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7 Questions with Chris Ward
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7 Questions with Chris Ward
Name: Chris Ward
Current title: Managing Consultant
Current organisation: PDCA Consulting Limited
Chris is the Managing Consultant at PDCA Consulting Limited.
He holds an MBA from Henley Management College and has 37 years of international experience working in various senior operations management roles for, and with, multi-national organisations including Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies..
He has managed both line and staff functions at operational and divisional level with multi-million dollar budget responsibility. His work has taken him across Europe, USA, India, South-East Asia, and Africa giving a truly international perspective to his outlook.
Chris has held senior positions during good times and bad so, as a seasoned operator, he’s well-versed in managing the challenges thrown up by positive, negative, or benign economic conditions.
He has been involved in a vast and diverse array of industries across the globe from aircraft engines to boot polish, helping companies to develop employees, improve productivity and quality, and record significant increases in turnover and profitability.
Chris draws on his experience and expertise across strategy development and deployment, manufacturing, product development, leadership and organisational development, and uses a multi-disciplinary, data-driven systems-approach to build robust processes which underpin corporate goals and targets.
An erstwhile rugby player, Chris now contents himself with playing the saxophone in his spare time, which causes his wife and family both vexation and amusement in (almost) equal measure!
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Establishing a working structure that can withstand the buffeting it gets from internal and external forces. It's too easy to be dragged off course by events, but a good leader sometimes needs to be resolute and keep a clear focus on the outcomes they've set.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have been in manufacturing since leaving school, doing a HND on production engineering at (what was) Preston Polytechnic, then working in production drawing offices at Chubb Fire Security and then Rolls Royce before moving to Kenya as Factory Manager at Silentnight's Nairobi facility. I then took a role as Factory Manager at Sara Lee before being promoted to Operations Director. I came back to Europe to work in Sara Lee's European Outsourcing Group before striking out on my own as a Business Consultant.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
These days it's quite a simple routine. If it's a day working from home I'm in my office by 8:15 checking emails/admin tasks before starting any client assignments and/or marketing activities. This can take all day with me shutting down the office by 6pm.
If I'm on site, I arrive at the client's convenience (sometimes at the start of shift, sometimes after they've got things going) and stay as long as necessary to get the jobs done. At some point in the day I'll crack open the laptop to check emails and answer any missed phone calls (I have an internal KPI to return phone calls within 3 hours and emails within 24 hours with a "service level" of 95% or better.)
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
OK, this isn't a fresh leadership lesson but I was reminded of it's significance recently. Every pair of hands come with a free brain, and a bit of humility from leaders can extract significant value from literally anyone they interact with.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
It's hard to pick just one book, so I reached behind me without looking and took one off the shelf. I picked "Understanding Variation - the key to managing chaos" by Donald Wheeler. It made me realise that many of my peers probably have no real grasp of data analysis and interpretation, and that my own skills were somewhat lacking. Reading Wheeler's book caused me to shore up my statistics capabilities and use data far more effectively. As W. Edwards Deming said "Without data, you're just another person with an opinion.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
By building a culture where experimentation is encouraged and "failure" is treated as an acceptable cost provided the knowledge base of the organisation and/or individual is enhanced. New, capable and confident leaders develop from such an environment.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
In 99.99% of cases, conflict arises from disagreement about the objective (i.e. the destination) or the process of how to achieve the goal (i.e. the journey). The root cause of conflict is NEVER because of a personality disorder or failing. But in the majority of disagreements, the first thought is to "play the man, not the ball".