Values and joint-leadership


Want to explore the connection between values and joint leadership, the Australian recently published this piece by Kablamo’s Angus Dorney.  You can read it below or at The Australian:

In business leadership, the conventional wisdom is that one person should be the driving force. The chief executive — that almost omnipotent person at the top of the organisational structure — holds the reins. Every success and failure, every brilliant corporate turnaround or dismal quarterly result, rests on their shoulders.

Any alternative leadership structure typically is met with eyebrows raised high.

That has been my experience since joining Kablamo, a digital product engineering firm, as co-chief executive last year, and it’s the reaction I was expecting.

At first I was apprehensive of sharing the chief executive role with founder Allan Waddell, but 12 months on this shared leadership model is paying dividends.

Stepping into a role where I would be making decisions 50:50 with another chief executive was a challenge I had never faced. Not many have.

Not only would I be sharing leadership responsibilities with the firm’s founder — a daunting proposition — but we were also such different personalities, with our own wildly different working styles and areas of expertise.

We even sat a Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument test, a system designed to measure and describe thinking preferences in people. Our scores varied accordingly. Allan was the off-the-charts outlier in creativity and vision, while my results skewed towards analytical and logical thinking.

Human instinct being what it is, the initial reaction is to push away from this kind of personal dif­ference, particularly when you’ll be sharing leadership.

The differences in our styles are so pronounced that we’ve started referring to our leadership structure as the “odd couple model”. While one might think having such different personalities occupy the co-chief executive roles would be a recipe for disaster and discord, it’s one part of the arrangement that has made the model work so well for us.

Because of these differences, we each have clearly defined areas of responsibility. This clear delineation is critical for the shared leadership model to work. If we both had the same strengths and personalities, it would be difficult to divide responsibilities without some measure of resentment from one side or the other.

While the stark differences between us caused initial trepidation, there are key similarities we’ve found vital to making this leadership structure work.

Consider a Venn diagram. In the outer areas of both circles you have all the characteristics and idiosyncrasies that define our differences. But right at the centre, where the circles overlap, is where both leaders must be in alignment. These are fundamental. If the shared leadership model is to work, these are non-negotiable. These are each leader’s values.

For anyone considering the co-chief executive model, these shared values are absolutely critical. In our case, we have complete alignment on the type of business we want to build, how we want to treat people and how we want to be treated in return. We want to build a good business, not just a fin­ancially successful one. We’d rather walk away than build a company with a depressing, transactional culture filled with uninspired people who are there only for the money.

Knowing there’s absolutely no disconnect on these essential values convinced me to take the leap. Leaders who find themselves in a similar situation need to reflect on whether there’s alignment on these core values.

Kablmo named ARN Awards Finalist


ARN Awards Finalist:

Excited to be named finalists in ARN's Innovation Awards for the Smart Technology Category:

Here’s an excerpt:

ARN is proud to announce the finalists for this year's ARN Innovation Awards featuring a stellar line-up of partners and start-ups.

More than 60 partners and start-ups make the final shortlist this year after receiving more than 400 award submissions, playing host to the most competitive and comprehensive selection of leading innovators across Australia.

Reflecting the depth of the local ecosystem, this spans value-added resellers, managed service providers and system integrators, alongside independent software vendors, start-ups and born-in-the-cloud players.

Read more on ARN here.

Neobanks and the coming disruption?

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Check out the full text of Angus Dorney’s take on Neobanks (originally appeared in The Australian, if you want to read it there click here):

When the internet challenged the global media industry, companies were confronted with a stark choice — innovate or perish. Smart people saw the need to prepare for the digital era, and those that successfully digitised their offering stayed ahead of their disrupters.

Despite the media industry constantly managing financial pressures and shrinking budgets, media leaders were quick to innovate because they had to. They drew from a relatively limited war chest and embraced innovation throughout the organisation. In fact, those that failed to do so endured major business losses, including many that were fatal.

The media companies that survived were acutely aware of the need to innovate and actively sought to do so. From a corporate culture perspective, the entire organisation saw the need for technical and product innovation and it was seized enthusiastically throughout the business.

The wide-scale disruption visited upon the media industry should have served as a warning for other sectors. Yet, some industries failed to learn from the lessons of others.

Increasingly, smart people in financial services are passionately waving their hands as the industry finds itself similarly on the brink of a wave of disruption — in this instance at the rise of neobanks.

A neobank is a branchless financial services provider that operates exclusively with customers on digital interfaces, like mobile devices. Uninhibited by the practices of traditional banking, these upstarts are free to weaponise technology to their advantage, in what is essentially a form of guerilla warfare against the incumbents. Much like AirBnB and Uber shook the hospitality and transportation industries to their core, neobanks are set to challenge the banking sector.

In Australia, among the 2.1 million adults over 18 who are looking to change their main financial institution, about 16 per cent of them indicated in a recent Nielsen study that they’d prefer to use a digital bank. This is a five-percentage point year-over-year increase from a previous Nielsen study.

Since the big banks historically operate outside the start-up mentality, and in some instances have been known to dilute the essence of the start-ups they acquire, it’s important to consider what that might mean at scale.

As new entrants to the market, neobanks could be the catalyst that makes the financial services sector sit up and take innovation seriously. It’s critical that when this happens, executives and other leaders understand that innovation can’t happen in isolation. Like the media organisations who got ahead of their disrupters, innovation must be embraced throughout the entire organisation if it’s to have any chance of success.

The shift is already well underway. Neobanks are on the verge of exploding in the Australian market. A surge in applications for restricted banking licenses have been submitted to the prudential regulator APRA, with the first license going to a start-up called Volt. It was the first time in 28 years that a new bank was created in Australia. Start-ups like Xinja and 86 400 will also be important to monitor.

Despite their position as disrupters, neobanks have their own challenges to overcome. As a player in a heavily regulated industry, they can’t afford to forget the importance of network and data security, and governance. While chasing rapid innovation, some fintechs can concentrate too much on their own product features while deprioritising the development of APIs that will enable them to integrate with other products and service providers (including incumbent players). If not managed correctly, this inability to integrate with other platforms can become a major handbrake to future growth.

On the other hand, most incumbent companies in the financial services sector have been slower to innovate because they haven’t yet been forced to. When they do try and innovate, it is not always an organisational priority and is often an experiment made in isolation, separate from the rest of the business.

The finance industry, however, has an advantage that many media organisations don’t — access to massive war chests of capital, much of it within their own control. Whereas the media industry embraces innovation with comparatively limited resources, financial services have significant levels of capital available to invest. All the ingredients are there for the incumbents to lead the trend toward truly branchless digital banking before the newcomers beat them to it, but the big banks must first find the appetite to do so.

Financial services executives need to monitor the nascent neobanks closely and keep pace with their hunger for innovation. By learning from the media industry, they can get ahead of shaping the inevitable change before it’s too late.

Video: Lessons learned from design done wrong

Watch Victoria and Allan talk about why design can go wrong and how to avoid the pitfalls. Read the transcript below.

One thing I see very frequently is UX happens in the beginning, development happens second. And so you do the interview, you do the research, you do the user stories, you have the design, give it to the developer, you walk away and you work on something else.

Now in real life, things change when they get developed so, you would have the journey and you would have all of the principles imbedded in that however, you would start working on one of features making sure that's up to scratch, having the screens, the-the designs and then passing on data onto development and you don't walk away because what I find, more often than not, the developer goes we can do ninety percent but this ten percent it's not really feasible so we would go oh, right let's rethink this so you can tackle this right there and then so you can come up with a better solution. Sometimes the solution is actually better than what you originally came up with. And so you tackle that there, everything becomes unblocked and you can start working on-, on other things. So you have design check-ins. 

Victoria's right. That's exactly like, what happens is-is-is sometimes, you know, th--I think any business where there is silos, you're going to have challenges. Um, if you're not thinking about cross functional and the way make cross functional work. Um, it's very easy to go, 'well, let's just stay in solitude, feel safe and secure and we'll have designers a thing over here and we'll make the best design possible and then we'll have this development over here and the best development possible'. Because cross functional is too hard. If you think cross functional is too hard, you--like you really have not been working in the industry long enough because the idea is if you--you have to make that process work if you want to get the agility and the, and the flexibility that Victoria's described. 

I think any business that is still holding onto um, either ivory towers or the way in each of those disciplines without factoring in the results of the other--of any other discipline, that's when it really falls apart. 

My Business Talks To Allan --Entrepreneur reveals: ‘Why I hired a co-CEO’

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Kablamo co-CEO and Founder, Allan Waddell, recently appeared in MyBusiness to talk about the experience of going from solo to co-CEO. Full story below or you can read it on MyBusiness

It’s said to be lonely at the top when running a business, but as this business owner explains, appointing a co-CEO can be a beneficial way of positioning the company, and oneself, for growth.

Allan Waddell (pictured, left) founded Kablamo, a cloud software development firm, in May 2017, having previously built and sold another business. And, as he admits, he naturally gravitated towards the actual work of the business more than the running of the business itself, especially managing its finances.

For a mixture of business and personal reasons, he decided not to continue running Kablamo alone. So, mid last year, he took the plunge and appointed a co-CEO, Angus Dorney.

My Business spoke with Mr Waddell to find out why he took this approach, whether it has been worthwhile and what insights he can share from his journey so far.

Why did you decide to take on a co-CEO?

Someone wise once said to me, “You’ll be happiest at work when you are kicking goals doing what you do well”. Having already built and sold another consulting business, I knew what my strengths were, but most importantly I knew where I needed support.

When it comes to the technical, product development and sales sides of the business, I’m completely in my element. But I always knew I’d feel more comfortable if I had someone handling the financial and operations aspects of Kablamo.

That’s what makes Angus such a perfect fit; I come up with the ideas and he executes them.

How long did it take you to make that decision?

In the past, I’ve been bitten by having too much undeserved confidence in my leadership team, so since starting Kablamo, I have been aligning myself with mentors and leaders whom I’d one day think could make the leap from mentor to business partner.

Angus is someone I’ve known and respected for a long time, and we were both considering the opportunity for more than a year.

What fears did you have about the move, and how have/are you allaying those fears?

Leadership, and leader change, makes a team nervous. The Kablamo team is made up of incredibly smart people, but smart people naturally have a great deal of self-awareness, which can go hand in hand with self-doubt.

Bringing highly skilled and experienced oversight can sometimes trigger defensive behaviour and fear. Because of this, I didn’t expect the team to trust a new leader immediately, but with Angus, I already knew he would be a great fit culturally, so I could see trust on the horizon.

Did you hunt more widely for the ideal candidate before making the appointment?

I knew Kablamo would benefit from having someone drive the operational side of the business.

Having known Angus for sometime, he was always at the top of my list to share the helm with me at Kablamo — not only is he a great human being, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone with the wealth of experience he has.

He was a perfect fit, both in terms of his skills and how he fit into Kablamo culturally.

What has having a co-CEO enabled you to do so far that you would have been restricted from by flying solo?

Personally, the biggest benefits of having Angus as co-CEO is that I now have more time and our team has more executive skills.

While leading Kablamo by myself, I was in charge of everything — from business management, HR and sales to account management and operations.

Having Angus oversee the operations and financial side of Kablamo gives me more time to focus on building our vision — both from a business and product standpoint — as well as ensuring our culture is second to none.

What challenges have you faced in terms of decision-making and lines of authority, both from employees, clients and even between yourselves?

I anticipated some teething issues with bringing on a new leader, but the key to making this transition run as smoothly as possible was transparency. I was completely honest and up front with the team about why I was bringing Angus on board, and what responsibilities he would have in the business.

Equally, Angus and I clearly defined between ourselves how we would divide the CEO role.

Of course, at the start there were times when it was difficult to hand over control, but by communicating clearly and frequently, we’ve been able to solidify the relationship. When it comes to clients, Angus is well known and highly respected throughout the industry, so he was embraced almost instantly.

What challenges have arisen specifically because of the co-CEO model?

I won’t lie, the co-CEO model did take some getting used to. While I was leading Kablamo myself, I had the final say in everything and my decisions were largely made without scrutiny. With Angus, I now have eyeballs on me and my decisions, which I never had in the past.

While this was the whole idea of moving to the co-CEO model, the change from autonomy to observation was abrupt.

The key to addressing this, we’ve found, is clear and constant communication — if one of us doesn’t agree with the decision the other has made, we discuss it. We don’t let disagreements or clashes of opinion fester.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about the co-CEO model?

This model isn’t for everyone. If by nature you have counter-dependency issues, this power-sharing model will end your happiness.

There are a few key things to keep in mind if you want to explore the co-CEO model.

The first is to have a prior relationship with whoever you’re considering. If you already know much about how they work and how you each get along, you’ll have a greater insight into how the model will work in practice — without this, you’re basically crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

Second, communication is absolutely critical. I can’t stress this enough. You both need to know exactly where you stand, and the only way to achieve this is to speak with each other frankly and frequently.

Finally, sharing for sharing’s sake will inevitably lead to complications. You must have clearly defined realms of responsibility. There will naturally be some overlap, but if you’re absolutely clear on what parts of the business fall under whose control, then each CEO is empowered to own their part.

Why I’m joining Kablamo

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Today, I join a special group of people who are creating a truly amazing company. In a short period of time, Allan Waddell and his team at Kablamo have built a strong reputation in the Australian cloud marketplace – they’re known for delivering high impact customer outcomes, making Agile more than just a buzzword, and for being some of Australia’s smartest cloud and application engineers.

In short, Kablamo is a leader in  a new generation of cloud application partners.

Most enterprise IT service providers say people are their most important asset, but very few practice what they preach. They talk about delivering outcomes for customers but end up only delivering big invoices. They claim to put the customer at the core of their delivery, but don’t take time to really understand their customers’ needs and match these needs with relevant and modern service offerings. In every case, Kablamo is different.

And people are taking notice.

It isn’t often that you get a chance to be a part of the next big thing. I believe Kablamo is that next big thing.  In less than two years, Kablamo already counts some of Australia’s largest organisations as customers. Kablamo’s team are execution engineers, “black ops” code warriors who deliver and educate, working on site with customers and enabling their organisations to move faster via the speed and quality of delivery.  This combination of getting important things done securely and rapidly, whilst investing their customers with lasting cloud knowledge, means  customer teams inherit the capabilities they need to make the most of cloud.  The reputation for delivering, for guiding customers along their cloud journey, is the reason such an impressive list of enterprises already work with Kablamo. 

When I spend time with Kablamo people, I see common traits of humility, accountability, curiosity, creativity and bravery. I see values that align with my own and values upon which we can build a truly world class business.

Today is another step forward in Kablamo’s journey to reshape what customers expect from their technology and cloud partners.  

I am honoured and grateful for the opportunity to partner with Allan, as Co-Chief Executive Officers of Kablamo, and to take this young organisation forward on an exciting mission. I look forward to working with many of the people I have met on my journey so far and I equally look forward to meeting new people and organisations. I have no doubt that today marks the beginning of a fulfilling new chapter in my story, and I look forward to sharing the ride with you all.

-- Angus Dorney, Co-CEO Kablamo

Is your computer a racist? We know AI’s ‘how’ but we need ‘why’

Is your computer a racist? We know AI’s ‘how’ but we need ‘why’

As more decisions are handed over to AI, regulating their behaviour could become increasingly important. Part of the challenge stems from the fact that while we can understand “how” an AI has reached a certain conclusion, discovering the “why” is much more problematic.