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What the Boss Wants from You

Thomas A. Stewart

14 Harvard Business Review

April 2007

Robert Meganck

AST AUTUMN I was invited to sit in on a meeting of a group called the G50, which comprises youngish executives who report to a CEO and who might legitimately aspire to be a CEO. Larry Bossidy was there with them. Ive known Larry for more than 15 years, from when he was vice chairman of General Electric, then as CEO of AlliedSignal, and now in his highly productive retirement. Once when I was interviewing him, I confessed to having forgotten what working capital is. Larry positively lit up, scooted around his desk, grabbed a piece of paper, and taught me. He is like that; hes a loosen-your-tie-and-lets-x-this kind of guy. With the G50 group, Larry shared what he described as the compact between a boss and a direct report. The compact is about behavior, not character traits. As far as hes concerned, such traits as integrity and fairness are so important that they are table stakes, and leadership thinkers need to focus more on the reciprocal actions between a leader and a follower. He got right down to business: If I were your boss, he said, here are eight behaviors I would expect of you. Then he went on, And here is what I think you should expect from your leader. Ive never seen a group of executives react as we did. Every one of us bent over our notebooks, writing furiously, as if a professor had said, Here is what will be on the exam; you might want to write it down. A couple of days later, I wrote Larry and suggested we develop his talk into an article. He said yes; senior editor Ellen Peebles said yes, too. The result, What Your Leader Expects of You, is the lead article in this issue. You dont have to write down what he said because Larry did it for you. But it will be on the exam. At AlliedSignal, Bossidy was one of the rst big-company CEOs to experiment with the then-newfangled notion of process management: the idea that horizontal processes (such as the sequence of steps from accepting an order to fullling it) could be managed just as functions are and, indeed, that companies might even be managed along process lines. Process management has come a long way since then, and no one has played a greater role in its development than Michael Hammer. The Process Audit, Hammers article in this

issue, is a major advance in the eld. For the last ve years, Hammer has been working with a consortium of companies to develop a framework for creating and sustaining high-performance processes. How, the group asked, can process management move beyond experimentation, anecdote, and lessons learned to become a more fully grown management discipline? The answer Hammer and his colleagues developed, and then tested on themselves, is a maturity model, which allows com panies to evaluate business processes in terms of specic attributes of their design, management, stafng, measurement systems, and infrastructure. The result of a process audit is, rst, that business leaders can truly and objectively understand how capable a given process is and where the process is strong and where weak. Second, of course, a process audit is a blueprint for change and improvement. The road to process management is essentially unmapped, Hammer told me last summer. No more. Every organization walks strategic ne lines. At HBR, we try to balance timeliness and timelessness. That is, we want to help you solve your toughest problems, the ones vexing you now, but we want to do so by publishing work of tested and enduring value. To support that goal, we and the McKinsey Foundation honor the best article published in HBR each year, as determined by a panel of distinguished judges from the academic and business worlds. For 2006, the 48th McKinsey Award goes to Strategy and Society: The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility by Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer, with Gary Hamels The Why, What, and How of Management Innovation as runnerup. You can read about these articles on page 53. Even better, you can read the articles themselves in 2006s December and February issues, and subscribers can read them online at