Strategy consulting opportunity with a gym operator

Summary
A strategy consulting opportunity with a gym operator is available for the right candidate.

Background
My client, a gym operator is seeking to engage the services of a strategy consultant who can help the organisation on strategy formulation. The gym operator is operating in one of the most challenging industries with falling revenues, the rise of national budget operators, the rise of the pay as you go model, the rise of the health and fitness applications, various bootcamps from personal trainers, falling income, savviness of  consumers etc.

The last 3 years has indeed been very challenging for my client. My client is now seeking to review her strategy with a view to either repositioning herself in the industry or exiting the industry.

Deliverables
The right candidate will be expected to provide a strategic insight into the following:

  • Decline in membership. Is there a pattern or trend?
  • Impact of fitness and health applications on membership. How can these be harnessed in order to improve customer satisfaction? Has the influx of these applications had a “Uber” style effect on membership subscription, attendance and subscription?
  • Services / Products. What services and products can be introduced in order to arrest the decline in membership? Can we really differentiate ourselves by offering customisation? What will be the impact of customisation on our cost profile?
  • Pay as you go model. Is the pay as you go model a viable subscription model?

Candidate
This will suit a strategy consultant with retail, marketing, health or leisure industry experience. A freshly minted MBA with a strategy bias from a  top business school may also apply.

The engagement is expected to last a period of 9 weeks. Please state the cost of your services for the entire duration of the engagement.

Ineffective communication will kill your change initiative

Whilst there is resounding acknowledgement of the impact of communication and its criticality in the success of change initiatives, the actual implementation of effective communication continues to be a challenge during most change initiatives. Technologist and IT practitioners are particularly well renowned not to have those soft skills associated to communication; this is not to exonerate other professionals in other functions who sometimes may be the change agents or lead change initiatives where you may also have across communication challenges. However, my background is mainly technology, therefore, my world view will be influenced by my background and experience i.e. technology, although, I am consciously aware of those views and I am able to extricate them from my articles.

Many researchers – Beer & Einstant (2000), Elving (2005),  Peng & Litteljohn (2001), Palmer, Dunford & Akin (2009), DiFonzo & Bordia (1998), Bruch, Gerber & Maier (2005), Clampitt & Berk (1996), Fox & Amichai-Hamburger (2001)whom have investigated the relationship between successful change initiatives and communication, have noted how critical and important it is to get communication right during periods of uncertainties which is an attribute of most change initiatives.

Most change agents and change sponsors also now recognise the criticality of  communication but despite the acknowledgement and recognition, why does it remain extremely difficult to effectively communicate during change programmes?Fox & Amichai-Hamburger (2001) opined that there must be recognition by the message deliverer to be aware of the emotional realms of those receiving the messages. My experience from various change initiatives really backs the aforementioned argument. The interpretation of a message by the hearer is influenced by a lot of factors. In Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), it is widely stated that the “meaning of your communication is the response you get“.  Whilst a “fire and forget approach” to communication may be required when broadcasting messages during change initiatives, it will hardly achieve anything.

Although, I do not have answers and no management practitioner or researcher will claim to have answers that can help you completely eliminate ineffective communication, there are ways in which you can increase the effectiveness of your communication in order to simply simplify the complexities of your change initiatives therefore removing  one of the key barriers to success.

Some of the ways in which you can achieve effective communication with references are listed below:

  1. Measure the results of communication: http://h30499.www3.hp.com/t5/Discover-Performance-Blog/Best-practices-for-effective-communication-for-organizational/ba-p/5515197#.UoipfhBFeW4
  2. Be honest even when the consequences were possibly negative –  http://www.change-management.com/tutorial-communications.htm
  3. A communication is complete only when the receiver has integrated, understood, and applied the message. – See more at: http://changeleadersnetwork.com/free-resources/six-faulty-assumptions-about-change-communications#sthash.X9xzTFS2.dpuf
  4. Collaboration is very important – http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/what_successful_transformations_share_mckinsey_global_survey_results
  5. Feedback loops should not be underestimated – http://www.bcg.com/expertise_impact/Capabilities/People_Organization/Change_Management/ExpertInterview.aspx?interviewId=tcm:12-25685&personId=tcm:12-10493&pt=U2VuaW9yIFBhcnRuZXIgJiBNYW5hZ2luZyBEaXJlY3Rvcg==&practiceArea=Change%2BManagement
  6. Communication is both outbound and inbound – http://www.boozallen.com/media/file/138137.pdf.

Changing technology without a change in process: No wonder it failed

Change initiatives and programmes are renowned to fail fifty percent of the time. Several massive information technology change initiatives in the largest of corporations have failed; examples abound of such failed change programmes, from the £12.4 billion NHS IT programme, to the Department of Work & Pensions, to other large private & public enterprises who are constantly changing their IT suppliers due to the failure of those suppliers to deliver on the goals set out at the beginning of such initiatives.

Although there are several reasons why change initiatives fail, but one common theme with changes that are technology led is the reluctance of the organisation to change some of their business processes despite knowing that the new technology may not fully support their business processes. One question you might like to ask is “why is there a change in technology when your business process is not ready for change?”; one other statement I have heard countless times is “business goals and processes should drive the adoption of technology and not the other way round”.  It is noteworthy to appreciate that sometimes change is enforced due to technology obsolescence and that organisations may not have any other choice than undergoing change,  despite the pains of change.

It is not difficult to know organisations that are transfixed on keeping business processes the same when a technology led change should ideally lead to change in some business process. Some of the metaphors in use in such organisations are as follows:

  • Lift and shift
  • Like for like
  • Same features and functions

Some of those organisations also expend an extensive amount of resources (human and financial capital) tweaking and customising the technology solutions to align with business processes, which most times lead to project delays.  Such organisations fail to realise that existing business processes would have evolved over time in order to effectively and efficiently utilise the underlying technological solutions, and a new technological solution might also require some time in order for the stakeholders to become proficient users.

The article is not suggesting all technology led change initiatives should translate into changes in the business process, as every change is unique, however, the article is suggesting that organisations should take a holistic approach to technology led changes and there should be no holds barred discussion areas.

Finally, undertaking a change readiness assessment may provide you with the opportunity to have a more in-depth understanding of how technology change will affect your business processes.

For more information on how to plan for a change readiness assessment when planning a technology led change initiative, do not hesitate to contact the author of this article. He and his team can help your organisation transition smoothly when undergoing a change process.

Arsenal: A victim of success?

Doz & Kosonen in Fast Strategy (2007) stated “most companies die not because they do the wrong things, but because they keep doing what used to be the right things for too long…”. The authors also state that “successful companies often become victims of their own success: when their business matures, they find it impossible to renew themselves.  To regain and maintain growth they need to learn to thrive on change and disruption”.

Arsenal as a football club being managed by Arsene Wenger experienced “tremendous success” as a trophy winning club in the years from 1996 – 2005, however, the trophy cabinet has been empty for quite a while. Fans have bitterly complained about the lack of trophies and some have even advocated replacing the manager; quite harsh I must say.

There is no debate about the influence of Arsene Wenger on the Arsenal and the English premiership. He revolutionised and changed how football was played, how footballers were managed and how players can play into their thirties through the introduction of scientific approaches e.g. nutrition to football management.

The Arsenal case is a classic example that fits into the “trap of success” as described by Doz & Kosonen.

So what has happened?

Prolonged period of success: Arsenal as a team enjoyed a fairly prolonged period of success, winning the English premiership league title or finishing in the top 2 year-in, year-out for a quite a while. The club enjoyed successes winning 2 double titles during the period 1996 – 2005.

The method that was used in order to achieve those successes can be summarised as “buy young, hungry and athletic non-British footballers” who were not as expensive as their British counterparts and integrate them into the existing team. The approach worked at the very beginning, but this “young, hungry and athletic non-British footballers” integrated into a core of existing British players who formed the back four and the goal keeper and these new players stayed on for quite a while. In addition, it could be argued that the only real competition at that time was Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.

Success Syndrome: Arsenal’s strategy has not evolved despite the rapid changes in the external environment. Despite the massive change in the competitive landscape as a result of Roman Abramovich’s investment in Chelsea and in recent times by Manchester City’s newly found wealth, Arsenal remains dogged and transfixed on the strategy that had worked in the trophy winning years of Arsene Wenger.  This behaviour which can be described as conservative, arrogant and complacent with a total focus on “self” is characteristic of organisations that have become a victims of their own successes.

Organisations that fail to realise there has been a change in the competitive landscape resort to “codification” i.e. let us just do more of the same; it worked in the past, so let us improve the “efficiency” of our operation. What seems particularly strange about organisations in such mode is the lack of recognition that when the goal post shifts and moves in a game of football, the strategy has to change, otherwise you become disadvantaged playing the game.

Outcomes: The outcomes can be seen –  the lack of titles, lack of motivation amongst the playing staff, persistent justification of failure, disgruntled customers and fear of innovation.

Will Arsenal continue to do more of the same and enter the “death spiral”?

Overall, it is a very competitive environment and the lack of “unlimited” financial resources which the likes of Man City, PSG, Chelsea, Monaco and to some extent Real Madrid, Anzi Makhachkala, Barcelona etc. seem to possess have limited what Arsenal can do in the marketplace.  However, it is important to understand that this article has only used the customers’ expectations i.e. winning and winning of more trophies as a measure of success and has not considered the owner’s (board’s) vision and mission, therefore, it could be argued that the move from Highbury, the change of ownership, the balance sheet etc. are all indicative of a successful organisation.

Whatever your measure of success, it is very important to identify and understand the source of your revenue and assess the potential impact of the loss of those revenues, especially if customers have been disgruntled for years. It is time to keep the customers happy, even if it is for a short while, otherwise “the death spiral” may be accelerated and change will have to eventually come and it will be more painful.

Perhaps it is a time for a deep and incisive strategic review of the organisation and if the purpose of the organisation is “to be competitive whilst developing young talents without breaking the bank”, no one should begrudge the organisation. There has to be an alignment of the organisation’s strategy to the mission…so change your mission statement and vision if your strategy will not change, and the fans may come to accept a top four target as a successful season.

A social media start-up (currently in stealth mode) requires an editor.

A social media start-up (currently in stealth mode) requires an editor.

The mission of the start-up is to be the number one portal in Anglophone Africa. Funding has recently been secured for a launch date of Q2 2014.

The editor will be a key member of the senior management.  Some of the requirements of the role are detailed below:

  • The editor will assist in the overall growth of the web portal.
  • The editor will manage the contents of the portal.
  • The editor will commission columnists to write articles (send out briefs to columnists and set deadline for submission).
  • The editor will be required to generate thought-provoking questions for one of the key services.
  • Must have proven experience.
  • Must have excellent command of English Language – Written and spoken.
  • Must be an excellent communication skills.
  • Must be open-minded and recipient to all views.
  • Must be a sociable person.
  • Must have networking skills.
  • Must be a prolific writer with proven extensive writing experience.
  • Must be a wide reader.
  • Must be an unbiased editor without any political, social, religious agenda to promote.
  • A keen researcher.
  • Must have good project management skills.
  • Must be passionate about related issues.
  • Must have a strong social DNA.
  • Must have basic IT skills.

Unchaining the chains in your change management process: A pragmatic approach

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) was introduced with very good intentions and many organisations seeing the potential realisable benefits different from their once very chaotic, unstructured and haphazard approach to Information Technology (IT) service management adopted the framework. Some of those organisations are so fully ITIL compliant now, but at what cost?

One very particular aspect of the ITIL framework which gets IT practitioners grumbling is the change management process. Without saying, change management has brought relief to many IT managers and IT Directors who have had to explain a loss of service due to some uncontrolled changes that had been carried out by someone they oversee. Now, that is the good aspect of change management in IT service management (ITSM). However, many organisations have very cumbersome and complex ITSM change management processes and procedures that make you start questioning the potential benefits of the function and if it is indeed worthwhile going through the process before making changes.

From the interviews I conducted, some of the key causes of the disenchantment by those implementing changes are:

  • Lack of understanding of the impact of the change by the change advisory board (CAB).
  • It is a “process for the sake of process” activity with no real tangible benefits.
  • Not all changes being made should go to the CAB.
  • IT Managers and their peers from other functional units are better equipped to assess the impact of the change than the CAB in most organisations.
  • IT Managers are not empowered to assess the impact of changes and decide which ones should be escalated to the CAB.
  • The process is not a guarantee of successful change implementation.

Addressing those concerns and key causes of disenchantment will empower the change management function within your organisation and improve outcomes. Do not let things grind to a halt within your organisation before reviewing your change management process.

Supplier Management vs Partner Management

Job Posting: IT Management Consultant for Swiss private bank

My client, a private bank in Switzerland is seeking someone who can provide strategic advisory services on:

- Application Virtualization
– Cloud Computing
– Cloud Storage
– Outsourcing of end user computing services
– Collaboration Solutions
– Migration to Windows 8, from Windows Vista
– Cloud Security
– BYOD

The ideal candidate must have in depth experience of end user computing services and should hold a recognizable certification in Enterprise Architecture methodologies e.g. Zachmans, DoDAF, TOGAF etc. An MBA may also be an advantage. A management / strategy consulting experience will also be useful.

This role will be remote, and the ideal candidate must be happy to work as a ‘Support Consultant’ to the Lead Consultant, who is already working with the client to gather requirements based on the organization’s strategy, current demand for IT services, future direction and opportunities in the private banking sector and assessing the bank’s readiness for the adoption of the aforementioned solutions.

If you meet this criteria, please send your CV with sample of projects or work you have completed in the last 18 months. Ideally, the preference will be for candidates who have published articles, whitepapers or case studies in the public domain.

The duration of the role is expected to be 240 hours and the rate will range from Euros 125 – 175 per hour, DOE and payable on achievement of critical milestones.

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