Magazine article New Zealand Management

NZIM - RESEARCH: Forget the Crisis, Focus on Fundamentals; the World Financial Crisis May Throw Up New Business Models for the Future but It Is More Likely That a Return to Sound Management Fundamentals Will Deliver the Best Results. Reg Birchfield Talks to Retiring New Zealand Institute of Management National President Robin Dunlop

Magazine article New Zealand Management

NZIM - RESEARCH: Forget the Crisis, Focus on Fundamentals; the World Financial Crisis May Throw Up New Business Models for the Future but It Is More Likely That a Return to Sound Management Fundamentals Will Deliver the Best Results. Reg Birchfield Talks to Retiring New Zealand Institute of Management National President Robin Dunlop

Article excerpt

Byline: Reg Birchfield

Robin Dunlop has enjoyed his tenure at the top of NZIM. C[pounds sterling]I have enjoyed trying to bring about some change to the organisation and getting us all singing from one song sheet,C[yen] he says resolutely. By that, he means that the National body of NZIM and its three operational regions, Northern, Central and Southern, are now working to a common strategic plan and further restructuring.

NZIMCOs long-standing fragmentation, caused by the strongly independent approach of the regional societies has, in the past, made it difficult for NZIM to present a cohesive national vision and direction. The regions didnCOt always offer common training and development services.

C[pounds sterling]There will still be regional differences,C[yen] says Dunlop C[pounds sterling]but at least we are now all headed in the same direction.C[yen] It has, he says, become increasingly important for NZIM to offer common and consistent programmes to corporates and to government Co both local and national Co organisations.

NZIM has significantly lifted its national profile with government and other sector groups under DunlopCOs watch. ThatCOs not altogether surprising given that he was, until 2006, one of New ZealandCOs top-ranked public servants as head of Transit New Zealand and the Ministry of Transport.

NZIM was a leading light in the creation of the Ministry of Economic Development-sponsored Project Collaboration about three years ago. This public and private sector partnership initiative was set up to lift the countryCOs business and management capability and looks set to continue even under the new National Government.

But DunlopCOs attempts to negotiate greater understanding and flexibility from government organisations toward recognition of NZIM qualifications has proved rather more difficult. C[pounds sterling]We are still working on that,C[yen] he says reflectively.

An exclusively unit-standard approach to management development is more challenging, he says generously. C[pounds sterling]It is difficult to put management development and training into little boxes. It is quite easy to do it for something like hairdressing.C[yen]

If progress in refocusing NZIM on a national strategy and integrated approach toward developing and delivering regional business plans gives him some personal satisfaction, it is the external message to managers that Dunlop wants to emphasise as he leaves the office.

The danger he sees for managers who have been in charge through boom times is that they forget about management fundamentals. In particular, they stop thinking about risk management strategies. C[pounds sterling]They stop asking themselves what they plan to do if and when things turn sour,C[yen] he says. C[pounds sterling]And downturns happen. They are cyclical. You donCOt have to look back far to see that.C[yen]

He concedes that the current financial crisis and its recessionary consequences are far worse than anticipated. The global nature of the world economy means managers can do little to avoid the predicament in which business finds itself. But, while managers cannot predict crises, they should always plan for worse case scenarios. C[pounds sterling]If you do the thinking first it is easier to react when trouble strikes,C[yen] he adds.Aa

The other fundamentals Dunlop suggests managers focus on include:

Co valuing good employees;

Co maintaining good communications;

Co involving employees in what the organisation is trying to achieve;

Co managing cash flow; and

Co remaining committed to innovation and research.

And, perhaps because of his transport and engineering background, Dunlop views project management as a critical performance success tool. He thinks New ZealandCOs general shortage and failure to apply project management skills is costly to both individual enterprises and to the nation generally. …

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