New Challenges

As a new millennium dawns, the opportunities and challenges facing organisations are greater than ever. Escalating expectations among customers, employees, shareholders and regulators are creating a tough, competitive environment for businesses. The rapidly changing global and local situation offers advantage for those who have the capability to respond fast. Game plans proven elsewhere may suggest the seed of a way forward but initiatives founded on fragmented, prescriptive approaches have a history of producing disappointing results.

Whether it is at the forefront of innovation in public services or at the cutting edge of the offshore financial world, joined up approaches are being asked for to match the real world complexity of contemporary opportunities and challenges. In this milieu, innovative thinking, team spirit and sustained leadership precede success.


You may be contemplating the introduction of new systems, rethinking core business processes, changing organisational structures or implementing new management processes. Alternatively, perhaps you have concluded that further work is required to envisage the way forward. In each case, initiatives that make most advantage of business potential are likely to have regard for subtle interrelationships of people, processes and technology, (inside and beyond the organisation), without losing focus on the overarching goals and purposes.

Making it Happen

The insights and skills already available to an organisation, both within its personnel and through its network of contacts and associations is already a formidable matrix out of which sophisticated solutions can form. Yet, something more is required to activate latent potential. It must create favourable conditions that enable potential solutions to flourish. It may require, but extend beyond, introduction of new technical knowledge, directly or through study of other businesses. Not all proposals that emerge will be equal to the harsh conditions of day to day operations. Iterative pilots might be used to pare, prove and progressively build up solutions that respond to these subtle interrelationships. But, whether this or some other framework is chosen it will be one that management consciously embrace if the change is to deepen its roots in the business and continue to mature after an initiative formally ends.

Management's Role

Without a score and conductor to lead the orchestra, a potential symphony will be no more than a cacophony. The image evokes management's pivotal role in successfully delivering a major initiative. It demands both creativity (to compose a score) and knowledge

(to understand how players interact and may be conducted). The latter skills include an awareness of organisational dynamics, organisational change frameworks and project management fundamentals. The former draws on methodologies coupled with insight into systems, structures, processes and capabilities. The results, although following established precedents, will be unique to each initiative.

The on going integration of all these aspects is itself a competence that will not be required for business as usual in every organisation. If you review the factors identified overleaf and score each question on a scale of 0 to 5 (not applicable to highly relevant respectively) this will create your first cut assessment of the likely needs of an initiative:

Value at stake

Is there is reason to believe that an opportunity to be seized (or critical challenge now faced) is of such a magnitude that external support is clearly justified?


Does the sheer complexity of the initiative or difficulty in effecting the change suggest a depth of expertise beyond that of general management (lack of clarity on the way forward or work structure are prima facie evidence of this)?

Scope & Size

Is the scope of the initiative so substantial that releasing sufficient management resources will impair business as usual?


Core Competencies

Does the opportunity depend on one off application of skills that are not core competencies (e.g. business process design, organisational design, strategic IT deployment, management process and metric design, performance management)?


Independent Perspective

Will there be significant benefit from bringing a fresh perspective to the business (c.f. the role of the non-executive board member)?


Time Criticality

Is the time scale over which the initiative must be implemented too short to achieve unaided?  (Even where the timing is not predetermined, the opportunity cost of delay should be considered)?


Organisational Learning

The most effective learning takes place in doing.  Can development needs best be met through combining external participants with internal secondments?


Opportunity Cost

Does the opportunity cost of reassigning management from other duties exceed the cost of external assistance (considering potential lost business, increased risks, reduced service quality or new business forfeited)?


Intrinsic Value

Is the intrinsic reward of working on the initiative with external parties so significant that a joint team approach makes sense?


Accelerated Learning Curve

Is external assistance available that will shorten the learning curve dramatically or provide access to knowledge not otherwise available (recognising that any change will still need to be internalised to create an enduring improvement)?





Up to 15

In house capabilities meet requirements

Between 15 and 35

Consider proposals and judge on merits

Over 35

External assistance justifiable or essential

Questions and interpretations are intended to assist in forming a conclusion but other factors may also need to be considered case by case.