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Water Newton, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom, 2008/11/01 - Customer and corporate requirements are changing before traditional approaches to improving performance and building corporate capabilities can deliver results. Pioneers are using a new approach that is quicker, cheaper and easier to implement.
Traditional approaches to improving performance and building corporate capabilities no longer work for many companies according to Adaptation chairman Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas. Speaking to business leaders in Dubai Knowledge Village he emphasised: “Situations, circumstances and customer requirements can rapidly change. Windows of opportunity can quickly open and close. Companies need new approaches that are quicker, cheaper and easier to implement.”
According to Coulson-Thomas, “There are various ways of improving performance from building new models of organisations, redesigning processes and adopting new technologies to introducing new ways of working and learning. Generally they take time, are expensive and require large project teams and many consultants to implement. Yet recent events have shown market conditions and customer needs can change overnight. By the time many change and transformation projects deliver a company may require something quite different.”
The Adaptation chairman's research reveals similar problems with many approaches to building corporate capabilities. “Initiatives often require significant up front investments, prove disruptive to those involved, and may not deliver results until one or more years later. At a particular moment most large companies will have a variety of corporate wide initiatives involving large numbers of people. Yet those in the front line often struggle to develop bespoke response to the requirements of individual customers.”
Coulson-Thomas believes: “There is little point in paying for the development of corporate capabilities if they cannot be accessed as and when opportunities arise. Sales, service and support staff need to be able to quickly and easily get what they require to deliver value to customers. Smart companies look for easy and inexpensive ways of enabling people in the frontline to quickly respond to the changing needs of individual customers. Increasingly customers want to feel special. They don’t see themselves as a statistic or category. They demand bespoke responses.”
Over 2,000 companies have participated in the Professor’s ‘winning companies; winning people’ research programme which examines what the most successful people, teams and companies do differently in areas such as competitive bidding or key account management that are vital for corporate success. His findings suggest areas to focus upon: “We have identified critical success factors and winning ways of undertaking certain activities, such as creating and exploiting know-how, pricing, purchasing, and winning business, which contribute directly to the bottom line.”
Coulson-Thomas’ work with companies to find practical ways of rapidly and cost effectively boosting corporate performance draws directly upon his research: “Pioneering companies are building critical success factors and the winning ways of high performers into the tools used by important work groups, including front line staff dealing directly with customers. They are making it easy for their people to understand complex issues and do difficult jobs. Building checks into the tools provided can also enable users to create and deliver solutions for individual clients.”
Evaluations of results reveal returns of between twenty and seventy times an initial investment in a matter of months – even when only one or two of a dozen or more outcome measures have been used and only a small proportion of users have been examined. Coulson-Thomas gave examples of support tools developed for companies large and small: “The evidence is clear and compelling. Huge performance improvements have been achieved. Timescales have been reduced from weeks to minutes, understanding increased and compliance and other costs reduced.”
Increased understanding is particularly important. Coulson-Thomas explains: “Eight of the top ten critical success factors for winning business start with the word understanding. Those who do not understand their companies’ technologies or offerings and how they can best be used often struggle to persuade prospects - who may also do not understand them - to buy. Support tools should make it easy for both buyers and sellers to understand a requirement, assess available options and select the most appropriate response. They should also make it very easy for prospects to buy.”
Coulson-Thomas finds successful companies are the most focused: “They recognise continuity can be important and only change what needs to be changed. They focus upon those who have the greatest impact upon customers and profit. They articulate and communicate stretching, distinctive and compelling visions of a better state of affairs and ensure their people understand why change is needed and what they can do to bring it about. They equip their people with the tools to do what is expected of them while also developing their confidence and gaining personal fulfilment.”
The experiences of pioneers of the approach which Coulson-Thomas advocates suggest demanding requirements can be quickly met. He reports “By spending a small fraction of the cost of past corporate programmes pioneers are boosting performance, speeding up responses, and increasing understanding by using a new generation of cost effective support tools to make it easy for people to do difficult jobs. The same tools can free people from particular locations and support mobile working, relocation and outsourcing. As well as reducing stress, avoiding risks and cutting costs, tools can build competences by enabling users to learn from each application.”
The critical success factors identified by various investigations lead by Prof. Coulson-Thomas are set out in a series of reports produced by Policy Publications. Further information on these reports and his book Winning Companies; Winning People which gives more information on how support tools can be used to transform the performance of key workgroups can be obtained from Policy Publications.
Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas is an experienced consultant, chairman of Adaptation and author of ‘Winning Companies: Winning People’ (Policy Publications, 2007). He has reviewed the processes and practices of over 100 companies, helped over 100 boards to improve board and/or corporate performance, and spoken at over 200 national, international and corporate conferences in 35 countries.
Coulson-Thomas visited Dubai at the invitation of e-TQM College whose Distinguished Visiting Professor Programme is designed to expose local businesses to new ideas and leading practices. He was speaking at a conference on ‘Transforming performance - Key to organizational excellence’ organized by e-TQM College, SUKAD and the Dubai Knowledge Village. While in Dubai Prof. Coulson-Thomas also spoke to the Dubai Quality Group in the Great Room of Le Meridien on transforming corporate and work group performance and facilitated a workshop on excellence in leadership organised by e-TQM College and SUKAD.