3 Courses to earn a Certificate of Leadership Excellence

We are pleased to announce that the Institute has partnered with Dalhousie University’s College of Continuing Education to provide students with three exciting new courses; Leadership Dynamics, Ethics in Action, and Mastering Strategy.

This demanding trinity of courses provides learners with the opportunity not only to learn about leadership, strategy, and ethics but also to learn how to lead, how to be strategic, and how to make ethical decisions. All three courses are learner-centric and take a constructivist approach to learning that combines active, experiential, social, and problem-based learning with more traditional pedagogical approaches.

People who successfully complete all three courses, achieving a grade of at least 80% in each, will qualify for a professional certificate of Leadership Excellence from The Business Excellence Institute.

Commenting on the Dianne Tyers, Dean of the College of Continuing Education, said that:
the College of Continuing Education at Dalhousie University is delighted to partner with the Business Excellence Institute to offer the three courses leading to a Certificate in Leadership Excellence as, together, the courses provide learners with the core knowledge, skills, and critical thinking required to become effective leaders who are able to make informed, ethical, strategic decisions in complex, dynamic situations… and that’s the kind of leader that all types of organizations need right now.

John Bourke, president of The Business Excellence Institute, noted that Dianne and the College of Continuing Education were well known to the Institute’s board and that they were happy to enter into partnership to provide the courses as they respected Dalhousie and the work Dianne was doing to progress the College of Continuing Education on its journey to excellence.

Both organizations look forward to providing these three impact-driven, rewarding, relevant learning experiences to people to help them develop as leaders who can navigate and adapt to today’s ever evolving challenges. Leadership Dynamics and Ethics in Action launch next week. Mastering Strategy launches in January.

About The Business Excellence Institute

Headquartered in Dublin, The Business Excellence Institute has members on 6 continents and is the world’s only global membership body for business excellence professionals. It is dedicated to helping people and organizations achieve outstanding results for all their stakeholders and, in addition to facilitating professional development, it helps organisations, ranging from small family businesses to federal governments, on their journeys to excellence.

About Dalhousie University College of Continuing Education

Dating from 1818, Dalhousie University is one of the oldest universities in Canada. Its College of Continuing Education develops and delivers innovative educational programs to assist individuals to prepare for and succeed both academically and professionally. The college has delivered innovative, quality education and training needs to its students and their employers for almost 40 years.

Teaching Strategic Management

We are happy to announce the publication of Teaching Strategic Management A Hands-on Guide to Teaching Success edited by Professor Sabine Baumann with a chapter authored by Institute members Dianne Tyers and John Bourke.

The book – which is written for strategic management instructors, faculty, and program directors – covers a wide strategic management knowledgebase and includes approaches, practices, and resources to enable learning for people at all stages of their strategic management learning journeys. The chapter written by Dianne Tyers and John Bourke focuses on executives.

Teaching Strategic Management A Hands-on Guide to Teaching Success (ISBN: 978 1 78897 835 4) is published by Edward Elgar Publishing and is available for purchase online here.

Design for Good Decision Making

I saw a tweet recently from a business school about “efficiency in decision making”. Efficient decision making might sound positive but it’s more important to design for effective decision making – the making of good decisions.

The headline worked… I read the article. It gave the example of a door which, although it needed to be pushed, had a handle on it that “communicated” pull. I’ve encountered a similar door in the offices of an innovative company that puts a lot of thought into things including its office space but still has a door in its offices which is glass and has handles to pull on both sides. Every time I went to open it I found myself thinking “is this the pull side or the push side?”… frequently, I got it wrong.

Decision Making

At the best of times it’s difficult to make optimal decisions. If something as simple as the design of a door handle can cause many people to make poor decisions when there are only two options, how much more significant are the influences of poor organizational design and poor decision making processes?

Organizational design – which is about a lot more than just structure – is something that is covered in Chartered Business Excellence Professional training and it’s too big a topic to get into here so, for now, I’ll focus on another factor that influences decision making – cognitive bias.

Henry Mintzberg and colleagues have being writing about the “Cognitive School” of strategy since the 90’s and it’s widely accepted that cognitive biases strongly influence decision making. Being aware of the existence of a bias is not enough to avoid its influence. One must, in the opinion of Daniel Kahneman, design systems to help us overcome them.

Last Monday, while hiking in the mountains south of Dublin, I had a conversation on this very topic. A friend was talking about how climbers attempting to climb Everest establish a series of toll gates or “tripwires” to help them overcome commitment bias and force themselves to turn back if they haven’t being making milestones and the risk gets too high. It’s a great example of how we can use systems to help guide decision making and overcome bias.

Thought on how to design decision-making processes to optimize decision making – including thought on organizational structure – and on how to design operational systems to help mitigate the influences of cognitive bias are investments worth making. Irrespective of if a system is to support investment decisions or other strategic or operational decision-making, to be effective it needs to be well designed. Unless it is, it will drive the incorrect behaviour.

Unfortunately, examples of badly systems – in everything from hiring and performance management systems to risk management systems – are found in almost every sector. There is no silver bullet that will ensure an organization will design good systems. However, brushing up on your critical thinking is a good start and this can be followed-up with some training on how to make decisions as a team.

The Institute has a short Critical Thinking primer which uses a number of exercises to illustrate that it doesn’t matter how smart a person is, we are all susceptible to the same cognitive traps so we need well designed systems to avoid them. We also have a training for teams to help them learn how to make strategic decisions in the face of uncertainty that uses APEX – our boardroom board game – to create a learning environment.

But, while I mention them, the purpose of this post is not to plug them in particular rather it is to prompt people to think about the need to have well designed systems in place to support their decision making. Without them, even if your organization is performing “well enough” at the moment, it is at risk of drifting towards mediocrity.

Testing APEX, the Applied Excellence business strategy game

For the past 3 weeks, we’ve had faculty members and our Systems Psychologist evaluating APEX – the Applied Excellence business simulation game – with a diverse group of people including engineers, accountants, entrepreneurs, and analysts.

It has been fascinating to watch the various approaches to strategy and the dynamics of decision making in the face of uncertainty bring learning opportunities to the fore.

As we’ve polished the simulation, its ability to facilitate learning for executives has improved. This week we are doing another round of testing with yet another group of executives, after which we expect that we will be able to green light manufacture of the final product and will have an exciting new way to help people learn about strategic thinking, management, and how to achieve sustainable excellent performance.

APEX - the Applied Excellence business simulation game
The Power of Play
Games offer the opportunity for context-based learning, which most other teaching methods do not provide, making games a powerful learning tool. They change the learning process from being one of conscious effort to being a fun, subconscious one. Rather than merely discussing topics with an instructor, participants engage in a scenario that enables them to quickly see and feel the consequences of their actions. This enables them realize things and facilitates both new learning and the transformation of old knowledge into new knowledge. In addition, it couples learning with emotion which as Plato reminds us is the basis of all learning.

Demystifying Strategy in 7 short paragraphs

Strategy is something that people spend a lot of time talking about and numerous books have been written about. Yet, it is something that many people don’t understand well.

When asked to define strategy, many people either get stuck or give a long complex response that demonstrates they don’t know how to express what strategy is. Often they confuse strategy and tactics.


Simply put, strategy is a plan to achieve a long-term goal. This means strategy requires two things – a long-term goal and a plan to achieve it. In other words: “where we want to go and how we want to get there”.

There is nothing mysterious about it.

“Increase sales by 20%” is not a strategy – it’s just an objective. The important part that many leaders forget is the “how”. If your strategy doesn’t spell out the “how” …you’ve an issue.

When it comes to crafting strategy there are many different approaches. They range from the upfront analysis approach of what Mintzberg, Ahlstrand and Lampel call the “design school” to the “learning school” that involves learning as you go and modifying tactics – which focus on the immediate – in much the same way as a Mississippi Steamboat Captain did while navigating to the sea down an ever changing river.

The best strategies tend to result when leaders combine approaches, using some analysis on how to best leverage their organization’s capabilities while retaining the flexibility to allow strategic learning influence strategy. Accordingly, excellent organizations should review and refine their thinking to ensure that realized strategy doesn’t overlook any strategic learning.

For more information on the various schools see Strategy Safari by Mintzberg et al. …it gives a comprehensive overview of the the various approaches and their pros and cons.

Integrating Excellence Assessment with Strategy

A few years ago, some of the large European organisations that had used the EFQM Excellence model for a number of years to systematically drive improvement wanted to find ways to integrate Business Excellence with their strategy so that it moved from being a “project” or “program” to becoming just a part of how they did business.

Ideas suggested ranged from having incentive bonuses for improving assessment scores to systems of ongoing training. In my mind it was clear. The best – if not only – way to successfully achieve the objective was simply to focus on the organization’s results. The way people influence an organization’s results is by acting on the things that enable them (“enablers” in EFQM terminology), one of the central concepts of business excellence.

Assessment Strategy Integration

Once your people realise that the optimal way to manage and improve results is by working on the enablers (the 7 BEX Excellence Framework criteria to the left of results), business excellence becomes integrated with how you do business. To integrate it with strategy formulation, you only need to ensure that the output of Excellence Assessment – the list of strengths and prioritized areas for improvement – is available as an input for strategy formulation.