Author: activedirections

Meet Kate Frost


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As an experienced transformational and organisational change management leader Kate is passionate about relationship building and revenue generation that delivers increased returns on economic, human and social investment. Kate has also been instrumental in building a culture of collaboration within Active Directions and has a personal focus on coaching and mentoring.

What problems do you consistently solve for your clients? 

What their real problem is!  Often clients believe they know (and can articulate) what their ‘problem’ is.  Sometimes it’s just a symptom of the underlying issue or concern. I’m not afraid to ask difficult questions, and I take the time to listen. This means that I’m able to draw out, what the source of the issue really is. The challenge is how to share that information in a sensitive, yet pragmatic way.

What are you happiest doing, when you’re not working? 

I’m happiest travelling. I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to take two long breaks away from my professional career.  Once in 2000, when we travelled around the world to 12 countries in 12 months after my husband had a heart attack, and then in 2018 for 3 months in Italy.

Otherwise like most of us, it’s a month here, 2 weeks there….Turkey is my favourite country with Japan and Italy a close second/third! 

What would your personal motto be?

Be prepared! (I’m a bit of a scout)

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is

In the early 2000s, I had the joy of having a personal business mentor.  He is a professional business man, who is very generous, humble and very successful.  He used to say to me…”Trust in yourself – you’re not going to get it right all of the time, but you’ve got enough smarts to get yourself out of trouble!” – Maybe not the most ‘classic’ advice but really important to me (and tailored to the person I am).

Why your business needs a Sprint Plan.


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After many years of building customised, cloud-based Sprint Plans for our clients, I’ve seen firsthand how effective they are in helping organisations successfully turn their strategic goals into reality.

With a Sprint Plan, ambitious strategic initiatives can be broken down into more manageable, bite sized chunks that can be easily tracked and reported on. They really are a simple, effective tool that every business should be using.

In fact, the events of last year solidified for me their real power. When the COVID curveball hit, Sprint Plans played a critical role in helping the businesses we work with reassess and pivot. They were able to park their established strategic initiatives and add COVID-specific activity across the entire organisation that they could track week to week, making sure nothing got missed in complex, fast-moving conditions.

In this article, I’m sharing how to set-up a Sprint Plan and some tips for making sure that the data you input gets you to where you need to go.

How to develop a Cloud-Based Sprint Plan

1.Identify and articulate your big, ambitious strategic goals and the different projects or initiatives needed to achieve these. It’s important here that you assign one person, as Project Lead, to be accountable for keeping the projects and initiatives on track.

2. Choose a 90-day or 120-day period. This might be dependent on how many people you have in your team, how often you get the opportunity to work together, the business priorities. Choose whatever rhythm works for you.

3. Identify and articulate the specific, measurable activities that need to be completed within the set timeframe. It’s important to remember that these activities shouldn’t be Business as Usual. The Sprint Plan is about tracking the key strategic initiatives that are going to move the dial for your business. These milestones and tasks also need to have a person assigned to them to ensure that things move along.

Bad Task 

Good Task

4. Every week those assigned to specific milestones and tasks need to report on the progress. They do this using a simple traffic light system:

Green is on track

Amber is delayed but on track

Red denotes a serious issue that’s causing a delay and that needs to be resolved.

Setting up a weekly meeting will mean that everyone can see what’s going on across the teams and resolve issues collaboratively.

5. We also recommend 15-minute one-on-ones every two weeks with the Project Lead and each person responsible for specific tasks and projects. This is an opportunity for any concerns and issues to be raised in a supportive space.

6. The Sprint Plans that we build for clients also automatically generate weekly scores so that you can get an overall picture of exactly how everything is tracking. This enables topline visibility and the ability to quickly see where more resources or support may be required.

7. My strongest and final piece of advice is to make sure you use a cloud-based Sprint Plan that multiple people can access and edit rather than a static spreadsheet, to encourage buy-in and make your strategy as “live” as possible. When built well, Sprint Plans can be a user friendly, intuitive single source of truth that reduce distractions and enable businesses to deliver strategic projects on time, on budget and within scope.

If you want to deliver strategic objectives, allow for resource sharing and realise efficiencies reach out to us today to learn how we can help you create customised Sprint Plans for your business.

About the Author

Damian Barlow is a Senior Consultant with Active Directions. He specialises in financial modelling, forecasting and strategy implementation.

Sprint Plan Case Study


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We have built a sophisticated, cloud-based collaborative way for organisations to track and implement their objectives.

Our Sprint Plan tool is easy to use and effectively tracks progress using a simple traffic light system. We recently customised this tool for a diversified global portfolio of for-purpose and not-for-profit organisations.

Meet Damian Barlow


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Damian Barlow is a Senior Consultant with Active Directions. He specialises in financial modelling, forecasting and strategy implementation.

Damian develops bespoke modelling, forecasting and implementation solutions that address the exact needs of his clients. He is able to develop sophisticated models that are simple to embed and effectively help organisations get to where they need to go.

He is also a qualified lawyer with experience in-house and in law firms.

What problems do you consistently solve for your clients?
When I’m working with Clients, I typically see three types of problems:

How can we turn a broad, ambitious strategy into concrete, measurable actions that will get us where we need to go?
How can we use our data effectively to make predictions and improve our business?
How can we best ensure we meet all our governance, risk and compliance responsibilities?

Through my work I am able to take these big complex challenges and apply an analytical lens to develop customised solutions that are easily implemented and sustainable.

What are you happiest doing, when you’re not working?
Badly attempting to learn guitar.

What would your personal motto be?
Always be as upfront, clear and concise as possible.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is be humbler about what you know, more confident about what’s possible, and less afraid of things that don’t matter.

Why SME’s need to think about Modern Slavery in 2021


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Enacted in 2019, Australia’s Modern Slavery Legislation states that every business with $100million turnover needs to have a Modern Slavery Statement and assess all their suppliers. Although this legislation is intended for the top end of town, in this article we take a look beyond the legislation to highlight what it means for SMEs.

Whilst SMEs aren’t required, by law, to deliver a Modern Slavery Statement, companies are being asked to be transparent about the current risk of Modern Slavery, within their supply chains and business operations. They are also being expected to commit to taking appropriate steps to address any risk identified. The challenge is, that whilst SMEs might be certain that their first-tier supply chains and business operations are free from Modern Slavery, it can be difficult to identify this risk further down the chain.

A question I like to ask SMEs is “What do you buy that could be a Modern Slavery Risk?”. If there is any doubt over any product or service, then it’s important for that SME to do a review of their operations and supply chains to identify potential issues and create a plan of action to address them.

It’s also important for SMEs to understand what their customers may require in their supplier “code of conduct” so that they can provide them with up-to-date and correct information. It’s even a good idea for SMEs to have a Modern Slavery Statement (“lite” version) to show their customers that they align to their requirements.

Over the past year, Active Directions have worked with a number of large corporates to develop Modern Slavery Risk Assessment Models, deliver ethical supplier audits and surveys, as well as develop supporting Modern Slavery Statements. We’ve found that SMEs who are proactive in showing that they already have the checks in place are highly attractive to big corporates and are also using this compliance as a differentiator in the market.

What’s more, SMEs who are already identifying effective and cost-effective ways of incorporating supply chain sustainability, incl. end-to-end supply chain traceability, are future-proofing their operational and financial business model. We are seeing a big shift towards a future where large corporates will only choose to do business with SMEs that can prove they are compliant, ethical and sustainable.

We are also seeing the positive benefits of this trickle-down model as businesses look after their suppliers and suppliers look after their people, leading to the creation of good working environments, higher productivity and bolstering organisational reputation.

Below is a snapshot of how Active Directions rolls out a Modern Slavery Risk Assessment. A key differentiator is that we use a pragmatic approach for organisations to have effective processes in place for when there is an instance of Modern Slavery identified. This includes establishing networks with relevant NGOs and other providers who are able to manage those cases effectively and independently.

Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in focus on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues which has only been accelerated due to the global pandemic. Driven by B2B and a strong consumer focus on sustainable and ethical products and practices, SMEs will need to pay attention to these concerns and create a strong ESG position. Not doing so will not only hamper their ability to grow, attract talent and thrive, but will have a direct impact on their financial profitability.

 

About the Author

As a Principal Consultant with Active Directions, Micha Veen takes the lead on delivering robust Modern Slavery Risk Assessments and assisting organisations to develop sustainable management processes and useful templates to mitigate risk and build transparency in their supply chain.

Micha is also the Founder of Unique Excellence helping organisations develop feasible operational and supply chain innovations.