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Business Development


Professional Consulting:  A Powerful Resource for Strategic Planning, Systems Analysis, Project Review and Leadership Development



 
What exactly is business consulting?

Business consulting refers to both the industry and the practice of helping organizations improve their performance. At its corpus, it is engaged primarily through thorough analysis of existing business problems and the consequent development of plans for improvement. Organizations hire the services of leadership and management consultants for a number of reasons, including market share gains, improved worker productivity, to achieve elevated employee morale, to achieve paradigm shifts in organizational image through creative corporate branding and public relations just to mention a few. In this regard, the consultant has the capacity to bring more objective advice and recommendations, to gain access the consultants' specialized expertise, or simply as temporary help during a one-time project. Consultants can also relieve organizations from escalated long-term costs where the hiring of permanent employees is not required. Because of their exposure to, and relationships with, numerous organizations, consultants are also said to be aware of industry 'best practices,' although the transferability of such practices from one organization to another is the subject of debate. Consultants may also provide organizational change management assistance, institute the development of coaching skills, technology implementation, strategy development, or operational improvement services. Business consultants generally bring their own, proprietary methodologies or frameworks to guide the identification of problems, and to serve as the basis for recommendations for more effective or efficient ways of performing business tasks.

Business consulting refers generally to the provision of consulting services, but there are numerous specializations, such as information technology consulting, human resource consulting, and others; many of which overlap, and most of which are offered by the large diversified consultancies. However, so-called 'boutique' consultancies, are smaller organizations specializing in one or a few of such specializations.

In this regard, specialized business interventions are becoming more prevalent in non-business related fields as well. As the need for professional and specialized advice grows, other industries such as government, quasi-government and not-for-profit agencies are turning to the same leadership and managerial principles that have helped the private sector for years.

One important and recent change in the industry has been the spin-off or separation of the consulting and the accounting units of the large diversified firms. For these firms, which began business as accounting firms, management consulting was a new extension to their business. But precipitated by a number of highly publicized scandals over accounting practices, such as the Enron scandal, accountancies began divestiture of their management consulting units, to more easily comply with tighter regulatory scrutiny that arose in the wake of the scandals (Self Growth, 2013).

What is Strategic Planning?



Strategic planning is an organizational management activity that is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations, ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals, establish agreement around intended outcomes/results, and assess and adjust the organization's direction in response to a changing environment. It is a disciplined effort that produces fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, who it serves, what it does, and why it does it, with a focus on the future. Effective strategic planning articulates not only where an organization is going and the actions needed to make progress, but also how it will know if it is successful.

What is a Strategic Plan?



 
A strategic plan is a document used to communicate with the organization the organizations goals, the actions needed to achieve those goals and all of the other critical elements developed during the planning exercise.

What is Strategic Management?



 
Strategic management is the comprehensive collection of ongoing activities and processes that organizations use to systematically coordinate and align resources and actions with mission, vision and strategy throughout an organization. Strategic management activities transform the static plan into a system that provides strategic performance feedback to decision making and enables the plan to evolve and grow as requirements and other circumstances change.

What Are the Steps in Strategic Planning & Management?




 
There are many different frameworks and methodologies for strategic planning and management. While there is no absolute rules regarding the right framework, most follow a similar pattern and have common attributes. Many frameworks cycle through some variation on some very basic phases:

1) analysis or assessment, where an understanding of the current internal and external environments is developed,

2) strategy formulation, where high level strategy is developed and a basic organization level strategic plan is documented

3) strategy execution, where the high level plan is translated into more operational planning and action items, and

4) evaluation or sustainment / management phase, where ongoing refinement and evaluation of performance, culture, communications, data reporting, and other strategic management issues occurs (Balanced Scoreboard Institute, 2012).


What Are the Attributes of a Good Planning Framework?



The Association for Strategic Planning (ASP), a U.S.-based, non-profit professional association dedicated to advancing thought and practice in strategy development and deployment, has developed a Lead-Think-Plan-Actrubric and accompanying Body of Knowledge to capture and disseminate best practice in the field of strategic planning and management. ASP has also developed criteria for assessing strategic planning and management frameworks against the Body of Knowledge.

These criteria are used for three primary purposes:
  •  Ensure that the ASP Body of Knowledge is continuously updated to  include frameworks that meet these criteria.
  •  Maintain a list of qualifying commercial and academic frameworks recommended for study and training, to prepare participants to sit for the three ASP certification examinations.
  •  Provide a resource and "check list" for practitioners as they refine and improve their organization's systems and for consultants as they improve their product and service offerings.
The criteria developed by the ASP are
  1. Uses a Systems Approach that starts with the end in mind.
  2. Incorporate Change Management and Leadership Development to effectively transform an organization to high performance.
  3. Provide Actionable Performance Information to better inform decision making.
  4. Incorporate Assessment-Based Inputs of the external and internal environment, and an understanding of customers and stakeholder needs and expectations.
  5. Include Strategic Initiatives to focus attention on the most important performance improvement projects.
  6. Offer a Supporting Toolkit, including terminology, concepts, steps, tools, and techniques that are flexible and scalable.
  7. Align Strategy and Culture, with a focus on results and the drivers of results.
  8. Integrate Existing Organization Systems and Align the Organization Around Strategy.
  9. Be Simple to Administer, Clear to Understand and Direct, and Deliver Practical Benefits Over the Long-Term.
There are numerous strategic planning and management frameworks that meet these criteria, such as the Institute's Nine Steps to Success.  For more information about the criteria, please visit the ASP website. (Association for Strategic Planning, 2012).

Philosophically, L.E.A,P.S. has adopted and embraced the ASP model in its consultancy practices. We believe that professional consulting practices must be guided by proven and research-driven best practices. In this regard, L.E.A.P.S. promised to deliver ASP standard best practices in its partnerships with our clients.