Dr Adizes dubbed Godfather of business in the Australian Media
The below article was published on news.com.au
He’s dubbed “the godfather of business”, having mentored everyone from Hungry Jack’s billionaire Jack Cowin and self-help guru Tony Robbins to late business magnates Richard Pratt and Alan Bond.
And according to Dr Ichak Adizes, who has spent more than four decades helping small and large organisations grow their revenue, the typical management approach of “lecturing” and commanding subordinates is wrong.
“That’s all bullshit,” said Dr Adizes, who will be in Australia hosting a series of one-day seminars starting later this month.
Instead, he teaches a method dubbed “collaborative leadership”.
“It might sound strange, but my method is very feminine rather than masculine,” he said.
“Masculine is, ‘I’m the boss, I tell you what to do, don’t give me a hard time.’ Feminine is how to make individuals a family, how to work together.”
The Yugoslav-born 81-year-old, through his Adizes Institute, has been hailed as one of the world’s top management consultants for his “organisational therapy” methodology.
“We have documented evidence of taking companies from $12 million in sales to $4 billion in sales, or companies from under $50 million in sales to $15 billion in sales,” he said.
“It enables companies to grow sustainably and predictably and exponentially.”
At the heart of the method is Dr Adizes’ philosophy that to cope with constant change, an organisation needs to be “healthy”.
“I always wondered why the Russians can make a hole in the ice and jump into freezing water and jump out still invigorated, or why Finnish people get into a sauna and sweat then go out and roll in the snow,” he said.
“I, on the other hand, can go from a cold room to a hot corridor, a small change and I feel sick. The difference is if you are healthy. I am not healthy enough to handle change — they are.”
He argues that the purpose of an organisation is “not profitability, not growth, the purpose is to be as healthy as possible because if you are healthy you will have sustainable success”.
“If you are sick and weak, success is going to be short-lived,” he said.
Just as change affects businesses from the outside, so too it affects them from within.
Dr Adizes argues the cause of all problems is “disintegration”.
“An organisation is a system, like a human body, is a system, and where there is change the subsystems do not change at the same speed,” he said.
“For instance, marketing and sales change relatively fast, production changes much slower, accounting — oh my god, to change accounting you better have patience — but the worst one is human resources.”
When subsystems “do not change in unison, that creates gaps”.
“In society what you’re seeing is technology is changing very fast, the economic subsystem is just catching up, the legal system is left behind and the sociopolitical system is way, way back,” he said.
“All problems are caused by disintegration which is caused by change. If you cannot manage change, you should manage the disintegration caused by change. The solution is integration — bring it back together.”
That’s why collaboration and “mutual trust” are the heart of his method.
“You have to maintain the alignment of the subsystems, not allowing any subsystem to outpace the other too much,” he said.
“To do that you need to create participation across disciplines because if marketing is working on its own, it’s going to outpace sales and production. You need to make them work together.”
CEOs can do that by creating a “culture of mutual trust and respect”, but that doesn’t mean “being a nice guy and smiling and shaking hands”.
“Trust is when there is common interest. You create a culture of give and take,” he said.
He successfully coached the late Visy chairman using his method, helping him “reorganise the company and build a complementary team”.
“Dick Pratt was an entrepreneur with a big vision but what he needed was someone to anchor him, an organisation to hold him down, otherwise he would shoot into the stratosphere and get lost,” he said.
He also worked with Mr Cowin when the Hungry Jack’s mogul was president of global leadership organisation YPO.
But Dr Adizes’ favourite anecdote is of being invited to Alan Bond’s Newport, Rhode Island home after the mogul bankrolled Australia’s historic 1983 America’s Cup victory.
Dr Adizes says Bond had been listening to his lectures and credits the victory with his method, not the controversial “winged keel”.
“It was not the keel,” Dr Adizes says Mr Bond told him.
Instead, it was finding a skipper and a tactician who “admire and respect each other”.
“You have the skipper watching the sail making sure it’s being optimally utilised with the wind, and you have the official watching other boats and deciding when to tack,” Mr Bond said, according to Dr Adizes.
“The two of them are in conflict. The skipper wants to be as efficient as possible and the tactician wants to be as tactical as possible. One second of hesitation is one boat length. I spent a year building a complementary team based on your method — one look of the eyes they decide when to tack or not.”
Dr Adizes said the same principle applied whether in yachting or retail.
“It’s all about the collaborative decision-making process,” he said.