Internal alignment through collaborative platforms.

Many visions, strategies, portfolios and projects are defined at the top. And in any such case, lack of support, together with the usual difficulties on implementation, are their part.

collaborationHow can collaborative structures be of help?

Business practice show us that – certainly in larger organizations – inter-departmental collaborative structures can be an important facilitator. Formally embedded and transversally operating matrix structures will create, already in an early stage, involvement, comprehension and support for the initiatives that are being identified (!).

At the same time, collaborative structures will be of help during the implementation process and the monitoring of execution. They can be set-up around horizontal or transversal themes, methodologies, or specific challenges such as strategy development and execution, the management of portfolios and projects, business processes management, quality and risk management, HR-management, IT-solutions, etc. Collaborative structures are platforms where the different aspects of management are discussed, where best practices, experiences and practical knowledge is transferred, and where on these different aspects alignment is achieved.

The collaborative structure, whether more focussed on strategy, strategy execution or operations, is in fact also a platform that offers guidance to all participants.

Boundary conditions

But it must be said: collaborative structures or platforms only work 1/ if they are based on balanced and clear rules of governance, 2/ when their role and fields of operation are well defined and 3/ if those structures are initiated and headed – as a primus inter pares – by the strategy office or it’s equivalent.

It is a primary condition that for every theme, around which a collaborative platform is created, the participating departments or BU’s delegate a mandated collaborator, someone who co-ordinates the relevant aspect within his organization.

Start tomorrow

Collaborative structures stand for flexibility, low cost in terms of investment and operations and instant added value!




Good business cases are key for successful StratEx (strategy execution)!

Says the head of department to his staff: ‘Our strategy map for next year foresees important efforts to lift up customer satisfaction. And the launch of a full blown web shop is one of the key-projects we identified to reach that objective. But first of all, we need a smashing Business case for that project, because not all of our shareholders are convinced this is the right way to go. Who wants to be part of the team that will take up the writing of this BuCa?’

Three years later, this question appeared to be one of paramount importance, and with enormous consequences: the new web shop stood for 50% of the companies turnover, as well as for 30% new customers and a customer satisfaction rate that out-passed the 96%! Can you imagine?

The head of department concluded: ‘Our web shop project was a huge success and ‘OTOBOS’ (on time, on budget and on scope), thanks to a clear and well thought-out business case. And that Business case dear colleagues made all the difference! It not only convinced our shareholders, but alas has put us from the beginning in the right direction. I remember it took the BuCa-team 40 days of hard work, but the result was convincing and well thought. Thanks guys!’

Why in fact is a business case (buca) so crucial to the success of a project?

First, a good Business case is never the result of one individual who sits behind is desk and starts writing. It is always the result of the input of several stakeholders and specialist profiles.

Second, a quality Business case needs a good understanding of the starting situation, of the different issues the organization is wrestling with and the needs expressed by the broader environment, by employees and customers. In many cases this needs an upfront exercise which takes some time (!).

Third, the most essential aspect of a BuCa is the chapter in which is explained how – and how well – this project will contribute to corporate objectives. The ‘how well part’ is in a more technical language, identified as the ‘investment appraisal’, dicribing the benefits of the future project.

Forth: a BuCa gives a clear guidance to those who take up responsibility to manage and execute the project. All alternatives have been looked at and the choices that were made are extensively motivated.

Fifth, based on the Business case, management decides a GO or NOGO and attributes the budgets and people that are needed to bring the project to an end. In this way, het initial Business case also serves as the baseline of your project. Changes throughout the project are identified, referring to the baseline.

So, don’t be caught when management asks you to write for tomorrow a Business case…!


Do you manage Operational Excellence as part of your strategy… ?

As we said in a former contribution, successful companies perform in 3 domains: they have a clear vision and strategy, they succeed in executing that strategy, but above all, they also perform and excel in their operations. Performing in operations means that companies and non-profits, first of all need a clear vision on their operations objectives – how performing do we want the be? But secondly, companies need to manage the drivers of their performance. The latter is essential and most of the time a really underestimated challenge… and sometimes even considered as a burden…


Are you managing your performance-drivers?

Believe me or not, but most companies don’t. At least, most companies don’t manage them all. And only a limited number manage them consciously ‘integrated’ or ‘orchestrated’… Processes, quality, performance, effectiveness, people, automation, risks, change, customer expectations, services or service-level,  … Whenever managed, these drivers are often managed by different teams, probably with different objectives, within different governance bubbles, using different reporting lines, and so on…

Identify where you stand!

My company developed an ‘OPEX Maturity Model‘ © that supports your organization or company identifying how good you are managing your performance drivers. The ‘OPEX Maturity Model’ © has been developed, based on a ‘weighted’ scoring of your OPEX-essentials: it reveals clearly and opposable where in your organization and on which aspects or drivers you should focus on the short term – those drivers that will bring you the highest added value. Our model offers you a sequential  insight in how your company is moving in the right direction…

Contact us if you are interested to learn more about it or… to apply it!


Change as a strategy

Organizations and businesses get every day confronted with change: a new technology, a new player in the market, a new software application, the moves from a competitor, environmental changes, a changing economic situation, and whatever else… This not only requires sufficient agility from management, but also – and not at least – from staff and the entire company workforce.


Most people are creatures of habit, looking for stability, avoiding hassle and disruption, settling themselves quickly in a situation they perceive as stable and not hostile.

Introducing a new back office software or rolling out a new workflow with new procedures will never be succesfull without good communication and a strong change management approach. Preparing workforce for upcoming change is surely one of the most essential parts of management and strategy execution.

Change management stands for substantial (financial) efforts and a lot of energy. So, making change part of organizational culture is a huge challenge for most companies.

The principal question is, ‘how can we get our workforce embracing change?‘ The reason behind this ambition is obvious: if change is perceived as a natural part of everyones working environment, it will need less energy and effort to the company as a whole… and the implementation of project-results will be guaranteed a higher chance of success …

Is there a holy grail? Yes there is.

Get you people accustomed with change. Make them ‘part of it’. Get them looking themselves for change-opportunities, every day, every week and every month.

Lean Management is the perfect environment to challenge your people, at least once a month, to think about the way they are doing their job, about efficiency, cost and quality, linked-up with customer expectations. It brings them in a state of mind which is used to change. A new software platform or a new workflow will never be as threatening as it was before.

What are we waiting for?

Why the financial perspective ‘should not be on top’ in your strategy map…!


Kaplan & Norton put the financial perspective as the first perspective – on top – in their strategy maps. Their model is applied in that way since the balanced scorecard and the strategy mapping model has been published, about 20 years ago, in the mid-90ties of the last century. And indeed, many thousands of companies and institutions have applied the model successfully, and still do! Strategy mapping is ‘by far’ the most interesting and qualitative framework available for strategy development. So far so good. But…

FirstThe ambition to grow shareholder value – or stakeholder value for public institutions or non-profit organizations – is in my opinion ‘trivial’: it is the bottom-line of every private company and something we even don’t have to argue about. It ‘is’ the ambition of company-owners and entrepreneurs. And in this ambition, non-profits follow ‘by nature’.

SecondOn the other hand, to grow shareholder value, you need – first of all – a business model that is appealing to the customers you want to target… customers will choose for your product or service when it is brought to market in a way and with a customer value that will outperform, compared to the closest competitors. This can be obtained in may different ways: better product or service quality, a differentiating service model, a cheaper product or service, something with more character, faster delivery, better adapted to the needs of the buyer, easier to buy, and so on… Michael Porter’s Harvard Business Review article “How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy” from 1979 describes this obviously. This actually means that ‘the added value for your customer’ should be considered as the most important perspective… Without a strong vision on the way your company wants to serve its customers, no company whatsoever will be able to produce the turnover, nor the profits it has in mind…


Profitability is nothing more than the result – or rather the ‘collateral advantage’ if you wish – of the way your company is managing the value it want’s to create for its customers. The return on shareholder value is rather a wish than a goal (1)! The better your business model is appealing to your customer and the better you manage your operations, the higher your margins and profitability will be…! So, do not hesitate and put ‘customer results’ on top in your strategy map! It will open up a new world of perspectives and opportunities in managing your business… © Peter Buelens, april 2015

(1) Gary Cokins, Performance management, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2009

What distinguishes a successful company?

What distinguishes AB-Inbev, Colruyt and Ryanair from their closest competitors?

All three are number 1 in their respective markets, are subject to a steady growth for more than a decade, are extremely competitive, highly profitable and blessed with the highest market capitalization in their segment… Is there a specific reason for these exceptional positions at the top? We might think so.

First. Successful companies go for a clear vision on what really counts: their market positioning (Colruyt), USP’s (Ryanair) and brand (AB-Inbev). They focus on the essence of what they want to be(come). The way these companies manage this magic triangle is outstanding. Strategic vision is deployed in a consequent and persevering way… clear and straight towards customers and market, but at the same time largely extruded in their respective organizational cultures… Everyone – including customers, suppliers, workforce, financial stakeholders, partners, … – knows what these companies stand for and where they are heading for. Their positioning is therefore felt about as highly authentic and natural.

Second. These companies have another interesting habit in common: all three of them are outrageously cost conscious…! Avoiding waste, cutting costs and focus on efficiency creates breadth. Perseverance is – also in this domain  – key and… cost consciousness has become part of their company DNA or organizational culture.

Are we amazed? Not really.

It seems clear that authenticity, culture and focus are important underlying strenghts, that enrich the breeding ground for success.


Managing portfolio’s, programs and projects… it’s all about people!


Every company or organization we support, every program or project we coach and whatever the specifics of their environment: the quality of managing portfolio’s, programs and projects ALWAYS depends on the people behind them. Is this a surprise? For ourselves not at all, but apparently so for 95% of the organizations where we identify projects in trouble… What can go wrong then? By far, the idea of project management as a standard framework that can be applied ‘off the shelf’, already leads to an important number of mishaps…

Every method, whether based on Prince2 or PMBOK, needs to be tuned to the characteristics of its environment and the maturity of the organization where it is applied. Management should be aware of this… Quod non. Reality is in some cases even worse: not ‘one’ method is used, but methods seem to differentiate between departments…

A clear and well defined portfolio- and project management method, tailored to your specific needs, is a first requirement. Secondly, once the ‘applied’ method – the one, ‘tailored-to-your-needs’ – with its rules, practices and governance-aspects, has been defined, it should be practiced – rigorously – by everyone involved… and – once again – actively and continuously supported by the management team. If the people at the top are not behind and are not taking advantage of every opportunity to support the usage of that one-and-only company-wide project management method, the results will stay sub-optimal…! The best way to do this is, is by rewarding proper usage and letting your people embrace your project management method. From top to bottom, everyone should live by the standards you have set, respect the project-governance. Projects will never fail again, the way they did before!

Conclusion? For your organization, the  question is not which method, neither whether ‘some’ or ‘everyone concerned’ should apply your PM-method. It is ‘everyone’, and everyone homogeneously, consciously and with discipline. But again, reward this behavior. When people ‘love’ and embrace project management it will become part of your company culture. Good portfolio- and project management is a mixture of transparency, mutual support, responsibility and freedom… Lived like that, everyone will enjoy and take advantage of its results!


Thoughts from Peter Buelens, strategy consultant,