Why George Entwistle had to resign – and what we can all learn about leadership

What conceivable link to procurement does the resignation of George Entwistle as Director-General of the BBC have, I hear you ask?  Actually, there are two surprisingly relevant lessons for any of us in a management position.

I should say that I don’t know Entwistle (I have met some of the other dramatis personae in this, including the new DG and Caroline Thomson, the favourite to get the job permanently – both very impressive individuals). He seems like a decent guy, was obviously very unlucky with the timing on his new role, and he is no doubt very bright and capable. However, he made two big mistakes.

The first is a question of focus. One of the CPOs I most admire once said to me that the key to success was understanding exactly what the priorities were for your very top management, and making sure that as a CPO he was “all over that”. Not just a general understanding, but really detailed “grip” over the topic. Now this individual wasn’t naturally into detail; but he was – and is - brilliant at understanding what the two or three things are that REALLY matter at any point in time.

Entwistle failed here....  (Read the full article here at Spend Matters search4 procurement)!

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Voices (4)

  1. bitter and twisted:

    What secrecy issues meant headhunters were needed?

  2. stephen ashcroft:

    It has been reported that the BBC have paid ‘headhunters’ Egon Zehnder, fees of almost £400,000 plus VAT to fill 3 senior BBC vacancies since 2010. These positions were the digital media director, head of vision and the Director General. The process twice produced internal candidates, one of which was George Entwistle. Egon Zehnder, it appears, recruited Lord Patten to his position on the BBC Trust. The Egon Zehnder website highlights:

    “The ability to make good ‘people’ decisions is today’s most enduring source of competitive advantage. Decisions at the time of recruiting senior talent cast the longest shadow of all.” QUITE!!

    Allegedly, the fees for the DG post were £157,000 plus VAT. If this recruitment process were to be interrogated, it warrants the following questions:
    1.Who awarded the contract to Egon Zehnder? The extent and involvement of HR should be probed, as should their engagement, or lack of it, with procurement.
    2.What role did the Department of Culture, Media & Sport play, if any? It may be borne in mind that DCMS appointed Egon Zehnder to recruit the Chairperson of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten. He is incidentally, a non-executive director of Russell Reynolds Associates, Headhunters.
    3.Who wrote and signed off the person specification, setting out the specific personal qualities and depth of experience required?
    4.Who determined the recruitment process? If it was the headhunters, why didn’t the BBC HR Department do it?
    5.Were advance payments made to Egon Zehnder (remembering the ship for St Helena case)?
    6.Assuming the figure of £157,000 is accurate, who has asked for a breakdown? Do we have
    • per diem fees for the consultants?
    • what overheads were allowed?
    • what expenses were paid, including interviewees travel & hotels?
    • what profit did Egon Zehnder make from the deal?
    1.What specific Contract Terms & Conditions were agreed with Egon Zehnder?

    The answers to the above would be informative. There is, of course, a lessons learned for any organisation engaging headhunters. They usually insist on an up-front payment on retention and typically this is non-refundable. Their operations are cloaked in secrecy, as they use varied tactics to identify candidates, having accessed their ‘knowledge garden’. Would we be expecting too much to assert that a competent HR Director should be capable of finding senior staff for an organisation? An observation, infomred by experience, procurement are sometimes excluded from the process to appoint headhunters. Would a reason be that they would ask too many awkward questions?

    Finally, returning to the BBC fees of allegedly £157,000, at £1000 per diem it equates to 157 person days – who has the audited time expended, data sheets, to clearly demonstrate that under English Common Law, Unjust Enrichment has not occurred? This is not an allegation that it did, simply asking who can demonstrate it didn’t.

  3. David Atkinson:

    I’d ‘vote’ for Andrew Neil for DG, but we’d miss his forensic interviewing on the Daily (and Sunday) Politics.

  4. Chris C:

    Isn’t the root cause here also Purchasing related – the BBC kept its top heavy “management” and cut its staff of jourmalists such that it effectively subcontracted work to an external agency?

    Paxman for DG!

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