Workforce Development / Leadership Skills

Strategy and research: Keys to book-writing as well as productive leadership

Tom Moriarty: Nothing is ever as easy as it looks, from effective leadership to writing about it.

By Tom Moriarty

In September, my book, “The Productive Leadership System: Maximizing Organizational Reliability,” will become available. The process of writing a book, for those who have not done it, seems straightforward: You have an idea. Create an outline. Pitch the idea to a few publishers. Select one. Write the chapters. Then the publisher prints it and sells it.

While I can’t speak for other authors, I can say that the process is not that simple. I’m used to writing this monthly column; I’ve been doing so for more than 10 years. It’s not the physical act of putting words on paper that’s difficult. The difficult part is completely explaining the dark corners and details about a subject.

I began formulating ideas about the topic for my book at least six years ago. (It’s taken that long get the content to a place where I believe it will help others.) After working with many clients that had endured “program-of-the-month” syndrome, I began to study that phenomenon. I wanted to understand why it happens and what could be done to avoid it. I used a root-cause-analysis approach, looking for physical, human and management roots.

Physical roots are often intertwined with management roots. Organizations that don’t have discipline in their direction are like a ship without a rudder. They go forward but swing from one priority to another. In addition, organizations that don’t have sufficient guidance can’t achieve control and stability of core processes. 

When guidance is not sufficient, the physical roots are exposed. Guidance should describe what is to be done, by whom, how, and with what assets. Program-of-the-month organizations often don’t identify the assets that are required for all guidance. The senior managers assume that if something is needed, it will be identified and provided. When work centers call for more or different assets, they are told there’s no money. A lack of assets is a physical root cause that impedes performance.

What about human root causes? Human root causes also are intertwined with management causes. Leader selection and development should be based on criteria documented in policies, processes, and procedures. When the organization has people in leadership positions who are not selected or developed based on clear criteria, then the lack of leadership acumen causes problems.

For people being led, the outcome is often low job satisfaction, anxiety, and half-hearted support of “monthly programs.” Followers behave defensively and deflect responsibility. Individual and organizational performance suffer.

The solution that I propose in my book is a tiered logic:

  • The first tier is that performance is directly related to accountability. Every organization has several levels of leadership. In each level there is a senior leader and a subordinate leader or team member. Each level has senior-subordinate accountabilities.
  • The second tier is that accountability can only permeate an organization if there is a model or framework that explicitly assigns accountability; that’s the Organizational Reliability Model. The model assigns accountability for direction, guidance, and assets to the senior leader. It also assigns subordinate leaders or team members accountability for executing the current guidance with the current assets and for notifying their senior leader of deficiencies in current guidance or current assets.
  • The third tier is Productive Leadership. This is defined as a leader, provided with direction, guidance, and assets, applying leadership roles, attributes, and skills, through personal and position power, to influence others to achieve goals. Productive Leadership is how a leader executes their current guidance with current assets.

I start the book explaining why Productive Leadership is important. Next, there is a chapter on the human brain and lifelong learning. I then go into detail on organizational reliability and begin the deep dive into Productive Leadership.

Writing a book is strenuous. I have done it in an effort to help others lead more fulfilling and satisfying lives. I hope you will pick up a copy of the book, read it, apply it and make your organization better. If you’re not a reader, contact me and ask about my two-day Productive Leadership System workshop. Go forth and do great things.