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Browsing articles in "Management"
Feb 26, 2013
Kenneth Verlage


He is one of the smartest guys around and also a great communicator.

The combination is rarer that you might expect.

But when Gartners Dave Aron entered the room at Gartners 2012 Global Symposium Series and told me that HR does’t work i went clueless.

What does he mean, “doesn’t work”? Then it struck me and i was literary blown off the chair. It DOESN’T work. Its a fake. A theory gone wrong. Its “The emperors new clothes” and Dave just screamed “naked”.

What exactly is it that doesn’t work? Do you know one single person who got his or her latest promotion based on the HR-process? When was the last time a Talent Management Process kicked in and actually managed your talent? Just doesn’t happen that way, right?

Managing people and managing talent are all about personal relationship.
HR in big firms are all about processes.
Personal relationships cant be regulated in processes. Period.

So come on, HR-directors – why are you so passive? Go re-invent – its time to step up and realise your importance. Dare to take the responsibility that is yours.

We need a new model, Daves suggestioncant be the only way forward!




Oct 5, 2012
Kenneth Verlage

Business processes and death by bureaucracy

Businesses likes to structure things, like processes, finances, supplychains…and employees.

If it gets structured it gets better, right? Give us Business processes, Quality and Environmental processes, Jobdescriptions, HR-processes, Project management processes and Employee Motivation Processes.

The more detailed the better.
And we will become a world class company. Outperform every other. We will work PERFEKT.

No. Sorry. It doesn’t work that way.

And believe me – i used to be a process guy and I have tried a LOT back when i was young and idealistic.

Lets say you start a business of your own, you set up as a Fine Wine importer for an Italian wine house. Naturally you don’t start with writing processes for yourself, simply because there is no need. You need to spend your time sell like hell to get your wine to the market. And success follows and you start hire a team to help. Soon you are a company of 10 persons doing logistics, finance, marketing and all the stuff that needs to be done. Still no processes, because everyone just knows what to do. You help each other, you are on fire for the cause. Its a team, its how humans work.

But at SOME point, you will have grown too big to be a tight team. Maybe the warehouse grows and needs to reallocate further away from the city. In doing so, you realize that there is some core things about your business and your wine that is essential for quality. The wine may never get warmer than 18 degrees C, bottles may never be shaken, never be put in direct sunlight or the quality of your wine will be ruined. So you write those essentials down to make sure the team who manages your new warehouse knows what they MUST do in order for your business to survive. So because they are far away and you don’t really know them personally any more you compensate that with a process. And the process is only about what is essential for you only.

And this is exactly what i process is – its a necessary SUBSTITUTE for managing ESSENTIAL PARTS of processes – if you cant be close.

Substitute means you write no processes if you are close, its a huge waste of time to write processes in small teams.

Essentials means that you cover with processes ONLY the Make-or-Break things. ONLY those, and listen to me – it SO easy to overdo.

And when you overdo you wast time and creativity, and when you overdo its called bureaucracy, and when you create bureaucracy you REALLY have lost it.

Sep 26, 2012
Kenneth Verlage

It is better to burn out than to fade away.

So you are a senior manager and everyone loves you? Then you have some SERIOUS problems.
Either you have totally lost contact with reality and have let your success get to your head – or you are just one hell of a Teddy Bear Manager with a smile and a warm fuzzy hug going for everyone.
I actually don't know which scenario is the most frightening.
As a manager, you cant expect that everyone likes what you do – and it is fatal to try to let popularity guide your decisions. That path will lead you into a dark corner where you no longer dare to take action on ANYTHING out of fear. And everything gets stuck in endless meetings, coordination efforts and diplomacy. Nothing gets done at all, and you will soon be aware that this is NOT the way to success. Your supporters will loose faith in you and soon you will be unpopular with ALL.
If you get up there and take the rudder and start making things happen, you might be unpopular with half your company while the other half likes you. And it doesnt get any better than that – half is great. Half is superb. In fact 50,1 percent could make you president of the USA – or any democratic country. And you dont quite need that!
So it might seem that you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.
But that is only very short term – long term nothing is going to be damned if you give it your best.
And so I always choose “do” because thats me, and thats the only choice that leaves me in control.
And in management it is always more stylish to burn out than to fade away.
Sep 19, 2012
Kenneth Verlage

Every day is a lesson, every mistake is your teacher.

I know Top Managers that claims that if you need management education you are not made of the right stuff in the first place. Those cowboys are all wrong off course. But in a sense they are not.

Lets face it: most management training out there is crap. Total wast of time. And so are the trainers. ANYONE can start a training in managment, and it seems anyone does.

If someone wants to teach you something about ANYTHING, it needs to be someone that you can respect for their knowledge and skills.

This is true for only a very few trainers. Most know only the theory of a certain “wonder”-program and nothing more. No practical training, no thinking of their own. No experience.

Imagine me starting a school for soccer goalkeepers. I have never been a goalkeeper, nor am i particuraly intrested in soccer. But I know in theory how to get the job done. Catch the ball, god damn it! I mean how hard can THAT be? So I tell the students to get out there and catch the ball. I manage to teach them the extreme basics of goalkeeping, and at the same time they learned practically nothing about the real deal. Why? Because football, just like management, is not a science but an art.

And to learn an art, you need to be taught by an artist.

Theorethcal training will teach you the only the obvious, like “catch the ball”.

You need to hit the grass and start running. You will miss a lot of balls in the beginning and you will have to put in huge time and effort in training. But soon you will start catching some, and soon you will start seeing what balls to run for and which not.

Every day is a lesson, every mistake is your teacher.
The months passing by becomes your university and the years your graduation.

You just need to dare to trust yourself and let it in.


Sep 11, 2012
Kenneth Verlage

The perfect Company

The grass actually DO look greener on the other side – that is not just a saying but a fact. This is due to an optical illusion created by the viewers angle. What from above looks patchy and inconsistent looks from the side as impenetrable, beautiful green.

This optical illusion is true for companies aswell – the angle of view have a tremendous impact on the perceived quality of the establishment.

Seen from the side one can see only what IS there. People, products and processes – all solid and all bundled together to an invincible and beautiful company. When you are inside a company and looking at things from above you see ALSO what is NOT there. The patches in the lawn. The things that shold have been in place, but isn’t. The jobs that should have been done, but wasn’t.

So we all adore companies like Apple, Google and IKEA for their great success and perfect products. We strive hard to reach their level, and so we should. But it is also extremely important to remember that the green grass illusion applies also here. They have reached a great level of perfection, but they are not perfect.

Failing to see this and you risk ending up bitter and frustrated in your Leadership after years of chasing ideals that were never there.

So stop glancing at the perfect lawns around you and stop trying to grow your own to the same illusionary standard.
Get down to reality and excel where it REALLY matters.

And enjoy the knowledge that this will make your grass look DAMN green from afar.

Sep 4, 2012
Kenneth Verlage

Great leaders are like rainbows

I was maybe 10. It was a beautiful day and kids playing everywhere on the schoolyard of the small country school of Götlunda where i spent my first years in class. But I was in despair.

I had co-founded a club at school, with five or six friends. The mission was maybe a bit unclear but we ran around having tons of fun. I was the self proclaimed leader of the group, and the others all had different grades. It was an organisation of sorts, like boyscouts. This particular day, probably just for no other reason than to bask in the glory, i had proclaimed a leadership election. I would be re-elected president for sure, no doubt in my mind. But a fun exercise anyway.

Not only was ANOTHER guy elected president – i got ZERO votes. Leavning me the positoin of “Cook” in our organisation. I was in shock and despair. I couldnt understand what had just happened. And i did’t have a clue that i just learned a powerful leadership lesson that follows me to this day: Overconfidence is fatal and the line between success and failure is so thin that you might never know you have passed it.

Overconfidence is fatal. That is why there are no great leaders, if you ask themselves. Only good ones striving for greatness.

So great leaders are like rainbows – they do exist, great and colourful. But they can only be admired from a afar.

Remember that on your own journey.


Aug 30, 2012
Kenneth Verlage

Great leadership – art or illusion?

“Daddy, daddy I stepped on this bug and now its not flying anymore…why daddy?”

I’m the father of four and so i’m used to all sorts of questions about all sorts of stuff. All of which i try to answer in the best way I can. I lead my kids and I try to answer their questions based on the life i have lived and the experience i have drawn. My whole authority is based on the fact that i know things and they don’t.

Being a Manager and leading people at work is something entirely different. Or is it?

You cant lead grown ups entirely out of experience, or no one could be a business leader before the age of 60. But still the expectations on you as a leader are the same as with you as a parent – you are supposed to know what to do in EVERY situation and always have a wise answer. And while you as a parent always can fall back on a life of own experience, this you can’t be sure of as a business leader. And while as a parent the young audience adores everything abot you and loves even your mistakes, you can be pretty damn sure that is NOT the case being a business leader. And still it can be so rewarding.

I have been a business leader for some 20 years now. Successful years. Big companies, global tasks and huge budgets. But still very local and personal, as leading people must be.

And like it or not -. 20 years makes me a Senior. And i have done things that worked and things that didn’t. I have made friends and enemies, there has been tears and laughters.

But still, im good at this. I know I am.

So what makes a great manager? A great leader?

Are there even great leaders, or is that only a illusion?

I am going to dig into this question from a strictly personal view in some future artichles. Tell you some things that I have learned, share some tears and share some laughter,

Stay tuned!


Aug 10, 2012
Kenneth Verlage

Kodak. Now Nikon and Canon?


During education and with a youths confidence i was amazed and baffled at the well known business example with the Horse Carriage Makers who all failed to convert to Automobile manufacturers when that shift revolutionised transportation in late 19th century. I mean how could they miss? They had the whole product almost – they had the resellers and the customers. The knowledge of transportation. Just needed to add a little engine and get rid of a little horse. How could ALL fail to evolve their business modell? In every country?


I managed to explain it away with that they probably were not educated, not use to the pace of new things. Didn’t know what to look for. No Michael Porter to consult. No internet and no trend analyses. This was more than 100 years ago after all.

Yesterday i read an article on Mashable about Nikon maybe integrating Instagram into their cameras. OFF COURSE You are Nikon – what took you so long? Its more than hundred years later AND Michael E Porter is here. And still you (and Canon and all the others) are just on the verge of losing whole your horse carriage industry to the phone makers.

And talking about phone makers – how could cellphone giants like Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia be totally outmaneuvered by Apple’s and their iPhone overnight? How could those companies who spent year after year and billion after billion on phone development ALL drive up the same alley and the same dead end? Obliviously they were frantically developing something their customers didn’t actually want. Blinded by history and competitor moves.

Data wants to be free, internet for sure has taught us that. Why would anyone want their photos locked in inside a black camera housing? Naturally you want it at the computer for editing, at the publisher for publishing or at Facebook for mummy to see…anywhere but in the camera. So wake up Nikon and Canon – you have been tangled up chasing megapixles for so long you have missed your customers latest demand – connectivity. In three years there wont be a single camera sold that is not connected – and there is a powerful lesson to be learned here:

Do you chase ghosts or do you chase what your customer really wants?

And how do you really, really know that before its to late?


Jul 25, 2012
Kenneth Verlage

Full speed to nowhere

Way back the company where i worked was joined by a former Scandinavian Airlines Executive. After a few weeks on the job he came to me all agitated and said “Kenneth, i have never before been in a place where everyone are running like frantics, but getting nowhere.” After he left i realized i just learned a powerful lesson in management – the actual essence of management – to aim all the energy of an organisation in the same direction.

A few years and jobs later a new strong and very experienced Canadian was taking over as director for the division where i was a part. He blew us away – here was clearly a man with visions and understanding of our situation. He put up an impressive program of meetings, one to ones and even regular training sessions with some of us. He gave clear targets and a common goal to us all. And then he disappeared. Never to be seen again. Figure of speech.
What happened was that we had operational problems in Spain, big ones. He went there, only to get his left boot stuck in the muddy details of reality. Soon he was down to his chin and totally absorbed by the Spanish mud. And forever.
I realised after a while this a classic. Are there ANY manager out there who haven’t fallen into the mudpit of reality after making a grand entrance into a new job? I sure have.

So what have i learned? I’m just entering my new directors job at PostNord. Grand entrance done even if i have tried to play it down as much as I could. As a starter I think its essential to manage expectations. Just like companies outside your own tends to look scary, bigger, better and more solid than you own from afar – the same can be true for newcomers from external companies. So i need to get close fast.

And keep that speed right trough the whole program. Get everyone aboard the bus, drive like crazy, brake for no one and stick to the blacktop!