Team Work and Agility – Keys to Overcoming Adversity
The Most Successful Year Yet at the College
There is no better feeling than a manager seeing their team achieving great results despite adversity.
But sometimes it takes another person to ask the question for you to sit back and contemplate how this happened.
That was my experience recently when I signed off our end of financial year audited financial statements and directors report.
Everyone in RTO land will appreciate it’s been “trying times” with huge unexpected changes to funding arrangements (especially within NSW and SA); lots of industry negative publicity and focus due to the rogues in the industry, and a general decline in traineeship and apprentice employment. It’s been a challenge running a business that focusses on quality and customer satisfaction in an environment of constant change and uncertainties.
So when asked how we managed to achieve better financial results, better completion rates and better compliance results in the midst of all that, as well as having some key staff changes, I was scratching my head.
I obviously knew the results – I look at them in detail at each end of month. But when asked how we achieved them – especially the last 6 months when we really “kicked some goals” – I was forced to think about it and analyse what happened.
Being able to quickly identify risks and opportunities was a big key. We needed to adapt quickly to the changes and ensure they addressed market and customer needs.
We had to do what we teach …. and seriously revise and adapt business processes, the organisational structure and our approach to marketing and customer engagement. No idea was ruled out and each idea was questioned, tested and stress tested against our culture and goals.
In practice this meant:
- Regularly revising a plan of attack. Plan A became Plan B. Plan B was modified to Plan C. “Course corrections” aren’t a sign of a bad plan – they are a sign of a successfully agile project!
- The revisions of our “plans” happened quickly based on testing, and customer feedback. It’s not a failure when a plan fails… it’s a failure to leave that failure in place …
Focusing the Team
Any plan can only come together when the team are all focused on the goals.
Change, and rapid change, can however unsettle many members of a team; and the entire team dynamics.
This is even more challenging when new staff are recruited and need to rapidly fit in and contribute.
So helping people adjust to the change and constantly reinforcing the focus was critical.
As much as it’s not my style – I adopted a monthly formal “state of the nation” approach and spent 2 – 3 hours at our PD days giving all team members an overview of the current status of the challenges and achievements. Most importantly they had the opportunity to ask about details that they want to know more about – and they received a frank response. Some great ideas came from these discussions, as well as observations about potential impact of some of the changes that I had not foreseen.
My meeting wrap up would include a “slogan” (again not my style) – but one that helped them focus on what they had to do and why…
Then I let them do what they do best …
The result was – we came home strong! The new record results were a surprise – as even in an ideal world we didn’t really think we could top the previous year.
We have some Plans that have yet to achieve the success we want – but we know the keys … and are making very quick refinements and stress testing the results.
Our broader management structure means we have more people able to address key client issues and ensure our responsiveness and customer focus.
We now have some great new staff that have responded well to walking into such a challenging environment, and are loving working with a reputable RTO.
The biggest bonus we have from our unexpected results – is we can now make immediate major investment into an exciting new e-learning platform. By adding new IT staff – we are now able to rapidly work on this exciting project and leave no stone unturned in developing the best platform for our client needs.
Teaching These Business Skills
And of course – based on our learnings – we have updated our course offerings in both Project Management and Leadership and Management. Our students will also be winners with the latest qualifications in these critical fields and materials that go beyond mere theory and get into what really happens in a workplace.
We look forward to another eventful and successful year!