The Miliband Moment

Posted on 11th July, 2016 in Performance, Leadership

For a team and organisational performance professional, Labour’s current challenges are not limited to politics and personalities; other barriers to organisational effectiveness are equally significant.  The ultimate measure of success for the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) is self-evidently an effective opposition, and by extension, winning a general election.  However, by any sensible criteria, the PLP would now be considered a turnaround situation in the corporate world.  I don’t have any formal definition of that phrase but when an organisation has ceased to function effectively with only diminishing resource (time, goodwill etc) available before failure, then it requires massive change through a turnaround. 

The most successful change programmes tend to occur when there is ‘a burning platform’ ie there is no other choice.  Tick.  And they tend to be executed by somebody who is not tainted by association with the current situation; it is difficult to be an agent for change if you bear part of the responsibility for the mess.  Angela Eagle may be a very bright, experienced and competent politician, but she is too close to the current action.    

By way of example, when Lord (Stuart) Rose stepped into a very hot seat at M&S in 2004, characterised by worsening business performance and a hostile bid from (now Sir) Philip Green, he had 2 significant factors in his favour:

  • No association with the current team or situation
  • However, he knew the business very well having spent 17 years as an M&S manager up to 1989.

It seems unlikely that one of Corbyn’s current (or recent!) team can pass the first bar above.  They were either with him, and are directly associated with the current situation, or plotting against him from within, which brings other equally negative associations.  Who knows the party and its business intimately but can come in with the mandate and independence to do what is required to improve effectiveness?  Alan Johnson?  That boat may have sailed.  Tony Blair?  Chilcot may be the final nail in that career, in the UK at least.  Step forward David Miliband… you heard it here first.  Miliband fits the above criteria almost perfectly and in addition has the core competencies required of the best senior executives:

  • Intellect (renowned as very bright)
  • Execution (ran a major government department and an international not-for-profit)
  • Leadership (others choose to follow him)

In the longer run, it may also not hurt that he is highly regarded by the most likely next President of the USA. 

In October 15 (, I questioned whether somebody of Jeremy Corbyn’s philosophical mindset and competencies would have the ability to build an effective team.  The combination of the subsequent 8 months and the fallout of the Brexit campaign has left me feeling rather smug in my forecasting.  Time to ‘double up’.  I predict that only Miliband is likely to turn around Labour.

Whether he has the political desire and skill to pull off a leadership coup from outside the PLP; and whether the wider Labour Party feels enough pain to recognise the burning platform for what it is; that is another matter.  If not, then a very small percentage of the total population in the Conservative Party will not just be voting for a new leader, but for a Prime Minister well beyond the current term.

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