What We Do2018-07-02T20:15:26+00:00

What we do

Mostly, we solve problems.

Sometimes these are problems we have encountered before. Often they are different in some way. If nothing else, the people are different– and that alone is enough to change how we approach the problem.

Problems are sometimes good. Sometimes not so much. Sometimes wicked; sometimes nice.

In attempting to help clients solve their problems, we reach into our toolbox of experience and methodologies. But that’s just the starting point.
We always strive for fresh thinking, to give each problem our full attention to avoid falling into mental traps, habits of mind or shortcuts that can lead you astray.

So we listen. We learn. Then we formulate and communicate our recommendations. Together, we choose the best path forward.

That’s what we do.

Featured Services

Strategy Formulation and Facilitation2018-07-02T14:59:29+00:00

Whether you need help developing a new strategy or require facilitation for a strategic planning effort involving board members and management, we have notable expertise and a well-honed methodology for developing strategic flexibility.

We have completed strategic planning and facilitation for private companies, government organizations, entrepreneurs and non-profits; and have taught strategy at the post-secondary level.

Our experience spans both industries, geographies and types of organizations and we focus on helping you achieve your objectives, vision and mission, while remaining responsive to changes in your environment.

Strategy-as-a-service2018-07-02T14:58:44+00:00

Why not? 😉

But seriously, strategy is not static– it needs to sense and respond to changing business conditions, so we are offering a subscription-based strategic planning, training, coaching and ongoing support primarily intended for entrepreneurs and small businesses. However, it is available to any organization that believes it could benefit from having an independent third-party providing a set of related services including:

  • An assessment of current business performance
  • A scan of the internal and external environment of the organization, including operating model, organization structure, processes, technology and sourcing
  • Formulation of a new strategy in collaboration with a board and/or management using our proprietary framework and process
  • Development of a 3 to 5-year strategic roadmap
  • Development of a decision framework for quality decision-making at the management and operational levels
  • Ongoing coaching and support during strategy implementation
  • Access to our periodic newsletters and commentary on trends and events relevant to your business
Decision Quality2018-07-02T14:56:01+00:00

You make decisions everyday and you probably think you are pretty good at it– especially when things are going well.

But all of us are prone to flaws in thinking– call them mental bugs– that actually lead us to make poor decisions. We believe we have made a good decision simply because it turned out well, without considering the role of luck. Conversely, we blame ourselves for bad outcomes, even when the decision was sound.

It need not be so. We will help you develop a framework and light-weight processes for quality decisions that will give you confidence that you have made the right decision at the point when you have to make it– regardless of the outcome. Our approach considers decision categorization, framing, alternatives development, evaluation, implementation and communication. Combined with our facilitation expertise we can work with your management team to help apply appropriate frameworks to major decisions, as well as support the quantitative and qualitative analysis to support decision-making.

Operational Reviews2018-07-02T15:10:17+00:00

Whether things are going well or poorly, every organization needs to occasionally step-back and look at itself to determine what needs to change and what should stay the same. This is not simply change for the sake of change, but rather a necessary process of adaptation to ever-changing conditions. After all, an organization is an organism that needs to adapt to thrive.

We can help you review operations at the program, business unit or enterprise level, including processes, policies, technologies, etc. This includes current state assessments, stakeholder consultations, benchmarking / peer reviews, target operating model development, gap analysis and road map development. We can also help you apply lean thinking to embed continual improvement in your culture.

Sourcing Effectiveness2018-07-02T15:29:55+00:00

Your value chain begins with getting the right materials and services at the right price to create and deliver value to your customers or constituents. This may entail a market scan, supplier engagement, procurement, negotiations, contracting and spend analysis among many other activities.

We can help you with the end-to-end sourcing lifecycle, from understanding the supplier market and deciding what to source or develop / provide in-house to designing and managing a procurement processes and developing and negotiating an agreement.

We have helped to negotiate billions of dollars worth of contracts for business services, as well as agreements for transfer funding between governments and other organizations. Our experience spans negotiations for setting up, re-negotiating and terminating major agreements as well as assessments of agreements already in place. Our services cover spend analysis, negotiations planning, facilitation, stakeholder consultation and agreement development; as well as working with legal counsel and other experts to finalize agreements.

Sales Effectiveness2018-07-02T15:39:21+00:00

We don’t pretend to teach you how to sell– we simply propose to help you sell more effectively.

In working with both buyers and sales teams across many different industries, we have noted common patterns of behaviour and process bottlenecks that prevent your people from being as effective and efficient as they can be. It is this knowledge that we offer– to help you fine-tune your sales processes, use technology more strategically, as well as to develop and deliver winning proposals and pitches.

Because we often advise clients who are procuring and negotiating large complex products and services worth millions to billions of dollars, we have unique insight into their thinking, which we use to help sales teams develop pitches that directly address client needs– rather than focusing on what you want to sell. We offer a range of capabilities in this area– from coordinating large sales pursuits and writing/editing pitches and proposals to training on writing and oral presentations.

Writing2018-07-05T13:25:50+00:00

Writing is a skill that can be honed and one that is rarer than many people think. In the social media age, it is a capability that seems to be even more scarce. Executives and even school principals we talk to bemoan their staff’s communication skills– or lack thereof. Beyond long-form reports, even memos and e-mails often fail to communicate the intended message because they are poorly structured, unclear or long-winded.

We have decades of experience in business writing– including executive summaries, white papers, research reports and analysis to board reports, sales/marketing materials and annual reports.
Let us help you to write or edit your most important documents– for the board, management, customers or employees.

Presenting2018-07-05T13:23:08+00:00

Presentation, like writing, improves with practice. Having watched a few thousand PowerPoint presentations, we have learned the elements of a great presentation– one that engages the audience, delivers the message and is done with ease. We help you craft the right presentation for the audience– whether for a board meeting, an executive decision, a conference or a sales pitch, we can help you distill your message and better communicate it to achieve the intended objective.

Workshops and Coaching2018-07-05T13:28:54+00:00

In addition to writing/editing and preparing presentations for you, we can also train your management and staff or work one-on-one or with a small group to hone their written and oral communication skills. This can include reviewing, editing and coaching related to actual business documents, which often provides the most effective training as it is on the job, personalized and directly relevant.

Let us help you raise your communication game.

Our value proposition

Fresh thinking

Global perspective

Focus on simplicity

Commitment to your success

Case Studies

Growth Strategy

Growing revenues

Growth Strategy

Non-profits are not typically the types of organizations that are concerned with revenue growth. but regardless of how stable their funding is, some non-profits have developed intellectual property and capabilities that may have commercial value. This is the situation that one organization found itself in and they needed help in defining and assessing the opportunities that could be leveraged by a new for-profit arm.
We helped them develop a set of guiding principles for the new business and then brainstorm and identify a handful of practical opportunities. These short-listed opportunities were then elaborated in terms of risks, market size, customer base, investments and capability gaps. In all we pinpointed a few million dollars in potential new revenue that would be a good fit with the organization’s overall mission, values and resources, which were then presented to the board for further consideration.

Channel Strategy

Optimizing service delivery and customer experience

Channel Strategy

One of the largest cities in North America was under significant fiscal pressure even as its citizens were clamouring for better, more convenient service. There are few cities in the world that have kept pace with technological change and fewer still that have the means to do so, even if they wanted to.
This particular city had hundreds of different counters spread over a wide geographic area offering different services and with varying service levels. It also had a 311 service that had had some success but which was managed independently from the counter and web channels. This lack of integration was not only costing money but also impacted customer experience. There was an overarching customer service vision but that too was gathering dust on the bookshelf.
Where to go from here? First, the city’s top bureaucrat needed to articulate the opportunities and business case for pursuing them. This is where we were able to complete a comprehensive assessment of two of the three channels and identify some very tactical opportunities with a reasonable return on investment. As well, we defined a vision for a more integrated service counter based on single-point-of-access to any city service, via any service channel. In doing so we brought research and thinking from different disciplines, industries and countries. The recommendations were taken forward into the City’s next budgeting and planning cycle with further analysis to identify the specific changes that will be required for a successful implementation.

Accountability Model

Aligning interests in multi-party relationships

Accountability Model

The principal-agent problem may be as old as economics itself and has yet to be solved to anyone’s complete satisfaction. So it’s no wonder that transfer payments– from one level of government to another or from government to non-profit and private organizations– is a hotbed of issues related to accountability.
The question is how to ensure appropriate accountability and outcomes when one party is providing the funding and the other party is delivering the services. This is an especially thorny subject in the area of social assistance, where billions of dollars are spent annually, with little evidence that it is helping to get benefits recipients into sustainable work.
We waded into this with an understanding of governance and accountability models in general but specific solutions for the social services sector.
What followed was an iterative, Socratic discussion of options, relative pro’s and con’s, which lead us to something that would be a marked improvement on the current model, even if it wasn’t an ultimate solution.
That new accountability model was based on cross-sector, cross-jurisdiction research and analysis of what works and what doesn’t and the related implementation plan and recommendations were taken forward for Ministerial review and approval.

Governance Model

Governance for good

Governance Model

Governance is most often talked about in the context of corporate boards, but it is as important in the context of strategic partnerships, franchising, licensing or alternative service delivery arrangements. Here, too, there is the question of aligning interests between the principal and its agent, but also something more– the need for a mechanism to make decisions from all parties in a relationships.
For several clients who were in this situation, we designed or modified business processes, defined new policies, roles and responsibilities and a governance model to support operations, relationship management and decision-making, among other activities. Some of these organizations needed an entirely new organization structure, which we helped to design and implement, including providing on-going coaching to key managers.
The processes were often customized depending, for instance, on the need to focus on privacy in a healthcare environment or on regulatory compliance in a financial one. Similarly, the governance structures were built around multiple tiers, depending on the need for direct operational oversight / monitoring and strategic decision-making.

Starting up

Launching new services

Starting up

When the world’s largest telecommunications company formed a joint venture with a leading European media company, we were there to help then set-up digital operations. Specifically, this new entity was created to deliver content to a variety of devices, including mobile phones, televisions and the web.
This was the heyday of dot.coms and we, like everyone else, thought we were changing the world. Alas, we were barely changing Internet content delivery! Nevertheless, it was an opportunity to design entirely new processes to ensure that content flowed seamlessly through both manual and automatic channels, from a range of partners including the UK’s Met Office to a provider of club listings, to consumers across Europe. We helped to launch operations in the UK and developed the model for rolling out similar services to France and beyond.

Operational / Program Review

Doing the right things right

Operational / Program Review

Many organizations set out to do ambitious things but are then faced with the reality of not being able to muster the right resources, not all of which may be under their control. They fail to achieve their mission and their shareholders and customers feel disappointed.
This was the case with a government health agency that was mandated to create the infrastructure for electronic health records. The government commissioned an independent review of the agency’s operations, from strategy and operations to human resources, finance and technology. The comprehensive review identified a number of significant issues that were preventing the organization from fulfilling its mandate– including broken processes, unresolved operational issues and a lack of strategic direction.
The final report outlined a number of recommendations, including the establishment of better program management, development of a multi-year strategy and accountability agreements to improve the agency’s credibility.

Sourcing Strategy

To source or not to source

Sourcing Strategy

This organization was approaching the end of a multi-billion dollar agreement for a suite of services from facilities management, billing and customer service to finance, human resources, marketing and technology. While some aspects of the existing arrangement were working well, others were not. Savings had not been consistently achieved, and the expected degree of innovation and service level improvement did not materialize across the board.
Management decided that a newer-term strategy was needed. However, that entailed a re-assessment of both quantitative and qualitative factors and a determination of the organization’s core competencies.
A comprehensive analysis and business case provided a road map to the future, which suggested a multi-vendor strategy combined with repatriation of some services for internal delivery. The result was a more flexible model and greater value for money.

Procurement

Public Private Partnerships

Procurement

Public-private partnerships are one of those things that stir up ideological fervour. The debate is often between those that believe the private sector can do this better, at lower risk and those who believe that the risk and other premiums are not worth the price. While we didn’t exactly settle this argument, we did help our clients structure the best deal possible once a decision had been made to use a P3 approach.
That help included developing a financial model to evaluate options and competitive bids, devising a mechanism to pay for the contracted services and identifying appropriate service levels and a related performance framework for ensuring accountability. We worked with a range of other advisers and staff, including legal counsel, technology experts and finance and procurement teams through a two stage RFx process, confidential meetings, evaluation and selection.
While the outcomes of such partnerships are not always predictable, their probability of success can often be predicted based on the relationship between the partners.

Requests for Proposals

The write pitch

Requests for Proposals

As consultants we have pulled our share of all-nighters writing proposals in response to Requests for Qualification or Proposals (RFQs and RFPs). It was often tempting to simply cut and paste from old proposals that seemed to fit the bill rather than writing or indeed thinking from scratch. But over time it became evident that this was a recipe for failure because clients could easily tell who cared and who didn’t.
We now use those lessons to help clients– including professional service / consulting firms– craft more original proposals that are also more likely to be winning ones. Here, too, we bring more than good writing skills– we bring our experience as both management consultants and procurement advisors. Business knowledge combined with insights into how evaluations are done (based on helping clients design RFPs) is a powerful combination and one that has proven effective for both our clients in both the professional services and other sectors.

Regulated Markets

Selling within the lines

Regulated Markets

Regulatory submissions are complex documents numbering in the hundreds of pages and chock-full of detailed technical drawings and legalese. This doesn’t take away from the fact that they still need to be effective communication tools. So, when a consortium comprising private equity and major North American energy companies sought to apply for a license to finance, build and operate a significant transmission line, they needed someone to help tell their story.
In this situations we find that our own business and technical backgrounds and the fact that we have submitted our own proposals, offers a distinct advantage. Not only can we follow the technical jargon of engineers, but we can also turn it into something that is more emotionally charged and captivating than your run-of-the-mill license application.
We were able to bring a range of capabilities to complete a very complex submission within a tight time-line. Our skills in project management, business, writing and editing were all essential to meeting the client’s needs and for telling a compelling story.