Challenging Opportunity

Life is more fun, when you get the chance to do something that pushes the boundaries a little bit.

Those boundaries may be related to personal skills, the general body of knowledge or simply to the achievement of specific goals, faster and more efficiently.

Despite the need to constantly move the boundaries, the challenge involved needs to be "sporting". There might not be an obvious chance of success, but there must be a least some chance! And the person being asked to accept the challenge, must have a good measure of the skills and experience needed to get the job done. Some innovative insights or particular working methods, always help to increase the odds of meeting any challenge.

Against that background, I could put some pegs in the ground regarding what I would consider a "sporting challenge"

Peg #1 Leverage my knowledge and experience

"Been there, done something vaguely similar" is always a good starting point, when you're trying to push the boundaries. The challenging opportunity for me then, would leverage my knowledge, experience and/or interest in the following topics:

as well as 25 odd years of international, inter-cultural experience, across a variety of roles, at various levels of the management hierarchy. 

Peg #2 Play the role that best suits me

At 50+ (yes, that's me), one should have a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses that one brings to the table. My CV is filled with a variety of roles and responsibilities across a bunch of companies and industries. Lots of my experience was gathered at the “bleeding edge” of emerging technology companies, where we effectively made up the rules as we went along. Often, I got pushed into taking responsibility beyond my years – and dare I say it, capabilities.

Reflecting on that, I know that I’m not the visionary, who blindly leads the troops to the extremes of unmitigated success or disaster. That’s probably because I’m a trained architect – I’ve learned to identify (and define) problems long before the visionary has even considered the possibility of their existence. :-)

Consider that start-up, that business unit or that project team as an orchestra. Within an orchestra, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and each role contributes singularly and collectively to that whole. I see myself more as the 2nd Violin, supporting, enhancing and enabling the vision, while ensuring that the orchestra is motivated and tunefully supplying the necessary infrastructure.
Given that the dream team has a vision, my role is to develop the infrastructure, motivate the troops and to identify – and resolve – the issues that might prevent the vision being realised.

Peg #3 Promote and utilise the concept of Business Architecture

Visions tend to focus on end results and success scenarios. The detail of the route there is less important. The concept of Business Architecture – just like any proper planning process – facilitates the creation of options, the evaluation of alternatives and the development of effective, lower risk methods of implementation.

Based on the fact that I’m a trained architect (yes, buildings!), I would claim that

• architects are trained problem solvers
• and architects are also trained to define problems
• architects can start with a "blank piece of paper" (new business ventures) or do renovations and improvements (business re-engineering type stuff)
• architects own the entire process, from initial ideas through to the last nut and bolt of the finished building
• architects don't actually do the construction work - they select implementers, they delegate, they manage and supervise, they make detailed decisions on the fly to ensure progress, they manage budgets and projects.
• In short, architects are "generalists with attention to detail"

Drawing parallels to the day-to-day business problems that we are faced with, I would continue

• business problems/issues/opportunities need excellent strategies and these must be well implemented
• most business problems are structural – the organisation/process/reporting etc is flawed
• like leaking roofs, the results are often separated in time and space from the underlying cause

Bringing these two streams together – under the term “Business Architecture” – I would claim that to achieve real improvements, we need to

• step back and analyse the structure of the business,
• identify the causes and symptoms of the issues (and recognise the difference!),
• define the desired results, together with the associated metrics, so that we know we've achieved them
• and then - and only then - create an appropriate design and a plan for getting there.
• Finally, we must manage the implementation process to ensure the appropriate quality "on time, on budget"

I believe that the understanding, the application and the value of these concepts and associated methodologies simply increases the odds of success - by eliminating some of the challenges! - of any business undertaking.

Peg #4 Pass on some of my accumulated wisdom

Am I allowed to talk about “my accumulated wisdom”? Or is wisdom – like beauty – in the eye of the beholder?

Whether or which, over the years I’ve certainly had a few “been there, done that” experiences and it is always a pleasure to make some of those experiences and the lessons learned available to those who are interested.

But more than that ... I see it as the duty of the "old guys" to ensure that every member of the dream team is given constant opportunity to learn and to grow with the challenging opportunities. Those who have worked with me know my mantra: "If you're not constantly learning new stuff, then it's time to change jobs!"

Does that description match your current challenging opportunity? If so, tell me using Quick-Mail.

And while you're at, maybe you can tell me what contribution I might be able to make! :-)

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Business | Colm Toolan |

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