As published in the Mandarin November 14, 2019

If it’s urgent, critical or not working – you are already in unsafe territory. ‘Playing it safe’ is already unsafe. You need to move, make things happen, get approvals and execute. Doing what you have always done isn’t the answer.

Kiah Consulting helps large organisations take managed risks to achieve better outcomes and get troubled projects back on track. During the past decade, Kiah has addressed the recovery of multiple billion-dollar logistics programs in disarray and helped restructure the management of Navy’s maritime sustainment.

Our approach is to develop executable strategies and execute them well. Complex problems don’t have simple pathways, the outcome is not always clear and influencers and stakeholders don’t always follow your plan. Unexpected minefields pop up, disrupting the best laid plans. Methodologies don’t work. Bespoke approaches do, and bespoke is what Kiah Consulting recommends – here are some of their secrets.

Build teams around the problem

“You need to know what you are doing,” says John Glenn, Managing Director of Kiah.

“We need a few management consultants of course to help with planning, process and strategy. But we are not a big fan of revolving door consultants, theorists, or designing the solution around the people on the bench. We tend to hire from industry, bringing commercial and domain acumen to the solution – with the added advantage of the business impatience to deliver.”

He goes on to say this needs a different client mindset. You can’t determine exactly who and what you need when you start. You can’t mobilise everyone on day one, or you only access those available on day one.

This means a journey, and that means buying differently. Set the procurement to build a team and do it jointly. This is a partnership in solution design and delivery, and all partnerships require flexibility. Flexibility requires courage.

“The public sector has a right to be wary,” says Glenn, “Some ‘partnerships’ have been, expensively, a bit one way towards the company. Heading into the unknown is scary. Here is the power in the relationship – only do what you want to do and say no if you are uncomfortable. It is OK to say no.”

Kiah uses the Defence Fuels Remediation Program as an example. Kiah has just one former Defence person working in that program out of 20 plus consultants and projects managers. Almost all come from the oil and gas industry.

He goes on to say that Defence should be rewarded for doing it differently, though he would like them to embrace the partnership approach a little more strongly.

He is clear that the power is in the team and approach, not an adherence to rules that don’t work. There is plenty of flexibility in the procurement rules, it’s the interpretations that are inflexible.

Strategies for the complex are complex

Kiah has developed an approach to delivering complex strategies, built on its success in dealing with complex negotiations. Kiah has also taken the effort to study the problem – taking them amongst other places to Harvard and Edinburgh Business Schools.

Complex strategies are multi-dimensional, not straight lines, and Kiah uses a simple triangle to explain its approach.

  • The strategic plan is the apex – what activities will be done when, the pathways, the blockers to avoid and the boundaries within which one must stay. This is creating the right environment, in the right context and unfolding the engagement in a way that moves towards success.
  • Alignment is at one corner. The understanding of interests and issues, what is challenging and driving the participants and stakeholders. Interests must align, or be addressed, to be successful when dealing with complexity. An often-repeated mantra by a Kiah consultant is ‘when I understand your perspective my perspective changes.’
  • Engagement is the third point. Engagement is delivery. Different approaches for different problems, often many approaches for the one problem at different times: project management, business case and solution, articulation, communications, publicity and influence, behavioural economics, and negotiation are a few of Kiah’s tools.

To adopt a military saying, no plans survives first contact. Multi-dimensional strategies adapt.

A dash of courage

Glenn acknowledges that Kiah isn’t for everyone. “If you don’t want to go somewhere different don’t call us,” he says.

To lead requires courage. A leader will take organisations in new directions – away from the traditional and normal, the safety of the past and the comfort of groupthink.

Unfortunately, bureaucracies tend to reward those who seek safety rather than those who are prepared to venture into new territory. Relying on past practices isn’t going to resolve a problem for your organisation, after all, it is the choices of the past that created the problem.

We’re Hiring

We are on the lookout for those who can deliver outcomes, not just activity – could that be you? Why don’t you find out?

Available Roles

Don’t be caught playing it too safe

If past approaches haven’t worked, it might be time to try something new. Talk to us about what we have done, and what we might do for you.

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