The Brand Pyramid

2 12 2012

Building Customer Loyalty

(Also known as The BrandDynamics™ Pyramid. “BrandDynamics” is a trademark of Millward Brown.)

Inverted Pyramid of Building Blocks

Build loyalty, and revenue, by climbing the pyramid.

© iStockphoto/TimArbaev

When you shop in your local grocery store, there may be some brands that you don’t feel any connection with.

On the other hand, you might be really passionate about other brands. For example, perhaps you drink only a certain brand of coffee, cook with a particular brand of olive oil, or use a certain brand of cell phone because, perhaps subconsciously, these products help to define “who you are.”

If you’re in marketing, then you’ll know how important it is that your brand speaks to your customers on an emotional level. When someone feels a strong positive emotional tie with a product, that emotion creates brand loyalty, and this inspires repeat purchase.

You can use the metaphor of a journey to describe how customers move from just knowing about your brand to feeling loyal to it. So, how do you know where your customers are on this journey, and how do you encourage them along it? Do most of your customers just recognize your brand and drop it as soon as competitors put similar products on sale? Or, does your brand create a sense of personal identity and loyalty with your customers?

The “Brand Pyramid” is a useful tool that can help you identify where your customers are on this journey to loyalty. In this article, we’ll explore how you can use it to increase people’s loyalty to your brand, product, or organization.

According to marketing expert Seth Godin, a brand is a “set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Brands can distinguish products, services, and even entire organizations.


There are several different versions of the Brand Pyramid, but most are based on the model originally created by Millward Brown, a global marketing research and consulting firm, in the mid-1990s.

The firm spent 30 years tracking brand-health studies from thousands of organizations. It then used this research to create its original model.

The pyramid, as shown in figure 1, illustrates the five key stages that customers go through with a brand, starting with basic awareness and finishing with complete loyalty.

Figure 1 – The Brand Pyramid

The Brand Pyramid

Clearly, your goal is to get as many of your customers as possible to the higher levels of the pyramid. After all, the higher people are up the pyramid, the more money they’re likely to spend with your brand. (This is why the pyramid is inverted.)

Let’s look at each level in more detail:

Level 1: Presence

At this level, customers are aware of your brand, but little else. They may have tried your products and services before, but they have little or no emotional attachment to them.

Level 2: Relevance

At this level, customers start to think about whether the brand meets their wants and needs. It’s here that they begin comparing the cost of your products with respect to the value these provide.

Customers begin asking questions like:

  • “Does this brand fit my needs?”
  • “Is it in the right price bracket for me?”
  • “Is it worth it?”

Level 3: Performance

Here, customers begin comparing the brand with others, to see whether it delivers on its potential.

They’re also starting to associate the brand with a specific identity, and they’re beginning to recognize it and associate with it.

By now, the brand is on the customer’s “short list” of brands to choose from.

Level 4: Advantage

At this level, customers have determined that there is a distinct advantage to using the brand, compared with others. They’re also beginning to associate the brand with their emotions and with their sense of self.

Level 5: Bonding

Here, customers have established a bond with the brand. They’ve determined that cost, advantage, and performance are all at levels that they’re happy with.

They’ve also formed a strong emotional attachment to the brand; the brand has become an integral part of their self-image, and helps represent who they are. This, in turn, encourages them to exclude other brands in favor of this one.

Customers at this level are also likely to be vocal advocates of the brand, which helps build further awareness within their family, social, and professional circles.

It’s usually best to assume that customers move through each stage in sequence, from Presence to Bonding.

Applying the Tool

You can use the Brand Pyramid when developing a marketing strategy for your brand, product, or service. When you understand the five stages that people go through while they build loyalty to your brand, you can focus your marketing efforts on leading target customers through them.

Remember, however, that there is some crossover between each of the levels, and it may be difficult or impractical to focus on just one stage at a time.

Here are some strategies and tools that you can use when applying the Brand Pyramid to your own situation:

Presence and Relevance (Levels 1 and 2)

Here, you can use The Marketing Mix and 4 Ps to lay the foundation for your marketing strategy, and to help build awareness of your brand.

Additionally, you’re likely to have different groups of customers, with different wants and needs and with different potential levels of profitability. It helps to use market segmentation here, so that you can focus your marketing strategy on delivering offerings targeted at the distinct groups of people most likely to engage with your brand.

Your customers will also want to know how your brand fits with their wants and needs. Price is important here: if the price is too high, customers won’t buy your product. If the price is too low, they might assume that quality matches the low price.

It can also be helpful to use the Conjoint Analysis tool to measure buyer preferences. This can help you identify what your customers truly want from your product or service; in turn, this information can help you fine-tune your product design and marketing to address these issues. (Kano Model Analysis can also be useful here.)

Remember, there is still little to no emotional attachment to your brand at this stage; customers are comparing price and value. As such, make sure that your marketing strategy addresses these key concerns.

Different customers will be at different levels of the pyramid at different times. The Product Diffusion Curve helps you think about how you can target different customers at different stages of a product’s lifecycle.

Performance (Level 3)

To reach this stage, you need to show that your brand is better than your competitors’ brands.

Ensure that your marketing materials give customers the information they need to compare your product with competing products. Depending on your audience, show your customers how much better your brand or product is by communicating its benefits rather than its features.

If you haven’t already done so, conduct a USP Analysis, which will help you identify your brand’s uniquely valuable features.

Advantage and Bonding (Levels 4 and 5)

To reach these final stages, you need to communicate the perceived further advantages of your brand.

It might be lower in price or superior in quality to your competitors. However, “softer” influences may also be relevant here. Customers might begin to identify your brand with emotions such as fun, excitement, or approval from peers. In your marketing strategy, you need to address and enhance these emotions.

Once your customers have a strong emotional tie with your brand, they’re more likely to advocate its benefits to others in their social, family, and professional circles.

Here your brand likely has a culture surrounding it. Provide reinforcing rewards and incentives to your most vocal advocates, host events that are important to your key customer base, and do whatever you can to reach out to your customers, on a personal level.

Key Points

The Brand Pyramid illustrates the five key stages that customers go through as they build loyalty to a brand, product, or organization. The five stages are:

  1. Presence.
  2. Relevance.
  3. Performance.
  4. Advantage.
  5. Bonding.

You can use the Brand Pyramid as part of the process of developing an effective marketing strategy. Your aim is to get as many customers as possible to the higher levels of the pyramid.


French and Raven’s Five Forms of Power

2 12 2012

Understanding Where Power Comes From in the Workplace

Lead at full power!

© iStockphoto

Leadership and power are closely linked. People tend to follow those who are powerful. And because others follow, the person with power leads.

But leaders have power for different reasons. Some are powerful because they alone have the ability to give you a bonus or a raise. Others are powerful because they can fire you, or assign you tasks you don’t like. Yet, while leaders of this type have formal, official power, their teams are unlikely to be enthusiastic about their approach to leadership, if these are all they rely on.

On the more positive side, leaders may have power because they’re experts in their fields, or because their team members admire them. People with these types of power don’t necessarily have formal leadership roles, but they influence others effectively because of their skills and personal qualities. And when a leadership position opens up, they’ll probably be the first to be considered for promotion.

Do you recognize these types of power in those around you – or in yourself? and how does power influence the way you work and live your life?

Understanding Power

One of the most notable studies on power was conducted by social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven in 1959. They identified five bases of power:

  1. Legitimate – This comes from the belief that a person has the right to make demands, and expect compliance and obedience from others.
  2. Reward – This results from one person’s ability to compensate another for compliance.
  3. Expert – This is based on a person’s superior skill and knowledge.
  4. Referent – This is the result of a person’s perceived attractiveness, worthiness, and right to respect from others.
  5. Coercive – This comes from the belief that a person can punish others for noncompliance.

If you’re aware of these sources of power, you can…

  • Better understand why you’re influenced by someone, and decide whether you want to accept the base of power being used.
  • Recognize your own sources of power.
  • Build your leadership skills by using and developing your own sources of power, appropriately, and for best effect.

The most effective leaders use mainly referent and expert power. To develop your leadership abilities, learn how to build these types of power, so that you can have a positive influence on your colleagues, your team, and your organization.

The Five Bases of Power

Let’s explore French and Raven’s bases of power according to these sources.

Positional Power Sources

Legitimate Power

A president, prime minister, or monarch has power. So does a CEO, a minister, or a fire chief. People holding these formal, official positions – or job titles – typically have power. Social hierarchies, cultural norms, and organizational structure all provide the basis for legitimate power.

This type of power, however, can be unpredictable and unstable. If you lose the title or position, legitimate power can instantly disappear – since others were influenced by the position, not by you. Also, your scope of power is limited to situations that others believe you have a right to control. If the fire chief tells people to stay away from a burning building, they’ll probably listen. But if he tries to make people stay away from a street fight, people may well ignore him.

Therefore, relying on legitimate power as your only way to influence others isn’t enough. To be a leader, you need more than this – in fact, you may not need legitimate power at all.

Reward Power

People in power are often able to give out rewards. Raises, promotions, desirable assignments, training opportunities, and even simple compliments – these are all examples of rewards controlled by people “in power.” If others expect that you’ll reward them for doing what you want, there’s a high probability that they’ll do it.

The problem with this basis of power is that you may not have as much control over rewards as you need. Supervisors probably don’t have complete control over salary increases, and managers often can’t control promotions all by themselves. And even a CEO needs permission from the board of directors for some actions.

So when you use up available rewards, or the rewards don’t have enough perceived value to others, your power weakens. (One of the frustrations of using rewards is that they often need to be bigger each time if they’re to have the same motivational impact. Even then, if rewards are given frequently, people can become satiated by the reward, such that it loses its effectiveness.)

Coercive Power

This source of power is also problematic, and can be subject to abuse. What’s more, it can cause unhealthy behavior and dissatisfaction in the workplace.

Threats and punishment are common tools of coercion. Implying or threatening that someone will be fired, demoted, denied privileges, or given undesirable assignments – these are examples of using coercive power. While your position may give you the capability to coerce others, it doesn’t automatically mean that you have the will or the justification to do so. As a last resort, you may sometimes need to punish people. However, extensive use of coercive power is rarely appropriate in an organizational setting.

Clearly, relying on these forms of power alone will result in a very cold, technocratic, impoverished style of leadership. To be a true leader, you need a more robust source of power than can be supplied by a title, an ability to reward, or an ability to punish.

Personal Power Sources

Expert Power

When you have knowledge and skills that enable you to understand a situation, suggest solutions, use solid judgment, and generally outperform others, people will probably listen to you. When you demonstrate expertise, people tend to trust you and respect what you say. As a subject matter expert, your ideas will have more value, and others will look to you for leadership in that area.

What’s more, you can take your confidence, decisiveness, and reputation for rational thinking – and expand them to other subjects and issues. This is a good way to build and maintain expert power. It doesn’t require positional power, so you can use it to go beyond that. This is one of the best ways to improve your leadership skills.

Click here to read more on building expert power, and using it as an effective method of leadership.

Referent Power

This is sometimes thought of as charisma, charm, admiration, or appeal. Referent power comes from one person liking and respecting another, and strongly identifying with that person in some way. Celebrities have referent power, which is why they can influence everything from what people buy to whom they elect to office. In a workplace, a person with charm often makes everyone feel good, so he or she tends to have a lot of influence.

Referent power can be a big responsibility, because you don’t necessarily have to do anything to earn it. Therefore, it can be abused quite easily. Someone who is likable, but lacks integrity and honesty, may rise to power – and use that power to hurt and alienate people as well as gain personal advantage.

Relying on referent power alone is not a good strategy for a leader who wants longevity and respect. When combined with other sources of power, however, it can help you achieve great success.

For more on how to develop referent and expert power, see Winning Expert Power.

Key Points

Anyone is capable of holding power and influencing others: you don’t need to have an important job title or a big office. But if you recognize the different forms of power, you can avoid being influenced by those who use the less effective types of power – and you can focus on developing expert and referent power for yourself. This will help you become an influential and positive leader.

Apply This to Your Life

  1. Go through each of the power bases, and write down when and how you’ve used that source of power in the past.
  2. Ask yourself if you used the power appropriately, consider the expected and unexpected consequences of it, and decide what you’ll do differently next time.
  3. Think about the people who have power and influence over you. What sources of power do they use? Do they use their power appropriately? Where necessary, develop a strategy to reduce someone else’s use of illegitimate power over you.
  4. When you feel powerless or overly influenced, stop and think about what you can do to regain your own power and control. You’re never without power. Make an effort to be more aware of the power you have, and use it to get what you need, confidently and effectively.

Core Leadership Theories

2 12 2012

Learning the Foundations of Leadership

Leadership label.

© iStockphoto/DNY59

Why are some leaders successful, while others fail?

The truth is that there is no “magic combination” of characteristics that makes a leader successful, and different characteristics matter in different circumstances.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t learn to be an effective leader. You just need to understand the various approaches to leadership, so that you can use the right approach for your own situation.

One way of doing this is to learn about the core leadership theories that provide the backbone of our current understanding of leadership.

Since the early 20th century, four main groups of theories have emerged. We look at these core leadership theories in this article.

Our article on Leadership Styles explores common leadership styles that have emerged from these core leadership theories. These include the “transformational leadership” style, which is often the most effective approach to use in business situations.

The Four Core Theory Groups

Let’s look at each of the four core groups of theory, and explore some of the tools and models that apply with each. (Keep in mind that there are many other theories out there.)

1. Trait Theories – What Type of Person Makes a Good Leader?

Trait theories argue that effective leaders share a number of common personality characteristics, or “traits.”

Early trait theories said that leadership is an innate, instinctive quality that you do or don’t have. Thankfully, we’ve moved on from this idea, and we’re learning more about what we can do to develop leadership qualities within ourselves and others.

Trait theories help us identify traits and qualities (for example, integrity, empathy, assertiveness, good decision-making skills, and likability) that are helpful when leading others.

However, none of these traits, nor any specific combination of them, will guarantee success as a leader.

Traits are external behaviors that emerge from the things going on within our minds – and it’s these internal beliefs and processes that are important for effective leadership.

We explore some of the traits and skills that you need to be a good leader in our articles What a Real Leader Knows, Level 5 Leadership, and What is Leadership?

2. Behavioral Theories – What Does a Good Leader Do?

Behavioral theories focus on how leaders behave. For instance, do leaders dictate what needs to be done and expect cooperation? Or do they involve their teams in decision-making to encourage acceptance and support?

In the 1930s, Kurt Lewin developed a framework based on a leader’s behavior. He argued that there are three types of leaders:

  1. Autocratic leaders make decisions without consulting their teams. This style of leadership is considered appropriate when decisions need to be made quickly, when there’s no need for input, and when team agreement isn’t necessary for a successful outcome.
  2. Democratic leaders allow the team to provide input before making a decision, although the degree of input can vary from leader to leader. This style is important when team agreement matters, but it can be difficult to manage when there are lots of different perspectives and ideas.
  3. Laissez-faire leaders don’t interfere; they allow people within the team to make many of the decisions. This works well when the team is highly capable, is motivated, and doesn’t need close supervision. However, this behavior can arise because the leader is lazy or distracted. This is where this approach can fail.

Clearly, how leaders behave affects their performance. Researchers have realized, though, that many of these leadership behaviors are appropriate at different times. The best leaders are those who can use many different behavioral styles, and choose the right style for each situation.

Our article “Laissez Faire” versus Micromanagement looks at how you can find the right balance between autocratic and laissez-faire styles of leadership, while our article on the Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid helps you decide how to behave as a leader, depending on your concerns for people and for production.

3. Contingency Theories – How Does the Situation Influence Good Leadership?

The realization that there is no one correct type of leader led to theories that the best leadership style depends on the situation. These theories try to predict which style is best in which circumstance.

For instance, when you need to make quick decisions, which style is best? When you need the full support of your team, is there a more effective way to lead? Should a leader be more people-oriented or task-oriented? These are all questions that contingency leadership theories try to address.

The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory is a popular contingency-based leadership framework, which links leadership style with the maturity of individual members of the leader’s team. Other contingency-based models include House’s Path-Goal Theory and Fiedler’s Contingency Model.

You can also use the Leadership Process Model to understand how your situation affects other factors that are important for effective leadership, and how, in turn, these affect your leadership.

4. Power and Influence Theories – What is the Source of the Leader’s Power?

Power and influence theories of leadership take an entirely different approach – these are based on the different ways that leaders use power and influence to get things done, and they look at the leadership styles that emerge as a result.

Perhaps the most well-known of these theories is French and Raven’s Five Forms of Power. This model highlights three types of positional power – legitimate, reward, and coercive – and two sources of personal power – expert and referent (your personal appeal and charm). The model suggests that using personal power is the better alternative, and that you should work on building expert power (the power that comes with being a real expert in the job) because this is the most legitimate source of personal power.

Another leadership style that uses power and influence is transactional leadership. This approach assumes that people do things for reward and for no other reason. Therefore, it focuses on designing tasks and reward structures. While this may not be the most appealing leadership strategy in terms of building relationships and developing a highly motivating work environment, it does work, and leaders in most organizations use it on a daily basis to get things done.

Similarly, leading by example is another highly effective way of influencing your team.

Effective Leadership Styles

As we mentioned above, transformational leadership is often the best leadership style to use in business.

Transformational leaders show integrity, and they know how to develop a robust and inspiring vision of the future. They motivate people to achieve this vision, they manage its delivery, and they build ever stronger and more successful teams.

However, you’ll often need to adapt your style to fit a specific group or situation, and this is why it’s useful to gain a thorough understanding of other styles. Our article on Leadership Styles takes a deeper look at the different styles that you can use.

Key Points

Over time, several core theories about leadership have emerged. These theories fall into four main categories:

  1. Trait theories.
  2. Behavioral theories.
  3. Contingency theories.
  4. Power and influence theories.

“Transformational leadership,” is the most effective style top use in most business situations. However, you can become a more effective leader by learning about these core leadership theories, and understanding the tools and models associated with each one.

Belbin’s Team Roles

2 12 2012

Understanding Team Roles to Improve Performance

© iStockphoto

When a team is performing at its best, you’ll usually find that each team member has clear responsibilities. You’ll also see that every role needed to achieve the team’s goal is being performed fully and well.

But often, despite clear roles and responsibilities, a team will fall short of its full potential.

Perhaps some team members don’t complete the things you expect them to do. Perhaps others are not quite flexible enough, so things “fall between the cracks.” Maybe someone who is valued for her expert input fails to see the wider picture, and so misses out tasks or steps that others would expect. Or perhaps one team member becomes frustrated because he disagrees with the approach of other team members.

Dr Meredith Belbin studied team-work for many years, and he famously observed that people in teams tend to assume different “team roles.” He defined a team role as “a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way” and named nine such team roles that he argued underlie team success.

Creating Balanced Teams

Team leaders and team development practitioners often use the Belbin model to help create more balanced teams.

Teams can become unbalanced if all team members have similar styles of behavior or team roles. If team members have similar weakness, the team as a whole may tend to have that weakness. If team members have similar team-work strengths, they may tend to compete (rather than co-operate) for the team tasks and responsibilities that best suit their natural styles.

Knowing this, you can use the model with your team to help ensure that necessary team roles are covered, and that potential behavioral tensions or weaknesses among the team member are addressed. Also, by understanding your role within a particular team, you can develop your strengths and manage your weaknesses as a team member, and so improve how you contribute to the team.

Belbin’s “team roles” are based on observed behavior and interpersonal styles.

Whilst Belbin suggests that people tend to adopt a particular team-role, bear in mind that your behavior and interpersonal style within a team is to some extent dependent on the situation: it relates not only to your own natural working style, but also to your interrelationships with others, and the work being done.

Also, be aware that there are other approaches in use, some of which complement this model, some of which conflict with it. By all means use this approach as a guide – however do not put too much reliance on it, and temper any conclusions with common sense.

Understanding Belbin’s Team Roles Model

Belbin identified nine team roles and he categorized those roles into three groups: Action Oriented, People Oriented, and Thought Oriented. Each team role is associated with typical behavioral and interpersonal strengths.

Belbin also defined characteristic weaknesses that tend to accompany each team role. He called the characteristic weaknesses of team roles the “allowable” weaknesses; as for any behavioral weakness, these are areas to be aware of and potentially improve.

The nine team roles are:

Action Oriented Roles:

Shaper (SH)

Shapers are people who challenge the team to improve. They are dynamic and usually extroverted people who enjoy stimulating others, questioning norms, and finding the best approaches for solving problems. The Shaper is the one who shakes things up to make sure that all possibilities are considered and that the team does not become complacent.

Shapers often see obstacles as exciting challenges and they tend to have the courage to push on when others feel like quitting.

Their potential weaknesses may be that they’re argumentative, and that they may offend people’s feelings.

Implementer (IMP)

Implementers are the people who get things done. They turn the team’s ideas and concepts into practical actions and plans. They are typically conservative, disciplined people who work systematically and efficiently and are very well organized. These are the people who you can count on to get the job done.

On the downside, Implementers may be inflexible and can be somewhat resistant to change.

Completer-Finisher (CF)

Completer-Finishers are the people who see that projects are completed thoroughly. They ensure there have been no errors or omissions and they pay attention to the smallest of details. They are very concerned with deadlines and will push the team to make sure the job is completed on time. They are described as perfectionists who are orderly, conscientious, and anxious.

However, a Completer-Finisher may worry unnecessarily, and may find it hard to delegate.

People Oriented Roles:

Coordinator (CO)

Coordinators are the ones who take on the traditional team-leader role and have also been referred to as the chairmen. They guide the team to what they perceive are the objectives. They are often excellent listeners and they are naturally able to recognize the value that each team members brings to the table. They are calm and good-natured and delegate tasks very effectively.

Their potential weaknesses are that they may delegate away too much personal responsibility, and may tend to be manipulative.

Team Worker (TW)

Team Workers are the people who provide support and make sure that people within the team are working together effectively. These people fill the role of negotiators within the team and they are flexible, diplomatic, and perceptive. These tend to be popular people who are very capable in their own right, but who prioritize team cohesion and helping people getting along.

Their weaknesses may be a tendency to be indecisive, and to maintain uncommitted positions during discussions and decision-making.

Resource Investigator (RI)

Resource Investigators are innovative and curious. They explore available options, develop contacts, and negotiate for resources on behalf of the team. They are enthusiastic team members, who identify and work with external stakeholders to help the team accomplish its objective. They are outgoing and are often extroverted, meaning that others are often receptive to them and their ideas.

On the downside, they may lose enthusiasm quickly, and are often overly optimistic.

Thought Oriented Roles:

Plant (PL)

The Plant is the creative innovator who comes up with new ideas and approaches. They thrive on praise but criticism is especially hard for them to deal with. Plants are often introverted and prefer to work apart from the team. Because their ideas are so novel, they can be impractical at times. They may also be poor communicators and can tend to ignore given parameters and constraints.

Monitor-Evaluator (ME)

Monitor-Evaluators are best at analyzing and evaluating ideas that other people (often Plants) come up with. These people are shrewd and objective and they carefully weigh the pros and cons of all the options before coming to a decision.

Monitor-Evaluators are critical thinkers and very strategic in their approach. They are often perceived as detached or unemotional. Sometimes they are poor motivators who react to events rather than instigating them

Specialist (SP)

Specialists are people who have specialized knowledge that is needed to get the job done. They pride themselves on their skills and abilities, and they work to maintain their professional status. Their job within the team is to be an expert in the area, and they commit themselves fully to their field of expertise.

This may limit their contribution, and lead to a preoccupation with technicalities at the expense of the bigger picture.

Figure 1: Belbin’s Team Roles

Action Oriented Roles Shaper Challenges the team to improve.
Implementer Puts ideas into action.
Completer Finisher Ensures thorough, timely completion.
People Oriented Roles Coordinator Acts as a chairperson.
Team Worker Encourages cooperation.
Resource Investigator Explores outside opportunities.
Thought Oriented Roles Plant Presents new ideas and approaches.
Monitor-Evaluator Analyzes the options.
Specialist Provides specialized skills.


To find out which team roles you naturally fulfil, or to profile your team, visit

How to Use the Tool:

The Belbin Team Roles Model can be used in several ways – you can use it to think about team balance before a project starts, you can use it to highlight and so manage interpersonal differences within an existing team, and you can use it to develop yourself as a team player.

The tool below helps you analyze team membership, using the Belbin team roles as checks for potential strengths and weakness within your team.

Use Belbin’s model to analyze your team, and as a guide as you develop your team’s strengths, and manage its weaknesses:

  1. Over a period of time, observe the individual members of your team, and see how they behave, contribute and behave within the team.
  2. Now list the members of the team, and for each person write down the key strengths and characteristics you have observed. (You may also want to note down any observed weaknesses.)who
  3. Compare each person’s listed strengths and weakness with the Belbin’s descriptions of team roles, and note the role that most accurately describes that person.
  4. Once you have done this for each team member, consider the following questions:
    • Which team roles are missing from your team? And from this, ask yourself which strengths are likely to be missing from the team overall?
    • Is there are prevalent team role that many of the team members share?

Among teams of people that do the same job, a small number of team roles may prevail. For example, within a research department, the team roles of Specialist and Plant may be filled by several people. A team of business consultants may mainly comprise Team Workers and Shapers. Such teams may be unbalanced, in that they may be missing key approaches and outlooks.

If the team is unbalanced, first identify any team weakness that is not naturally covered by any of the team members. Then identify any potential areas of conflict. For example, too many Shapers can weaken a team if each Shaper wants to pull the team in a different direction.

  1. Once you have identified potential weakness, areas of conflict and missing strengths, think about the options you have to improve and change this. Consider:
    • Whether an existing team member could compensate by purposefully adopting different a team role. With awareness and intention, this is sometimes possible.
    • Whether one or more team members could improve how they work together and with others to avoid potential conflict of their natural styles.
    • Whether new skills need to brought onto the team to cover weaknesses.

Remember not to depend too heavily on this idea when structuring your team – this is only one of many, many factors that are important in getting a team to perform at its best.

That said, just knowing about the Belbin Team Roles model can bring more harmony to your team, as team members learn that there are different approaches that are important in different circumstances and that no one approach is best all of the time.

Key Points

Belbin’s Team Roles is based on nine team roles, categorized into three groups: Action Oriented, People Oriented, and Thought Oriented.

You can use the model with your team to help ensure that necessary team roles are covered, and that you address potential behavioral tensions or weaknesses among team members. This will help you to create a more-balanced team.

You can also use it to understand your role within a particular team, so that you can develop your strengths and manage your weaknesses as a team member

Hartnett’s Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making Model

2 12 2012

Making decision collectivelyteam disegno

You’ve just brought your team together to kick-off a new project. However, you quickly run into problems agreeing the right way forward.

Juan, the most dominant member of your team, immediately makes a suggestion and starts talking about its benefits. Katherine begins arguing with him, claiming that her idea is more efficient. Kerry, who often has brilliant ideas, is too overwhelmed by Juan and Katherine to speak up. You’re soon ready to abandon the meeting!

If you work in a team, then this scenario may sound familiar. It can be difficult to get a group of people to reach consensus on a decision, especially when personalities, viewpoints, and attitudes clash.

In some situations, you can cut through these problems with decisive leadership (our article on the Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model helps you think about when this is appropriate). In other situations, you need to find another way forward.

This is where Hartnett’s Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making (CODM) model is useful. In this article, we’ll look at the CODM model, and we’ll examine how you can apply it when you need to make a good group decision

About the Model

The CODM model was developed by psychologist, Dr. Tim Hartnett, and it was published his 2010 book “Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making.”

The model uses a seven-step process. The steps are:

  1. Framing the problem.
  2. Having an open discussion.
  3. Identifying underlying concerns.
  4. Developing proposals.
  5. Choosing a direction.
  6. Developing a preferred solution.
  7. Closing.

By using the model, you can get everyone in the group involved in developing a solution, so that each person feels ownership of the final decision. This helps you build a more productive, committed team.

The model also encourages people to come up with creative ideas without fear of being judged. This helps the group develop better solutions and make better decisions.

The model is most useful for complex projects and problems, where you need to decide on the best way forward, and where the solution to your problem isn’t clear. However, you can tailor it to a variety of other situations as well.

It’s important to remember that consensus means general agreement, not total agreement. Although this model allows everyone to participate in developing solutions, not everyone will always agree with the final decision.

How to Apply the CODM Model

We’ll now look at the seven steps in greater detail, and explore how you can apply the model with a group.

Don’t feel that you have to work through these steps all at once – sometimes it will take several meetings to complete the process, depending on the complexity of the decision that you need to make.

Step 1: Framing the Problem

In this first step, you need to ensure that you have the right people involved in the process, and that everyone has the information, tools, and resources needed to come up with good ideas.

As part of this, identify and define the problem that you need to address, if necessary using tools such as Cause and Effect Analysis and Root Cause Analysis.

You also need to decide how your group will choose between options in later stages (Hartnett calls this the “decision rule”). For instance, do you want everyone in the group to agree on the final decision unanimously, or will a simple majority suffice? (Our article on Organizing Team Decision-Making looks at several techniques that you can use to make group decisions, and our article on facilitation teaches the skills needed to lead the discussion.)

Step 2: Having an Open Discussion

Next, meet with the group, present the problem again, and encourage an open discussion. Your goal here is to generate as many initial ideas or solutions to the problem as possible.

Use tools such as Round-Robin Brainstorming, Crawford’s Slip Writing Method, or the Stepladder Technique to get everyone involved in the discussion.

If the discussion seems to be in a rut or your team is generating only “safe” ideas, use creative thinking techniques to encourage people to come up with fresh ideas.

Remember that your objective is to get people to think creatively and encourage all ideas, even if these seem impractical at this stage.

As you work through this step, note down all ideas, removing any duplicates. You’ll return to this list in step 4.

An alternative approach is to ask people to submit their initial ideas and solutions anonymously, before you meet face-to-face.

Step 3: Identifying Underlying Concerns

The next step is to identify what Hartnett calls “underlying concerns” – these are the constraints that you need to meet, and the problems that you want to solve, once you’ve made a decision. You’ll then use this analysis to come up with and improve solutions in the next step of the process.

Start by exploring what these concerns are with your group.

Then, identify key stakeholders (including people outside your organization) who are affected by the decision. (Depending on your situation, you can do this by simply brainstorming stakeholders, or you can conduct a formal stakeholder analysis.)

Talk to these stakeholders, or brainstorm and list possible underlying concerns for each of them, again ensuring that everyone in the group participates in the discussion.

Don’t confuse underlying concerns with solutions in this step. For example, if the problem you’re trying to solve is to increase the quality of a product, a solution might be to use better components. However, underlying concerns might be to keep costs to a minimum (for shareholders), or to be able to use the product for longer (for customers).

Step 4: Developing Proposals

Now, using the initial ideas that you came up with in step 2, your group can come up with proposals that address the underlying concerns identified in the previous step.

To do this, go through each idea in turn, and encourage everyone in the group to contribute to developing it into a possible solution.

Again, it’s important that everyone is open-minded about the discussion, that everyone focuses on one idea at a time, and that people don’t criticize any ideas.

By the end of this step, you will have developed initial ideas into more-detailed proposals that you can take forward. Don’t dismiss any proposals yet.

Step 5: Choosing a Direction

You now need to decide on the best proposal to take forward.

Begin by going through each proposal in turn, asking group members to highlight what they think are the pros and cons of each one. Again, make sure that everyone is involved in the discussion.

Finally, decide on the best proposal to take forward, using the “decision rule” that you agreed on in step 1.

See our articles on Grid Analysis, Multi-Voting and Nominal Group Technique for some great ways of choosing between proposals.

Step 6: Developing a Preferred Solution

The aim of this step it to look for ways to improve the final proposal further.

As part of this, look back at the underlying concerns that you identified in step 3. If there are any concerns that you haven’t addressed, look for ways in which you can improve the proposal.

Again, encourage group members to raise any further issues, and amend the final proposal to address these.

Tip 1:
If you’re developing a solution for a complex project, it may take a while to refine and amend your proposal and project documents.

Tip 2:
Depending on the type of decision, it may still not be worth going ahead with the best proposal. See our article on Go/No-Go Decision-Making for more on this.

Step 7: Closing

By now, you should have a solution that most people in the group are happy with. To confirm this, use the “decision rule” that you identified in step 1 to ensure that there is still consensus to move forward with your decision.

Depending on your situation, you can also use this step as an opportunity to ask for everyone’s cooperation in implementing the final decision. This cooperation can be anything from simply supporting others as they implement the solution, through to providing resources and expertise.

Tip 1:
Be flexible in how you apply each step of the process. As we highlighted earlier, in some situations it may not be necessary to work through each step in detail. You also need to be prepared to move back to previous steps, if you cannot decide on an appropriate solution.

Tip 2:
While seeking consensus within a group is important, be aware that people may use consensus as a way to avoid taking personal responsibility for their actions or decisions. Don’t allow this to happen.

Key Points

The CODM model was developed by psychologist, Dr. Tim Hartnett, and was published in his 2010 book “Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making.” You can use it to make better group decisions by involving everyone in developing a solution.

The model is most useful where you need to decide on the best way forward with complex projects and problems, and where the solution to your problem isn’t clear.

There are seven steps that you can follow to use the model:

  1. Framing the issue.
  2. Having an open discussion.
  3. Identifying underlying concerns.
  4. Developing proposals.
  5. Choosing a direction.
  6. Developing a preferred solution.
  7. Closing.

Be flexible in how you apply the model – it won’t always be necessary to work through each step in detail. 

The Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model

2 12 2012

Deciding how to decide

How you go about making a decision can involve as many choices as the decision itself. Sometimes you have to take charge and decide what to do on your own. Other times it’s better to make a decision using group consensus. How do you decide which approach to use?

Making good decisions is one of the main leadership tasks. Part of doing this is determining the most efficient and effective means of reaching the decision.

You don’t want to make autocratic decisions when team acceptance is crucial for a successful outcome. Nor do you want be involving your team in every decision you make, because that is an ineffective use of time and resources. What this means is you have to adapt your leadership style to the situation and decision you are facing. Autocratic styles work some of the time, highly participative styles work at other times, and various combinations of the two work best in the times in between.

The Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model provides a useful framework for identifying the best leadership style to adopt for the situation you’re in.

This model was originally described by Victor Vroom and Philip Yetton in their 1973 book titled Leadership and Decision Making. Later in 1988, Vroom and Arthur Jago, replaced the decision tree system of the original model with an expert system based on mathematics. Hence you will see the model called Vroom-Yetton, Vroom-Jago, and Vroom-Yetton-Jago. The model here is based on the Vroom-Jago version of the model.

Understanding the Model:

When you sit down to make a decision, your style, and the degree of participation you need to get from your team, are affected by three main factors:

  • Decision Quality – how important is it to come up with the “right” solution? The higher the quality of the decision needed, the more you should involve other people in the decision.
  • Subordinate Commitment – how important is it that your team and others buy into the decision? When teammates need to embrace the decision you should increase the participation levels.
  • Time Constraints – How much time do you have to make the decision? The more time you have, the more you have the luxury of including others, and of using the decision as an opportunity for teambuilding.

Specific Leadership Styles

The way that these factors impact on you helps you determine the best leadership and decision-making style to use. Vroom-Jago distinguishes three styles of leadership, and five different processes of decision-making that you can consider using:

Style: Autocratic – you make the decision and inform others of it.

There are two separate processes for decision making in an autocratic style:

Process: Autocratic 1(A1) – you use the information you already have and make the decision
Autocratic 2 (A2) – you ask team members for specific information and once you have it, you make the decision. Here you don’t necessarily tell them what the information is needed for.
Style: Consultative – you gather information from the team and other and then make the decision.
Process: Consultative 1 (C1) – you inform team members of what you doing and may individually ask opinions, however, the group is not brought together for discussion. You make the decision.
Consultative 2 (C2) – you are responsible for making the decision, however, you get together as a group to discuss the situation, hear other perspectives, and solicit suggestions.
Style: Collaborative – you and your team work together to reach a consensus.
Process: Group (G2) – The team makes a decision together. Your role is mostly facilitative and you help the team come to a final decision that everyone agrees on.


This is a useful model, but it’s quite complex and long-winded. Use it in new situations, or in ones which have unusual characteristics: Using it, you’ll quickly get a feel for the right approach to use in more usual circumstances.

To determine which of these styles and processes is most appropriate, there is a series of yes & no questions that you ask yourself about the situation, and building a decision tree based on the responses. There are seven questions in total. These are:

  1. Is the technical quality of the decision very important? Meaning, are the consequences of failure significant?
  2. Does a successful outcome depend on your team members’ commitment to the decision? Must there be buy-in for the solution to work?
  3. Do you have sufficient information to be able to make the decision on your own?
  4. Is the problem well-structured so that you can easily understand what needs to be addressed and what defines a good solution?
  5. Are you reasonably sure that your team will accept your decision even if you make it yourself?
  6. Are the goals of the team consistent with the goals the organization has set to define a successful solution?
  7. Will there likely be conflict among the team as to which solution is best?

Use Figure 1 below to follow your answers through on the decision tree and identify the best decision process for your circumstances. Not that in some scenarios, you don’t need to answer all of the questions.



In general, a consultative or collaborative style is most appropriate when:

  • You need information from others to solve a problem.
  • The problem definition isn’t clear.
  • Team members’ buy-in to the decision is important.
  • You have enough time to manage a group decision.

An autocratic style is most efficient when:

  • You have more expertise on the subject than others.
  • You are confident about acting alone.
  • The team will accept your decision.
  • There is little time available.

Key points:

The underlying assumption of the Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Models is that no one leadership style or decision making process fits all situations.

By analyzing the situation and evaluating the problem based on time, team buy-in, and decision quality, a conclusion about which style best fits the situation can be made. The model defines a very logical approach to which style to adopt and is useful for managers and leaders who are trying to balance the benefits of participative management with the need to make decisions effectively.

rifondare le regole prima delle elezioni

2 12 2012

Noi cittadini mediocri, distratti, furbi, benpensanti, lavoratori, evasori, poveri, ricchi, abbiamo accettato, favorito, combattuto (poco) il degrado collettivo. La politica che abbiamo accettato, voluto, combattuto (sempre poco) e’ affetta della malattia di cui soffre l’intero paese, con l’aggravante di giocare sistematicamente sopra le regole,  di cambiare le regole ogni volta che lo trova comodo.

Questa politica e’ troppo malata per curarsi da sola, troppo depravata per poter introdurre equita’, democrazia e rigore, troppo preoccupata di vincere le prossime elezioni per pensare al paese del futuro e ai suoi cittadini.

Il presidente della repubblica, dopo avere commissariato il parlamento, ora dovrebbe aprire un tavolo costituente per rifondare le regole secondo le quali i partiti dovranno esprimere il loro compito e secondo le quali i cittadini dovranno esercitare il loro dovere civico.  Un tavolo tecnico,  spirito laico e civile…ci sarà qualcuno che ce la può fare!

legge elettorale, funzionamento dei partiti, regolamenti  delle commissioni, retribuzioni e benefici, responsabilità davanti alla legge, finanziamenti ai partiti,  numero dei rappresentanti in parlamento,  norme sui referendum e riprogettazione delle condizioni per l’esercizio della democrazia distribuita attraverso il digitale (internet, TV, smartphone….accessibile per tutti)

La casta di oggi e domani non c’è la può fare: arriviamo fino al parossismo e da li ricominciamo. Presto, prima delle  prossime elezioni o non ci sarà più speranza.