How we approach consulting projects
As consultants, we deliver on the mission of optimising client performance through analysing organisational problems or challenges, developing project plans to bring about solutions, and helping you implement those plans. The benefits can include external, objective advice and our specialised expertise. Because as consultants we work across a range of industries and organisations, we're always developing our own capacity to bring best practice, innovation, and our experience along with us when we work with you and your team. We also bring useful accreditations / qualifications and the associated skills, and we always respect and protect client confidentiality.
As consultants, we know that our client organisations usually have the seeds of an answer to their problems within. A helpful consultant must first be an expert at uncovering this information ... with methods that can start with briefing meetings, reviewing current practices and performance, and generally looking at things 'as they are', and considering things 'as they could be'. Then it's about the process from actual present to preferred future. With the right information and accurate analysis, we can help you transform your strategy, structures, leadership, culture and performance. This is the vital change that a consultancy assignment should deliver – making a big difference to how well our client organisations deliver their products and services.
Consulting and Organisational Change
Sometimes the classics continue to be relevant, and sometimes they need a refresh.
One of the classic models of organisational change - Lewin's 'Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze' model - still captures the essence of change, though it's a little TOO simplistic! This is because in our fast-changing world, no organisation is every purely static; something is always under revision, and so it's not accurate to say that a new state can involve a total 'refreeze', or that it was frozen in the first place - hopefully! So, while most change models are still just more detailed versions of Lewin's, we use the best elements of many of them in helping you deliver and manage change. For example, rather than a refreeze, we're more interested now in setting up your new 'state' with enough intelligence to ensure the best possible likelihood of success, including the capacity to keep adjusting. We help you establish new frameworks, monitor, and adjust, providing support as needed. When you bring in an expert consultant, you bridge the gap between external and internal, applying our capability and knowledge - gained through working with many organisations in many contexts - to your organisational issues. Having an objective external party working inside the organisation helps you cut through to improve or transform structures and systems, and ultimately better achieve your goals. Consultancy gigs should often have a sense of 'mission accomplished' about them as we approach the wrapup phase. This is when we know we've achieved what we set out to do. Your organisation's leaders and teams have been actively involved in the solution. Thanks for inviting us in!
High Performance through better Strategy
Want to get your organisation and your people performing to their real potential? Our support can be a vital ingredient, and it starts with Strategy.
Strategy is firstly about crafting an inspiring vision for your business and how it will succeed, and then about setting objectives for the coming phase, and finally about aligning your people and systems around that, including the financials of budget allocation... Oh, and of course, it's about successful implementation! Check out our information on a Strategic Planning Process.
Assessing Leadership Performance
Performance evaluation is tricky enough at any level, but how to assess the performance of the individual (or team) at the top?
Governing bodies such as Boards and Councils can find it tough to objectively and comprehensively assess the performance of a CEO - and yet it's a key part of their role. Expert support can be very helpful.
Key performance measures are important, but while the measures might be clear, the performance against them often isn't. A board is often not directly in touch with day to day operations, and is often distanced even from the people the CEO interacts with in their daily work, so it's hard to put a full picture of leadership performance together.
Sometimes more is needed – in the case of a Chief Executive or GM, a full view of that leader’s performance as seen not only by board members, but also by staff reporting to the individual, and even external peers or stakeholders.
Just KPIs, or a deeper approach
As well as assessing against key performance indicators (KPIs), one solution to the challenge of reaching an accurate view of leader performance is to use a 360 degree approach. A 360° process incorporates response information from “all around” the leader. This can bring a fantastic level of objectivity that's often otherwise hard to guarantee aside from in pure financial performance measures. We bring a range of tools and options to this process, including:
- Our platform of choice - the Leadership Circle suite including individual and team 360 profiles - matching the fast pace of today's environment with a comprehensive description of leadership capabilities and a system that measures performance against these.
- Other models - we can discuss these with you directly.
To support this with KPI-based measures, we offer expertise in designing and implementing fully customised reviews, implemented online, and based on existing measures such as organisational values, KPIs and other agreed objectives.
(and we can provide the same for leaders at the next levels in larger organisations.)
You'll end up with a comprehensive and very accurate picture of performance, able to be benchmarked and re-tested over time, and generating insights to enable you to develop accurate development and performance objectives for the next phase.
What our clients say...
"I wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ for the work you diligently undertook with YPRL and especially the sub-committee tasked with the CEO appraisal. I sincerely thank you for your professionalism and balanced views, together with a calm perspective. Your knowledge and insights in assisting the sub-committee with the appraisal and KPI process were invaluable."
Cr Mary Lalios Councillor, City of Whittlesea, former Chair, Yarra Plenty Regional Library Board
The Teams Deep Dive - measuring and improving team performance & engagement
Do you have teams where there are either performance issues, low team member morale, struggling leaders, or maybe a combination of these? You know that something isn’t right, but it’s hard to pinpoint just what… The Teams Deep Dive will help!
The Deep Dive Survey is a sophisticated questionnaire incorporating the learnings from our work with teams over the years now. The results provide a comprehensive picture of team performance and member satisfaction, and can be put to work straight away to generate improvements in your teams. Reports can contrast outcomes for multiple teams in an organisation where it’s identified that this will be useful. The data can be used to model the success factors for higher-performing teams, enabling other teams (and team and business leaders) to use the insights to set up the most impactful improvements exactly where they’re needed.
The Teams Deep Dive has been recrafted over many iterations, still including some elements from our original Team Development Questionnaire, in use by us since 1999 (and then based with permission on a model by the great teams expert Gregory Huszczo). Now delivered online, it helps us work with your teams to assessed the areas outlined in the table below – across the highest-level clusters referred to as Categories, and the next level clusters referred to as Groups. Each Group incorporates the results for three survey questions related by the Group theme.
The Major Categories and Groups of questions in the Deep Dive survey, with 3 questions for each Group, are:
While in some surveys we use 5-scale ratings options, for the Teams Deep Dive it’s a simple 3-option rating scale where team members respond to a series of statements via the options of:
- We’re Strong (a 3 rating)
- We’re Middling (a 2 rating)
- We’re Struggling (a 1 rating)
This makes for an incredible set of insights into what’s working, and what isn’t.
‘A team’ has been famously characterised (by Katzenbach and Smith in The Wisdom of Teams) as “…a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, a set of performance goals, and an approach...for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”.
How great it would be, if all teams just functioned like that! But we all know that great teams don’t just happen. The work of structuring and resourcing a team to function this way is always significant, and sometimes incredibly challenging, as (again) we all know from having worked with and in dysfunctional teams.
If that’s happening, please get in touch – it’s a great feeling for us and you when we work with a team where things aren’t quite right, and help them turn it around.
Comments are enabled across the survey, so that team members can throw further light on the highs and lows as they see them.
The Deep Dive survey input can be supplemented with interviews where needed, either initially or to follow up key areas.
We can also provide you with our surveys for identifying:
- Workplace Flexibility - profiling your workforce to optimise work arrangements. We'll help you model what your workplace really needs in terms of how and where work is and can be done. If you're considering introducing a new flexibility model or a Hybrid Work approach, this will bring incredible benefits. The framework for this review is available now, in 2o21, for your organisation in forging its way ahead and out of the Covid-19 crisis and this year's reboot.
- Manager Capability Assessments. Before you embark on a management development journey, get an accurate picture of where your people are using our MSMOMB model - Managing Self, Managing Others, Managing the Business. This sophisticated tool helped us craft a 2020 Management Development program for State Library Vic /the Public Libraries Victoria network, and was the basis of a successful program for 20 managers from around Victoria.
- Team Profiles including our own Team Development Questionnaire (TDQ).
- Topic-specific surveys - we design it for you and implement through a robust online platform. Anyone can design 'a survey' but not everyone has the training, qualifications and experience to ensure that it's testing what was meant to be tested, and that the results are valid and reliable. Our principal consultant graduated in Social Science before taking on further studies in education & training, organisational development and leadership, and brings that knowledge to good use in wise survey design and accurate data interpretation.
More on High-Performing Teams
Teams potentially bring huge benefits to organisations, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes a team needs a review and reset, sometimes a major rebuild, and sometimes just an opportunity to get together in a facilitated framework and rebuild themselves.
The use of teams from the senior executive level to production and service operations is now standard practice in most workplaces. Teams potentially bring huge benefits to organisations, but it doesn’t always happen that way. We’ve all seen how allowing under-performance in team behaviour and outputs can impact badly on the bottom line.
Review and optimise
We can review your teams for performance and satisfaction. We can optimise team performance and team leadership, including effective teamwork between teams. This can be through a targeted team development program or other approaches. One of our recent programs, Built to Last, for a client’s Technology managers, had additional benefits in the area of team development. Through working together on enhancing the strategic value of their products and services, the team 'just happened to' improve their teamwork, demonstrating that there are many ways to enhance team performance while meeting other key goals.
TMS (Team Management Systems)
Our director and principal consultant Paul Murphy is accredited in several instruments specifically related to leading teams. These include - from Australia's Team Management Systems, the Team Management Profile® (TMP), of which we've now implemented some 400 with individual managers and teams.
The Team Management Profile (TMP)
We’ve only used this model so much because it’s so effective and impactful, and because our clients agree!
While we work with many profiles, we’re yet to find a person who has not found their TMP accurate and revealing. The TMP is a workplace-based personality profile assessment that characterises a person’s management and teamwork style, based on their personality preferences. It outlines how this plays out at work for the individual and the team, bringing together personality preferences and work preferences. The TMP was developed in Australia and is now used successfully worldwide. We think it’s pretty much an essential resource for any team leader or manager, as it gives people amazing insights into the strengths and challenges of their 'default' style, and targeted ideas (particularly when used with coaching) for maximising their effectiveness in working with others. The TMP can be especially relevant for teams and leaders involved in project work, as every position around the wheel brings a focus to specific stages in any project. We'd be happy to discuss how this can work for you.
The Linking Skills Profile (LSP)
For team managers and leaders shows how well a person uses ‘linking skills’ to enhance team performance. Linking skills are relevant for all team members, but vital for team leaders, managers, and organisational leaders. 'Linking' effectively is now even more vital than before, with the rapid growth of virtual teams in hybrid workplaces. It's challenging enough to lead a team when you're all in the same room, and there are new challenges with so many teams now consisting of or including remote members. Over time, we will find that it's asking a lot of team leaders and team members.
The LSP is a 360° review tool that provides the basis for a structured development program that can be particularly helpful for new team leaders and managers, as well as any manager without any prior structured management training.
Whether you want to trial the TMP, LSP, or any of our other great tools for individuals or teams at work, or just know you need to get a team functioning at a higher level, get in touch so we can work out what the best approach is going to be.
Our support to Boards.
Boards, Councils and Committees of Management have substantial responsibilities in running the organisation, both collectively and individually, and with that responsibility goes the need to get it right. Tapping into external support on matters such as governance, strategy, and working effectively with the management team is sometimes essential.
Boards and committees responsible for NFPs now have responsibilities much akin to boards running major corporate entities. Especially with the requirements of the ACNC, some NFP boards now need to focus on identifying key roles and sharing responsibilities, being more effective in risk, compliance and governance, and having a more effective professional relationship with management. For others, financial management and reporting systems may be a key area of need.
Our Board support work includes:
- Strategy consulting and facilitation,
- Governance support,
- Board Evaluation and profiling,
- Board Appointments,
- Organisational Reviews,
- Managing Change,
- and more...
To find out more about our Board facilitation and support, check it out here.
People & Culture services (internal)
While the earlier Atwork delivered a suite of HR services for organisations of all sizes including smaller businesses, today we focus in just one such area, and this is particularly for our larger clients with substantial People & Culture teams...
Reviewing your People & Culture Systems
To be positioned for success, organisations need good P&C systems that are legally compliant (and of course, well implemented). These help you attract and retain the right staff, and get them performing at their best. These systems should be regularly reviewed and optimised. We can provide a comprehensive audit of all your P&C Systems, looking at legal compliance and best practice. We can advise on whether essential Policies and Procedures are in place to meet legislative requirements and best practice. Atwork can also develop and implement new HR systems, including:
- Compliance and training in areas such as Equal Opportunity, Bullying & Harassment prevention, and OH&S.
- Workforce Planning & Job Design.
- Recruitment – are you getting it right or do you have costly instances of poor appointments leading to performance issues, terminations and rehires?
- Performance Management & Appraisal Systems including online systems.
- HR policies and procedures review/development
- Training & Development.
- Employment Relations, IR - contract documentation, awards and agreements.
Issues at Work - investigations, bullying & harassment complaints, mediations
While we're all about high performance and satisfaction, it’s only realistic to know that things are not always perfect in the world of work. When issues, complaints and disputes occur, or if an incident requires investigation, do not hold off on acting. Problems avoided hardly ever just go away! On the contrary, they fester, and get more costly to address the longer they sit there. Addressing “people issues” within today’s legislative minefield is full of challenges, and requires careful attention to IR issues as well as people systems. Atwork provides solutions including management advice, mediation support, IR support, and strategies/training in the prevention of bullying and harassment.
Issues Negotiation & Management
We have experience in working effectively with discussions involving employers, unions and employee groups, and this can be of great value in developing good outcomes that have support from a range of levels. This sort of "buy-in" can be the difference between a positive and negative outcome in issues management.
Mediation and Issues Management
Conflicts can occur in any area of life, and the workplace is no exception. Conflict can be a productive or creative force, though when conflict becomes personalised it is more often negative and/or destructive. Whilst inhouse preventative actions and early intervention are the best solution, sometimes external support is helpful, particularly if matters have reached a point where the parties cannot see a way forward or a dispute has become personalised to high levels. Resolutions often need to include some structure along with guidelines for what the parties will jointly and individually recognise as acceptable boundaries, communication standards, and behaviours. We can assist in this challenging but vital area, in facilitating workable solutions that are actively supported by all parties.
Bullying & Harassment Prevention & Management Support
Particularly in the context of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it is vital to know that you are doing everything you can to minimise and prevent Bullying & Harassment, and to effectively deal with these issues when they arise. We help you address conflict, bullying and harassment issues with training, support and advice on policy development.
Investigations and Reporting
We provide professional confidential investigation services where these are needed. Handled with care, a well-conducted investigation process can be the first step in resolution if issues have escalated to this level. They can be also essential components of your legislative or policy requirements. Highly important to use a professional and get it right.
Under the Act, employers now are compelled to consult with employees on matters of health and safety, including this area. Getting a consultation program in place can be important in minimising risks, and again we can assist with advice and support.
What our clients say...
“Paul's professionalism and experience made a significant contribution to Bendigo Health's HR department and particularly to our employee relations services within a very short time span. He communicated effectively with staff at all levels of the organisation in facilitating successful outcomes over issues ranging from the resolution of conflicts and grievances to more complex problems involving negotiation and process improvement with workplace teams”. Past Executive Director Human Resources, Bendigo Health.
“Hi Paul, Just wanted to let you know I really appreciated our team building day with the xxx International group. My level of participation in group meetings has been significantly elevated and I am slowly getting my self-confidence back again. Everyone in the office has been very nice to me and encouraging. I stopped job-hunting the day of this team building with you and haven’t given it another thought since. All thanks to you!! I would highly recommend you to anyone…. Kind wishes, …..”
"...thank you for the professionalism of your approach in dealing with our recruiting needs Paul, in particular your thoroughness, availability to me and other members of the panel when required, your depth of knowledge and experience in personnel and recruiting matters, and above all, your courtesy and good humour. I would be happy to recommend your professional services to future and prospective clients." Management Committee Chair.
“Atwork Consulting was engaged by this Institute on two separate occasions to help us facilitate changes within our organisation: • To operate as Project Managers for a major review of our Administrative structures and consequential restructure and change management processes. • To temporarily fill the role of HR Manager for the Institute while a recruitment and selection process was undertaken. For both of these engagements Mr Paul Murphy (and his associates in the case of the Admin Review) demonstrated a high level of professionalism at all times. Regular communication with senior management and with the HR team was excellent and Paul’s preparedness to raise legitimate matters for ideas for consideration and debate was certainly appreciated. I would have no hesitation in recommending Atwork Consulting to any organisation seeking to engage professional services in high level consultancy, advice or support in the HR field”. Past General Manager, Bendigo TAFE.