A small team creates a revolution

An accounting firm was having trouble making a decision at senior partner level to move forward with a series of our programs. Believe it or not one of the issues they identified was poor decision-making processes! In the end, we proved that a small team can create a revolution in culture change.

Out of frustration, one of principals decided to move forward with our programs in her regional office. We started out with our Profiling Program for the partners and managers and followed that with Strategic Planning, Performance Management and Advisory Skills Development.

In eight weeks, we have seen the changed processes and behaviours in the regional office create enormous interest in other offices. The interest was like a groundswell from people in middle management and junior levels who were interacting with people in the regional office.

small teams can create large scale change in an organisation.

The groundswell began as informal conversations and then we noticed emails being sent to managers, partners and senior partners. The messages were clearly motivated by a fear of missing out, FOMO.

The most common topic in the groundswell was about the new client projects the team in the regional office were working on. These were apparent both in SharePoint and the CRM used by the business. The most common topic among the senior partners was the increase of $55k in the 8 weeks after the Advisory Skills Program.

Other changes took a bit longer to be noticed. The Profiling Program expanded in the regional office to include all of the accounting professionals. As usual, this prompted people talking about their profiles and their efforts at becoming better communicators and relationship builders. People in the regional office would innocently ask about the profiles of their colleagues located in other offices and this generated the ‘why didn’t we do the profiling?’

The revolution was underway. In July we begin our Programs in the head office with a roll-out plan across the firm ending in September. You can drive organisational change beginning with a tribe. In our case, the smaller regional office became the role models for what is possible. They will now be our role models, coaches and mentors for participants in our upcoming programs.

Do you want to learn more about how we initiated and executed this revolutionary change in a staid culture? Get in touch.

Is your LMS blocking strategy execution?

The learning management system (LMS) should be a primary support tool for ensuring strategic execution is successful. A business that is focused on strategic execution needs all people to be working on the right tasks at the right time. The whole organisation needs to know the strategic goals and their role in achieving them.  A learning management system, with the right features and tools, is ideally suited to align people to strategy and provide learning support.

One of the biggest barriers to successful execution is people not having access to information and learning to support their work. An organisation with high levels of productivity and engagement does not lose focus by people having to search for information and learning on topics they need to complete tasks. The learning management system should be a key software tool to improve productivity and engagement with learning. 

If the LMS is not performing these vital functions effectively then it is acting as a roadblock to strategy execution.  How does a well implemented learning management system support strategic execution? Below are some of the ones we have identified in our most recent implementation projects.

  • Configurable, flexible and scalable organisation structure in the LMS that accurately reflects how the business operates and its ongoing reporting needs. 
  • Ability to support large numbers of users and an extended enterprise. The performance of the LMS should not be compromised when there are large user populations accessing it. 
  • User administration of large populations is supported with the user interface, bulk actions and  adaptable configurations. 
  • The LMS includes extensive automated actions and workflow configurations to support how the  organisation operates. You should not be forced to adapt your workflows to the LMS.   
  • Reporting must be extensive and flexible. The LMS should provide senior leadership historical and predictive indicators to support decision making.
  • Integration and data sharing is essential to support the organisation’s information architecture. The LMS should not be an ‘island’ of data. 

It is critical that the selection process reflects requirements that are both strategic and tactical. The requirements are best collected and assessed drawing on a wide range of stakeholders in the organisation including the ‘C suite’.

There are just some of the areas that we assess when working on a new LMS acquisition plan with a client. This helps us assess the various LMS software options and vendors that are proactively updating their software to meet changes in the workforce and operating environments.

  • Are there plans for any mergers and acquisitions?
  • Is the business likely to open up offices in other locations?
  • Will be business adopt a remote workforce model?
  • Does the business currently support a channel or may do so in the future?
  • Will the business undertake a digital transformation project and will the new learning management system remain fit for purpose?

How to create a value driver tree

The value driver tree is a tool used to identify the root cause of an issue. In our case it is used to identify causes of business issues. The value driver tree is also known as a fishbone analysis. 

The value driver tree is a very useful model to use when engaging in discovery sessions with prospective and current clients. You should be familiar with the model so that you are able to use it in conversations as a way to structure thinking. The best use case is creating a value driver tree on a whiteboard, computer or paper flip-chart as part of the meeting with clients, prospects and internal stakeholders.

An example of a simple value driver tree is shown above. In this case the issue facing the business is declining profitability.

The next level to the right of the business issue breaks the issue of declining profitability down to three possible solutions. The third level are the actions needed to execute the solutions. A key concept when creating value driver trees is MECE.

The MECE model is used to separate items into subsets that are ‘mutually exclusive’ and ‘collectively exhaustive.’ The MECE model as developed by Barbara Minto at McKinsey and Company in the late 1960s. You can learn more here.

In some cases these actions may directly address the issue or be actions such as research and analysis. In the latter case, this may then lead to a further value driver tree created to reflect the outcomes of research and analysis.

A value driver tree must focus on one single issue. Therefore there may be a number of value driver trees created in the course of a discovery session. It is common to start the process with a value driver tree to determine which of a range of issue should be prioritised and then break that down to individual issues. 

The example above shows a value driver tree that will then be broken down into the issue that is considered the highest priority. 

The value driver tree helped my client remain focused and not go off in a number of different directions. In my consulting practice, I only focus on one issue per engagement. I have learned this removes the risks of project creep and uncertainty about closure of an engagement. 

Once I have worked with my client to create a value driver tree on the challenge with the highest priority, there are two necessary steps before we commit to working together. The first step is gaining conceptual agreement. The process to this point is very positive for the client. Once the person is fully able to identify a business issue there is a sense of relief even before a solution is executed. 

The positive state achieved in the value driver tree process is the precursor to conceptual agreement. The conceptual agreement is both parties agreeing that there is a compelling case for moving forward with an engagement to build and apply a solution to the business issue. The conceptual agreement is gained by asking the client whether they wish to solve this issue using you and/or your firm. 

When this question is asked, there may be a few responses. One may be related to cost, another related to time, another related to decision making, etc. There is absolutely no point in developing a proposal with costs, activities and timelines until you have reached conceptual agreement with your client. 

This is always very hard for my clients to accept. Most people in business to business professional services are using an outdated paradigm wherein the proposal is a huge document that is used to sell an engagement to a client or prospect. This is all wrong. The proposal I use includes seven sections and the whole document is rarely more than four to seven pages. I will cover more about proposals in another article.

For now let’s assume you gain conceptual agreement with the client or prospect. You are now ready to create your short proposal. What about the value driver tree?

The value driver tree is captured and saved. You photograph the whiteboard, photograph and roll up the flip-chart paper, save the digital file or whatever. The value driver tree is your navigation tool moving forward with the the engagement. The value driver tree will set the scope of the engagement as well as define the parameters of the activities that are going to be included in the engagement. I will cover more about using the value driver tree to develop your engagement plan in another article. 


How we do professional facilitation

You will have a facilitator who has deep experience in senior organisational leadership and has worked with a wide and diverse range of clients. You are assured that the work will get done and clear outcomes and next actions are identified from your facilitated workshop. We make it easy for you to conduct a great workshop. Our facilitators use visual information mapping tools that ensures participants are always engaged with the content and understand the connections between concepts, ideas and decisions. We will meet prior to the workshop(s) to undertake careful planning and preparation. You will have the option to include individual and team behavioural profiling as part of the workshop. Our facilitator will do extensive research to understand your organization deeply. You will be confident that our facilitator will remain within the parameters you set for the workshop and we will honour the unique culture that exists in your organization.  We understand the dynamics that exist when you bring people together for a facilitated workshop. Our expertise will ensure we get the best input from all participants and prevent the workshop being dominated by individuals or a lapse into ‘group-think.’ The most requested facilitated workshops include: ·        Strategic planning ·        Building an execution culture ·        Executive retreats ·        Sales strategy ·        Marketing strategy ·        Scenario planning ·        Team effectiveness ·        Culture change ·        Tactical response ·        Innovation, new product and services development This is how we do professional facilitation. We suggest scheduling a call or personal meeting to discuss your vision for the ideal facilitated workshop. We will discuss your strategy, goals and concerns. Our facilitator will ask questions and offer some ideas you can use whether you choose to engage us or not.

Disruption in accounting; building advisory services

There is no doubt accounting firms are under pressure for both fees and service delivery. This can be considered disruption. There are a few reasons for this pressure and it will only intensify. Here are some reasons:

* Businesses are questioning the amount of fees they pay annually for compliance services against the perceived value they receive from these services.
* Accounting firms are facing a technology tidal wave that will shift much of the compliance work to ‘bots’ that deliver higher accuracy and cost a fraction of a qualified accountant.
* The complex operating environment facing companies is encouraging them to seek outside expertise to remain competitive and sustainable; unfortunately they rarely look at their accountants to provide such services.

These disruptive changes are compelling proactive firms to focus on developing other capabilities to maintain and grow revenue. The most common focus is on building revenue from advisory services. One would normally think accounting firms are well positioned to delivery advisory services. They may be well positioned, but many lack the competencies needed to uncover opportunities, scope advisory projects and execute the delivery phase for a successful result.

We were engaged to help a firm build an advisory capability without increasing the headcount. Our project including a number of phases that included strategic planning, business model development, behavioural competency assessment, training and coaching. Our process included a small digital transformation with the inclusion of work to improve use of the incumbent information management system, CRM and the introduction of a learning management system, (LMS).

We implemented a learning management system to support our transition strategy as well as sustain competency development across the firm. Below are some of the key outcomes we have achieved thus far with the LMS.

* Communities of practice to foster sharing of ideas, best practices and content.
* Learning linked to performance reviews and career planning.
* Tracking learning and participation in communities of practice.
* Self-publishing content using standard tools like PowerPoint, Sway, audio and video.
* Team publishing by practice teams to share with teams in other locations and colleagues.

Our ongoing strategic focus for the LMS includes:

* Eliminate knowledge drain.
* Replicate the learning across the organisation at lower cost.
* Develop individual learning pathways for advisors based on subject matter expertise and market sector focus.