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Bruce Holland

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One of the neat things Virtual Group has done recently is to host Executive Master Classes. We have now held four.

The concept

The concept is simple; we gather together a group of senior, thoughtful managers in an open, 'hot tub' environment to share their experiences about subjects that matter to business and let magic happen.

The third Hot Tub was about 'doing more for less'. We had about 20 senior managers present and they were invited to brag about how they had done this.

These are some of my favourite stories told by managers, follow. I hope you find them useful.

Structure/Process Brags

  1. Reduce structure. We have found that "virtual organisations" are the ultimate manifestation of doing more with less. Virtual Group has managed to obtain many of the benefits of the large consulting companies with almost no overheads, just a telephone and a web site and lots of time learning how to work together based on four rules: Keep moving, Stay close, Don't bump and Leave a scent.

  2. Use of space-saving consultants. We had issues with space. We got space-saving consultants in to give us ideas and as a result we did not need to shift.

  3. Do you need it? We went through cuts and we were told 'you just can't have it'. The sky did not fall in. It was quite amazing we got better results with fewer people. Things may have been valuable in the past but they may not be any more.

  4. Don't automatically replace people. Many large organisations automatically replace people when they leave. We did not rush in to replace them. We reallocated the work for a while. Often we found that actually there was no job there; even though they had created a mystic about how important they were, they were not adding much value at all.

  5. Take steps out of processes. We took over about four companies and we increased revenue without increasing administration costs by reviewing every step in the processes, stripping out all the redundant steps and paper flows so they were as smooth and efficient as possible.

  6. Lean process. We have taken about $2.3m a year out of a business. When we looked at our process over time and we found there were waits all through the process. Lean thinking focusses on the transactional time and waits, not the expertise. Example: Hospital Accident and Emergency Department: You come into the hospital, you get met by the receptionist and you fill out a form, then you wait. Eventually a nurse does an initial assessment, and you wait. Then you get to see the head of the junior team of doctors who has just arrived in New Zealand and is learning English and you wait. Then he sends you to a specialist and you wait.

Culture/People Brags

  1. Get staff involved and thinking. We had a Review of our Agency. Staff were worried and backward looking. We established focus groups to think about the questions the upcoming Review may ask and what we'd do if they did. Morale went up and when the Review came out we had all the answers.

  2. Empower people. Make the rules of engagement very clear. Ask five key questions: 1. If you were the customer is this what you would want? 2. If this was your money or equipment would you spend it this way? 3. Would you be happy to tell your peers what you have done? 4. Will it pass the test of not getting you into disrepute? 5. Is there a better way?

  3. Meeting practice. Our meetings happened too frequently and included too many people. Use RASCI to identify who should be at a meeting. RASCI stands for: Responsible. Accountable. Support person. Consulted. Informed. We found that three quarters of people who went to meetings only needed to be consulted or informed and didn't need to be at the meeting. It did not deny people access to meetings but it gave them a way to think about their role and if they needed to be present.

  4. Using free student resources. We used students from Polytechnics and University for projects. They were keen for real projects. The students had new ideas and were technically savvy.

  5. Multitasking. We reduced the number of job descriptions and made them broader. This vastly improved our flexibility, made multiple use of the people available and ended with people being self-managing and accountable for their outcomes.

Technology Brags

  1. Free software. We built our company on free design software and this did us for the first seven years of business. For example, Open Office.

  2. Concept Maps. These are like mind maps but focuses on the question you have and leads to a statement or proposition to see the big picture while also containing the detail. Free software is available at

In these days we all need to do more for less. I hope this gives you some inspiration. Let me know if you'd like an invitation to the next Hot Tub.

Warmest wishes
Phone +6421620456 or Skype Bruce.Holland\\
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Key words: Leadership, leadership development, leadership management, leadership training, leadership program, leadership skills

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