Top 25 Models & Theories – Part 5

Here is the final installment of our list of the 25 models, frameworks and theories that every leader needs to know:

1. Levels of Culture – all managers need to understand the culture of the organization to truly get things done. This model (created by Edgard Schein in 1992) provides an interesting way of thinking about culture. Schein believed there were three basic levels, as follows: Artifacts (visual signs of the culture like dress, working hours) that are easily discerned, Espoused Values (conscious strategies, goals and philosophies – today, these are likely to literally be spelled out as the company’s “core values”), and Basic Assumptions and Values (unconscious beliefs, perceptions, thoughts and feelings that are hard to define). The latter category is the true source of values and action – the real focal point of “why and how we do things around here.” The more we can understand and articulate this last category, the easier it is to help our teams navigate the cultural undercurrents of the organization.

2. Groupthink Theory – Irving Janis developed this theory of group decision-making to explain the phenomenon in which group solidarity and cohesiveness is regarded as more important than considering facts in a realistic manner. Groupthink occurs when the group limits the assessment of possible solutions to only a few alternatives, expert opinion is not sought, and the group is highly selective in pursuing information. Generally, Groupthink happens when the team is isolated from contrarian opinions and is run by a directive leader who isn’t interested in opening up the dialog to other possibilities. If you’re in a situation like this, be warned – this usually doesn’t end well for any of the team members.

3. Kaizen – this is a Japanese way-of-life philosophy that spurred the entire continuous improvement phenomenon. Kaizen assumes that every aspect of our lives can be continuously improved, and is the basis for a host of Japanese management concepts such as total quality control, quality circles, etc. Kaizen literally means change (kai) to become good (zen). As a leader, you ought to know the roots of something that you’re no doubt trying to achieve on a daily basis.

4. Four P’s of Marketing – also known as the marketing mix model, this is one of those basic business concepts that any leader should recognize, regardless of their specific discipline. The four p’s are Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.   The idea is to get the right product available in the right place (brick & mortar, internet, etc.) at the right price, in the right quantities. Take a look at how your company is doing – if they’re doing well, they’re probably getting most of this right.

5. Product Life Cycle – if you believe that all managers at the company can contribute to the debate on products, marketing, etc., here’s another classic business model. First introduced by Theodore Levitt in 1965, the Product Life Cycle suggests that every product goes through an introduction phase, then growth, maturity, and decline. Taking a hard look at your own products, and making an honest assessment of where they are on this curve is vital to making the right decisions as a management team. How good is your company at recognizing where your products are in the life cycle? And what is your contribution to that analysis? Once again, there are hundreds of models, frameworks and theories that get used in business every day. It’s our job to know some of the most basic concepts – they help us drive action and achieve results, and they provide a disciplined way to manage the work, organize resources, etc.

These 25 models are some of my favorites; I hope you’ve found something of interest and value in the last 5 articles, and that this prompts you to make your own list to share with your team!