Every consulting practice eventually comes to settle on a few key offerings. Any particular client engagement is typically some combination of those products. These are the essence of my practice.

Problem Solving

Our extensive experience addressing problems in organizational settings has generated a new approach to problem solving. The goal of this product is to create a new capability within the company to identify and address problems in the most effective and efficient model possible.

The core of the product is a simple sequence: Teach, Practice,and then Coach. The starting point is a 4-hour course outlining the basics of the model. The practice sessions allow people to bring in the problems that they find the most perplexing, and to practice together as a group going through the PS 2.0 model on a live issue. This is typically a half-day workshop.

The final step is coaching. I would work with a few key individuals on applying the model to a delimited number of problems. This is a retainer-based service that continues for as many months as the client finds the discussions useful.

Decision Making

One of the most common complaints inside organizations is the difficulty of getting decisions made. Typically there is no shortage of either expertise or opinion, but it does not smoothly translate into organization commitment to action.

This product makes some fundamental distinctions about any decision situation and provides guidelines based on those distinctions. The first distinction is in the content of the decision:

  • Decisions about ends (objectives, outcomes, etc.)
  • Decisions about means (methods, procedures, processes)
  • Decisions about values

Within these differences, we can outline the best practices and common missteps. The second set of distinctions is in the decision setting:

  • Decisions made by an individual
  • Decisions made by a group of equals
  • Decisions made by a boss and his/her subordinates
  • Decisions made by a collective (30-70 people) representing different functions, levels, and geographies
  • Decisions made between organizations(i.e., a client and supplier, within a supply chain, among competitors supporting a common standard)

Each of these situations creates a unique group process challenge for which there are best practices and common missteps.

Governance for Not-for-profits and Public Sector

Unfortunately the quality of practice among NFP and public sector boards is fairly low. The combination of transient membership and political agendas combines with confusing models of board governance to create a perfect storm of misunderstood roles, confused directives, compromised intentions, and confounded problem solving ability.

At the bottom of the pile, the most critical problem is the lack of a clear model for board governance. Depending on the sophistication and size of the organization, there are well defined constructs for the best practice of boards and the staff they oversee. The models highlight the appropriate domain of board focus (vision, mission, strategy, policy) as well as the best response to the inevitable unanticipated problems that seduce people away from that best practice.

The first step is for the board involved to reflect on their current patterns of thought and behavior, and then to rationally customize an available model to fit their unique situation.

Process Improvement for the Rest of Us

Process is a powerful conceptual tool in thinking about work, and in designing most effective ways of achieving organizational results.

Unfortunately process improvement has been overly concerned with Six Sigma as the model of how to do it well. But for many corporate activities, the heavy use of statistical tools and the obsessive focus on reducing variability makes it less useful for the broader range of activities outside of manufacturing.

This product delivers a powerful set of diagnostic tools that assess the (1) essential nature of the process, (2) the cultural context for any potential process improvement effort, and (3) the capture technology most likely to deliver the desired benefits.

This is appropriate for the executive or manager wanting to explore the value of process improvement without immediately buying into the substantial overhead of a Six Sigma program.

Improving Interdepartmental Cooperation

Organizations are replete with frustrating paradoxes. We cluster people into specialties to leverage their talent, and then find the different groups have trouble cooperating with each other. Often times they can hardly communicate clearly.

For all their benefits, having separate functional groups often teases their managers into pursuing separate fiefdoms rather than looking for their strongest role in the work of the organization. The different cultures and world-views of each functional specialty become impediments to smooth cross-functional work flows.

Interdepartmental cooperation is typically elusive for senior teams. Based on research at companies like Sun Microsystems, we have uncovered the 6 different levels of potential cooperation (which makes the problem easier to understand). We have also enumerated the 14 components required for strong cooperation (which makes the problem more accessible). Using these tools, managers and staff have a path for creating stronger cooperation across functional boundaries.

Copyright © 2004 Jerry L. Talley
169 Sherland Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94043
Phone: (650) 967-1444