How to Balance Between Certainty and Flexibility

How to Balance Between Certainty and Flexibility

Donnie MacNicol 24/08/2018 4

People are different but we are all looking for certainty about the future whilst maintaining the flexibility to do what we want in the present. We all know certainty is an illusion but we plan change as if we can guarantee a defined outcome at some set point in the future - with changes along the way to make things interesting! The flexibility we all want, to different degrees, drives a range of behaviours. Consider how different people view and use the processes and structures within organisations. Behaviours can range from people blatantly ignoring the defined ways of working through to people following the rules, and as a worst case without challenging what is obviously of little value and possibly even detrimental to delivery. I am sure we can all relate to this from our own experience.

The challenge of achieving future certainty while ensuring we, and the fellow professionals we work with, have the appropriate degree of flexibility causes no end of issues when delivering change. Take as an example the systems that are used to capture, process and share information. Some organisations have gone for centralised systems that provide varying levels of functionality with people using fully and others rebelling as it does not meet their needs. When this happens they often revert back to Excel to do what it is they want in the format they want it. Other organisations will stick with a simpler distributed solution using often inefficient means to share information, again most likely relying on Excel and emailing around or attempting to share a centralised file. A simple but a challenge to scale across large change initiatives or portfolios. 

Insight - Certainty with Flexibility:

  • Certainty through real-time quality information using Excel™ linked to a secure and configurable cloud based database
  • Flexibility through the familiarity, speed of adoption, scalability and adaptability of Excel™ 

Organisations have attempted to implement enterprise wide systems to provide certainty but politics, demand for flexibility, poor functionality, fear of losing power and many other factors makes comprehensive adoption and effective use a pipe dream and at worst a burden to those it is often pitched as helping. The worst case scenario is that the system become a beast that must be fed and from a users perspective with the minimum amount of information. Excel, for the majority of organisations, becomes the fall back, sitting in parallel with and often feeding the system. This leads to multiple versions of the truth depending on who you ask and at what time.

There is good news – there is an alternative to traditional enterprise systems which promise consistency but offer no or little flexibility for the professional who use it.

Insight aims to provide certainty and at the same time flexibility for the professionals who use it with easy adoption and little of IT paraphernalia that typically accompanies a centralised system. This is represented in the figure below.

Insight allows professionals to maintain the inherent flexibility of Excel by putting behind it a cloud based system which stores and shares core data. It provides the people, your most important asset, with the ability to adapt and create the information and present it in a way that they wish. Insight provides organisations with the capacity and capability to have large numbers of projects sharing trustworthy data in a consistent and live manner with none of the adoption or sustainability issues that often blight more bloated and burdensome centralised systems. A human based solution to an apparently technical problem.

If as a project, operations or finance leader you have faced the problem of weak controls leading to poor estimates, bad contracts getting signed up, late delivery and resulting poor customer satisfaction, budgets being overspent then you now have an alternative. David Glazier, Senior Group Director at Ramboll, a major international construction company who have recently adopted Insight commented:

“We were looking for a solution to expand the Excel based reporting system we introduced as part of our Project Excellence Programme. Our goals were to reduce the manual effort needed to create the monthly Board Pack and enable us to scale up to many more projects without sacrificing flexibility or the effort we’d invested to date. We did not want to take the risky and costly path of investing in a tool that would force us away from the successful spreadsheets. When we saw Insight it ticked all the boxes for us, allowing us to retain the well embedded spreadsheets while cutting manual effort and enabling us to scale. The added benefit of real-time insight will doubtless open up new possibilities as we move forward.

As this is a global solution for a major multinational Insight had to pass a rigorous assurance process which will hopefully put your mind to rest as to the robustness and security of the system and the data within it.

You may not have the exactly same challenges, at the same scale or in the same industry but we believe that Insight can help in most situations where Excel is your de facto tool and there is a desire for the benefits that would come from greater centralisation. If you would like to find out more then please feel free to contact me directly via

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  • Manny Cuevas

    A good fit between work demands and other life responsibilities can improve the quality of both work and home life for employees.

  • Andrea Genocchi

    Forward thinking business leaders can take steps to increase certainty and productivity.

  • Benjamin Olley

    The workplace has changed considerably in recent years.

  • Ravi Kallah

    Good read

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Donnie MacNicol

Leadership Expert

Donnie is a project, programme and organisational consultant who has married his 30 years of delivery experience with a passion for personal development, change and strategy to offer consultancy and training services to clients through his own consultancy. Clients are in both the public and private sector and include multinationals and SMEs. His main focus is on supporting the development of leadership at an individual, programme and organisational level - creating an environment where teams can perform to their maximum potential. He is the author of The Delivery Manifesto™ & co-author of Project Leadership 3rd Edition by Routledge as well as contributor to multiple others. Donnie holds a BSc (Hons) in Civil Engineering from the University of Strathclyde.

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