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Using Management Methodologies, Tools and Techniques
By Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas

Many organizations adopt a variety of management approaches, methodologies, tools and techniques for bringing about significant change. However, subsequent experience of their use suggests a considerable gap between expectations and outcomes when they are used in particular corporate contexts.

Many ‘change management’ approaches and techniques are products of particular sets of circumstances. How relevant are they to contemporary concerns? How could or should they be used to better effect?

These and related questions were explored during an extensive and international investigation of corporate transformation experience and practice. The results are summarized in ‘The Future of the Organization: Achieving Excellence through Business Transformation’. While widespread frustration was encountered, we may be closer to success than many have realised.

But first we need to put an unhealthy obsession with standard approaches, tools and techniques to one side. They should be an aid to thinking, rather than a substitute for it. Careful selection according to relevance is essential. More thought is sometimes devoted to the choice of tool than to the selection of the problem to address.

Too many applications of existing approaches and tools are concerned with working people harder or the depressing task of downsizing, rightsizing or reducing the organization to its ‘core’. The roots of most of the original ideas behind the innovations examined in the course of preparing ‘The Future of the Organization’ generally lay outside of the world of work, when seeing a link or connection caused someone to ask a simple, yet fundamental, question. Instead of trapping their organizations within a descending spiral of cost-cutting and despair, their proponents focused upon opportunities and capabilities that could sustain a positive spiral of growth and development.

Those applying management tools tend to focus upon the more visible ‘formal’ factors. Thus processes are documented and re-engineered, and organization charts are redrawn to reflect the latest restructuring. The trickier ‘behavioural’ or ‘informal’ arena of attitudes, feelings and values, is often avoided. Changing the architecture of the corporation may have little impact upon its ethos, culture and soul.

Standard are dangerous when used as an alternative for careful thought about what would be best in a particular context. Too much attention is devoted to ‘tried and tested’ tools and existing approaches and activities. Identifying missing elements and devising and adopting new approaches may have greater relevance to bringing about what ought to be.

People in pioneer organizations make the transition from consumers to producers of management tools and techniques in order to address the distinctive features of their own situations and circumstances. At some point companies aspiring to market leadership develop new approaches rather than absorb, consume or improve existing approaches. They create rather than imitate.

We need the courage to formulate our own philosophies of business and develop our own tools and approaches. Inspiration should be sought from what is simple yet fundamental, and from within rather than from what is trendy. Proactive and flexible innovators and users initiate trends, fashions and opportunities. They have vision and purpose, and adopt pragmatic criteria for development and selection and adapt to changing requirements and contexts.

Too many people are still victims rather than beneficiaries of restructuring and re-engineering. They work ever harder rather than more effectively on the things which really matter. They lack time for reflection. People who ‘rush about’ sometimes fail to stay in one place long enough to think issues through or make an impact. The Buddha evolved his philosophy by sitting under a tree and thinking. Individual and corporate self-awareness and self-knowledge can help each to establish what they are particularly good at.

It is what we apply management approaches to and for what ends that generally determines whether or not they bite us. The rationale of organizations should be to develop and harness the potential and capabilities of both individuals and teams, and to apply collective capability and commitment to those activities that deliver value to customers and achieve business objectives’. ‘BPR’ could be undertaken to re-engineer learning processes to improve the quality of working life, introduce new ways of working or learning, widen job opportunities or help create a learning organization.

Tools that encourage learning and development are especially valuable. Shared learning approaches and tools can help to hold groups and networks together. Their refinement and development can become a key benefit of network membership.

Commitment to learning and change, with emphasis upon empathy, openness, trust and tolerance, and knowledge, capability, and competence can enable renewal and relevance in an uncertain, insecure and transient world. These are the very areas often most undermined by corporate change programmes.

Learning can be a critical core competence. The support of learning or transformation partners can help an organization identify and overcome barriers to learning. They can advise on appropriate learning approaches and technologies and generally help to assess and improve the quality of individual, group and organizational learning. Shared learning across functional, project group, business unit and organisational boundaries can be particularly beneficial.

We should stress the fun of shared learning and future discovery rather than dwell on the frustration, disappointment and pain of past restructuring. People should be encouraged to work and learn in whatever ways suit their circumstances and preferences, match their aptitudes and allow them to give of their best. Social creatures thrive on trust, and the interaction and interdependence that allow individuals to create and negotiate roles that enable them to contribute while being true to themselves.

Mature people seek environments that foster creativity, encourage responsible risk taking, and enable them to grow and develop. Variety, tailoring and the tolerance of very different approaches is often the key to corporate success and individual fulfillment.

Building a community of people who are open minded and free thinking may be a more sensible strategy than the adoption of a complete framework such as quality that may end up acting as a protective cocoon. Many people throughout the ages would not have been innovators if they had been equipped with a standard tool-kit that caused them to look at the world and its problems in the same way as everyone else. They had the courage to attract or create whatever capability and competencies are relevant to the opportunities they define and the markets their imaginations create.

In conclusion, the emphasis should be upon values and relationships roles, competencies and behaviours rather then procedures and structures; flexibility and intuition rather than prescriptive and mechanical approaches, the fostering of diversity and creativity rather than the enforcement of standards; learning rather than control. Management also needs to be holistic to understand interrelationships between elements and assemble the combination of them that will deliver multiple objectives and longer-term goals such as renewal and transformation. People should be beneficiaries of change and not its victims.

The options, examples and opportunities examined in the course of preparing ‘The Future of the Organization’ suggest that, given a shared sense of purpose, supportive learning partners, and an appropriate mix of change elements, renewal and transformation can be achieved. The potential payoffs, both for ourselves and for others, more than justify the incremental effort. Go for it.

Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas
Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas
About the Author:

Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas is an experienced chairman of award winning companies and consultant. He has advised over 80 boards on how to improve board and corporate performance, leads the world's largest winning business research and best practice programme, and has reviewed the processes and practices for winning business of over 50 companies.

Following marketing and general management roles Colin became the world's first Professor of Corporate Transformation and more recently Process Vision Holder of major transformation projects. He is the author of over 30 books and reports, including ‘Individuals and Enterprise’ (Blackhall Publishing, 1999), 'Shaping Things to Come' (Blackhall Publishing, 2001), 'Transforming the Company, Manage Change, Compete and Win' (Kogan Page, 2002 and 2004) and ‘The Knowledge Entrepreneur’(Kogan Page, 2003). Colin has spoken at over 200 national and international conferences and corporate events in over 20 countries. He can be contacted:

Tel: 01733 361 149
Fax: 01733 361 459
Email: colinct@tiscali.co.uk
Web: www.ntwkfirm.com/colin.coulson-thomas

Transforming the Company: Manage Change, Compete & Win
Colin Coulson-Thomas shows that to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality, business people must make far-reaching decisions about the value to them and their companies of particular theories, past assumptions and traditional approaches. Based on original research, the first edition of this was ahead of its time and predicted many of the current management trends. The author now brings the text bang up-to-date for the 21st century. This second edition of Transforming The Company shows how to turn theory into practice by highlighting the obstacles and barriers that confront companies when trying to bring about change. For management at all levels faced with this task, this thought-provoking book will inspire and enlighten.

The Knowledge Entrepreneur: How Your Business Can Create, Manage and Profit from Intellectual Capital  by Colin Coulson-Thomas

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The Knowledge Entrepreneur: How Your Business Can Create, Manage and Profit from Intellectual Capital
In many companies knowledge management has focused almost exclusively upon the packaging of existing knowledge. This book is designed to help readers boost revenues and profit by significantly improving the performance of existing activities and also creating new offerings that generate additional income. It shows how practical knowledge-based job-support tools can transform work group productivity, and reveals the enormous scope for addressing contemporary problems such as "information overload" with imaginative responses. Additional information includes: a list of possible commercial ventures; detailed checklists that can be used for identifying and analysing opportunities for knowledge entrepreneurship; and exercises for assessing entrepreneurial potential and "scoping" possible products and services. The free CD-ROM packaged with the book gives examples of particular knowledge-based job support tools that have dramatically improved desired results in crucial areas such as winning more business.







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