Dan Musson, CEO at AIM - photo by Sarah KeaysDan Musson is CEO of the Australian Institute of Management – AIM – which for 75 years has been “helping people become managers and managers become leaders”.

With 20 years experience in the financial services industry (retail, banking and insurance) under his belt, including senior executive positions in the Insurance Australia Group (IAG), the Bank of Queensland and BT Financial Group, Dan moved into the education sphere as Chief Operating Officer of Careers Australia, where he “fell in love with the value that educators provide to individuals and companies”.

A range of topics

In our conversation, Dan talks about:

  • AIM’s transformation from January 2014 till now
  • How all that change was managed and the significance of consultation and vision for the success of the process
  • The balancing of ideal process against the need for speedy execution
  • Principles of effective leadership
  • Cultural and management changes in the workplace and implications for how training and education are planned and delivered to meet the fast-changing business environment of today
  • The need to re-think corporate training for managers and leaders, from a transactional approach to a more strategic one, for example programs to meet immediate needs such as a particular certification or accreditation, versus a structured approach with a 3-4 year perspective on building management and leadership capability and competency
  • The shift from specialisation to generalisation in education and training – e.g. project management once the province of civil engineers and people in the construction industry, now becoming standard fare for management training.

Driving change – the transformation at AIM

Dan took up his position as CEO of AIM in January 2014, the time of an historic merger between the organisation’s Queensland and Northern Territory, New South Wales and ACT, Victorian and Tasmanian and South Australian divisions.

Dan found himself tasked with leading an organisation which, pre-merger, had “four or five of everything” including four payroll systems and four accounting systems, where the “divisions actively competed against each other”  and “the only thing they had in common was a logo”. In the intervening seventeen and a half months, five websites became one, 485 products were reduced to 85 products and 27 qualifications, and where a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), was previously delivered only face to face in Adelaide South Australia, an MBA delivered online had been approved and delivered, with now as many enrolled online as for the face to face version. In the process, the workforce was reduced by 25%.

The process was not without pain. There was  a lot of hard work, with an uncompromising stance on meeting deadlines and milestones.

Having a manifesto, built in conjunction with various stakeholders, played a key role as a rallying point and an expression of shared purpose.

The big issues

Knowing that Dan talks to a lot of business leaders I asked “What keeps business leaders awake at night?” Answer: how to do more with less.

That led to talking about innovation and productivity and how they relate to and are affected by digital disruption, which is “changing the way we think about our business” and especially about the impact of the pace of change. (See Dan’s recent blog post on digital disruption).

Leadership – distilled

On the qualities of leadership needed to drive transformational change, Dan spoke about values, vision and communication.

“You really need to understand yourself. You need to understand your values, your strengths. You need to stay true to those things and be absolutely clear with those. And people need to not just hear the demonstration of that, they need to see it.”

“Then” he said, “it’s really about having this bold vision, giving people a sense of what’s possible. And many of them will think it’s not possible.”

On communication, “It’s not orations. It’s walk the floor stuff.” Little conversations that make an enormous difference to the individuals, in having a chance to understand why change is taking place and their part in it.

Leadership for the Digital Age

What’s needed is to stay focused on the customer and don’t get preoccupied with technology. “Don’t let technology drive your business. Let customers drive your business.:”

Dan spoke about a conversation with Richard Umbers, CEO and MD at Myer, a traditional department store company dealing with the immense impacts of digital disruption.

AIM is providing:

  • a Social Media Mastery course for senior managers to give them an operational understanding of social media and its implications
  • a program on social media for Board Directors, focusing on strategy, customer interaction, the pros and cons of social media.

For more information on AIM and its programs and events, check out the website.

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).