Business Health Check


One always hopes that no individual or group of individuals follow the slogan often found in many offices:

“I used to think that I was conceited, but now I am just perfect.”

Sadly, we know that it is common – or perhaps too common. Though we can take some satisfaction that history offers us that such hubris (insolent pride or security) is nearly always followed (eventually) by nemesis (retributive justice), it is but little comfort to those that are harmed, to a greater or less extent, by such attitudes.  The reality should be that provided by the Avis statement:

“We’re number two and we try harder”

Every organisation is number 2 in some, or all, areas of their operations. The issue is to define where the organisation can most benefit from investment to build or further enhance competitive advantage.

Flexibility and a willingness to change is obviously vital – summarised by the famous (though allegedly apocryphal) quotation of Keynes, the economist:

“When facts change, I change my mind. What, sir, do you do?”

As is the potential for improvement through knowledge:

“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” – Bacon

But continually changing direction obviously has it own dangers – drifting ships hit the rocks, and knowledge for the sake of knowledge, though attractive to some, does not pay the bills. Fitting such flexibility and need to change within a formal structure is crucial –  creating a framework which knows where it is going but can adapt:

“Failing to plan is planning to fail”

The Ibis approach

Ibis creates a framework, the planning platform, within which best practice and continual improvement can be applied in a systematic fashion. Within this platform one can ask the three key planning questions for the established business:

Where are we?
Where do we want to be (and when)?
How do we get there most cost effectively?

Or three key planning questions for the start up/ early stage business:

What is the real market opportunity?
Can the enterprise fully meet these product/service requirements over the short, medium and long term?
Does the required investment meet cash flow/profit/ risk requirements?

From the answers one can then (hopefully) achieve the necessary change, and build on a gradual basis a more successful and effective enterprise, through what is often called mosaic management – small pieces of a picture put in place square by square. Above all, one should try to learn from mistakes – both within your own organisation and elsewhere:

“To err is human, to repent divine; to persist devilish.” Benjamin Franklin
“Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it” Santayana

This set of topics does not have any “correct” answers, because these will vary from organisation to organisation, and from month to month. They are there to help the enterprise think about its current position, and whether improvements can be achieved, and how they will be implemented.

Surveys of MBA students in their final year find that they are not aware of at least 50% of the entire range of topics listed below and their relevance to business operations – typical business practitioners only those that are relevant to their specific operational areas. Each of these topics can raise thoughts about how current operations are managed and whether there are possible improvements.

“The most profound answer may develop from the most mundane question” George Bernard Shaw

Analysis, options, implementation

Implementation is at least as important as analysis – many would think more so. Completing tasks quickly and effectively moves the organisation along in a cascade approach and motivates staff towards further goals and objectives.

“When the army engages in protracted campaigns, the resources of the state will not suffice. When your army is exhausted, your morale sinks and your treasure is spent, rulers of other states will take advantage of your distress and act. Then even though you have wise counsellors, none will be able to make good plans for the future. Thus, though we have heard of excessive haste in war, we have  not yet seen a clever operation that was prolonged”.  Sun Tzu

Ibis support

The topics are all described in more detail in Ibis summary notes, running to over 150,000 words, which are part of Ibis business plan training or Ibis business plan developme