What Matters Now - Proteus Leadership
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“There's a simple, but often neglected lesson here: to sustain success, you have to be willing to abandon things that are no longer successful.”

What Matters Now

How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation

Last December, I booked into Gary Hamel’s 1-Day ‘What Matters Now’ workshop in Melbourne, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but more importantly I loved his impassioned plea for leaders and organisation’s to create new types of workplaces that are ‘fit for humans’.

Gary Hamel is an international best selling author. He has written 17 articles for the Harvard Business Review. Since 1983 Hamel has also been on the faculty of the London Business School and he is currently the director of the Management Innovation eXchange.

What Matters Now was released in 2012, but having only just completed reading his book, I now understand the importance of his message to totally recalibrate the fundamentals of businesses and the urgent need to redesign our workplaces and the way we lead them.

Hamel argues that many of today’s managers are too busy with a battle of survival, totally distracted by exponential change, fierce global competition and overwhelming technological innovation. Therefore, they are failing to reset the agenda for ‘what matters now’ to work and lead successfully in the new twenty-first century paradigm.

Hamel argues that most organisations are rusted onto a redundant twentieth century model that was invented for the industrial age and they have failed to reinvent themselves for the current reality of what’s required to survive and thrive now. “I think it’s time to end bureaucracy’s 100-year-run as the dominant operating system.”

Combine this redundant model with the deep cynicism many people have of our business and government leaders (because of the greed displayed by ‘mortgaging the future’) we have workplaces where disengagement is the norm that is creating a collision course into irrelevancy!

In ‘What Matters Now’ Hamel implores leaders to embrace ‘principles of stewardship’ where he believes we need to make urgent changes to what is required is a new operating system, and a new way of thinking and leading.

Hamel describes in detail the five paramount issues required, to give readers a roadmap to navigate these crucial changes and determine whether your organisation ‘thrives or dives’ in the years ahead.

1. Values: We need a ‘moral renaissance’ in business and the only way leaders will do well is to do well for others – not themselves. Trust in large organisations is at an all time low, creating an urgent need to ‘rebuild the ethical foundations of capitalism’ by making a commitment to safeguard the future for your people.

2. Innovation: Hamel believes most companies have created a ‘creative apartheid’ where innovation has typically been left to the responsibility of a few individuals and in most cases innovation is, at best, a buzzword! “Control-orientated, top-down structures are similarly toxic for creativity.” Innovation however, is the only true defense against hyper-competition and globalisation.

3. Adaptability: The biggest risk for failure within a world of exponential change is inertia and inertia must be vanquished from our workplace DNA. Successful companies must build an evolutionary advantage by becoming agile with an ability to ‘change as fast as change itself’.

4. Passion: Hamel compels leaders to find new ways to ‘rouse the human spirit’ at work and to design workplaces that allow people to bring their ‘gift’ of passion. “In business as in life. The difference between ‘insipid’ and ‘inspired’ is passion.”

5. Ideology: Hamel argues convincingly that what we need is a new ideology based on better principles. We need to avoid the trap of defaulting to quick fixes or trying to insert better practices or more policies into our businesses that are about increased bureaucracy and control, rather we need to revolutionise and invert the tradition top-down workplace with more freedom, transparency, autonomy and self-determination.

What I love about Hamel’s book is that he is asking leaders to ‘aim higher’ and he presents great examples of successful leaders and organisations (including W.L. Gore, Morning Star and HCLT) that are currently creating workspaces that are ‘deeply human’. Where people want to be part of something greater than an ego and individualism. Where they don’t allow room for mediocrity, toxic managers, poor performance or bad service. Where they create new workplace norms based on transparency, meritocracy, collaboration, freedom, community, while still getting great results and outcomes. “No longer must we choose between organisations that are highly effective and organisations that are deeply human.”

Hamel’s book can at times feel like an ideological rant – but it is not. It is an appeal to all leaders to change the way they think about and lead now and into the future. It’s about ‘future proofing’ yourself and your company in these chaotic but exciting times with a new ideology of self-determination and as he beautifully puts it making workplaces ‘fit for humans’.

I highly recommend Gary Hamel’s book along with his passion and clarity on what truly ‘matters now’. His final quote hopefully will stir your heart as it did mine: “We don’t have to live with organisations that are ethically challenged, inflexible, and inhuman. We can build organisations that are noble at their core, that honor every creative impulse, that change before they have to, stir the heart, and that are bureaucracy-free.”


Proteus Leadership is one of Australia’s premier leadership training and development companies. Proteus Leadership provides leadership courses and management training to a range of industries and assists organisations to build positive workplace cultures, implement change and Create Great Leaders. Proteus also facilitates a range of world-class management courses, workshops, conferences and events across Australia and beyond with the sole purpose of bringing leaders together to connect and grow.

“Our core purpose is to Create Great Leaders that will in turn build Great companies and develop Great teams.”

Richard Dore

Book review by:
Richard Dore - CEO, Proteus Leadership

Gary Hamel