… at a time when UBER, who doesn’t own any vehicles, can get you from A to B, anywhere in the world?

I was recently invited to facilitate an in-house workshop for a very successful company that specialised in providing ‘Building Surveying’ services. It’s probable that a lot of people don’t understand what building surveyors do; this practice helps several large insurance companies  deal with property related insurance claims on an ongoing basis.

The practice wanted its senior team to consider how productivity and innovation might help the practice to deliver better results for its clients and improve margins at the same time.  Normally it isn’t particularly helpful to attempt to address two topics at the same time during the same workshop.  However, I went along with it, knowing that something useful always comes out of these in-house workshops.

After a full day of introducing various concepts, business models, potential scenarios and challenging delegates comments, we managed to produce some interesting ideas and potential actions.


Under the heading of ‘Productivity’ we came up with two useful conclusions.

  • Firstly, the company should say ‘NO’ more frequently!  Why?
  • Because the practice has always been keen to say ‘YES’ to most things. Why?
  • Because it thinks that a positive attitude gains respect in the eyes of its clients.

But without really considering whether these ‘invitations’ truly align with the company’s strategy or are relevant to its operational capabilities, or whether they are best placed to provide the required service or are indeed are the best fit for the client.  So, they need to say no more often was a key finding.


The second item related to the need to use more standard templates so that they could reduce the amount of time they spent on responding to regular and standard requests for information.  However, more positively still, under the heading of ‘Innovation’ we had a far more interesting and productive session, delivering even more beneficial results.

The discussion that took place reminded me of a time when I worked for a very large international project management company.

The one thing that they seemed to be very keen on was to make sure that everyone in the company filled out a weekly timesheet; everybody’s timesheet had to be received by 12 noon, every Monday morning.  If that didn’t happen the relevant manager would come down on the specific individual like a ton of bricks because this company-wide edict was deemed by management to be crucially important.

Why it was so crucially important I never found out.

Obviously, it was something to do with process and procedure.  On one occasion I inadvertently failed to send in my weekly timesheet. When my manager approached me about this, I said to him:  “Why is this issue so crucially important; because from where I’m standing you should be asking some better questions of us all, e.g.:

  • what have I done this week to secure a new client?
  • what have I done this week to retain some of our existing clients?
  • what have I done this week of an innovative nature, that has produced a breakthrough for the company?
  • what have I done this week of an innovative nature, that has failed but hasn’t cost the company much time or money, but might have produced a significant breakthrough for the company?

After sharing this experience, and numerous others, with the assembled team they went away to formulate a series of questions to put to their senior management team.

Their new premise was:  ‘If we now live in an interdependent, largely transparent business world where business is often transacted at the click of a button, what do we need to do to be a leader in our profession?’

Particularly in a world where:

  • Amazon can deliver anything overnight.
  • Air B&B does not own any properties but can accommodate you anywhere in the world.
  • UBER doesn’t own any vehicles but can get you from A to B anywhere in the world.

These companies have shown that you don’t need to own any physical assets; all they need to do is connect people with other people’s assets with a view to producing a new or better service.

So, all the workshop participants went away to try to find new approaches and services that will service the company better over the next 3 to 10 years.

Not a bad result really!