The Art of Collaboration

3d business men briefcaseMost plans for success call for collaboration among interested parties. Conversely, there are many examples of conflicts arising from the unwillingness or inability to collaborate. It seems we are programmed to look after our own self-interest regardless of the costs. The way most of us define “successful” communications is by being able to “get our message across”; which is essentially adversarial.

The range of situations is endless. Continue reading

A promise made is a debt unpaid

Stressed Over MoneyIn our work, our firm relies heavily upon clients and colleagues to contribute to achieving successful outcomes. Ideally, these contributions will meet agreed qualitative standards and be delivered on time. Unfortunately, there are more instances of unfulfilled promises than ones that are kept. Ironically, the ones in the greatest and most frequent deficits are service providers.

The promise “debtors” are often persons of high integrity who are fully capable of what is required. Certainly, when I am a “promise debtor”, I am filled with remorse and apologies. Nevertheless, the damage is done, especially when I become a bottleneck in the delivery of our famed “Supreme Service”. I know full well that reliability and responsiveness rank highest on the customer’s definition of quality but there are times that I miss.

In the “old days” of time and motion study, workers did mundane, repetitive work so it was easy to define productivity. Then, a good worker was someone who came to work every day, on time and responded promptly to the factory whistle that signalled times to start and finish. The assembly line kept moving. When I see awards given today for good attendance and long service, it represents a bygone era.

With the ratios of work becoming increasingly focused on the application of knowledge, there are more unpredictable elements in today’s work. Even tasks we might have performed frequently have nuances brought on by new information, which can delay our response times. Is it realistic to expect every promise to be kept? Where is the line drawn when we become unreliable and non-responsive?

We don’t expect perfect performance from professional athletes, doctors, politicians or any other group that earns our respect. We do get concerned if there is a high margin of error for pilots, surgeons, architects and others where public safety is involved and back this up with requirements for additional safeguards. Personal resilience, flexibility and a commitment to continuous learning have now become our assurance of authenticity.

How much of the decline in public trust can be attributed to an erosion of our commitment to bring our best game every time? I have seen many instances where the least productive employees provide orientation to new employees. They say them “Here’s how we do things around here; if you want to get along, you will work at the pace we set”. This always results in a de facto performance standard that is lower than that for organizational success.

What if we are now entering a period where there are no more employees and everyone was a freelancer? In truth, the demands of the marketplace are causing more functions to be outsourced and contracts are more specific about what is to be delivered and for how much.  With this trend, what does your “best game” entail?

Somehow the word “professional” comes to mind. Typically, we associate this term with fields that have prescribed educational and ethical criteria such as medicine, law etc. but it also serves to differentiate from amateurs.

Therefore, I submit that all of us should promise to be professionals in whatever we do. This means that we will strive to be reliable, responsive in our efforts to achieve goals that are mutually beneficial. We will recognize “stumbles” as learning opportunities for self-improvement and actively seek to improve.

God bless.

New Wine in Old Skins

“No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:22, Matthew 9:17)

vineyardThis parable speaks directly to the challenges being faced in our society as we seek ways to make necessary changes to improve our social, economic, and spiritual circumstances. There are those who make constant reference to “resistance to change” as a natural human condition that will predictably frustrate the best intentions. This results in a “why try” attitude that becomes an excuse for not making the effort or contribution that one could make,

Another familiar refrain is “we have heard all that before” and we are still talking years later about the same thing. This, as though poor implementation is a default position that cannot be overcome. What actually occurs is something akin to reading a headline and assuming you can accurately fill in the details from inferences made about previous experiences.

These and many other avoidance clichés, deprive legitimate change initiatives of the propulsion and resilience needed to achieve a positive, beneficial outcome. Since all of us have an ongoing desire to improve our circumstances, I thought it might be useful to look at this Biblical parable for insight and wisdom that can be applied today.

First, let’s say the “old wine” represents the combination of thoughts, ideas, values, rules and actions that led Barbados to achieving a global reputation for being a good place to invest. It is a recognized leader in political, economic and social stability; along with a highly literate workforce. One aspect of this stability is that you find many people who have long tenure in positions of influence and authority, who over time, keep things at a pace that is comfortable for them and those like them. So in many ways, the “old wineskins include many established traditions such as test cricket, working for the boss, and not delegating authority.

The “new wine” is comprised of those who have endured the system and seen where it fails to recognize and adjust to the new realities. In those instances where they find themselves being forced into “old wineskins”, they are leaking out the sides and voice their discontent among friends, the countries’ customers and others who agree that the old system needs radical change. They lack sufficient authority to create meaningful change. They have seen many examples of those who are too vocal or visible with new ideas being cut down or treated unfairly.

There is a saying that “the first rats to leave a sinking ship, are the good swimmers”. As a result, many who remain are loyal to those who have kept them there are unlikely to generate innovation. Circumstances such as these tight economic times, increased lawlessness and declining customer satisfaction, represent the new wineskins of today. The opportunities come from addressing the needs of the country with compelling actions whose benefits satisfy urgent needs.

This will call for vision, courage and persistence.  There is still much to be savoured from the old and an important place for the new. When Jesus turned water into wine, the first thing the wine steward said was: “it is customary to serve the best wine first”. It’s your turn.

God bless.

Hidden Treasure

MC900439588Next week in Trinidad, the Caribbean Export 5th Annual Management Consulting Business Symposium will convene. The Caribbean Institute of Certified Management Consultants (CICMC) will have members from around the region in attendance. This event represents an important milestone in the process of transforming the region’s economic development model to embrace the realities of global trade in services.

According to the agenda: “Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) continues to identify the professional services – in particular the management consulting industry – as a priority niche sector for support interventions.”

This recognition of management consulting as a “priority industry” represents a breakthrough that if utilized, can be valuable in addressing the economic woes of the region. In May 2007, the International Council of Management Consulting Institutes (ICMCI) made a presentation to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, titled: “Improving outcomes from Development Funding by using Indigenous Management Consultants”.

Key points were:

  1.  Using competent indigenous management consultants would improve the efficacy, effectiveness and efficiency of development funded projects, and through these and related involvements increase the capability and capacity the economy of the developing country.
  2.  ICMCI’s core competence is in establishing and running national professional bodies for management consultants, and it is the NGO Mission of ICMCI to build national Institutes of Management Consultancy in Developing countries.  This mission is in direct support of indigenous management consultants.
  3. Management consultancy is a process that occurs with the client. The consultants need underlying skill but must be competent in the use of the process and to have demonstrated to a client’s satisfaction, that the proper behavior and due process is regularly employed.  Only then can the management consultant claim to be competent.

CICMC was established in January 2007 and by November of the same year, managed to obtain Provisional Membership in ICMCI. This required a waiver of the rule specifying that only single countries could become members. It was important to establish a regional body because studies (also published in 2007) conducted by Caribbean Export and the Commonwealth Commission concluded that management consulting in the region was too fragmented too generate to worthwhile foreign exchange.

In truth, there was no vehicle to promote collaboration among regional management consultants. Further, the public, service providers and procurers had no recognized criteria for assessing management consulting competence. The follow-on is that it was also impossible to recognize the value and importance to the development of our region.

As the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between CARICOM and the European Union came in effect, 93% of every dollar spent on consulting services in the region, left the region in the pockets of non-regional consultants.

If you want to get an idea of the enormity of this statistic, consider the fact that management consulting industry earns a trillion dollars per year. Aside from the benefits that can flow from having “indigenous” management consultants increase the value of regional development projects, it is then possible to generate valuable foreign exchange through the export of these services to the rest of the world.

In 2010, CICMC became a Full Member of ICMCI and the only organization in the Caribbean authorized to certify management consultants with CMC (Certified Management Consultant) designation that is recognized in 50 ICMCI countries. I wish to congratulate CICMC and Caribbean Export for their persistent efforts toward developing this hidden treasure. MM900395784

God bless.

I have a dream

Why Martin Luther King, Jr. did NOT say “I have a plan.”

In the past week, I have been reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march on Washington DC; the one where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. I won’t claim to have been present though I was at the time, in Boston, labouring in the community development trenches. I was more inspired by the speech than the march itself. I took pieces of it with me every day and used it to start conversations and to encourage others to believe in what it described.

During the week, I encountered an article (posted on my Facebook page and LinkedIn company page) written by Daniel Burrus, entitled “Why Martin Luther King, Jr. did NOT say “I have a plan.Continue reading