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New year, wipe the slate clean?

Happy new year to all and to all a happy new year!

Traditionally this time of year is dedicated to fresh starts and clearing of the slate, however speaking from a business perspective this is quite possibly the worst decision you could ever make.

In business it is vital to ensure that you have the upper hand, the edge or competitive advantage over your competitors.  To help you do this, would you not just love a crystal ball?  Sadly, I cannot provide that crystal ball but what I can do is give you the benefit of my years of experience leading a variety of teams in a large public sector organisation.

My advice to you is not to throw away the past 12 months, but to examine what went right, what went wrong and most importantly, understand why things happened like that.   Spend a little time making notes on what major events happened and what you did along with the outcome and what you would do differently.

Just like there is no such thing as a new idea, I would argue that once you have been running your business for a couple of years then it will be just as valid to say that there is no such thing as a new issue to deal with.  This is why you do not throw out the past.  It often contains the answers of the future.  As well as reviewing the past 12 months, best practice is to repeat the review process at least monthly and if you can, capture the issues and results live as they happen (this will ensure you do not forget things).

If you follow this advice you have just created an organisational memory.   This in all likelyhood will save you time, money and stress!





Risk Management (Threats): Identify,Assess,Control

Okay, okay, perhaps the reality of the above situation occurring within your personal life or organisation is highly unlikely, however the message is: threats are out there!  They come in different shapes and sizes, arrive at the most inopportune moments with varying consequences.  Sometimes the consequences are amusing (as in the above) but other times the threat or risk can seriously damage our businesses.  The intelligent organisation has a risk management strategy in place, that mitigates or removes the identified threat.

What is a Risk?

A risk is an occurrence or sequence of occurrences that have the potential to influence your business in a positive or negative manner.  When it has a positive effect, then the risk is referred to as an opportunity.  When it has a negative impact, then it is known as a threat.  This blog entry will focus on the threat aspect of risk management.

What is a threat?

A threat is a risk that has the chance to prevent you from successfully delivering your product or service to your desired standard or at all.

Risk Management.

One cannot deal (mitigate or manage) with a threat unless the threat is identified.  Thus, the first thing to do is to make sure that you and your organisation are continually and actively seeking out this type of risk.  Secondly, it is vital that the organisation has a culture that individuals feel confident their managers will not chastise them for raising the risks.  Too often people are viewed as resistant to change, when the reality is they are very good at risk, (and therefore) threat identification.  It is only in a culture where feedback to leaders is accepted, that you are in a strong position to identify risks at an early stage.

After the threat has been identified, the next thing is to assess it.  It is important to ensure the threat is fully understood in as much detail as possible and then develop early warning indicators that will signal the threat is becoming a reality.

Tools that can be used to understand the threat include:

  • Risk workshops
  • Probability trees
  • Probability Impact Grid
  • Pareto Analysis
  • Expected Value Analysis
  • Monte Carlo Analysis

At the earliest opportunity, the threat should be recorded, analysed and an owner for the threat should be appointed.  This is the person who is in charge of the management, surveillance and monitoring the threat.  They are also the individual responsible for initiating appropriate responses, should the threat become realised.

Once the threat has been managed or mitigated, the risk owner should ensure that the story of the threat is recorded for posterity.  The events that led to the identification of the threat, the responses and outcomes should be captured and deposited into the organisational memory as lessons learned.  With this vital information banked for the future, you are ensuring should similar circumstances arise, that your organisation will be ready and have a potential off the shelf solution at hand.

The ability to mitigate, reduce and avoid threats, coupled with the assurance that your organisation is going to be better prepared for future events, are the reasons you need to understand and implement risk management in your organisation.

Risk management is part of the intelligent organisation, contact us now for further information and an initial (free, first fifteen minutes) consultation.


Performance Measures, “keep it real”

Having worked within a large public sector organisation of over 12,000 individuals and had the pleasure of moving departments several times, I have seen a plethora of performance measures.

Some of these have been good and some of these have been bad, but all of them have been the ‘priority’.  I have been tasked to deliver against at least 6 ‘priorities’ at one time.   Now, call me a cynic but last time I checked the Collins Online Dictionary priority meant :

If something is a priority, it is the most important thing you have to achieve or deal with before everything else. (  accessed 30/01/2013)

So having to deal with 6 priorities I was finding it a little frustrating and confusing.  Where was I supposed to start?  What was the most important of the 6 priorities? How was I to prioritise if the senior managers didn’t or couldn’t want to be bothered?

Thankfully I have experience, knowledge and a keen grasp of the english language.  The reality was that there was no actual priority, but rather a set of desireable outcomes calling themselves priorities.  What I decided to do was look at what these outcomes were all building towards and create my own priority.  Then using various tools examine which of these outcomes would contribute most to the priority.  The outcome was that I could communicate the priority to the team, and the outcomes that we needed to achieve to realise this priority.  No longer was I stressing over meeting all six priorities at one time and my teams were able to get on with their work without worrying about everything being the one thing they had to do.

Performance Management Hint

A priority is a singular item, the one overarching goal of the organisation,  in a private company it is more often than not to make money.  How do they make money?  Setting desired outcomes (customer service, quality of product etc etc).  To those in a customer service role, their priority may be to provide excellent service as judged by feedback, this is achieved through setting outcomes (answering calls within X seconds, resolving customer queries at source etc etc).

As you can see, you can have a set of outcomes that your people need to achieve, but please, they are not all priorities!  You would not believe the stress that is caused by setting people multiple priorities.  Remember, keep it real.

Performance works can assist you with performance management and frameworks.




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