Yesterday I spoke about the first steps in developing business acumen in the workplace. Already you can start to see that it’s wrought with an array of challenges simply in defining what does business acumen mean for the business. Simply, it is about helping people to understand the consequence of decisions on the business. From a decision to introduce a work/life balance policy, to introducing fresh fruit to the business, there is always the ripple effect, and there is always a consequence. We can’t plan for every outcome, but we sure can be mindful of making the right decision.
Those first steps were about when introducing new starters to the business. It’s then interesting to look at what’s happening with current people in the business. I’m not talking about learning and development specifically here, I’m talking about developing business acumen across the business. With that in mind, here are some suggestions.
With the prolification of technology in all we do, it’s easy to let staff share knowledge across a variety of platforms. At HRD two years back, I remember Peter Butler, former Director of Learning at BT talk about how they used Sharepoint as a platform to allow anyone to produce videos and upload them about the work they do. At the time I thought, yes that’s brilliant! I think the same now. Give people the opportunity to share knowledge, and they will make the best use of it. By and large, people are good willed, and willing to share what they know. Here within LBi, we have an internal blog which is used by many different departments to share content they find across the interwebs, and creates a good place to find good information and inspiration.
How does that link to making better business decisions? Because by sharing information on what you do, others are better able to understand how you might need to be involved in making something happen, or how you might need to be consulted for something to be effective, or why the idea might need to be refined because you hadn’t considered something. Good business sense?
Expanding on the previous, it’s quite easy these days to also create e-learning modules about different business services. This is really useful as people can go in and access these when they want. They can go quite in depth and allow for better exploration of what a team does, how they produce work, when they should be involved, and what they can do to help collaborate. Sounds quite rosy doesn’t it? Good business sense?
What about the management team, what business guidance are they being given? Let me guess. You put them through management training, and they receive a quarterly update from the Exec on business performance. That’s not developing their business acument. That’s skills training, and cascade of information. What they need is something like this. They need to go through a Finance for non-Financial Managers course. They need to go through a business simulation. I once worked with a company called Profitability, who may not be the best company to have a client relationship with, but by God did they have an awesome two day business acumen exercise to take you through. Truly cuts to the heart of what it means to make good decisions and how they impact business performance.
Do you distinguish between the management team and the leadership team? If so, then the leadership team are likely to be the Exec or the Senior Leadership Team, right? What about these guys? Aren’t they also liable to receive some sort of continuous professional development? They bloody well should, because they’re the ones who are meant to be guiding the business to absolute success. Send them on MBA courses, or get Cranfield School of Management involved to give high quality training. Invest in executive coaches who have steered businesses to success and help guide this team to identifying the right objectives to be focusing on. The value of an external facilitator at this level is quite vital. Sometimes the Exec team in particular can get so caught up in themselves, they lose sight of how to make good business decisions and get wrapped up in politics instead.
Internal knowledge sharing sessions are awesome. I don’t mean team meetings where someone is asked to present something for 20 mins. I mean regular internal business wide presentations that are an hour long, and allow the opportunity to discuss and share some fascinating insights, knowledge, and new thinking that helps to inspire the business to do and try new things. A lot of people in your workplace have their own pet projects they’re working on right now. Some would like to have a pet project. Others didn’t know they could have a pet project. Ultimately, what you’re trying to do is engage the workforce to share what they know. Where’s the business sense in doing this? You never know where a good idea might come from. Any business that has success, finds it because those ideas get surfaced in the right way.