Archive for September, 2009

The Tipping Point Leadership

September 30, 2009
When people talk about Blue Ocean Strategy they mention the four actions framework, the strategy canvas and the six paths of innovation. Not much is said on how to implement this strategy. The third part of the book of Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne actually emphasizes how to overcome key organisational (cognitive, limited resources, motivation and political) hurdles for execution. Kim and Mauborgne recommend to overcome these hurdles by using the Tipping Point Leadership.
Radical change
The idea behind it comes from Malcolm Gladwell. He wrote ‘The Tipping Point’ in which he tells the story on the New York City Police Department (NYPD). The NYPD executed a blue ocean strategy in the 1990s in the public sector. Bill Bratton, police commissioner at the time, turned New York in less than two years and without an increase in his budget into the safest large city in the United States. He faces all four hurdles that managers consistently claim limit their ability to execute blue ocean strategy: the cognitive hurdle that blinds employees from seeing that radical change is necessary; the resource hurdle that is endemic in firms; the motivational hurdle that discourages and demoralises staff; and the political hurdle of internal and external resistance to change.

Tipping point leadership hinges on the insight that in any organisation, fundamental changes can happen quickly when the beliefs and energies of a critical mass of people create an epidemic movement toward an idea. Key to unlocking an epidemic movement is the right intervention – at just the right time – this can start a cascade of change. Little things can make a big difference. There are people, acts and activities that exercise a disproportionate influence on performance. If you want to implement change in your company Gladwell mentions to only focus on: connectors (extremely social people with a lot of connections), mavens (information brokers, always sharing and trading what they know) and salesmen (not necessary salespeople but charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills).

Cultural dimensions

According to me there is a lot more to if for implementing change than what is written above. In 2001 Geert Hofstede published a book on cultural dimensions. He indicates that an organisation with a culture that scores high on masculinity, power distance and uncertainty avoidance are in disadvantage in moving the organisation toward innovation and change. This might even create set backs in developing innovative products and services and being responsive in changes toward new customer values which will cause delays in generating competitive advantage.

When looking at the current globalisation trend as a company you better don’t have a very rigid organisational structure. You want one that allows you to adapt and be flexible. “The idea of a standard operating procedure, which is decided at the top and then relentlessly executed and carried out by those on the bottom, doesn’t make sense in an environment where you need a lot of flexibility and responsiveness”(Hammer, 1997: 96). A management culture is recommended with characteristics as ”an orientation towards innovation, change and personal responsibility, and at the same time group cooperation contains a certain degree of selflessness in order to focus on the customer” (Hammer, 1997: 101). This management culture we mainly see in the UK, in some of the Scandinavian countries and luckily in the Benelux.


Kim, C. and Mauborgne R. (2005) Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant.

Gladwell, M. (2000) The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Hammer, M. (1996) Beyond the end of management in Rethinking the Future: rethinking business, principles, competition, control, leadership, markets and the world, edited by Rowan Gibson
Hofstede, G. (2001) Culture’s consequences: comparing values, behaviours, institutions and organizations across nations 2nd ed London: Sage