To include or not to include…

Something different before I start.

Has the outcome of the Brexit referendum surprised you so much as well? I literally thought, “How is this outcome possible? It can’t be true that the British really mean this. Do they really think that they’ll be more successful on their own than with a partner like continental Europe?”. Europe in its current form isn’t perfect, of course, and there’s plenty to criticise, but in order to change a system, you have to be a part of it, not an outsider!

As HillFive, we specialise in realising performance improvement in network-based companies (such as Telecom, Energy and Cable concerns). Our clients’ core business is providing connections. The realisation of connections is therefore (metaphorically) certainly a central theme in the work we do, our product development and our thinking.

raftingTo be successful in this era of globalisation, you must have or develop skills that focus on collaboration. This applies to countries and is relevant for companies, divisions or departments. In practice, however, we see that many improvement opportunities remain untapped because of the fact that the skills of the players concerned are inadequate, or that too much attention is given to one area to the loss of another where attention is needed, resulting in the lack of further development. In organisations where technology plays an important role, the majority of attention (logically) is focused on technique. The reality is that the balance with the other two categories of expertise that are important for success (i.e. interpersonal skills and knowledge of business sciences) are frequently lost.

The balance between these three skills is of great importance as a foundation for the competencies of successful collaboration and improving performance:

Technical knowledge: what knowledge and skills must a professional possess in order to perform his job properly? For example, a mechanical engineer must be able to make precise calculations or a telecom specialist should be able to predict and resolve possible signal interferences.

Interpersonal skills: the ability to work effectively with people from other disciplines or departments. For example, a member of the engineering department must be able to have effective discussions with colleagues from the production department in order to jointly optimise and simplify the assembly of a new product.

Knowledge of business sciences: understanding production control methods such as Lean, Six Sigma, Agile, Eli Goldratt’s bottleneck theory and, obviously, knowledge of business economics in developing, defending or creating a business case.

What if…
A shortage of interpersonal skills within the organisation can lead to unaccepted solutions, silo-thinking, a lack of collaboration and ultimately insufficient strength or impetus within the organisation to achieve common goals.

Figure 1: Degree to which skills are present

In Figure 1, a typical profile such as we often encounter in practice is shown. The technical skills receive a lot of attention, are valued in worth and are at a good level. By the other two elements, development lags behind and insufficient attention is given.

A shortage of managerial skills ultimately leads to unnecessarily expensive products. Working with state-of-the-art production techniques is not possible. Collaboration has been good, but the business processes have been inefficiently designed due to a lack of knowledge regarding the latest methods and techniques.

These “what-if’s” determine my advice: focus on the entire picture in its entirety. Consider all possible factors. Perhaps it’s a good idea to finally invest in the cases that have previously remained looked over. In other words:

E = Q * A * M

The efficiency (E) of what you do is the product of the quality (Q) of the solution (for which you need technical knowledge), the acceptance (A) (for which you need interpersonal skills, and the method of management (M) (for which the business skills are needed).

rock-balanceIt is with this integrated view that we help our clients to develop business case driven competencies. The points to target are people’s competencies and behaviour. Performance improves through on-the-job training and coaching. The longevity of the results is secured by the fact that it is experienced in practice by the people. This, of course, in combination with the use of tools such as peer-to-peer groups to further interact with colleagues or independent outsiders and e-learning to further study and retain the details involved in a new way of working.

One question remains for me:

What’s this balance actually like in your organisation? Do these three elements receive sufficient attention proportionally, or does the emphasis always lie on just one of them? What could you do to optimise this? What would the benefits of doing so be?

I hope this provides some (healthy) food-for-thought and am very curious to hear your reaction and/or comments. You can simply e-mail me at:

P.S. By the way, I’m not really that frightened of the consequences from a Brexit. A shock often leads to inspiration for improvement. An awareness that improvement is needed arises, followed by action. We live in wonderful turbulent times!


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