Our consulting services are intended to complement our workshops and to provide front- and back-end assistance in implementing training initiatives, and in deploying skills acquired.
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Business Plan Facilitation
Business plans are like software programmes; there's always 3 or 4 ways of getting to the same outcome
It's an old saying in consulting circles with regard to deep structure, that the less a consultant knows about a situation (surface structure), the more value he can bring to the table. While this looks like a good excuse for consultants to be ignorant, we believe that there is a lot of truth in this adage when it comes to facilitation.
Business plan facilitation is the planning, chairing and summarising of internal meetings on strategy, budgeting and forecasting, where the output is one or more budgets or forecasts.
Business plan facilitation helps our clients to develop more robust budgets, and to produce coherent cash flow forecasts for use in valuation models, but one of the its most important benefits is that it can provide alternative ways of achieving budget and forecast targets. Budgets are usually well out of date by the time the budget period begins, and a process for continually monitoring and reacting to circumstances is more necessary than ever in today's uncertain environment.
If real options reflect the value of being able to change decisions in the light of new information, and strategy is a portfolio of real options, then the budgeting process needs to incorporate not only monitoring capabilities for recognising when key business assumptions change, but also appropriate proactive measures when they do change.
In recent months, we have heard a lot about "war games" with respect to a break-up of the euro, and it is hard to believe that many organisations would not have already factored this into scenario planning exercises long before 2011. This is not a Black Swan, because it has been a possible scenario ever since the inception of the single market in the early 1990s and the euro was launched in 2002.
Option theory and simulation are useful tools, but nothing beats a generative facilitated session with senior management for bringing the unspeakable to the surface, and working through the resulting scenarios. Although business plan facilitation can be carried out internally, a knowledgeable and independent external facilitator is more likely to speak the unspeakable, and to ask the "dumb" questions than an insider.
Training Strategy Development
Blended learning has obtained a poor reputation in some quarters, principally it has been used as a cost cutting mechanism rather than a tool to enhance learning. Properly applied, blended learning can make use of elapsed time, taking advantage of the gaps between learning sessions, especially if there is a "tutor" available to field questions on a timely basis (see our online valuation consulting service which is often used to clarify issues which arise during blended learning programmes).
We help firms develop and evaluate their training strategies, by connecting up the users (line managers and participants) with the appropriate course blend, design and delivery. We also advise on the launching of new programmes.
Online Valuation Consulting
We have provided an informal free "no strings" e-mail service to all of our programme participants for the past 15 years, where we will answer any question on valuation, and we receive several e-mails a week from past workshop participants requesting input on live practitioner issues.
Why is this service free? Well, what better way to obtain insight into the questions which challenge practitioners?
Why is it "no strings"? We give no guarantee as to the correctness of our responses, and when it comes to complex valuation issues there is rarely any single correct approach. We encourage practitioners to check out replies, before relying on them.
Even if you haven't been to one of our programmes, try out our free service, if:
- you don't want make a fool of yourself in front of your boss
- you are the boss, and you don't want to be shown up in front of your staff
- you want to check out a solution
- you want some tips for:
- further avenues to explore
- contacts who could help you
- suggestions for source material
- supplementary reading recommendations
You will always receive a reply.
Learning Needs Analysis
We facilitate Learning Needs Analyses (LNA) (either live or in a virtual meeting room) directly with the commissioning stakeholders (usually line managers), where learning outcomes can be set, issues brought to the surface, and buy-in obtained, before the costly process of course development begins.
An LNA, when carried out internally, can suffer from three principal deficiencies:
1. Learning needs are like issues; they emerge. This means that if an LNA is carried out by means of a questionnaire, many of the important issues will never surface, and the outcome of an LNA will end up missing its target.
2. The Training Needs Analysis is carried out without an adequate LNA, which can lead to a sort of training "solutionism" where existing programmes are reconfigured with little regard for changes in learning departure points. This is particularly important when dealing with valuation, where learning needs vary greatly, depending, for example, on the education of the participants and on the differences in valuation environment.
3. One size fits all - it is tempting to assume that all courses can be rolled out globally, and to ignore differences in regional (or even national) requirements.
Valuation is usually a good candidate for customised modular workshops assembled by region (or country), rather than through a uniform global course.
Bespoke Course Development
When the Learning Needs Analysis and learning outcomes have been agreed, it is time to write the course, workshop or seminar.
We design and develop programmes as follows:
- Based on LNAs elicited from and learning outcomes agreed with line managers in facilitated sessions
- Based on a Training Needs Analysis and course specification sheets provided by our clients' L & D groups
- Using our expertise in the fields of finance, valuation, negotiation and strategy evaluation, linked, where appropriate, with relevant soft skills
- Using our clients' expertise to develop specific programmes designed to voice and leverage tacit knowledge, or to deploy strategy
Virtual Classroom Design and Delivery
Virtual classrooms (VCs) have been around for a few years now, and quite frankly, they haven't yet delivered their potential, but they soon will. Remember what digital photography was like at the end of the 1990s. It was grainy and unreliable, but in just a short time this "disruptive" technology has improved beyond recognition to the extent that film and print technology is the exception rather than the rule.
While it is unrealistic to expect VCs to replace all training programmes, it is probable that we will see VCs taking centre stage as technology, data compression and bandwidth improve.
Cultural buy-in is crucial at all levels in the organisation: for participants to apply discipline to complete all pre-session work; and for line managers and learning administrators to allay fears of possible monitoring abuse. Recorded VC sessions and the reporting of quiz results are two-edged swords; they are useful for internal feedback and as a record for the granting of CPE credits, but they can also stifle participant interaction.
Choosing what to take virtual is paramount, and there are some great opportunities to deliver timely and satisfying sessions. Although it is tempting for payback reasons to create VCs for the internal "big ticket" programmes (e.g. high-volume induction level courses), this may not be an optimal strategy, especially for a subject as complex as valuation. This is because the less experienced participants who enroll for these entry-level courses often require two major elements:
1. Clear understanding of how each topic fits into a complex process (see the Detailed Value Map as an example), which may be much better handled in a live fully immersed course; and
2. Maximum amount of unencumbered face-to-face question opportunities.
VCs also conceal a few value traps, such as poor IT project management, an incompatible corporate IT platform, overdocumentation inefficiencies. and inadequate VC course administration skills.
None of these is insuperable, and when well managed, VCs have overwhelming benefits:
- Easy to design and set up at minimal cost
- Work well in short bursts
- Take advantage of elapsed time for "background" learning
- Most useful for participants who already have a good grasp of the topography of their subject, and require short sessions to top up their skill sets