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Sunday, August 6, 2017

8 Books Every Consultant Should Read at Least Once!

You probably already know that being well-read is a must in the consulting world. Consultants are expected to have a broad knowledge of management, as well as good understanding of finance, strategy, and communications—among other things. But if you’re looking to up your consulting game , it’s hard to know where to start among the wealth of resources out there. So this week, I rounded up the eight books that have helped me along my consultant journey and career. Whether you’re applying for a job, trying to develop new skills, or just trying to kill some time, these books will help you learn tons more about the field.

1. The McKinsey Way : While this book is focused on a specific firm, the insights and recommendations from it are applicable across the entire industry. The book doesn’t go very deep into specific frameworks or methods and instead focuses on how to survive at “The Firm” and some of the cultural considerations of working and succeeding in consulting. It’s a good read for those just getting into the industry who want to understand more about the mindset and day-to-day work of consultants. Check Out Jobs at McKinsey

2. HBR'S 10 Must Reads: The Essentials It’s important to have at least a basic understanding of major theories and academic thought within the business field, and for this, HBR’s 10 Must Reads is a great place to start. This book compiles the top 10 articles on management and covers topics such as innovation, strategy, analytics, and managing change. Once you finish the essentials, HBR also offers Top 10 reads on specific topics , like strategy or change management, to deepen your knowledge.

3. Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies This tome is an essential read from a technical standpoint and also aids in understanding the underlying drivers of major corporations. If you are new to how organizations are valued, it will walk you through tactics on how to approach it. If you just want an overview on how financial statements tie to the share price and the decision making process of organizations, you’ll get a great overview. And if you’ve been asked to value a company or to gain a deeper financial understanding of organizations, this book is the ultimate reference.

4. Key Management Models: The 60+ Models Every Manager Needs to Know Because consulting is all about structured problem-solving, it’s important to become familiar with tools that you can use to help solve your clients’ problems. The book covers a range of models, from strategic to operational, and provides information on how and when to use each of them. I use it as a quick reference guide when faced with a new client problem or question.

5. Pyramid Principle: I’ve talked about the Pyramid Principle before , as it is one of the most quoted and widely used frameworks for structuring communications in consulting. It essentially explains that, in any communication, you should start with your recommendation, arrange supporting ideas into groups, and then provide detailed evidence in order to effectively support your story. If you have read the Cole’s notes on the framework and want to go deeper into how to apply it, then I would recommend diving into the full book.

6. The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures In the day-to-day work of a consultant, you will participate in a number of meetings, planning sessions, and workshops that require you to explain complex ideas or processes simply. This book gives you tools to do that with the help of of graphics and pictures. I love it as a reference guide when planning a meeting or presentation.

7. Case Interview Secrets: A Former McKinsey Interviewer Reveals How to Get Multiple Job Offers in Consulting If you haven’t heard of Victor Chang yet, he’s a case interview guru who has helped many people secure prime consulting offers. In his book, he outlines how to approach case interviews and provides tips and tricks on what interviewers look for—as well as common mistakes that candidates make. It’s a must-read for anyone going through the interview process.

8. The Consultant With Pink Hair This story about the management of a struggling consulting practice provides an entertaining look at the lives of consultants—working late nights, struggling with client management, and managing competition. While it’s technically fictional, it’s very based in truth, and there is a lot of real learning you can get out of it

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Strategy as 'direction' or strategy as 'plan'. What's your viewpoint?

Strategy as 'direction' or strategy as 'plan'. What's your viewpoint?


Proponents of strategy as a plan asserted that through careful consideration of options, organisations are forced to understand their environments, in turn stimulating new ideas, which ultimately produce economic value (Thompson & Strickland, 1987; Steiner, 1979). This link between performance and planning has not been unanimous, with authors often questioning any systematic link between the two (Shrader et al, 1984; Pearce et al, 1987; Armstrong, 1986). Furthermore, as ideas and best practice rapidly spread, operational effectiveness increases across sectors often reducing the positive correlation between planning and performance close to zero; Powell (1992) calls this the ‘planning equilibrium’.
This view of strategy as a plan is commonplace. Drucker (1974) defined it as “purposeful action”; it is created consciously with a goal in mind prior to any actions (Mintzberg 1987a). More broadly, strategy is concerned with achieving success (Grant, 2016), allowing organisations to focus on what really matters (Sminia, 2014), driving performance (Sminia & de Rond, 2013). For Porter (1991) it is the fundamental core of whether an organisation wins or loses, in order to succeed organisations must create unique and differentiated propositions made up of different activities (1996). Simply put, it is about doing things differently or doing different things from the competition.
The creation of long-term strategic plans can be important, particularly for branded products, set against a backdrop where maintaining market leadership and with it the ability to sustain superior profits is ever more challenging (Gehlhar et al, 2009). However, Mintzberg (1987b) cautions that although strategy is needed to outsmart competitors, which is at the essence of its formulation (Porter, 1979), it can sometimes obfuscate the need for operational excellence, moreover, at times it may be better to proceed without the straitjacket of a clear plan in uncertain waters.
As instability and uncertainty have increased in the business environment, strategy has become less about detailed plans and more about direction. This century has seen a plethora of new challenges and an accelerating pace of change which has meant that strategy has become less about plans and more about options for the future (Grant, 2016). Mintzberg (1987a) calls this strategy as ‘perspective’, it has become more about “an ingrained way of perceiving the world” (p.16) which then sets course for future actions. Williamson (1999) seeks to meld both planning and perspective, critical of the deficiencies in strategic planning’s ability to correctly forecast the future with any accuracy, he suggests combining planning with opportunism. Companies should plan the capabilities needed and new potential markets in order to give them room to manoeuvre, creating strategic options that can be utilised when the time is right.
The change in emphasis from strategy as a plan to strategy as direction does not mean that its importance has lessened, whether adapting to and exploiting digital technology, creating strategic alliances or matching up to the changing demands of social and environmental responsibility, strategy in this context has an increased importance for organisations (Grant, 2016).
In today’s competitive marketplace organisation’s require a constant focus to ensure consistency between internal strategy and the external environment in order to stay relevant and respond to customers’ needs and wants. Indeed, for companies to outperform the market they achieve a sustainable competitive advantage (Aaker, 1989; Porter, 1989), which means that the organisation must create a superior value proposition for its customers. In order to do this the company must have sufficient understanding of its external environment, specifically its target market, so as to be able to create this superior value (Narver & Slater, 1990).
If your organisation needs to evaluate it's existing strategy, or indeed need help in creating either an Organisational or Marketing Strategy in order to compete in today's ever competitive business environment, feel free to get in touch and let us help you compete both now, but also for the future.


‘The only thing that we know about the future is that it is going to be different’ (Drucker, 1973). The change alluded to by Drucker is applicable for all things but is particularly resonant for business. Failure to adapt to change has led to the demise of numerous organisations’ both large and small over the past 15 years (Forbes, 2013). Those companies that have managed to stand the test of time have understood Drucker’s assertion and been able to adapt their business and strategy to fit the external forces shaping their markets. Invariably when thinking about strategy, the word plan is often the first that comes to mind (Martin, 2014). This is no surprise as although the conception of strategy has developed over the last fifty years planning, through the financial budgeting and corporate planning of the mid-twentieth century, was the keystone of strategic management.

Thomas McAlinden & Ryan Lydon

Monday, July 31, 2017

8 silly work place rules..do you agree?

Companies need to have rules — that’s a given — but they don’t have to be shortsighted and lazy attempts at creating order. I understand the temptation. As my company has grown, so has our difficulty maintaining standards. There have been many instances where someone crossed a line, and we were tempted to respond with a new rule that applied to everyone. But that’s where most companies blow it. In just about every instance, upon closer inspection, we realized that establishing a new rule would be a passive and morale-killing way to address the problem. The vast majority of the time, the problem needs to be handled one-on-one by the employee’s manager. When companies create ridiculous and demoralizing rules to halt the outlandish behavior of a few individuals, it’s a management problem. There’s no sense in alienating your entire workforce because you don’t know how to manage performance. It makes a bad situation that much worse. Here are some of the worst rules that companies create when they fall into this trap.

1. Bell curves and forced rankings of performance Some individual talents follow a natural bell-shaped curve, but job performance does not. When you force employees to fit into a pre-determined ranking system, you do three things: 1) incorrectly evaluate people’s performance, 2) make everyone feel like a number, and 3) create insecurity and dissatisfaction when performing employees fear that they’ll be fired due to the forced system. This is yet another example of a lazy policy that avoids the hard and necessary work of evaluating each individual objectively, based on his or her merits.

2. Ridiculous requirements for attendance, leave, and time off People are salaried for the work they do, not the specific hours they sit at their desks. When you ding salaried employees for showing up five minutes late even though they routinely stay late and put in time on the weekend, you send the message that policies take precedence over performance. It reeks of distrust, and you should never put someone on salary that you don’t trust. When companies are unnecessarily strict in requiring documentation for bereavement and medical leave, it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of employees who deserve better. After all, if you have employees who will fake a death to miss a day’s work, what does that say about your company?

3. Restricting Internet use There are certain sites that no one should be visiting at work, and I’m not talking about Facebook. But once you block pornography and the other obvious stuff, it’s a difficult and arbitrary process deciding where to draw the line. Most companies draw it in the wrong place. People should be able to kill time on the Internet during breaks. When companies unnecessarily restrict people’s Internet activity, it does more than demoralize those that can’t check Facebook; it limits people’s ability to do their jobs. 7/31/2017 8 stupid workplace rules that make everyone miserable | Ladders Many companies restrict Internet activity so heavily that it makes it difficult for people to do online research. The most obvious example? Checking the Facebook profile of someone you just interviewed.

4. Banning mobile phones If I ban mobile phones in the office, no one will waste time texting and talking to family and friends, right? Ya, right. Organizations need to do the difficult work of hiring people who are trustworthy and who won’t take advantage of things. They also need to train managers to deal effectively with employees who under perform and/or violate expectations (such as spending too much time on their phones). This is also hard work, but it’s worth it. The easy, knee-jerk alternative (banning phones) demoralizes good employees who need to check their phones periodically due to pressing family or health issues or as an appropriate break from work.

5. Draconian e-mail policies This is a newer one that’s already moving down a slippery slope. Some companies are getting so restrictive with e-mail use that employees must select from a list of pre-approved topics before the e-mail software will allow them to send a message. Again, it’s about trust. If you don’t trust your people to use e-mail properly, why did you hire them in the first place? In trying to rein in the bad guys, you make everyone miserable every time they send an e-mail. And guess what? The bad guys are the ones who will find ways to get around any system you put in place.

6. Stealing employees’ frequent-flyer miles If there’s one thing that road-weary traveling employees earn, it’s their frequent flier miles. When employers don’t let people keep their miles for personal use, it’s a greedy move that fuels resentment with every flight. Work travel is a major sacrifice of time, energy, and sanity. Taking employees’ miles sends the message that you don’t appreciate their sacrifice and that you’ll hold on to every last dollar at their expense.

7. Pathetic attempts at political correctness Maintaining high standards for how people treat each other is a wonderful thing as we live in a world that’s rife with animosity and discrimination. Still employers have to know where to draw the line. Going on a witch-hunt because someone says “Bless you” to another employee that sneezed (real example) creates an environment of paranoia and stifled self-expression, without improving how people treat each other. 8. Shutting down self-expression (personal items and dress code) Many organizations control what people can have at their desks. A life-size poster of a shirtless Fabio? I get it; that’s a problem. But employers dictate how many photographs people can display, whether or not they can use a water bottle, and how many items they’re allowed to place on their desks. Once again, it’s the ol’ “If I could just hire robots I wouldn’t have this problem” approach. Same goes for dress codes. They work well in private high schools, but they’re unnecessary at work. Hire professionals and they’ll dress professionally. When someone crosses the line, their manager needs to have the skill to address the issue directly. Otherwise, you’re making everyone wish they worked somewhere else because management is too inept to handle touchy subjects effectively.

8 stupid workplace rules that make everyone miserable | Ladders Bringing it all together If companies can rethink their policies and remove or alter those that are unnecessary or demoralizing, we’ll all have a more enjoyable and productive time at work.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Adapting to the Future of Work



CMOs can take a proactive approach to preparing the workforce for the tremendous technology-enabled changes required to compete in the years ahead.
Digital technology is having a profound effect on the human side of the enterprise, affecting where, when, and how employees get work done. The results of Deloitte’s recent Future of Work survey confirm that C-level executives view the ways in which new technologies will shape their organizations and their own roles as a topic of critical importance. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of those surveyed say it is a strategic objective to transform their organization’s culture with a focus on increasing connectivity, communication, and collaboration.
Even as more business functions are augmented by new technology capabilities, people remain the most critical asset of an organization. Going forward, those people will be working in a more networked, distributed, mobile, collaborative, and real-time fluid manner. Such significant shifts will demand not only increased adaptability on the part of employees, but deliberate forethought from executives introducing new systems and processes to make sure the transition goes smoothly. Forward-thinking CMOs will ensure that work, increasingly done by human and machine in concert, is coordinated to create maximum value for the company and its employees.
When approached with consideration to the impact on work and workers, digital technologies offer the opportunity to create a more engaging environment for employees and a more adaptive organization for the future. The survey offers a glimpse of what executives expect this future to look like as well as six lessons for business leaders who will usher in the technologies to enable new ways of working and also manage the changes within their own talent organizations.
Pay attention to culture. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of those surveyed believe company culture will be critically important to their organization’s ability to realize its vision in the future. The larger the company, the more important this issue becomes. Just 14 percent of those who responded say that culture has no, little, or neutral impact on their ability to realize their vision and mission—and the majority of respondents were from smaller companies.
Developing a common mission and a sense of belonging in a workforce that is increasingly dispersed will grow ever more important. Just 14 percent of leaders say they are completely satisfied with their organization’s current ability to communicate and collaborate. CMOs and other executives who want to achieve the full value of digital transformations will pay close attention to the development and dissemination of communication around workplace changes. Putting in place more efficient decision-making structures and tools (42 percent) and allocating more employee time and resources to innovation by making current processes more efficient (41 percent) are the two most important changes respondents expect to make within the next two years.
Increase transparency. About three in five (59 percent) corporate leaders say transparency in communications is a critical priority for achieving their organization’s goals. Involving employees in technology-enabled changes will be more challenging than in the past. After all, 37 percent of the global workforce is mobile, 30 percent of full-time employees now do most of their work outside of their employers’ location, and 20 percent of the workforce comprises temporary workers, contractors, and freelancers, according to another Deloitte report. More clarity and openness around the exploration and introduction of digital technologies will help employees adapt to significant and more frequent shifts in their roles.
Manage generational expectations. By 2020, millennials will make up half of the workforce. However, individuals are also more commonly working into their 70s and 80s. As leaders manage a workforce comprising up to four different cohorts, managing across generations will be more important than ever. Nearly four in five (78 percent) executives say generational differences in employees’ expectations will drive an increased emphasis on devolved collaboration, whereby ownership of decisions is delegated down through the organization. The key will be building an environment that supports flexibility and tools that enable all employees to collaborate and exchange ideas easily and transparently.
Measure the business impact. The strategic importance of transforming collaboration and communication is based on the assumption that such advances will yield hard business results in an increasingly competitive, interconnected, and fast-moving world. The biggest benefits executives expect to derive from improved collaboration and communication include identifying and exploiting new business opportunities and increasing rates of innovation (see figure below).
C-level executives spearheading the digital transformation of work can identify the specific business benefits their organizations are targeting and regularly measure. They can then report on key indicators associated with those goals, making adjustments to strategy as required based on performance.
Create context. The way we work in five years may look little like it does today. For example, 76 percent of executives surveyed predict their organizations will move away from email and toward more sophisticated collaboration tools. Nearly three quarters (72 percent) expect a significant increase in cross-cultural virtual teaming technologies. And around 8 in 10 (78 percent) think mobile will be the dominant technology environment within five years.
But new tools alone are not enough. The time that workers spend today answering email (an average of 25 percent of the day) or checking their mobile phones (around 150 times a day) is not necessarily increasing productivity. As leaders sit on the cusp of potentially more sweeping technology-enabled changes, they can take this time to develop the right cultural context for these new tools and adapt their workplace processes and policies to make the most of digital capabilities on the way.
Build networks, not hierarchies. More than 40 percent of respondents expect to place more focus on facilitating the exchange of ideas, enabling the flow of conversations across the organization, and providing greater autonomy at team and individual levels going forward. This shift from a “top-down” to “side-by-side” organizational construct will be a critical component to the future of work. CMOs will play an important role, enabling an empowered network of employees capable of acting autonomously rather than waiting for direction.
—by Stephen Redwood and Mark Holmstrom, principals, Deloitte Consulting LLP; and Zach Vetter, managing director, Deloitte LLP

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How to Conduct an Effective Employee Communication Survey



Surveying employees is an effective first step in fixing communication barriers in an organisation. Even if there are no obvious problems, communication surveys can help get an organisation to the next level of performance.

Benefits in conducting an employee communication survey and acting on the results include:
• improved employee satisfaction
• lower turnover
• reduced absenteeism
• less political infighting
• greater levels of manager-worker trust
• reduced defect rates
• higher customer satisfaction

A well-run communication survey can give you these benefits. However, a poorly conducted communication survey can have the opposite effect. Surveys badly planned, rolled-out and followed-up can actually increase employee cynicism and resistance to change. They can also increase employee turnover and absenteeism. This can negatively impact customer satisfaction and your bottom line.

Employee Communication Survey Tips

So, what do you need to consider before rolling out your survey? Here are some tips.
Question types
Include in your survey questions that require limited tick-the-box responses, such as Yes/No and Strongly
Agree/Agree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree. Including these questions will allow you to perform quantitative analyses that you can use to compare results between different demographics and to
use as a benchmark for future surveys.
However, equally as important is the provision of free form space which affords employees the opportunity to elaborate on the feedback they have given elsewhere on the form and to discuss in detail anything that has not been covered in the other areas of the survey. A good idea is to run Focus Groups with a random sample of respondents after the survey forms have been
collected and analysed. These discussion groups are invaluable in performing a sanity check on your results so far and in teasing out issues that have surfaced in the written survey.

Anonymity
Guarantee absolute anonymity for the people completing the survey and make this clear in the survey
instructions. Some employees will either not complete the survey or give sanitised answers if they believe that their identity will be disclosed with their answers and comments.

Sample size
Should you survey the whole organisation/department or a select group? Preferably, survey all employees as this gives everyone a sense of being listened to. If the organisation/department is excessively large or budget is tight, draw a random sample from each of the demographic groups that you will be reporting on.
If your selection is not random, the communication survey results will not be representative and you will lose credibility with your employees. If a demographic group comprises 50 people or less, you will need to survey 100 percent of the people within that group.

Mode of delivery
If the people completing the survey are small in number and at a single location, then hardcopy distribution will not be a problem. As the number of respondents increases and the locations become more dispersed, more consideration will need to be given to electronic distribution. Think about putting the survey on a local intranet or internet web server.
To make filling out the employee survey form easy for people, have it so that the form can be completed online. If this is not possible, either send the form by email or put it on an accessible server from which people can download it. If your survey respondents are not comfortable
with technology, then be wary of online options and provide plenty of employee support if you decide to go down that road.

Inducements and Reminders
Survey participation rates do not tend to be particularly high, typically ten percent or less. You can dramatically improve on this completion rate by conducting some simple follow-up. As you get closer to the communication survey cut-off date (of course, you will have publicised that date with your survey), send out an e-mail reminder or arrange for someone to call the respondents personally.
Consider advertising a raffle for all survey participants – this will increase the participation rate (especially if it is a good prize).

Distribute results
Once the employee feedback results are in and analysed, distribute your findings first to your managers and then to employees. Withholding results from employees will only breed cynicism and distrust and will make getting a satisfactory response rate from your next survey all that more difficult. Break down your results into meaningful groups, such as by department or by location/site. The reporting groupings need to be small enough that people can identify with the group enough for a meaningful action plan to be developed.
Be prepared for some kickback from defensive managers. Frank employee feedback is both confronting and jarring, especially for those managers not used to it. Use your best facilitation skills to deliver the key messages, or use a professional facilitator to perform this sensitive task.

Follow-up and Rewards
A survey conducted with no plan for action is not only a waste of resources but will leave employees asking why they bothered to give feedback to managers on how they felt. Work with each manager to construct an action plan that they agree with. Remember, it is the manager that will be implementing the communication plan, not you. Get back with each manager three or six months later to review how they are progressing with their communication plan and report the results to the organisation. As you see communication practices improve across the organisation, make sure that managers get rewarded.

Source :  thehrcompany.ie /index.php/blog/how-to-conduct-an-effective-employee-communication-survey/

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