to engage inmates in creating a new prison experience: Inmates would be offered to do normal work rather than just sit in their cells. Not because they are forced to work, but out of pure self-interest. Here is the mechanism: Every day the inmate works, he will be credited three days of his sentence. So if you work consistently for one year, you will have done three years of your sentence.
After inmates are released from prison, they are not lost: Every Sunday for the rest of their sentence they will come back to the prison and work for the day. This way the police will maintain contact with former inmates so they have a strong motivation to behave. If they don’t, they go back to jail. Now inmates have a real motivation to create a better future for themselves and their families, which is why this program is called Mi Futura – My Future.
The additional costs of the program are limited to tools and equipment needed to establish the workshops. The Commissioner found a donor, which happens to be my brother, Peder Kolind, who lives in Granada.
I was impressed when entering the prison’s gate! I had visited the prison in earlier years and it did not always look very pleasant, but today it is different: No waste lying around, new crops planted on every patch of land, flowers all around, workshops and even a new Virgin Maria shrine.
So what happened in UNBOSS language?
PURPOSE was changed from guarding inmates into creating a better future for inmates.
Inmates were included and engaged as a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem, i.e. an UNLIMITED organization was created.
A MECHANISM has been created to motivate inmates to do the right thing, not because they are forced to, but because they want to.
The Chief Police Commissioner is an UNBOSS at its best. Look towards Nicaragua and be inspired!

Thyra Frank may the the person, who is the closest you can get, to a real UNBOSS.

In 1988, Thyra Frank (born 1952) took over as manager of a small nursing home, Lotte, in Copenhagen. Nothing special; the institution was much like any other nursing home, where staff members was more focused on their own needs than the needs of clients.

Thyra carried through a mindshift. She defined a new purpose for the institution to make it into a real home for clients rather than an institution. She threw out most rules and regulations and made Lotte a place where old people could drink, laugh and love themselves into death. She substituted sleeping pills with wine for the meal and Baileys for the coffee. She opened Lotte for loved ones of the clients to come and participate, including eating with the clients as often as they wished – for free. She organized vacations abroad for everybody despite the obvious logistical problems. She moved out of her office and turned one end of the dining table into her office. She persuaded staff to eat their meals together with clients; thus eliminating the need for at staff room. The list is endless!

During the course of her work, Thyra fought constantly with labor unions and municipal authorities who wanted to tighten regulations and documentation requirements for Lotte in line with current New Public Management thinking. She managed to engage hundreds of volunteers in the work of Lotte and opened the doors to journalists and colleagues from around the world.

Pure UNBOSS!

And results have been stunning! The waiting list is long, both for potential clients and for potential employees who want to be hearthunted (not headhunted) for at job at Lotte. Thyra has received a long list of prizes and her management model is rapidly spreading to other countries. A brilliant book has been written about her life and work – unfortunately only available in Danish (Thyra Frank, Livsglæde og Stjernestunder, Gyldendal) .

For inspiration – do you know anybody that would qualify like Thyra Frank for a place in the UNBOSS Hall of Fame?

What would SAS do, if they were an UNBOSS company? I have been asked that question numerous times while SAS has been struggling to survive. Let’s work on it together. Here is my first input:

There are three basic elements in UNBOSS: 1) Purpose before profit. 2) Engage everyone who shares the purpose. 3) Forget conventional hierarchical management and create new mechanisms.

1. Purpose befor profit. Of course SAS must make money; a lot of money indeed to be able to invest in new planes, new destinations and new services. But imagine if SAS rephrased its purpose like this: To help Scandinavians travel abroad fast, cheaply, comfortably and sustainably? Or even shorter: To help globalize Scandinavia.

Imagine SAS actually adopted that purpose and then focused everything they do on exactly that: To help globalize Scandinavia.

2. Engage everyone who is passionate about the purpose: Then SAS would immediately get a lot of new friends.

Who is passionate about improving SAS’ bottom line? Shareholder and not a lot of others.

Who is passionate about globalizing Scandinavia? A lot of people: Business, parliaments, local government and a lot of ordinary people. Actually, who wouldn’t be passionate? Without good air connections there will be no new growth companies, no new high-value jobs, no international conventions and no real development.

SAS could gain a lot of new friends with a stronger purpose. In UNBOSS we call all those friends the unlimited organization. In such a organization, conventional hierarchical and power-based management will never work. We need something else:

Mechanisms instead of hierarchy and power. Think of the so-called final negotiations last week between unions and management. This was a prototype of the industrial, power-based and hierarchical mindset: Accept these terms or the company will go bankrupt!

An UNBOSS SAS would do something quite different:  Drop decades of tradition to position employees and employer as opposites and turn the conflict into a common effort.

SAS market cap has never been lower; less than USD 400 Million. Shareholders have already lost almost alltheir money. Why not offer all staff the opportunity to by, say 20%, of the shares at a symbolic price, say 20 cents per share with the option of buying another 20% if the company performs really well. Of course this offer is only valid if employees accept salaries and working conditions that match the market. That would be a revolution. An airline where every single employee was turned into an associate or a partner. An airline where everyone pulled in the same direction.

Employee ownership is just one example on a mechanism which changes the rules of the game such that everybody gets a shared interest in succeeding. No power, just an opportunity which you can’t resist.

Employee ownership helps, but SAS needs more: It needs a management team that involves staff to the maximum extent in shaping the future SAS. There are hundreds of ways to improve and develop SAS and employees know what works. The necessary mechanisms can be found in UNBOSS.

SAS needs more than employee engagement: A genuine dialogue with passengers, business, government, agents, suppliers and others who care for Scandinavias future in a globalized world. What can SAS do and what can we do for SAS? Skype’s customers sell Skype to their friends who have not yet installed the software. And they even help their friends install the thing. That is free customer service! Sailboats help the navy patrol Danish waters in order to spot pollution. Voluntarily. Concerned parents patrol the streets at night to reduce crime. No salary. In all three cases someone has created a mechanism for people to contribute to the common good. That is UNBOSS.

Therefore SAS must engage customers and partners. Not with the purpose of improving SAS’ bottom line but indeed to help globalize Scandinavia. The UNBOSS SAS management must inspire and engage by creating the mechanisms that make it possible. No hierarchy and no new structures needed.

A well-functioning SAS is worth 5 Billion USD or more. 40% of that is 2 Billion USD. For each of SAS’ 10.000 employees this is 200.000 USD. Not bad! The old shareholders will be happy too. Their 400 Million USD has grown to 3 Billion. Seen before? Yes indeed. Remember hearing aid manufacturer Oticon 1990-1998.

The game is not lost. SAS has good management and a board with all the necessary qualifications. Employees have shown that they are responsible by accepting dramatic cuts in salaries and longer working hours. But the mindset needs change, both at employees and management.

It can be done. Give us your suggestions and thoughts. Write a comment!

 

What is an UNBOSS? Quite simply a person that not only manages his or her employees, but a person that inspires, engages and involves stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, users, members and others (the Unlimited organization).  A person that inspires his or her organization to do amazing things. The UNBOSS keeps the (unlimited) organization focused on the cause rather than structures, procedures, statistics and the like. The UNBOSS provides vision and direction, which is the basis for freedom for the individual co-worker. The UNBOSS invites dialogue; you seldom doubt what his or her opinion is, but the UNBOSS listens and engages with stakeholders.

We know many examples of UNBOSSes or at least people who act like UNBOSSes in particular aspects of their work. But you and your colleagues know more examples. Please share them with us. Tell us about a person who you think deserves the title of UNBOSS. It could be a well-known person such as Barack Obama, Larry Page or Nelson Mandela, but it could also be someone only few of us know. Share the story by writing a comment!

I am a capitalist. I fundamentally believe that financial gain is a very healthy driver for initiative, hard work and prosperity. I love to make money, and I love to spend it too. I also fully accept that capitalism has it’s limits; thus society must regulate and cultivate capitalism so that we can continue to benefit from it; however avoiding the negative side effects.

Being a capitalist, how can I argue that the best way to run any business is to put purpose before profit? I have two reasons; one is financial and the other ideological.

Putting purpose before profit simply makes good business sense from an financial point of view. If I genuinely focus everything my company does on doing good to our customers, I become a really valuable partner to them. They will come back, they will love dealing with us and they will tell their family and friends. In fact not only customers will love us. The media and public authorities such as regulators will love us as well because we are an honest, genuine and highly valuable part of the business community. We will sell more and we will make more money. That is the essence of a financially sound business. That is what UNBOSS is about.

Personally, I also have another agenda, which is ideological. I am keen to leave the world a better place to be, as the late Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, phrased it one hundred years ago. I am also inspired as a Christian, where we see the world as something God has trusted us to take care of; obviously with the expectation that we leave it in a better condition to the next generation. To me, that is also what UNBOSS is about.

Can you follow my reasoning? Do you agree? What do you think about capitalism and UNBOSS? Write a comment and be part of the dialogue.