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B830 – Residential school

February 23, 2011

I’ve just come back from a residential school Lane End Conference centre hidden away in leafy Buckinghamshire. But let’s be honest in that it was not a weekend of leisure. With sessions starting on Friday evening till about 10. Then an early start on Saturday morning from 8am  through till 9pm again and then closing on Sunday from 9am till about 4pm. So yes, pretty busy for all!

I’ve come away with a renewed sense of confidence. In all honesty going into the school, I was nervous of having to discuss my proposed EBI which had rapidly shifted from my initial proposal as part of TMA 01. In this instance when I first proposed 3 EBIs, two were to do with work and one with a NFP organisation for whom I am a board member. With a bit of a push from my tutor I jumped into the one related to the NFP, which to be honest is well outside of my comfort zone.

The initial proposal of ‘Devising a Communications & Technology Strategy for an NFP’ rapidly lost its shape and structure during the school.

One of the first activities was a cluster analysis of the problem. The advantage of the cluster analysis was that key issues quickly came to the fore as well as areas where these challenges lay. Having introduced my proposal to my breakout team, it became apparent that what was missing was not a communications or technology strategy but an overall business strategy. Missing was a clear understanding of the external environment, the industry in which this organisation operated, and also what resources were available.

Further there was a need to understand the relevance of stakeholders which being a NFP constituted a huge number.

Following on from the cluster analysis came a stakeholder power analysis using Eden and Ackerman’s Stakeholder matrix. Together with Lewin’s Forcefield Diagram, this helps in dentifying the level of influence the stakeholders would have and also where I as a practitioner would want them to be.

We went onto look at functional perspectives, i.e. how would HR or IT or Finance view any proposed changes and also then the relevance of management theory to any project for change in an organisation, but I’ll look at that later.

One key thing I took away from the school however was that the tools and suggestions are always going to be coloured by the perceptions and delivery of the proposer and the biases exhibited by that individual.

For example, if I’m implementing a Performance management system, how I feel about my managers and my direct reports will colour how I present my proposal. But also it has an impact on the kind of analysis I will do. That’s why the Res school was valuable in getting other people’s perspectives.

But as I said earlier, this kind of activity is dependent on how I present the material and so can be limited in value if my own point of view is not open and honest.

BTW – if you’re interested in general management theory is a website definitely worth registering for (it’s free)

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