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As One - an interview with James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai

Interview by: Giles Metcalfe

Options:     PDF Version - As One - an interview with James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai Print view    |    PDF Version - As One - an interview with James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai PDF version

As OneMehrdad Baghai is Managing Director of Alchemy Growth Partners, a boutique advisory and venture firm in Sydney, Australia. Mehrdad has been advising global companies on growth, organization design, and transformation for the last 20 years. He is currently co-leader of the As One flagship project, the Deloitte member firm network’s global initiative on collective leadership.

James H. Quigley is CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, which together with its member firms is the world’s leading consulting and professional services organization. DTTL and its network of member firms comprise approximately 170,000 employees in more than 150 countries. Jim has been with the organization for over 30 years. Prior to his current role, Jim was CEO of Deloitte United States (Deloitte LLP), where he served many of the U.S. member firm’s significant clients.

Their book, As One, is published by Penguin.


What was the background to you writing As One: Individual Action, Collective Power?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

The idea behind As One originated from a conversation we had almost three years ago. In our organization’s privileged role as advisers to leaders from all over the world, we noticed people leaned forward in their chair and engaged in a spirited dialogue whenever the conversation turned to a specific and timeless leadership challenge - how to get large numbers of individuals working together effectively to achieve a shared purpose. We knew this was something we had to explore.

As One is the culmination of two years of rigorous research and analysis of hundreds of perspectives on collaboration and collective leadership drawn from myriad disciplines, including science, history, economics, psychology, and popular culture, and many geographies. The As One team created a set of 60 detailed case studies that analysed successful examples of As One behaviour in corporations, government agencies, and non-profits.

Whom is the book aimed at?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

As One is a practical guide for anyone responsible for executing a plan, achieving a goal, or managing people; in short, everyone with the word “leader” in his/her job description. The audience for As One includes leaders from all walks of life – private, public, commercial, non-profit; and influencers, academics, thought leaders, individuals who aspire to lead, and anyone who has a vested interest in the topic of leadership.

Do you expect the book to become a “management bible” - a “coffee table” book - that practitioners have on display in their offices?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

We hope, and expect, the book to be an oft-referenced resource. It may start out on the coffee table, but it won’t stay there for long!

Question: What is the definition of "As One"?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

“As One” is our term for effective, sustainable collective leadership. It defines the choices that individuals, leaders, and organizations make about how they interact to achieve common goals. As One is a leadership discipline that enables leaders to connect with individuals’ hearts and minds, and channel their energies and actions into collective power. We call this “As One behaviour.”

What are the benefits of adopting the approach? Can it deliver performance improvements in the short term and long-lasting results?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

The As One approach encompasses understanding how to get groups to operate more effectively and engenders a culture where members choose to contribute to the organization’s performance over satisfying individual ambitions. It informs leaders’ strategic decisions by identifying potential risks before they become major problems. It also enables more efficient planning as resources can be deployed to those areas exhibiting the lowest levels of engagement.

As One prompts leaders to ask critical questions, the answers to which will help enable them to take the actions that can deliver short-term benefits as well as set the stage for long-lasting, sustainable performance improvements:

  • Are the conditions in place for my people to succeed?
  • Do my people perceive themselves as part of a cohesive group with a shared purpose?
  • Are my people willing and able to perform the core tasks required to achieve our organizational goals?

How have your ideas been received in the business world? Do they have a wider application?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

Feedback from the corporate world has been overwhelmingly positive. As One is privileged to receive the endorsement of some important thought leaders, influencers, and innovators of our day. It has sparked provocative conversations, triggered thoughtful questions, and generated intriguing new ideas about leadership. The appeal of the As One concept resonates far beyond the business world, and its application has produced positive results in diverse sectors such as financial services, academia, professional athletics, multimedia, entertainment, government, and non-profit. We’ve built a virtual forum at www.AsOne.org to facilitate continued dialogue and enable the global leadership community to share and learn from each other’s collective leadership experiences.

Why did you choose the case studies you feature in the book?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

The As One project team identified well over 100 examples of collective leadership by receiving nominations from a broad circle of collaborators. We had to eliminate some because of the lack of reliable data. For the rest, we prioritized cases that created a balance across geographies, industries, and leaders. We stopped after we had reached 60 because we had achieved sufficient statistical significance for the data analytics.

Who exemplifies As One behaviour?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

The Apple App Store, under the leadership of Steve Jobs, is a good example of As One behaviour. This unrivaled virtual marketplace for iPhone apps is an example of the Landlords & Tenants archetype. Apple (Landlord) maintains tight controls over what is allowed in its App Store. Developers (the Tenants) are incentivized to abide by these rules by the promise of a majority share of revenues on apps sold through the App Store. It will be interesting to see if Apple can replicate the success of its Landlord & Tenants model with its new Mac App Store.

Who is in dire need of As One behaviour?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

Leaders and organizations that have lost the hearts and minds of their people have the most urgent need for As One behaviour. The difficult economic environment of the last two years has caused leaders to shift their strategic direction or restructure their organizations. Many have had to trim their workforces and make substantial cuts to compensation. Still others have merged with former competitors or have been acquired, resulting in a forced change in identity. Battered and bruised by the downturn, the survivors’ psyche is “every man for himself.” In the face of these challenges, As One can help leaders reconnect with their people, forge shared identity, and inspire commitment to achieve collective goals.

You say “putting [As One] into practice is not a paint-by-numbers exercise. There is no precise wiring diagram or recipe book with detailed instructions for leaders to follow.” Is there a method for applying your approach?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

Although the contextual factors may be unique, the As One approach is fairly universal in its application. It begins with a single question: “What are you trying to achieve?”

Other interventions start with an assessment of where the organization is today, which tends to focus the discussion unproductively on the negative experiences that have led to the current situation. In contrast, the As One approach gives leaders permission to start with a pristine slate. In this positive environment, leaders are encouraged to articulate their goals in an optimistic and aspirational context. Leaders who can clearly express to their people the higher intent of their work will have greater success at obtaining commitment to a common purpose . This is the strongest foundation for As One behaviour.

What is the As One agenda, and how does it relate to the archetypes?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

Leaders tend to be very good at expressing their collective leadership priorities in terms of Who-What pairs. For example, “This group of people (Who) needs to do this (What).” This list of Who-What pairs describes what we refer to as a leader’s “As One Agenda.”

Next, the organization’s default archetype is determined, and its applicability to each one of the elements of the As One Agenda is assessed.

Collaboration is not an end in itself. It cannot be applied in broad sweeping strokes across an entire organization. The power of the As One approach comes from the focus on those few priorities where collaboration is critical and will have a disproportionately high impact on overall success. Our aim is to help leaders enhance collective leadership where it counts the most. Essentially, the As One Agenda becomes an important and practical focusing device for leaders.

What are the “three classes of interventions,” and when should they be applied?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

The three classes of As One interventions are:

  1. Strengthen your whole organization’s ability to work As One in your default archetype when it is a good fit with the agenda. For each archetype, we have outlined over 20 specific interventions that can help a leader become even better at that archetype. We recommend leaders ask themselves which of these might have the greatest impact for them.
  2. Overlay a secondary archetype for specific priorities that do not match your default mode and manage both archetypes in a complementary way. This is particularly relevant if a leader faces a significant subpopulation, which subscribes to a different archetype than the majority’s. We recommend leaders adopt some secondary archetype characteristics to engage this subpopulation.
  3. Narrow the field and choose a primary archetype to be developed over time when you do not have a clear default archetype. This is a bit more rare, but you can get an organization without a dominant archetype. Too broad a diversity can result in high transaction costs and inefficiency. In this case, the leader needs to help define the organization’s way of doing things.

What is “Project 10K”?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

With As One, we embark on a continuous journey to advance our collective leadership knowledge and capability. Next steps will include ideas like “Project 10K,” an invitation for people to share their personal collective leadership stories. We know there are thousands of cases all over the world of people choosing to work together, as one, and accomplishing extraordinary things. Project 10K will provide a means for people to learn from and collaborate with each other, and to discuss and develop new collective leadership methods.

What’s next for you?

James Quigley and Mehrdad Baghai:

The As One project team has only just scratched the surface of the potential of As One. Collective leadership is very much a “next practice” domain, and while much work has gone into creating a common language of leadership and developing a rigorous framework for leaders to achieve As One behaviour in their organizations, there is still a great deal of knowledge to discover. Through the Deloitte Center for Collective Leadership, we will continue to advance our understanding of As One behaviour and share our learnings with the global leadership community. We’re also inviting leaders to join us on this collective leadership journey. Register online at www.AsOne.org to share your personal As One story. You can also download our free iPhone or iPad apps to access As One research, stay current with news, or use our archetype classifier to identify your archetype.