As a company that works dedicatedly to help individuals and organisations to address their inappropriate or ineffective behaviours, we can see the humour in one witty New Year quote – “Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits” . But whether we applaud that kind of ‘new start’ depends on whether they’re continuing their old habits or finally doing something about them. We enjoy the festivity and camaraderie of New Year as much as anyone, but we appreciate it as a transition too.

The transition from 2010 to 2011 is also period of transition at ASK. From 1 January 2011, Anton Franckeiss becomes Managing Director, having been UK Practice Director for the past two years, as founder and current MD Robert Terry takes up a new post as Executive Chairman, in which he will lead our growing portfolio of research and development work.

2010 has, as anyone would recognise, been a year in which market environments have been hugely challenging for everyone. While the UK may technically be out of recession, the strength, speed and distribution of the recovery remain much debated topics. For the public sector, the impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review is now starting to be felt, and we already know will continue to be felt for the life of this Parliament and beyond. This impact will also have further repercussions, the direction and extent of which it would be imprudent even to guess.

In the meantime, the Euro zone is undergoing convulsions and ructions that are likely to be as unpredictable as they will no doubt continue to be dramatic. The financial crisis, market reactions, globalisation, demographic changes, technology and many other factors may not add up to a perfect storm, but metaphorical blue skies might prove be more frequent in our thinking than our experiences.

But, to misappropriate a quote for Shakespeare, the passing of the baton at ASK is not a case of one person arriving and another leaving, both pursued by bears. Indeed, Anton is both positive and confident about the future and has ambitious plans to accelerate our expansion in Europe as well as continuing to lead from the front in our organisational development consultancy.

Despite the difficulties of our times, 2010 has been a year in which ASK has built on its rebranding of late 2009, making progress in all three strands – management and leadership development, organisation development (OD) and executive coaching – of our services. Our OD portfolio has grown strongly, and we are partnering both new and existing clients in organisational development projects not just in the UK and notably in Central and Eastern Europe, but also in the US and AsiaPac.

Our Executive Coaching offer – which we have expanded greatly – has increasingly established itself as a credible alternative to the traditional offering of stand-alone coaching providers, as organisations increasingly turn away from a pattern of L&D implementation typified by lengthy programmes delivered away from the workplace towards a blended model in which the role of coaching in extending, contextualizing and embedding new workplace skills and behaviours is increasingly given the recognition that has long been its due. As champions of the critical importance of learning transfer and application, this recognition is as gratifying as our own success.

2011 is a year in which we will focus on building on our strengths and successes in all three service strands, while maintaining our strategy of differentiation based on leadership in transfer and application. Early in the New Year, for example, Robert Terry’s new role as Executive Chairman will involve publication of the first results of our annual survey of Learning Transfer, of which he will be Editor.

Continuing to draw on a business model that deploys a core full-time consultant team supplemented by a panel of carefully chosen Associates, we will be setting ourselves demanding targets for organic growth in our principle markets – the United Kingdom and Mainland Europe (and will be strengthening our European consultant/business development team).

Our plans go beyond organic growth, however. We’ll be enhancing our offerings in training and learning evaluation, redoubling our efforts in promoting and deploying not only Executive Coaching but a number of additional services all of which enhance, strengthen and support our work in ensuring the transfer and application of learning.

We won’t be abandoning all our old habits – we will remain committed to working with clients to ensure that learning and development makes a sustainable, measurable difference. Making transfer and application part of the focus of intervention design and delivery will likewise remain a core part of our work: effective learning cannot be either a ‘drive-by’ incident or something apart from or distant to organisations, individuals and their work.

There are three things that we believe learning should be: effective and interactive are two of them – and these are attributes that work to support transfer and application. The third – fun – may sound flippant, but engaging interest and commitment requires human values, and humour will always be among them. So, with that in mind, some thoughts on the turning of the year from across the world and across the centuries, and we hope that they will provide inspiration (or at least a wry smile):

Ogden Nash
Every New Year is the direct descendant, isn’t it, of a long line of proven criminals?

Oprah Winfrey
Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.

Mark Twain
New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.

Anais Nin
I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.

Jay Leno
New Year’s Eve, where auld acquaintance be forgot.  Unless, of course, those tests come back positive. 

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