Jethro- The First Management Consultant!

March 9, 2011

It should be no surprise that management consultants, looking to the bible for guidance and inspiration can take pride in Jethro.  Jethro was the father-in-law of Moses, and is arguably the first management consultant!

To wildly paraphrase Exodux 18,  Jethro counselled that Moses would  wear himself out if he continued trying to do everything himself.  He advised Moses not to sweat the small stuff, which should be delegated to men with the right qualities and motivations.  After being trained and shown what to do, such men should then be allowed to get on with the job; referring only the big issues to Moses.  Jethro also explained the benefits of this approach in Moses being able to live a long and happy life.

Arguably, not much has changed in the world of consulting over the past 5,000 years. Jethro’s consulting and mentoring skills  are as relevant today as they were at the time of Moses.   Jethro, correctly:

1. Observed the situation

“…Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening”

2. Recognised there was a  problem

“..what you are doing is not good.  You will surely wear away, both you and this people with you:  for this thing is too heavy for you and you are not able to do it alone”.

3. Recommended a solution

“ teach them ordinances and laws, and show them what to do and how to do it”

“find the best men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place these people in charge, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens”

4. Advised how to implement effectively and efficiently

“And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they shall judge..”

5. And explained the benefits

“so shall it be easier for you, and they shall bear the burden with you.”

I am sure that there is a lot more to learn from the bible, but in the world of management consulting has anything fundamentally changed since Jethro?


Build Businesses, not Hamburgers

March 21, 2010

 

Ray Kroc didn’t get rich selling McDonald’s hamburgers, he got rich selling franchises to other folks who got rich selling McDonald’s hamburgers.

Businesses that sell hamburgers have to be good at two very different things – making and selling hamburgers and building businesses that make and sell hamburgers. How often do we work with organisations that are good at making and selling things but not so good at building businesses?

Kroc found the secret to building the businesses and left it to the franchisees to make and sell the hamburgers. They didn’t have to be good at building their businesses because the franchise showed them exactly how to do it.

A franchise has a system. Without the system inherent in the franchise, neither Kroc nor his franchisees would have gotten rich.

Organizations need a culture of discipline – this means discipline in thought followed by discipline in execution – and both functions need systems for them to work.

Discipline in thought is most often represented by some form of business plan. Almost every organisation has one. But what about the discipline in execution? What about a system to make sure the plan is executed as the CEO thinks it should be executed?

And there’s the rub. While there are many planning systems around, until recently there was no such thing as a “strategy execution system”. This is a system that helps your clients build the business as well as making and selling the hamburgers. If you don’t have the execution system, you are playing Russian roulette with the results.

In recent years several “strategy execution systems” have appeared in the marketplace. Most of them are little more than automated personnel appraisal systems. They focus on employee competencies, not on corporate initiatives. This can be useful, but competencies are not enough – the CEO needs a way to focus on the organization’s strategic initiatives, not just on its employee competencies.

One strategy execution system we like (and we use in our practice), focuses explicitly on corporate initiatives, not on employee competencies. This is KeyneLink® http://www.keyneinsight.com.

KeyneLink is inexpensive because it is web-based, low risk because it is implemented in small bites and is implemented with experienced consultant/partners who know their clients’ business and their own.

KeyneLink helps the CEO to create the strategic initiatives, clarify and communicate them throughout the organization and make sure they are achieved in a way neither you nor he has ever seen before. If there is a more important job for the CEO to do, I’d like to know what it is.

It won’t help much with the hamburgers but it will help the CEO to build the business.

published with kind permission of Chris Jones – partner StrategyLink Consulting www.strategylinkconsulting.com


We forgot to manage the management

February 25, 2010

Click on link below for article by Mick James, the UK’s leading journalist on the consulting industry.  Mick expounds some thought provoking views on management along with a reference to execution management and Keynelink.

This article was originally published in Top-Consultant (www.top-consultant.com)

We forgot to manage the management


BlueNotes- our newsletters

February 25, 2010

Click on the links below to download our newsletters

BlueNotes-Spring2010 – Solvency II, School Building Lesson, Do Accountants Need Coaching?

BlueNote-Spring09 – Credit Crunch Edition

BlueNotes-2007 – Designing the future, stakeholder management

BlueNotes- 2006 – So you want to sleep at night


Strategy Execution Management – turning ideas into action

January 27, 2010

It is a sad fact that most strategies fail to get fully executed despite the recognition and attention paid to change management in facilitating the transition from good ideas into action.

“Our problem is not about the strategy itself, but our execution of it.” Tony Hayward CEO BP (10/2007-BP sets out its Agenda to Close Performance Gap with Rivals)

“The change will not be in our fundamental strategy – we think that strategy is sound – but in our execution.” Benjamin Rosen, Chairman Compaq, 1999.

A McKinsey study in 2007 “How to improve strategic planning” identified five ideas to improve the strategic-planning process, which comprised:

  • Start with the issues, anticipate the big challenges and emergent trends rather than a focus on data driven processes such as budgets and financial forecasts
  • Bring together the right people, that is those who are the most knowledgeable and influential, able to stimulate and challenge accepted thinking with honest open discussions about difficult issues
  • Adapt planning cycles to the needs of each business, get away from a time consuming annual process to a planning cycle that fits the needs of the business which may be only every two to three years.
  • Implement a strategic-performance management system, that assigns accountability for initiatives and make their progress more transparent.
  • Integrate human-resources systems into the strategic plan, by tying the evaluation and compensation of managers to the progress of new initiatives.

The development of an organisation’s strategy is often a tense, intense and exciting process, an opportunity to vent frustrations, put cards on the table and tell it how it is.  Rationally, a strategic review may be undertaken because of competitive and financial pressures and the whole panoply of business guru strategic models can be deployed along with the input from market research, workshops and facilitation from consultants and subject matter experts.  Awaydays, metaphors of burning platforms, project codewords and the utmost secrecy all add to the buzz and excitement. The CEO and Board may set out the aspiration to become an agile learning organization, capable of adapting to changing circumstances and customer demands.  Seemingly, the hard and exhausting intellectual work has now been completed, but the difficult practical work in executing the strategy and realizing its benefits must now begin as the strategy is unveiled for conversion into plans, KPIs and communication programmes.

Bridging the air gap between strategic plans and execution requires practicable frameworks and toolsets to minimise the risk of strategic failure.  Such a framework has recently been described in Kaplan and Nortons’ recent book, “The Execution Premium – linking strategy to operations for competitive advantage”.  However, although the framework describes the work that is required to implement the strategy, it does not provide a comprehensive management toolset to support it.  No doubt, different tools and approaches can be utilised for different stages of the framework.  One of the few toolsets that is available is KeyneLinkTM a strategy-driven execution management system that integrates an organisation’s strategy, vision and values with the daily activities of its people.  KeyneLinkTMprovides a systemic approach tomanaging an organisation in a way that the McKinsey study identified in the need for a strategic performance management system and that is capable of integrating the HR systems into the strategic plan. KeyneLinkTM is an approach supported by a web-based system that links an individual’s goals and objectives to the strategy.   Progress in the execution of the strategy is managed on a regular basis.  The whole point about KeyneLinkTM is to facilitate regular communication between managers and their subordinates with a focus on explicitly cascading strategic alignment down through an organisation.  This systemic approach beats leaving strategy execution to the vagaries of differing corporate cultures and management styles that bedevil large and even small organisations.  Shouting a strategy from the rooftops doesn’t make it happen!

Jeff Herman


What is Financial Management?

November 23, 2009

Financial Management (FM) is one of those terms that is so much a part of the common lexicon  of management speak, that the scope and extent of its meaning is overlooked on the misguided assumption that there is a common understanding.  Nothing could be further from the truth as there are probably as many definitions of FM as there are people who use the term.   However, as a practicable consulting aid, Blue-Plate uses the metaphor of a Financial Management pyramid to illustrate one view of the scope of FM, building up from a sold foundation of processes and systems through to planning, forecasting and managing the business activities.   The hygiene factors of  basic record keeping, regulatory and finance function activities are like plumbing,  only appreciated when things go wrong.  What most businesses  increasingly demand are added value timely and accurate performance management information on which to base future plans and to consider options regarding strategic decisions for the effective use of resources.  FM is far too important to be left to the accountants and must be considered in the context of a set of  competences which are completely integrated into an organization’s business processes, systems, structures and human resource strategies.  Like a pyramid, getting to the FM pinnacle can be an exhausting climb!

Jeff Herman


Spreadsheet Modelling- A Reminder!

October 12, 2009

Blue-Plate consultants often find themselves advising on or building spreadsheet models on behalf of clients. Such models are almost ubiquitous in the financial management arena. Sometimes, however, the advice is more along the lines of “use the systems that already exist within the organisation”, spreadsheets are not always the best solution – but that is another debate. If you use spreadsheets in anger then you already know the rules but this posting intends to act as a reminder on some of the rules we should be following even though it is tempting to take shortcuts:

  • Don’t just start building the model, a third of the time should be spent on the specification and design, a third on building and a third on testing.
  • Put every variable on a variables sheet, all of them! It may be handy to have a 10% overhead variable just next to the results table so it can be changed quickly but don’t, someone else will come along and miss it.
  • And plan for that ‘someone else’ it’s not ‘your’ model for ever, someone else needs to know how it works, including you when you don’t use it for six months! Create a simple flowchart in the front sheet of the model and produce an operating manual – and allow plenty of time for this important activity. If the time is not available then, again, maybe a spreadsheet model is not the most appropriate tool for the job.
  • Of course the flowchart will be easy to do because your spreadsheet obeys the principle of having inputs, calculations and results on separate sheets. To be clear on the last point – don’t perform any calculations on your input or results sheets, and it goes without saying that your results sheets are just that, nothing else.
  • Don’t have any hard coded values in your formulae – there’s a VAT change coming so just change the standard rate of VAT variable once and every formula that requires the application of VAT looks to that cell or the range name called ‘VAT’.
  • VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP are difficult to audit and you can be caught out when you insert a column or row in the source tables at a later date. If you do use them then use the COLUMN or ROW functions to create a dynamic link to the source data or, better still, use a combination of INDEX and MATCH functions.
  • Make your timescale dynamic. Have the start period as a variable and have the column headings as functions. And have the start period in the same column on every spreadsheet.

There is lots of guidance on spreadsheet modelling best practice; one of the most widely recognised is the document of the same name by Nick Read and Jonathan Batson published by ICAEW and easily accessible through the internet. You can also call Blue-Plate but whatever you do, obey the rules and don’t take shortcuts – you’ll be rewarded in the long term.

Stephen Lockwood