Where is the vision and the good decisions supporting it?

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What has happened to the practice of having a vision, determining goals and objectives, defining a need, establishing benefits then making good decisions.

Recently an email sent by the Australian Prime Minister indicated that expenditure on education in Australia would be increased by 75% for the next 10 years. The email  neither indicated how the funds would be spent nor what was expected to be achieved when expended.

The email did not acknowledge that over a 10 year period, on the basis of current trends, that the school population could be 13% larger than it is now and that the cost of living could be 23% higher. It also did not recognise, what many believe, that current expenditure is deficient. Without a defined goal it did not suggest how much money is actually needed.

Spending money just for the sake of spending it and without having an expected and measurable outcome is not wise. Announcing decisions that do nothing than superficially say “look at how good we are” or “we are spending so we must be doing something worthwhile” is not good policy.

This is marketing not strategy.

A government or a business needs to make strategic decisions that progress defined goals and objectives. Modelling potential outcomes in order to establish what benefits can be realised should be undertaken. The expected benefits justifying the expenditure should be explicitly defined, measurable and measured so that future decisions can be influenced by lessons learned.

To do otherwise is wasting time and scarce resources that could be better deployed. Worse still is the potential loss of real and long lasting opportunity.

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Wishful thinking – the antithesis of good management.

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Poor decisions with poor outcomes are common when a business engages in ‘wishful thinking’. Agreeing to pursue a course of action because of what the decision maker wants to occur is not always wise.

Ignoring drivers, constraints and capabilities when focused on a specific outcome is easy. Being mindful of all influences should be second nature but is not.

A decision maker in an organisation needs to be pragmatic. Focusing on the want at the expense of the possible leads to waste and potential failure.

Wanting something to occur will not make it happen. Making plans based on reality is the only viable option.  To do otherwise and expect a good result is delusional.

Actions resulting from wishful thinking may pay off but more likely not.

Successful businesses rely on good management not good luck.

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You can’t have it all!

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QSTCAchieving an acceptable outcome from any initiative within a business is fraught with obstacles. Achieving an acceptable balance between the dimensions (below) is essential when establishing a plan to execute.

Scope: What does the initiative cover; what are its requirements; what does it need to deliver?

Time: How much time do you wish to allow developing the initiative before it becomes reality?

Cost: How many resources (including capital) are you prepared to expend?

Quality: How good does the delivered initiative have to be?

You can’t however have it all. When building a plan compromise is essential.

For example, with a given

  • Cost and Time to complete, the scope and or quality will need to be tweaked to suit;
  • Scope and Cost (which is the usual scenario) both time and quality of outcome are the key variables.

Change during the course of realising an initiative is almost inevitable and constraints affecting the delivery are almost always applied.

  • An increase in scope with no change in time can be accommodated by increasing the cost (throwing more resources at it) and/or reducing the quality.
  • A decrease in time can be accommodated by increasing the cost, decreasing the scope or reducing the quality.
  • A reduced budget can be addressed by reducing the scope and/or quality.

Of course no one ever wants to reduce the quality of the outcome.

Good planning and good management will keep in mind each of these dimensions when exploring change.

Disregarding these dimensions during the planning/change process will cause problems with unexpected cost-overruns, scope-creep and time blow-outs.

Being aware of the interaction between these dimensions is crucial.

What can’t be accommodated is incompetence which can result in high costs, long time scales, unmanaged scope and poor quality.

You can’t have it all but with good planning and management you are not left with nothing.

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Skills, Knowledge and Experience.

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How often do we use the terms skills and knowledge interchangeably and/or erroneously?

Knowledge is information acquired through our experiences and the use of various sensory inputs. These include reading, watching, listening, touching, smelling. Knowledge refers to degree of familiarity we have with factual information and theoretical concepts.

Knowledge can be transferred from one person to another through training or it can be self acquired through research observation and study.

Skills on the other hand refer to our ability to apply our knowledge to specific situations.

Skills are developed through practise, through a combination of sensory input and output. It is essential, in developing skills to apply knowledge acquired to real world situations.

To make it simple, knowledge is theoretical and skills are its practical application.

Training by itself does not provide skills. For a skill to be realised knowledge must be applied.


In order for individuals to achieve a desired performance at a task they must be provided with opportunities to perform the actions required. Without the opportunity to practise they will not improve.

Much what is actually called training is basically nothing more than an information dump. Good training should be about activities, scenarios, and simulation.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

  • The Learner Driver is required to apply their newly acquired knowledge of driving through consistent practise. It is only through an adequate demonstration of their skills that they are allowed to take to the road unaccompanied.
  • A newly qualified doctor or surgeon spends many years under supervision practising the knowledge they have acquired through training and learning through continuous experience. Hopefully potential errors being identified by supervisors prior to them being instigated.
  • An architect trained in say the use of an Architecture Framework (eg TOGAF, FEAF, etc) should not be regarded as a skilled practitioner until such time as they have applied their knowledge in real world situations and demonstrated real business benefit. A real danger is in saying ‘I have the skills because I am trained’.
  • A residential building architect, even when fully qualified still has much to learn. With each structure designed being different and in response to unique client requirements it is their experience that ameliorates the application of their knowledge.

When training is just about lectures, presentations, and quizzes we end up with individuals who know a lot of things but can’t do much with it. They have knowledge but few skills.

Experience is the glue that bridges the gap between Knowledge and Skills.

  • Without experience skills can never be developed.
  • Without experience new knowledge cannot be developed.
  • Without experience skills cannot be improved.

Unfortunately not everyone learns from their experiences. Some individuals are resistant to change. If an experience is negative then ‘there must be something else that is wrong’ Knowledge can be grown through appreciating the experiences for what they are. Many, though not appreciating their experiences are destined to make the same mistakes over and over.

Experiences, if acknowledged, will augment skills already acquired.

With experience (both good and bad) comes the knowledge of which of a variety of tools are best used in a given situation. It is only experience and the application of appropriate knowledge that allows skills to be fully developed and utilised.


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Building Capability

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Business Capabilities do not stand by themselves. They have both inputs and outputs and have explicitly defined service expectations. They may be hierarchical with established dependencies or inter-dependencies.

Business Capabilities are the fundamental components that provide an organisation’s capacity to achieve a desired outcome.

They can be thought of as describing the organisation’s potential. When looked at in full they describe a model representing all the functional abilities a organisation needs to execute its business model, fulfill its mission and realise its vision.

The relatively simple views provided by a Capability Model establishes the foundation for complex discussions on strategy and resource allocation.

Capability models do not in themselves reduce business complexity, but they do highlight the complexity in a manner that provides for higher levels of insight and perspective.

Before going to ‘market‘ it is essential that an organization understands both the capabilities it requires and its ability to deliver.

A business that understands its capabilities understands what it is able to do and how well it can perform.


A Business Capability

  • May be ‘built’ or enhanced as a consequence of a defined business strategy.
  • May deliver a service.
  • Is constructed from a collection of Business Functions
  • Is supported by one or many business processes
  • Consumes and creates Business Information

The delivery of a Business capability will not remain static. It is reasonable to assume that when first defined there will be aspects of the delivery that can be improved.

Capability Maturity Cycle

As a business grows and evolves it should continually reassess the capabilities it has to ensure that:

  • All capabilities required to deliver on the current Business Vision are defined
  • Each capability is delivering what it should.
  • New capabilities are developed or existing capabilities are improved in alignment with the Business Strategy.
  • Capability developments or enhancements are prioritised to provide the greatest long term benefit to the business.

A business when managing its capabilities should ensure that it has a good understand of what they are and how they relate to one another.

Establishing a Capability Model of related capabilities allowing a business user to drill down to greater levels of granularity provides the opportunity to establish:

  • what might be missing
  • what is redundant
  • which capabilities need to be improved.

A Business Capability Model should encompass all capabilities required by the organisation whether they are currently delivered or not.

A rigorous process of assessment should be established that enables decision makers to prioritise which capabilities should be the focus of attention when evaluating initiatives to be progressed to realisation.

Acknowledging Capabilities that are currently not provided or provided poorly realises opportunities that may be exploited.

Example of a Capability Model

Insurance_Capability_ModelHigh Level Insurance Capability Model
Insurance_Capability_Model_Detail1High Level Insurance Capability Model – Detail 1

Insurance_Capability_Model_Detail2High Level Insurance Capability Model – Detail 2


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