Nina Spencer

Old Models Are Still in Fashion!

There are scads of models (business ones, that is!) explaining the way things are, or pointing the way ahead. Even after a long time in the business of organizational behaviour, one can still find "new" models. Some of these "new" models are the old "tried and true".

A powerful and enthusiastic body of research was conducted on teams and leadership in the 1960's. The wisdom from those days still stands tall today. In workshop after workshop, I still find managers (including senior management) who are being introduced to these "old" models, for the first time! They are extremely enthusiastic about what they've learned and how they're going to apply it on the job. The models have kept pace with the times and, where appropriate, have been modified to reflect today's organizational demands. In other cases, the applications of the models are so timeless and universal, no adjustment has been needed.

I find three models are enjoying a particular renaissance amongst management (or did these models ever really go away?):

  • Tuckman's Model on Group/Team Development
  • Johari Window
  • Hersey Blanchard Situational Leadership

The Tuckman Model identifies four stages of group development: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing (and later, a fifth stage, Adjourning). About one third to one half of managers, in my team leadership workshops, have either not heard of this model, or vaguely recall it, but couldn't use its wisdom. The Tuckman Model explains the process groups demonstrate on their way to becoming a team. It doesn't make the symptoms "go away", but it does provide the manager with a diagnostic tool for understanding the team behaviour at different phases. From there, a manager can make choices about their leadership style.

Johari Window, another "hot" model from the 1960's, was originally designed as a model for giving feedback. Today its applications can go far beyond that in terms of understanding ourselves and others, and thereby enhance our personal mastery at inter-personal communicaiton skills. The model asks us to perceive ourselves as a window, with four separate panes of glass. In one pane, we demonstrate Who We Really Are (the Public Arena), in another, Who we Pretend to be (The Mask), in the third, we acknowledge our Blindspots (what others can see about us that we don't see about ourselves), and in the fourth, The Hidden Potential (the Unknown). In the 1990's, there has been a been an urgent demand on introspection and reflection at both the organizational and personal levels. The Johari Window proves to be a powerful tool to reflect on "where we're at" and where we want to go.

The Situational Leadership Model reminds us of the (not so new concept) of the inverted pyramid.....that managers are there to serve and support the frontline staff. This model shows how to go beyond the understanding and usage of four leadership styles:it gives a map as to what leadership style would be most effective, in which situation, to yield the highest probability of getting the results you want. It teaches the "leader" to diagnose "follower" readiness and then, as a response, to demonstrate the most effective leadership style for that person (or team) in that moment.

Here are some suggestions for facilitating new (or renewed) understanding of how these models can help leaders, help their teams:

Share the wisdom of the Tuckman Model: together, identify what the typical behaviours of each stage are, diagnose where you think your team is at, verify your diagnosis by using the corresponding checklist instrument (you can also share the wisdom of this model with team members and have them individually do this same process:the results can then be used to begin team dialogue on performance).

Share the wisdom of the Johari Model:facilitate (either in a dynamic way in a pairs exercise, or as an individual, written exercise) self-assessing/reflective questions which target all four windows, ie:

  • Tell me about your current personal leadership effectiveness
  • Tell me what would happen if you shared more about yourself, with your team, than you currently do
  • Tell me what would happen if you discovered and acted on more of your leadership blindspots
  • Tell me what would happen if you discovered more of your hidden leadership potential

Share the wisdom of the Hersey Blanchard Situational Leadership Model:use a licensed instructor to facilitate:

  • Layered learning through inter-active video
  • The inter-active, simulation board game
  • 360 degree team feedback through customized instruments

In times of great change and uncertainty there is always a chance that people will push for some "back to basic". In many cases, going back to some other, earlier time, would d be "Luddite" thinking. In the case of these "old" models, their value has never been more important than now.