Disagreement is vital, so why is it avoided?
Our research into high performing teams shows that disagreement is vital, yet it is often avoided at a cost....
We help businesses and their people thrive, using our broad and deep knowledge and experience.
We believe that organisations and individuals have great potential, often under-utilised. Importantly, organisational performance (results) and organisational health are both vital elements.
We thrive on helping organisations and individuals within them deliver high performance outcomes. Organisational health and performance is our passion!
We work at the intersection of strategy, change, leadership and culture, frequently customising our evidence-based advisory and development services to our clients' context for high quality outcomes.Work We've Done
When a company with operations in Australia and Asia was acquired by a European interest, they wanted to partner with a consultant firm that could provide them with an interrelated suite of services including: strategic thinking and business planning; leadership development; change management; and cultural intelligence. To secure this ‘one stop shop’ they came to UGM. We worked with the Australian executive team for more than a year but also worked closely with the Asian executive team, bringing the two together to agree on their purpose and promise going forward. The next step focused on helping them work well with their new ‘owners’, based in Europe. Specific programs were developed to tackle the challenges facing, for instance, staff from Europe operating in China and Australians managing up to the European Headquarters, embedding new approaches in an inclusive, high performance culture. The company met and exceeded their financial targets, with both CEO and CFO winning awards. The HR Director during the transition expressed the company’s gratitude to UGM, and commented on the enduring legacy of skills left within the company, as a result of our work
A global engineering company, with HQ in Europe and more than 60,000 employees, turned to UGM when they wanted to mitigate the cultural risks they face. A large engineering project in Australia provided the ideal site for examination by the UGM research team. The project was typical for the sector: complex and multi-year duration, with engineering specialists drawn from many different countries. The UGM team went on site, not only interviewing key personnel but also observing every day problem solving interactions. We distilled our findings into a report, mapping a more inclusive way forward for the company. The first of the recommendations have already been implemented: 3 different cultural insight programs for European, Australian and Asian engineers. The Project Director commented to UGM, "Your assistance has been very relevant, as effective project management is heavily reliant on effective people management. The diversity of the team is commonplace in our industry. Therefore, the higher my skills, the more effective I can be."
Our client, a business unit within a high-impact not for profit, wished to make changes to better align strategic activities for greater impact. They had a measurement system in place that was helpful but needed some tightening. Essentially, they wanted to be sure that people were focusing scarce resources on projects and activities that made a difference. UGM undertook a review of the performance measures in place to identify the key drivers of value for the business unit. Our evidence-based approach meant that we determined which factors "moved the strategic needle" via internal consultation and scanning the most relevant, current academic literature. This was also key to buy-in, since the measurement system previously hadn't always enjoyed full support. UGM helped the organisation craft a range of performance measures that were more clearly defined and most closely aligned with driving strategic value. Instead of wasting time measuring and reporting on elements that had relatively little impact on desired outcomes, management and staff were able to focus more on those critical few elements that really made a difference to strategic performance. In addition to being able to monitor performance indicators that would have the biggest impact, staff were also made aware of how they might prioritise their time. When faced with a choice between tasks, staff were able to choose actitivities known to generate the greatest value. Benefits of the project included measuring elements that were tightly linked with performance and direction and providing a shared focus on those activities to be prioritised for optimal use of available resources.
Prior to engaging us, our large corporate client had embarked on the implementation of a technology change project. Despite very detailed project plans, and the investment of inordinate amounts of people's time, the project had experienced significant delays. The UGM team conducted a strategic review of all aspects of the project, largely through interviews with a variety of stakeholders and the application of our customised suite of tools. We found that although there had been some small benefits, key project deliverables had not been achieved, largely due to a lack of common purpose. Essentially, because the crucial buy-in phase had not been successfully negotiated up-front, subsequent buy-in and support had only been superficial. This would likely plague the project going forward and, additionally, people were change fatigued. Since the project had dragged on for over two years, it was unlikely that it would achieve its objectives without a substanital rework and additional investment. As a result of our review the project was terminated in its present form, a key strategic decision that would prevent any further resources being wasted. This also allowed the organisation to focus on conerns of a higher priority.
UGM provided an end-to-end leadership development service for high ptoentials, from rigorous selection of participants through to managing the final presentations event at the end of the Program. Emerging leaders participated in a combination leadership course / management course, since developing both leadership and management skills was vital. The Program covered a broad scope of leadership and management topics but there was nevertheless a high degree of customised input which directly addressed strategic alignment and ongoing business challenges. Significant learning was achieved through action learning projects that leaders completed as part of the program. These projects also stimulated discussion within and beyond the division, adding further value. As a result of the outcomes and impact of the first iteration, the 9 month long leadership development / management course for high potentials was repeated. This group of highly talented, motivated and aligned individuals made a leading contribution to the success of transformation, including stepping up and assuming greater responsibility over time.
A large client combined a number of small but previously autonomous divisions into a single business unit. As part of a broad suite of interventions, UGM supported the unit head and the new Senior Team to work together more effectively. A formal executive level skills development program included having the team work together during the program to complete specific business tasks. The team learned a new shared set of skills, refreshed their thinking and worked more closely than usual in a facilitated environment. In addition, team members subsequently received one-on-one executive coaching to support the transition to a different operating structure and environment. Overall, the team building was successful and the business unit successfully met it's integration and performance targets.
A business unit in a large company engaged UGM to assist with leadership transformation over a two-year period. Unsurprisingly, the greatest potential to maximise value from investments in development is when these occur at multi-level. Comparing the 'before' and 'after' demonstrated a remarkable transformation, including setting the unit up for sustained success in a challenging environment. A variety of the iniatives, each major projects in their own right, are detailed separately below. A key focus was working closely with the head of the unit to help determine the most strategic means of achieving desired outcomes, and that executive support continued for the duration of the larger project. In addition, UGM provided highly customised (and tightly aligned and 'on message') support for individual teams as needed. This helped teams solve challenges that might have impeded the overall transformation effort had they not been addressed. It also had valuable team building benefits. The business unit was also interested in extending its leadership influence more widely in the business and UGM facilitated an open session with interested stakeholders from outside of the business unit. Stakeholders were given the opportunity, at an early stage in the transformation, to contribute their perceptions about the business unit and the way in which it might add overall value. These perceptions and insights were also vital in formulating and finessing what became a compelling CVP.
The General Manager heading a divisional team of over 100 staff wanted to address concerns raised about training within the division as part of a divisional day away from the office. UGM developed a highly interactive half-day session which involved all 100 team members discussing and analysing the key challenges and then submitting proposals that would resolve the challenges. Thus those in the division who had been concerned about training were able to have direct input - both sharing their concerns and assuming shared responsibility for developing a range of acceptable and achievable solutions. The General Manager was extremely happy with the high level of participation of all members in the division and also satisfied that outcomes of the exercise helped resolve the identified challenges.
A team of specialists that was critical to the success of the business was functioning below par. The executive in charge of the team noted a distinct lack of team-oriented behaviours. Although there wasn't much disagreement or conflict, there just wasn't very much collaboration. This aspect was challenging since members of the team worked in different parts of the business and a sharing of knowledge was seen as crucial for team and business success. UGM ran a team diagnostic ahead, looking at how essential team behaviours were perceived and experienced. The team also completed an assessment on individual work preferences which was shared during the half-day team building workshop. The executive in charge of the team reported a marked improvement in collaboration following the session.
As part of the leadership development efforts to achieve transformation in a business unit of a large company, UGM worked with the rank and file members of the business, to model and stimulate the inclusive leadership culture which was desired. People were quite amazed (and subsequently much more enthusiastic and energised) to be asked to participate in building the strategic direction of the unit at a very early stage in the transformation. They also learned about strategy development and how their daily work could contribute to implementing the relevant strategies. They were also able see that their strategic inputs had indeed been heeded, providing the platform for the strategic plan that emerged. People were also invited to attend a couple of short development sessions which addressed important skills, for example around influencing more effectively, that would make a critical difference to service delivery. It is little wonder that engagement scores in this unit soared way above any other unit in the company. Engagement continued to increase over the two year period despite continuous change (usually massive change initially reduces engagement).
Middle-management plays a critical role in the translating strategy into action. However, they are often too busy to attend training for extended periods and are often unhappy with the type of training they receive. UGM ran a managment course / leadership course for a division of a large company, comprising a series of regular 3 hour skills workshops for leaders / managers at this level. The content for the mangagement workshops was chosen on the basis of being immediately relevant, and the highly practical nature meant that managers could bring and progress their work as they participated in the workshop - no down time! In this way their leadership development / management course was tightly aligned with business needs, and the support provided assisted managers move the transformation agenda along while developing leadership and management skills which would benefit themselves and the business in the future. Additionally, these managers were encountering a convergence of messages from the senior team, from the high potentials and also from their people. Topics for middle managers included influencing effectively, persuasion and communication, change management, achieving well-being at work and strategies for the future.
A financial services business recognised that, although they were keen to promote women into senior positions, they weren't doing enough to grow their pool of early- to mid-career women. UGM provided them with a leadership development module focusing on essential steps in preparing for career progression and more senior roles. Topics covered, in a very practical way, included determining and aligning priorities, making meetings work, influencing key stakeholders (including their boss) and building a powerful personal business network. Executives were amazed when many of the women shared that they had implemented ideas and action from the module as soon as the very next day. They were thrilled with the near-instant ROI.
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