114 – Classic paper: ‘Forget your people – real leaders act on the system’. John Seddon.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         2200 words

john seddon

John Seddon won the first Harvard Business Review/ McKinsey Management Innovation Prize for ‘Reinventing Leadership’ in 2010 for this paper. The prize was awarded for:

“ … the best story (a real-world case study of management innovation) or hack (a bold idea for tackling a critical management challenge) around … redefining the work of leadership, increasing trust (reducing fear), and taking the work out of work.”

As the title suggests it is a provocative paper. In his usual way, Seddon provides challenging ideas supported by practical evidence.

The context for the story is Owen Buckwell, the head of housing at Portsmouth City Council in England. Over 40,000 people rely on him for warm, safe and comfortable homes. Each year he is responsible for dealing with 17,000 blocked toilets and 100,000 dripping taps in the 17,000 council houses.

Owen has been managing housing for 6 years. Seddon describes him as a curious man who likes to get to the bottom of things.

What does Owen do?

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