A dictionary look-up of the word ‘challenge’ takes us to some quite confrontational, negative phrasing such as “a call to engage in a fight” and “a demand for explanation”. Often, challenge in the workplace is seen by the recipient as equally confrontational, a criticism or indeed accusation of some form of wrongdoing.

However, challenge is a business tool that when utilised correctly, in an area with the right culture and behaviours, seeks to identify issues and their cause, create innovative solutions, build trust and most importantly becomes a driving force for increased personal performance and development.

Perhaps by looking at an alternative and much more appropriate dictionary definition – “a test of one’s abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking” – we can get an understanding of the importance of challenge. For me it is the word “stimulating” that is the real hook here, something positive that a process of constructive challenge can bring to any problem or situation; and this is how it should be seen.

Of course, embedding a culture of successful challenge in an organisation takes time, and you can’t always guarantee that all challenge will be received in the positive nature it’s intended, but by sticking to a few guiding principles and ensuring everyone has a clear understanding of its purpose, challenge can begin to play an important part in the working day of all staff and the growth of an organisation.

At C.Co, when we look to embed a culture of openness and challenge in an organisation, we often offer the following as key considerations beforehand and find that by discussing these as a group, in terms of what they mean to an organisation, the benefits can be felt much more quickly:

  1. Being open and transparent
  2. Working with, not against
  3. Not accepting custom and tradition as the norm
  4. Understanding the subject matter in hand, but always be willing to ask the ‘stupid’ questions
  5. Understanding relative roles and responsibilities
  6. Reflective discussion and understanding is key
  7. Provide clear follow-up actions and action owners
  8. Have realistic expectations

At CIPFA C.Co we are committed to supporting the wider Public Sector, by offering our knowledge, experience and independence in a supportive non-confrontational way; delivering positive change as a truly collaborative offer.

So how does this work for you? I’d love to hear your views and experience; and if you’d like to talk to us about a particular ‘challenge’ in your organisation then please get in touch at ian.kirby@wearec.co and for all our latest news and views you can follow our company updates on LinkedIn: https://bit/ly/2toX8n3