HERE ARE A FEW EXAMPLES OF NOTEWORTHY RESULTS THAT I HELPED MY CLIENTS ACHIEVE DURING THE PAST 30 YEARS.
1. I helped a regulatory agency eliminate a backlog without any additional money or people
- The regulatory agency is responsible for approving new drugs and therapies in Canada.
- The agency had a huge backlog of submissions. Everyone was angry: medical doctors, patients, consumer groups, pharmaceutical companies, politicians.
- It reached the point where the Government committed to eliminate the backlog in a Throne Speech to the Canadian Parliament.
- I helped the newly appointed Chief Executive of the agency (a previous client of mine) eliminate the backlog in 18 months with no additional resources — we applied my stakeholder-driven change leadership framework..
- It was all about harnessing the power of the people in the organization and focusing on what matters most to eliminate the backlog.
2. I helped a government research laboratory re-allocate 35% of its research from component development to systems engineering research.
The rationale for this change was that industry needed more support in systems engineering than in development of components. We applied a customized version of my stakeholder-driven change leadership framework.
To achieve participation and involvement of research managers and scientists, they:
- Rated their own programs to pre-agreed criteria
- Exchanged views on each others’ ratings
- Were provided a synopsis of their discussions
- Exchanged views on the synopsis
Steps (3) and (4) needed to be repeated once before reaching general consensus on programs that needed to be redirected or replaced by new programs.
An aside: At an all-staff meeting after the successful completion of the change initiative, the chief executive provided me a recognition award that read “for absorbing punishment from different factions, usually with good humour”.
3. I was the project manager of a successful large-scale IT project
- After successfully completing a engagement, my client engaged me to manage a 2-year project to plan, design, develop and implement a financial and human resource system for a newly created Ministry in the Canadian Government that had 10 regional offices, 500 local offices and 25,000 employees.
- I was selected based on the success of the previous engagement for the same client – despite having never managed a project of any significant size and no project management training.
- The resulting system had a 25-year life.
- After the successful completion of this project, my client played a key role in my being appointed Program-Budget Officer in the government’s central Treasury Department to scrutinize budgetary submissions from the above-mentioned Ministry where I had been project manager. Later, my client recruited me to be a Director in his organization (I subsequently joined Coopers & Lybrand).
4. I played a key role in helping the Canadian Government decide to fund a project to design and build the robotic arm for the International Space Station
- I conducted an economic assessment of the potential benefits of the project.
- I was selected based on previous experience, references, collaboration with a consultant based in Washington DC and involving a former Managing Partner of Coopers & Lybrand as a Challenge Partner – despite me not having any formal credentials in economics.
- As part of the assessment, I met with VPs of banks and investment firms as well as the Government’s Minister of Science & Technology and his officials.
- This project was “competing” with two other space-related projects being proposed by other Ministries in government My assessment was the only economic assessment undertaken by my government client (i.e., all their bets were on me – smile).
- The Prime Minister and his Cabinet approved spending $1 billion to design and build the robotic arm for the International Space Station.
- Following the approval, I was engaged to develop a strategy for optimizing the economic benefits derived from this project, e.g., spin-offs in other areas such as medical and mining.
- An image of the robotic arm has appeared on Canada’s $5 bill since 2013.
5. I helped the Chairperson of the Board of a newly created Environmental Agency get Board members on the “same page”
- Board Members had been appointed by the Government of Canada and included the CEO of a major oil company, prominent environmental lawyers, …
- Board Members each had their own agenda and visions of how they could “use” the Agency to advance their cause.
- I applied an approach based on the fundamentals of an effective team and techniques for resolving differences of opinion – through a series of 1-1 conversations with Board Members and keeping the Chairperson abreast of the conservations, and evolved a proposed strategy that was presented and explained at a Board meeting and that was approved by the Board.
- The Board Chairperson (my client) was also the Chancellor of McGill University. He later became the President of the University of Waterloo and then the Governor General of Canada.
- I was selected to lead this assignment as a result of being recommended by a former Managing Partner of Coopers & Lybrand who was on the Board of McGill University and who I had involved as a Challenge Partner in the “Space Station” engagement (see previous example).
6. I helped the founder and owner of an accounting firm decide how best to monetize his firm when he retired
- The owner had developed a very successful practice. However, he was the firm. Without him, the firm would flounder within months. This would make it very difficult to sell the firm and he had no one within the firm who would be willing to pay what he would expect.
- He had previously engaged a consultant to provide him with advice. He did not like or accept the advice that he received.
- I provided him with several options and helped him realize that the option recommended by the previous consultant was in fact the most attractive option.
7. I developed and delivered a 12 day leadership program that generated rave reviews such as:
“I feel that I have been extremely fortunate to be a participant in the Five Star Leadership Program provided by Traverse Group. This program has provided me with a stimulation to continue to grow in my career as a leader in the Public Service. The program itself has been very well put together to build on the five Attributes of a good leader. From Covey’s “Seven Habits” to Collins “Good to Great”, we covered the attributes of a great leader. Points from the reading material were reinforced by having participants present topics to the rest of the group, and by doing group exercises. Having 360° assessments done, based on the five attributes was very valuable for me. Not only were areas for improvement identified, but also areas of strength. Also, progress could be assessed by having these assessments completed at the start and finish of the program. Finally, the suggestion to find a mentor was great. I engaged one of my senior managers as a mentor who is a constant inspiration for me as well as a great sounding board. The value of a true mentor cannot be stressed too much. At the start of the program, we were told that if we followed the Five Star Program and applied what we learned, we would have a promotion within 2 years. I fully believe this is true and the only limiting factor is oneself! I apply the knowledge I gained from this course on a daily basis, with much success!”
Note: A Vice-President of the Canadian Government’s central agency responsible for overseeing executive appointments referred participants to this leadership development program year-after-year.
8. From 2006 – 2016, I was frequently invited to be a speaker and / or Session Chairperson at conferences organized by Federated Press.
9. I have been on the Board of two start-up companies, have coached and advised small business owners, and founded & operated my own consulting firm for over 25 years. I also helped my wife establish a successful bed & breakfast after she retired from the World Bank as an economist (www.ashburyhouse.com).
I am known for my ability to find solutions, e.g., prior to my consulting career, I solved a very well-known 25-year-old mathematical problem for my PhD (supported by a National Research Council Scholarship throughout my graduate program):
- In the 1850s, mathematicians hypothesized that it should be possible to color any map so that no two adjacent countries would be the same color. This was known as the four color problem without constraints. In the 1940s, mathematicians hypothesized that if some countries had to be a particular color and / or some could not be a particular color (referred to as the four color problem with constraints), then this problem would remain unsolved even if the four color problem without constraints were to be solved.
- Both these problems were unsolved when I began research for my PhD. I proved that if the four color problem without constraints were to be solved, then the four color problem with constraints would also be solved (i.e., the two problems are the same).
- My PhD dissertation was approved by the founder and head of the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo (one of the top 20 mathematics departments in the world). My proof was published in a top rated international mathematics journal.
Since then I have helped my clients find solutions to overcome challenges and seize opportunities that were not mathematical (smile) but I often use the same approach – namely, apply the essence of the following two quotations:
- “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” — Steve Jobs
- “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” — Albert Einstein
The following is a list of some of the articles that I have written, some of which have been published in refereed journals. .
- Let’s revolutionize embracing change: Study after study shows that only about 30% of projects involving people and change are successful. What is missing? This article addresses this question, beginning by asking: What is it that real change leaders do to bring about changes such as being down the Berlin Wall and apartheid in South Africa?
- White Paper – Organizational Health: What is it? Why is it important? Key success factors to improving it.
- Improving organizational health: Improving Organizational Health requires a fresh approach to change management.
- Becoming And Staying Great: This article presents a comparison of Jim Collins’ contributors to “moving up” in his book Good To Great and the contributors to “falling down” in his book How The Mighty Fall.
- Engaging managers to be change agents: Although the literature is voluminous on overall change management, relatively little attention has been given to engaging managers in change management.
- 360 Organization Feedback: Knowledge for catalyzing improved performance:360 Organization Feedback provides a sound basis to catalyze culture change, improve stakeholder relations, assess organizational performance and identify & prioritize risks.
- Assessing the service and value of internal service groups: Internal service groups include coordination, planning, policy, finance, human resources, communications and administrative-support groups. Many of them flourish (in size) in large organizations. Many are valuable. Others do not provide a valued service or have outlived the reasons why they were created.
- Co-creating new possibilities and realities: Organizations are complex and face ever changing challenges. Horizontal initiatives (in government) and joint ventures (in the private sector) are organizations that are extraordinarily complex and face extraordinary challenges due to their reporting to two or more entities that each have their own agenda.
- Competitive advantage: This article was published based on a chapter in an Auditor General’s Report to Parliament, concerning the management of research organizations.
- Cross–Organizational Initiatives: This thought-piece presents challenges and best practices based on presentations at the Horizontal Policy Management Conference, Ottawa, May 29 – 30, 2006 and Traverse Group’s survey of 80 Public Sector Horizontal Initiative leaders and follow-up interviews with selected leaders of Horizontal Initiatives, Spring 2006.
- Dealing with concerns about performance: “Coaching for commitment” and “dealing with barriers and slippage in a timely manner” are the keys to both reducing the likelihood of disappointing performance and dealing with it when it occurs.
- Frugal (“Jugaad”) Innovation: This article is based on The Economist’s Special Report on Innovation in Emerging Markets (April 17-23, 2010) provided a wakeup call to “Frugal Innovation”.
- Having the best available knowledge: Knowledge is power (for you). Much knowledge is gained from mining and analyzing information (including data). It results in identifying important insights which are referred to as business intelligence.
- Kick-starting the re-think: Expectations of executives in the Canadian government
- Leading in a micromanaged environment: Sometimes, there are micromanagers in the chain of command. They retain as much power and decision-making authority as possible. They make decisions unilaterally. The question is: What should you do? (other than change jobs).
- Managing Reputation Risk: Today, intangible assets can account for 70% of the value of a business. These intangible assets include, among others, brands, employee loyalty, credibility, trust and reputation. In a world that has been rocked by corporate governance and audit scandals, reputation is now more important than ever before. This article was published in Management Risk.
- Mobilizing change: The genesis of change or new initiatives is often the commitment of an individual or a small group of persons. This thought-piece addresses what and how to mobilize change.
- Mobilizing execution: Execution has become like so many management clichés, a subject about which to write books and provide workshops. Executing is being in action, doing work, getting things done and producing results. This thought-piece provides tips for being a more effective executor (without becoming like England’s former monarch, Henry VIII — smile).
- Moving Forward Check-Up in a nutshell: A one page overview including the history of its origin and evolution.
- Social Capital: A 21st Century Business Success Factor: The concept of Social Capital was conceived and developed by sociologists. For example, Social Capital is at work when families collaborate after a disaster and a group of neighbours informally keep an eye on each other’s homes.
- The art of organizational possibilities: This thought piece is about identifying and embracing new possibilities. We define a possibility as being more than fine-tuning what is already being done. A possibility involves fundamental change. Possibilities are like an invention or a scientific break-through. Embracing a possibility results in a transformation.
- The four color problem with constraints = the four color problem WITHOUT constraints: This article resolves what was a very well known, 25-year old mathematical dilemma: That even if the four color problem is solved (a problem identified in the mid 1800s), the four color problem with constraints would remain an unsolved problem (as hypothesized in the late 1940s). Published in SIAM Journal of Applied Mathematics, Vol. 29, No. 1, 1975
- Transforming accountability from a noun to a verb: The Canadian Government is committed to strengthening accountability. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) has developed a Management Accountability Framework (MAF) to provide deputy heads and public service managers with a list of expectations that reflect the different elements of current management responsibilities. This is a necessary element of reform but seemingly not sufficient since national newspapers continue to find initiatives for which value for money is in question.
- Who’s the jerk? This thought-piece is about listening. So who is the jerk? Probably the person who doesn’t listen and engage in authentic dialogue with friends, family or co-workers. At some time or other, we all, unfortunately, fall into the jerk category. We’re human.
- Why and How To Improve Engagement of Your Team: Ever thought of improving engagement of your team to help overcome challenges and contribute to your own success?
- Working together: “The real impact (of planned changes) will be on redefining our working relationships – this means fundamentally rethinking who we need to work with and how we achieve results” – extracted from a Deputy Minister’s vision.
- Assessing and improving program impacts: Top management may wish to perform a relatively quick and inexpensive, yet comprehensive and systematic, review of selected internal service groups to ensure that scarce resources are optimally deployed.
- Achieving real police reform (currently being written): Top-down initiatives to improve such things as police transparency and accountability are necessary but not sufficient to:
- Change attitudes of police towards minorities (colored and indigenous persons)
- Reduce minorities’ fear of police
- Reduce crime among minorities by providing them with equal opportunities (e.g., education, jobs)
My article explores the opportunities for stakeholder-driven change leadership.