BRIEF DESCRIPTION / BACKGROUND OF THE PROJECT
The aim of the training is to train participants to undertake integrated strategic management consultancy services, especially for SMEs, encompassing the functional areas of management strategy, production, marketing, and human resources development.
SMEs play a crucial role in the economies of all countries. Many SMEs do not have the internal capacity to develop and implement strategic management to increase their competitiveness and edge in their sector. Thus, consultants are often required to fill in that gap for them.
The training program itself is designed to enhance the competency of consultants of NPOs (or similar institutions) in the area of strategic management consultancy for productivity improvement. The participants are expected to have acquired the following at the end of the training:
a) Techniques and skills necessary to help them in their consultancy work for SMEs;
b) Knowledge necessary to help SMEs formulate improvement plans;
c) Ability to identify operation deficiencies and prioritize opportunities for improvement for SMEs; and
d) Ability to develop and implement practical, cost-effective solutions to enhance the profitability and ultimately sustain the growth of SMEs.
OBJECTIVES FOR PARTICIPATION
My expectations were to learn and further enhance my knowledge on the various concepts related to strategic management and the strengthening of SMEs, and become familiar with good models and practices in SME management. At the end of the training, I expected that I should be able to contextualize those concepts and learning for the Philippine context while at the same time learning from the experiences and cases from other countries. Also, as a result of attending the training course, it was hoped that I would be able to interact and share experiences with other participants about our own experience on SME consultancy, strategic management, and planning, build partnerships with other SME consultants and become part of a network of practitioners.
PROFILE OF PARTICIPANTS
A total of 16 participants represented by the countries of Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, IR Iran, Republic of Korea, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. Most come from their respective country’s national productivity organization, while others come from related government offices (e.g., industry and commerce) or are practicing private consultants. Each country only had one representative, so I was the only representative from the Philippines.
SCOPE, CONTENT AND METHODOLOGY
In terms of scope, the training course covered framework of management consultancy for SMEs; In terms of methodology, the training course included classroom lectures and discussions, exchange of experiences among participants and resource persons, presentation of real life examples and some case studies, site visit to SMEs and interaction with SME staff, presentation of individual action plans, and an examination at the end of the course.
Participants were required to prepare an individual report (based on a given outline) on a selected client or company. It could be from an on-going consultancy or one that has already been completed. The report was presented on the first week of the training. At the end of the training, each participant was expected to enhance his or her consultancy plan based on the learning gained throughout the course.
My presentation was on a consultancy project with Keys Grade School, a small progressive school operating in Mandaluyong City. The theme of the consultancy is on growth management and succession management. The proposed activities for the consultancy involves conducting strategic and operations planning, succession planning for key administrative positions, medium-term and long-term planning for capital expansion, and conducting an inventory of school systems and processes.
In my enhanced consultancy action plan, I identified other tools and methodologies (such as PEST analysis, generic competitive strategies, service profit chain analysis, etc.) for the analysis portion as well as for the action planning (such as the balanced scorecard). I also presented my proposal on how to conduct the financial analysis by going through activity-based costing, sensitivity analysis, and coming up with a priorities matrix to help the school owners in deciding which property to consider or buy.
About a third of the presentations were on the service industry while the rest were on manufacturing.
OUTCOMES AND EVALUATION
Overall, the objectives of the training course were met. Different skills, tools and techniques were presented throughout the course that could be used not only in consultancy work but also as material for training. Different areas of management were covered, from productivity management, process management, personnel management, and strategic management, which provided an integrated view of management consultancy.
Expectations were met. All the topics were covered, although in some cases, the resource person had to skim through a few topics due to time constraints. If it were in a school context, the amount of material covered could have made up a full semester of classes, but they were compressed in a two-week period. Enough information was given, though, that participants could delve into those topics on their own should they wish to do so.
All the resource persons were engaging. They demonstrated expertise in their field or area not only by sharing knowledge but by also sharing their actual experiences as consultants. And even with the language barrier, with some resource persons relying on interpreters, the lectures were conducted effectively and clearly. They were all accommodating of the questions from the participants and there was definitely a two-way discussion between teacher and students.
The secretariat handled the training very well. All materials were ready and available before or on the day of the session. (There were no unnecessary training materials or paraphernalia although a proper document bag or container, other than a paper envelope, would have been handy to carry all the papers in.) They were very good with time management. All sessions started and finished on time. There were gentle reminders to the participants about time management and everyone respectfully complied. The secretariat offered the right amount of support to the participants, very responsive to our needs and requests without being over-indulging. They were strict (but gentle) about exercising personal responsibility, an example being they were strict about participants cleaning up after ourselves and always reminded us to practice 5S—which we did.
While the concepts were not unfamiliar, it was very informative to see those concepts being applied in different and actual settings. It was also good to hear how different concepts or practices are being practiced in different countries and contexts. Many of the concepts discussed are not only applicable to SMEs but also to other sectors and industries as well.
Meeting and bonding with other participants is definitely a positive side benefit of attending trainings. This group of participants was especially enthusiastic about learning and sharing, which extended beyond the classroom. Indeed, a network or association of management consultants composed of members of the class was discussed at the end of the training course, with the aim partner or work together in the future.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION STEPS
The participants achieved a level of camaraderie and friendship, both personal and professional, that the group hopes would outlive the duration of the training course. The group asked APO what it could do to help them stay in touch. However, the group took initiative made use of some time left on the last day to plan how to continue the keep the group active and connected. One recommendation that emerged was to form a lose association among the participants and to create a website where we could update each other about our work and projects. (The Facebook route was dropped since it was not favored by all.) An IT person in the group was tasked with the website and a web host was already identified. The goals of the group are yet to be determined but the assigned chair and secretary would steer the group towards some kind of formality and, hopefully, one day become a professional association. The group also suggested coming up with a book or a publication compiling the consultancy cases presented by the participants.
This training would be beneficial for any technical staff in the Academy, whether one is directly involved with SMEs or not. (However, this training requires the participant to present an on-going or concluded management consultancy with an actual client, so coming up with a case to present is one condition that needs to be complied with.) The tools, concepts, and methodologies are applicable not only to SMEs but also to other sectors as well.
ARMAND TRISTAN SURATOS
Center for Sustainable Human Development
Development Academy of the Philippines