Kolbe Case Study – We Should Have Seen It Coming

Just published in the current edition of the Apex Online Journal – here

This is the story of a venture that failed, the business survived but the fallout and bad feeling between the participants persists. It wasn’t a dental practice, it could well have been and, bearing in mind the readership, I will retell the tale as if had been a clinical practice.

Mike and Neil are two practice owners, for several years they have been running their own successful “one-man bands” with varying amounts of staff support. Occasionally Neil provides holiday cover for Mike and has taken some referrals from him for the specific skills that he has developed. They each have support teams; Mike has a part-time but enthusiastic associate, Oliver and works with his partner, Philippa, who is a hygienist.

Fact Finder Follow Through Quick Start Implementor
Michael – Principal 5 5 7 3
Neil – Principal 4 5 8 4
Oliver – Associate 6 3 8 3
Philippa – Hygienist 7 3 6 3
Rosie – Recep/PM 7 8 3 2

After several months of discussion and enthusiasm they decide to go into partnership together. They will be expense-sharing partners, the business is launched and almost immediately there are operative problems.

Both partners are enthusiastic about using Kolbe in recruitment but make the fundamental error of failing to look at themselves as part of the bigger picture, in fact one of them says “this is bound to be a success we’re practically Kolbe twins.”

A brief explanation of some of the terms before we progress, Kolbe Wisdom is about how people will act and solve problems, the four Conative Characteristics are:

  • Fact Finder – Gathering and sharing of information.
  • Follow through – Sorting and Storing Information.
  • Quick Start – Dealing with risk and uncertainty.
  • Implementation – Handling space and intangibles.

Each Action Mode has three Zones of Operation, which determine how the individual acts when using it.

  • Initiating Zone: how they insist on beginning the problem-solving process.
  • Accommodation Zone: how they respond to people and situations.
  • Preventing Zone: how they avoid or resist problems.

Let’s look at that “Kolbe Twins” optimistic statement, which ironically is one of the keys to their failure. Both Michael & Neil Initiate in Quick Start, Respond in Follow Through & Fact Finder and as they have very similar scores for Implementor will tend to Prevent in that mode.

Through in to the mix the fact that Oliver also initiates in Quick Start and you have 3 individuals who will:

  • Take risks
  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Initiate change
  • Seek Challenges
  • Create Innovation
  • Act on Intuition

Now these characteristics are great for individual entrepreneurs but they need to be balanced by one or more people within the organisation who can Initiate in Follow Through & Implementor.

Rosie & Philippa who both score highly in Fact Finder both end up researching and researching until they come close to “Perfection Paralysis”, Rosie is the only person who initiates in Follow Through and she becomes overwhelmed.

The organisation lacks anyone who initiates in Implementor, there is no one who:

  • Has a Time Zone that is the Present
  • Is grounded in the here and now, who can create quality products that will endure through time.
  • Communicates using props, models & demonstrations.
  • Stores Information by Quality
  • Works with models or prototypes
  • Requires concrete, demonstrable goals that have lasting value.

So, the partners, who were always looking at the future, dominated business meetings with their MOs, the poor old practice manager (who had a financial stake in this particular business) desperately wanting to provide the information gets bogged down in detail.

The irony of this case is that what the leadership needed was someone who had the typical Kolbe score of a “hands on” dentist, who Initiated or Responded in Implementor and either Prevented or Responded in Quick Start, which would have brought the Team Synergy back to the appropriate levels. Unfortunately although those individuals might well have been available the partners’ “rush” was not balanced sufficiently from the outset and failure was inevitable.

The venture lasted as a going concern for fewer than nine months; the episode has left a bad taste in the mouths and soured the personal relationships of most of those involved. The two main protagonists have gone back to being – in the main – their own “bosses” but have learned to have great support teams.

The associate went on to give all his energies to his own practice that, contrary to his instincts, he had put on hold to do what he could for the new venture because he had wanted that to work. He proceeded to write articles like this one in an attempt to prevent the upset and confusion that can be caused when people ignore Kolbe Wisdom ™.

After several months of discussion and enthusiasm they decide to go into partnership together. They will be expense-sharing partners, the business is launched and almost immediately there are operative problems.

Both partners are enthusiastic about using Kolbe in recruitment but make the fundamental error of failing to look at themselves as part of the bigger picture, in fact one of them says “this is bound to be a success we’re practically Kolbe twins.”

A brief explanation of some of the terms before we progress, Kolbe Wisdom is about how people will act and solve problems, the four Conative Characteristics are:

  • Fact Finder – Gathering and sharing of information.
  • Follow through – Sorting and Storing Information.
  • Quick Start – Dealing with risk and uncertainty.
  • Implementation – Handling space and intangibles.

Each Action Mode has three Zones of Operation, which determine how the individual acts when using it.

  • Initiating Zone: how they insist on beginning the problem-solving process.
  • Accommodation Zone: how they respond to people and situations.
  • Preventing Zone: how they avoid or resist problems.

Let’s look at that “Kolbe Twins” optimistic statement, which ironically is one of the keys to their failure. Both Michael & Neil Initiate in Quick Start, Respond in Follow Through & Fact Finder and as they have very similar scores for Implementor will tend to Prevent in that mode.

Through in to the mix the fact that Oliver also initiates in Quick Start and you have 3 individuals who will:

  • Take risks
  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Initiate change
  • Seek Challenges
  • Create Innovation
  • Act on Intuition

Now these characteristics are great for individual entrepreneurs but they need to be balanced by one or more people within the organisation who can Initiate in Follow Through & Implementor.

Rosie & Philippa who both score highly in Fact Finder both end up researching and researching until they come close to “Perfection Paralysis”, Rosie is the only person who initiates in Follow Through and she becomes overwhelmed.

The organisation lacks anyone who initiates in Implementor, there is no one who:

  • Has a Time Zone that is the Present
  • Is grounded in the here and now, who can create quality products that will endure through time.
  • Communicates using props, models & demonstrations.
  • Stores Information by Quality
  • Works with models or prototypes
  • Requires concrete, demonstrable goals that have lasting value.

So, the partners, who were always looking at the future, dominated business meetings with their MOs, the poor old practice manager (who had a financial stake in this particular business) desperately wanting to provide the information gets bogged down in detail.

The irony of this case is that what the leadership needed was someone who had the typical Kolbe score of a “hands on” dentist, who Initiated or Responded in Implementor and either Prevented or Responded in Quick Start, which would have brought the Team Synergy back to the appropriate levels. Unfortunately although those individuals might well have been available the partners’ “rush” was not balanced sufficiently from the outset and failure was inevitable.

The venture lasted as a going concern for fewer than nine months; the episode has left a bad taste in the mouths and soured the personal relationships of most of those involved. The two main protagonists have gone back to being – in the main – their own “bosses” but have learned to have great support teams.

The associate went on to give all his energies to his own practice that, contrary to his instincts, he had put on hold to do what he could for the new venture because he had wanted that to work. He proceeded to write articles like this one in an attempt to prevent the upset and confusion that can be caused when people ignore Kolbe Wisdom ™.

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