Friday, March 23, 2012

Who's In The Room: How Great Leaders Structure And Manage The Teams Around Them By Bob Frisch

Who's in the Room: How Great Leaders Structure and Manage the Teams Around Them

Who's In The Room: How Great Leaders Structure And Manage The Teams Around Them By Bob Frisch

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Product Description

Is your company run by a team with no name?

At the top of every organization chart lies a myth—that a Senior Management Team makes a company's critical decisions. The reality is that critical decisions are typically made by the boss and a small group of confidants—a "team with no name"—outside of formal processes. Meanwhile, other members of the management team wonder why they weren't in the room or even consulted ahead of time. The dysfunction that results from this gap between myth and reality has led to years of unproductive team building exercises. The problems, Frisch shows, are ones of process and structure, not psychology.

Who's In the Room is based on interviews with CEOs at organizations ranging from MasterCard to Ticketmaster to The Red Cross.

  • Understand and embrace the way decision-making actually happens in their organizations
  • Use these "teams with no names" to best advantage
  • Engage the Senior Management Team in the three critical tasks for which it is ideally suited

Organizations will get better decisions and superior results by unleashing the full potential of their Senior Management Teams. And bosses will see a dramatic drop-off in people coming into their offices asking, "Why wasn't I in the room?"

Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #47790 in Books
  • Published on: 2012-01-24
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 208 pages
Editorial Reviews Review

Q&A with Bob Frisch, Author of Who's in the Room?

Is this concept "taboo" in some organizations? If so, how do you even start to address it?
The existence of a small group of trusted advisors surrounding a leader at critical decision points, and that group's exclusion of some members of the Senior Management Team does have some "taboo" qualities to it. It's well known, rarely discussed publicly, and even more rarely challenged.

It's common to see organizations attempt to address the side effects of this gap between the myth and reality of decision making. That's what's at the heart of most senior level team building activities. But it is exceedingly rare to see a leader or a team member address the "taboo" topic at the core--that the Senior Management Team isn't, in fact, the place where most of the important decisions in a company actually get made.

When did you decide that a book needed to be written about this issue?
I've spent most of my professional career facilitating strategy discussions for executive teams. When it comes time for the periodic strategy offsite, invariably a block of time--typically half a day--is set aside for a team building activity. I'm often asked to sit in while the executive team works with a psychologist, coach or organization consultant.

While those sessions can be helpful in terms of lubricating the interpersonal dynamics of a group, they invariably failed to generate any lasting results in terms of strengthening the functioning of the executive team as a body.

After literally decades of seeing this happen, and hundreds of conversations with executives who felt 'out of the loop' when key decisions were made, I decided to survey the literature on executive teams and conduct a series of interviews with both CEOs and their Senior Management Team members in order to see if a more effective solution could be found to improving executive team effectiveness.

As you mentioned, there are a large numbers of books that talk about making teams perform better. What makes your book distinctive?
I suppose it starts with my background. Almost everyone working in this area of executive teams--psychologist, coach, organization development expert--is what I call a 'behavioralist.' They focus on the behaviors of individuals and of groups.

As Managing Partner of a firm focused exclusively on designing and facilitating strategy offsites, my colleagues and I spend all our time helping leaders and their teams align around crucial decisions. While the typical strategy consulting partner may attend a few such meetings in the course of a year, it's pretty much all I do. So I've spent literally thousands of days with scores of management teams in 15 countries on 5 continents as they struggle with their most critical issues.

While all the books and all the experts will point to the behaviors and relationships of those executives as the key to an effective team, I'm afraid my direct experience with these teams leads me to take a strikingly contrarian viewpoint.

It's time to stop looking at personalities, and start to focus on the structures and processes that underlie decision making. To break the "taboo" and get to the core of the topic, and thereby unleash the power of the leadership team.

What's a high-profile example of a senior team/kitchen cabinet conflict, and how could it have been avoided?
Conflicts between leaders and members of their senior teams are common, but rarely made public.

RIM, the maker of BlackBerry, has very publicly blown their dominance of the mobile communications market. There's an example of not only a senior team/kitchen cabinet conflict, but of an unusual organization--dual CEOs who don't seem agree on a strategic future for their organization.

The New Yorker recently wrote about Indra Nooyi, the CEO bringing Pepsi into an era of nutritious and healthy eating. Many powerful people on her leadership team got where they are by creating, manufacturing, marketing, selling and distributing soft drinks and salted snacks. I'd bet Indra faced significant dissonance between what she and her closest advisors see as Pepsi's strategic future and the opinions of some on her team. One analyst said "They have to realize that at their core they are a sugary, fatty cola company, and people like that." Put in some softer language and I'd bet some of Indra's direct reports believed the same thing.

Unlike RIM, however, Indra seems to be keeping the leadership team intact and unified.

What should be different at RIM, or is happening beneath the surface at Pepsi? Each situation is different, and the prescription usually lies in the unique dynamics of each team. But Who's In the Room? contains some general principles that should be kept in mind. In this case, the most important one is to work with the Senior Management Team to forge a common view of the future. Not happening at RIM. Appears to be the case at Pepsi, to Indra's great credit.

You've written articles for Harvard Business Review, but this is your first book. What was the writing process like?
It was actually pretty similar. The book obviously took longer, since there is so much more content, but we tried to keep the same high standard expected of an HBR article throughout the entire book. One major difference, and the great thing about a book, is that there's space to explore concepts in a fair amount of detail. An author can provide more examples, explanations and anecdotes than the limited length of a magazine article allows. It's like moving from a small apartment where every object needs to be considered relative to the space available, to a rambling house where there are attics, basements and closets to stuff away more objects.

But the biggest difference actually comes after the manuscript is completed. Once HBR decides to publish a piece, the hundreds of thousands who subscribe worldwide will be sent the article whether they want it or not. It's part of the magazine. But a book is different--people have to make the effort to acquire a book, or download a sample chapter to their Kindle. So the process of publicizing and marketing a book--of simply raising awareness to the target audience--becomes a real focus, especially for a first-time author.

From the Inside Flap
At the top of every organization chart lies a myth—that the boss and senior management team make all the critical decisions together. In reality, most decisions are actually made by the boss and an inner circle of confidants—a "team with no name" that exists outside formal processes.

This gap between the myth and reality of decision making causes significant problems. Executives wonder why they weren't consulted earlier. Bosses wonder why team members have trouble grasping the big picture. There's a tension in the executive suite, and repeated attempts at team building don't seem to resolve it.

In Who's in the Room? Bob Frisch provides a unique perspective to this widely misunderstood issue. Flying in the face of decades of organizational psychology, he argues that the solution lies not in addressing behaviors, but in unseating the senior management team as the epicenter of decision making. Using a broad portfolio of teams—large and small, permanent and temporary, formal and informal—great leaders match each decision to the appropriate team in a fluid, flexible approach that you won't find described in management textbooks.

Frisch's decades of experience as one of the world's leading strategy facilitators have given him unparalleled access to senior executives as they worked through their most critical decisions. Drawing on insights from interviews with the CEOs of organizations ranging from MasterCard to Ticketmaster to the Red Cross, Frisch shows how great leaders can unleash the full power of their senior management teams against a specific set of critical tasks for which they are uniquely suited.

The result: The right teams addressing the right issues at the right time, a renewed sense of collective purpose for the organization's most senior and valued leaders, and, most importantly, bosses seeing an end to people asking, "Why wasn't I in the room?"

From the Back Cover
Praise for Who's in the Room?

"Many business observers talk about executive decision making, but few take you inside the meeting rooms the way Bob Frisch does, or make you rethink what goes on there. Who's in the Room? will cause a lot of leadership teams to set aside time to talk about how decisions are—and should be—made in their organizations. For most of those teams, that will be a unique and much-needed discussion."
Walt Macnee, vice chairman, MasterCard Worldwide

"Bob Frisch's thirty years of experience in the executive suites of the world's largest companies have led to provocative new insights into how decisions get made at the highest levels of organizations. Whether you fully agree with his premise or not, this book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of top team effectiveness."
Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business, University of Southern California; and author, Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership

"Who's in the Room? puts forward a pragmatic, easily implemented way for companies large and small, across industries and borders, to rapidly improve the quality of their decision making and the effectiveness of their leadership teams. It highlights some basic truths about how leaders lead, how teams behave, and how organizations work, that will have you changing the way you run your company by the time you finish reading it."
Doug Stotz, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Bank of Montreal

"Rarely does a book reset the way we at look at something and truly shift our basic assumptions about routine activities. Who's in the Room? is one of those books. It will permanently change your thinking about how organizations should be led."
Michael Treacy, coauthor, The Discipline of Market Leaders

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful.
5A road-tested, practical guide for leadership
By Andrew Sobel
Who's in the Room is a breath of fresh air. It stands in sharp contrast to the hundreds of dry, theoretical books that have been written about leadership, governance, and strategy. It's common today to hear that leadership is all about implementation--that strategy doesn't even matter that much. Just get the right people on the bus and go somewhere interesting! But the fact is strategy is incredibly important, and Frisch has a keen sense for how to develop it and then how to lead the institution as you implement. Part of this book's tremendous value is the way it debunks the notion of the formal "top team" and describes how decisions are really made in organizations. Part of its value is also Frisch's detailed stories and observations about management in action, and the practices that allow you formulate great strategy and then get tangible results. The book is usefully organized around the core steps you must go through to focus, align, and implement. This is business writing at its best: A book that captures not just the author's decades of experience but also that of hundreds of senior leaders he has worked with over the years.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
5Great explanation of executive decision-making
By Eric Gastfriend
Author Bob Frisch is an expert on how the CEOs of organizations from the Red Cross to MasterCard structure their senior management teams, but his down-to-earth writing style, concrete examples, and background explanations of the prevailing theories in the field make this book accessible to those of us who are just beginning to climb the corporate ladder. This is great reading for not just CEOs and VPs but business school students, too; understanding some of the dynamics and tensions at play in the boardroom helps a lot in dissecting cases. The analogies he draws between business and politics are especially helpful--it makes me realize that the same forces and tensions are at play in the Oval Office as in a corporate offsite, but in a different guise, and the book clearly delineates what these tensions are, how to recognize them, and how best to handle them.

Definitely a worthwhile read for anyone interested in what's going on at the top.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
5A Bookful of Golden Nuggets on Decision-making
By J. Zimman
The central premise of "Who's in the Room?" is that the most important decisions rarely get made in accordance with the organization chart -- and, that's not just okay, it's a good thing! While a bit counter-intuitive, I found author Bob Frisch's recent article on this subject in the Harvard Business Review so insightful that I immediately ordered the book. He rolls out a very persuasive argument that the CEO (or any decisionmaker) will get to a better decision if he or she relies on advice from an unofficial "kitchen cabinet," rather than the formal executive team (or committee) shown on the org chart.

The kitchen cabinet can (and does) vary based on the decision being made, is trusted, is a smaller and more efficient group, and can operate outside the daily politics and baggage of the formal team structure. This frees up the formal team to tackle the issues that require and benefit most from cross-organizational input (eg, establishing a worldview, setting priorities, allocating resources and managing dependencies).

The book is chockful of anecdotes that illustrates how decisions can be made effectively in organizations when the right people are in the room. Anyone who has ever spent time sitting through a dysfunctional discussion with the entire executive team (in which the wrong issues come up and the right ones never get aired), will appreciate the stories from the field and the lessons in decision-making that can be learned from this book. Highly recommend. A surprisingly interesting and fun read.


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