What happens behind the scenes of an evidence-based consultancy assignment?

Preparation: Research and design

Research and Design

Research and Design

Our evidence-based policy provides you with proven services that have a track record of success behind them and requires constant research into the latest findings from academics and practitioners.  We regularly check new publications from the Chartered Institute of Management, The Knowledge Network from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Academy of Management, Harvard Business Review, Institute of Leadership and Management etc.  In addition to this we study new research findings using the resources of the British Library Business and IP Centre.

What does evidence-based management mean and how does it help our clients?  Strictly, it refers to scientific studies with the best reliability (how well the research method produces the same results when repeated) and internal validity (the extent of bias in the results). Validity is a real issue with business research because it has the same tendency for results to be interpreted as social science research.

In practice, evidence-based management is about finding the best evidence we can. In studies that assess the effect of consultancy and management interventions, the ideal research uses randomized controlled longitudinal studies.  However, if these methods are not available, we use business research based on surveys and qualitative studies.  These may not meet the ideal standard for “best available” evidence, but  they are better than working with hunches, opinions or the latest fads.

Implementation: Client case study: Transforming General Trading Group to Sharaka Holdings.

Rather than describing our view of one of our projects, the following description of one of our recent consultancy engagements describes the process from the client’s perspective:

Mr. Issa Al-Sahlawi wrote this description, and it is used with his kind permission:

“In my role as Corporate Planning Director of The General Trading Group, I was charged with the responsibility of leading a business transformation for the Group. Specifically, my role was to initiate the process and work with an Executive Committee to chart the way forward for a traditional family business based in Doha, Qatar.

Realizing the need for an expert counsel and guide, we researched the consultant fraternity for possible options. We chose Mr. Steve McGrady from Cambridge Management Sciences Ltd. (CBMSc) as our counsel for three main reasons:

Sharaka Holdings, Qatar

  1. He had the relevant experience in related subjects;
  2. had worked in the region and so would be familiar with the cultural sensitivities of the region and
  3. most importantly we felt his background was best suited to our needs at the time.

Steve was invited to be our mentor in the “The GTG Way Forward” project: a three phase business transformation project to develop a sustainable, growing business. Over the past four decades, the General Trading Group has evolved from a family business into a large group of diversified businesses. Our challenge lay in developing a sustainable direction for the future without losing sight of the values, history and cultural diversity which formed the DNA of the Group.

Our points of reference to start with were:

  • the vision of the stakeholders;
  • external market research to gauge our business position and
  • an internal situation analysis to identify gaps.

Facilitating Change

This formed the basis upon which Steve developed a program, structure and methodology. Together, we developed a road map for the process of transformation. At first, Steve worked closely with the members of the Board, the Executive Committee and the General Managers of individual business units to align leadership. He then facilitated workshops with designated teams to develop a corporate direction (Vision, Mission, Values) followed by the formulation of a plan to implement the agreed direction, strategy and brand. In addition to developing a group business plan, marketing plans and other sector specific plans, we took special care to focus on the people side of change management. In doing so, we identified change leaders based on agreed parameters who would act as catalysts in the process. We then worked on tools to communicate and cascade the process down to the rest of the organization, slowly engaging the entire work force. We strongly believed for a business transformation to be truly successful, it had to be internalized and the organization had to be transformed from the grass roots.

I would like to highlight specific aspects of Steve’s character and mentoring style which played an immensely important role in our project.

  • His structured thought process, experience, knowledge and ability to connect the dots to arrive at a holistic reading of situations have proved invaluable to us in this journey.
  • The General Trading Group comprises a multi racial, multi ethnic work force. Steve’s ability to relate to different people from diverse cultural backgrounds, evoke their participation and inspire them nurtured a spirit of sharing. By doing so, Steve also integrated himself into the culture of our organization which played a pivotal part in the process.
  • Steve encouraged collaborative thought process, employee engagement and transparent communication through a series of workshops with the Executive Committee and others during the Way Forward project. In these workshops, Steve would provide us with the broad skeletal framework through templates, draft plans and tool kits which aided us immensely to understand, structure and formulate our thoughts. After which, he would stand back, urging us to own the project, face the challenges and formulate strategies going forward. By encouraging us to challenge his thoughts, he stimulated our thought process and got us many a time to think “out of the box”.
  • At many points in the program, Steve cautioned against comparing ourselves to similar business transformations in the western world. He stressed the importance of tailoring our transformation process to our specific needs, situation, constraints and cultural confines. This prompted us many a time to go back to the drawing board and develop a plan which we felt would work best within our environment.
  • As in any process of transformation, we expected and were met with resistance at many levels. Steve’s flexibility, maturity and accommodating, calm demeanor inspired us to take on these challenges and come out with innovative responses.

I believe, the CBMSc contribution to the GTG Way Forward project has been immense – Steve’s nurturing, non-invasive style, ability to get participants to think, and then inspire them to create their own individual masterpieces on a blank canvas are his greatest strengths. He is a true asset in any role that calls for vision and guidance.”

One outcome from this assignment, in addition to the new Vision, Mission and Values and the ‘Way Forward’ plan, was the renaming and rebranding of the group to Sharaka Holdings.