Showing all pages regarding strategic development.
Recently I completed a project for a highly respected financial company, renowned for its innovative approaches to staff development, engagement and communication. The company had made a significant investment in a new project which involved some risk and uncertainty but was nevertheless considered essential for the company’s survival in a competitive market. When I became involved the project was faltering. Unease was growing about the likelihood of achieving success or, at least, of making any return on the investment to date. On the surface there were a number of explanations for the anxieties. Staff changes in key areas had led to some lack of continuity, feedback from some of the first trials had not been entirely positive, and there was a realisation that more investment would be required to achieve the original vision. With no prospect of income from the project in the short term, there was a fear that the company had bitten off more than it could chew.
My task was to get the project back on track with a plan for the short and long term and recommendations for addressing the financial concerns. This is the sort of challenge I love! It involves elements of change management, strategic review, market analysis and financial planning and all of those issues came into play here. However, looking back on my experience as a consultant for this company, I am convinced that the most important success factor in this project was in fact communication. As I began to understand the context and to unearth some of the underlying issues affecting the project’s progress, it became clear to me that the expertise, the ideas, the information required to get things moving were right there in the company. But communication had broken down, information was not being shared, grievances were being allowed to fester and confidence was fading. I am not blaming the company for this – even the best organisations find that, in some situations, established practices for ensuring good communication just don’t work. In these circumstances it sometimes helps to bring in an ‘outsider’ to find out what’s going on, get people round the table and encourage them to start talking again. In this project I didn’t need to provide all the answers, the people I spoke to had a good idea of what had to be done. All I did was to listen to views and ideas, co-ordinate the required actions and provide a structure and a plan for the way forward. The result was a more energised, optimistic team with a clear understanding of what was going to happen over the next 2-3 years. The vision was once again achievable.
Good communication is undeniably important in business. It sounds so elementary, I wonder why so many organisation still fail to get it right. If my experience with a company that knows how to do things well is anything to go by, I fear for the others.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the CBI’s proposal that the UK’s top companies should have targets for increasing the number of women on their Boards. Now, the World Economic Forum (WEF), meeting in Davos later this month, has advised its strategic partners that one in every five of their senior executives attending the conference must be a woman. Female quotas certainly seem to be fashionable at the moment.
Apparently women participants at Davos have never exceeded 17% of all delegates (for several years the proportion of women attendees was between just 9-15%). According to the WEF Gender Parity Programme, which produced a report in 2010 on The Global Gender Gap, the introduction of quotas is a way of getting things moving.
The WEF has around 100 strategic partners (drawn from some 2,500 companies attending the event). Strategic partners span all sectors and include companies such as Google, Barclays and Goldman Sachs who are represented at Davos by the highest levels of leadership. I am sure most of these companies will have no difficulty in meeting the WEF’s new requirements regarding women attendees. However, with less than three weeks to go to the Conference, I can’t help imagining that, for some of the strategic partners, the reaction to the WEF’s announcement has been one of panic, perhaps involving a frantic search for a female employee (any female!) who was willing and available to join the male posse and tag along to Davos at short notice.
And of course, as I’ve said before, that’s the problem with quotas. I accept the argument that, until we have improved the visibility of women in leadership roles and positions of influence, change will be difficult to achieve. But forcing businesses to put more women at the top does not address the underlying issues relating to women and their development in leadership roles. Quotas are artificial; they misrepresent the reality and often breed resentment and cynicism about the drive for greater diversity in business. Perhaps the WEF sees this initiative as just one of a number of actions to address gender imbalance on a global scale. I hope so – as a single measure, quotas are unlikely to be effective.
See the WEF report here: WEF Women Leaders Report 2010
JPA’s consultancy services are based on our experience and understanding of people, their development and their relationships in business, particularly during periods of significant change.
Our approach is based on the philosophy that effective human performance in business (including effective leadership) is achieved by a holistic approach to learning which combines knowledge, experience and skills. The opportunities for working on all three together are so often missed, each one being treated in isolation.
At JPA we look at integrated growth: using skills and experience, for example, to develop knowledge in a specific area. Our philosophy is to develop a more strategic approach to organisational development, focusing on initiatives that draw together and utilise all the components of the person, situation and company in order to really make a difference.
We believe it has proven not only to be a more effective, accelerated approach to staff development but also one that has greater equity for the long term.
Jeanette has over 20 years experience in management and was Chief Executive of AMBA for 7 years. She has worked in both the commercial and public sectors. Having completed her MBA (with distinction) at the Cass Business School, Jeanette was asked to join the school's academic team as a Visiting Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour... [read more]
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