Strategic collaboration

Cate recently finished our first contract – it was for a national NZ sports body assisting with an organisational restructure to align with their strategic goals. Interestingly, we got the job via Cate’s Australian network, and in association with Left Field Sports Solutions.

In the first instance Cate and I collaborated on reviewing the organisational review consultation paper, clarifying the strategic intent and outlining concisely how the initiative aligned with the agreed Strategic Plan. This was an important task as it not only communicated to staff the purpose and benefits behind the move, it was a key part of building internal support for the proposed changes, and to get feedback from those directly affected.

Cate worked closely with the CEO, Left Field Sports Solutions and the organisation’s lawyers and played an influential role in getting the initiative over the line and successfully implemented.  Cate must have left a good impression as she has now been retained as part of the Left Field team to review policies and procedures, and to provide strategic HR advice as required to the sports body.

Cate was very pleased to confirm that her HR skills – developed and honed largely in a legal firm background – were transferable to another industry.

Our first task working together as Third Horizon Advisers confirmed that our skills are complementary and we work well as a team.


Project management

Others describe me as being well organised. I’m known for getting things done. So not surprisingly, the second major string to my bow is project management. I’ve have over 20 years of project management experience on offer.

I gained valuable experience in managing projects where the team organised major events such as workshops with over 100 participants, coordinating contributions from colleagues, experts and external stakeholders and delivering on required outcomes (all on time and on budget).

On one occasion, a colleague and I developed a ‘master project’ gantt chart of all organisational projects to calculate resource capacity utilisation & to facilitate prioritisation.

During the project design phase I fall naturally into thinking about the flow of tasks to deliver on project milestones, who is responsible for what and costs (or a cost/benefit analysis if appropriate). That process often involves chatting to other project contributors to agree on tasks and timing.

In my blog posting about influencing others to engage in reflection and to adapt to changing circumstances, I stated that I’m good at asking the right questions. That applies to project management too. Invite me in to facilitate a project pre-mortem, where we preemptively identify issues that may go wrong, and work out ways to manage those risks.

Contact me to discuss your project management needs, whether that’s just project design or managing a project – I may well save you time and money.

Paul Roberts



What motivates me to influence you

I’ve always had an inquiring mind. My father called me ‘the Professor’. He wanted me to be a lawyer or accountant. My desire to learn more about society and human behaviour eventually led to my gaining an undergraduate degree in social sciences and humanities.

My work subsequently as a seafood industry advocate and negotiator was rewarding – particularly in persuading seafood exporters to collaborate in freight rate negotiations. But there was something missing from my professional career. While studying for an Executive MBA I realised my preferred future lay in strategic thinking.

Happily I went on to learn a great deal more while employed as the Strategy Facilitator at the New Zealand Ministry of Transport – in particular about having a tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity, and developing my capacity for systems thinking.

Having always had a willingness to engage in conversation and to tap into the creativity and wisdom that can come from shared perspectives, I happily adapted to a participative  governance approach to the development of transport policy strategy. I was able to facilitate robust stakeholder engagement in workshops and focus groups by building relationships with stakeholders, listening to their conversations about policy issues, and gaining their support to shared goals and objectives.

While employed by an Australian government agency, I persuaded senior executive management to initiate environmental scanning and foresight projects. I found common ground with the CEO in fostering cross-organisational collaboration, and promoting agile, adaptive approaches in response to a rapidly changing environment. My peers recognised my efforts through awarding me a ‘brand champion for exemplifying being influential’.

Others have described me as:

  • an outstanding strategic thinker
  • having excellent conceptual and analytical skills
  • an innovative and creative thinker
  • having impressive credentials in terms of facilitating groups and individuals to work together to arrive at an agreed solution.

I’m a systems thinker – always have been. I can process a great deal of information quickly to understand a situational context and to identify pressures in the system. I’m good at asking the right questions and testing conventional wisdom.

I can help out by facilitating time-out for reflection and contemplation, to review or clarify strategic purpose and direction.

One way to do that is to appoint me as devil’s advocate where I would make some observations and interview people, asking questions about what’s going on in your organisation and why, what assumptions are being made and what the wider outcomes are. The resulting feedback prompts reflection and potentially re-thinking what your organisation is seeking to achieve.

For all of that, time and again I’ve learnt that strategy development alone is not enough… without a positive culture of engagement in place insights gained from strategic analysis can be ignored. Expressing thoughts and feelings about what’s going on should be encouraged.

Organisational culture is largely shaped by the kinds of behaviour and values that leaders demonstrate.

In a recent The Mandarin article, Michael Papay and Andrew Simon – noting how hard it is ‘…to control things in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world’ – observed that an engaged organisation culture… ‘is about empowering people in the context to volatility, to achieve those important organisational goals through agreed norms of behaviour and values that unleash initiative, adaptiveness, collaboration, local decision-making and strong accountabilities.’

I’ve been successful at influencing both external stakeholders to engage with others, and with colleagues to participate cross-organisationally, to reflect on the status quo in relation to trends and developments over the horizon, and to seek better outcomes in the public interest.

Paul Roberts



Creative thinking + pragmatic HR outcomes

When I look back on my career as an Human Resources Director, three things stand out as the most satisfying:

  1. Building and maintaining the respect of partners in three law firms through adding value to the firm from better recruitment and retention outcomes, and by identifying and solving their HR problems.
  2. Mentoring and coaching my staff to provide them with the experience and skills to become confident and successful professionals. I treasure the memories of the appreciation my staff have given to me.
  3. Consistently being strategic and objective in developing business cases for HR strategic initiatives and to improve administrative operations.

Quick to pick up on the dominant cultural and political influences, I work with individuals and teams to resolve disputes and achieve outcomes that are in the best interests of the firm.

I collaborate with high profile people to tailor solutions to their particular HR needs, striving to maintain operational and strategic policy consistency… while being pragmatic at all times.

People tell me that I’m very good at communicating the nature of a problem and exploring potential solutions that results in shared agreement on the way forward, and support during its implementation.

In short, I work with people to develop creative or pragmatic solutions to their HR issues – whether that’s at the business level strategic direction or operational efficiency, or whether it is mentoring and coaching individuals to lift their performance and management skills.

Most people know me as Kate Clark, but with our move back to New Zealand I shall be using my birth and married names Cate Roberts.

Cate Roberts