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Founded in 1989 as TCA Consultants, in January AQR International will reach 35 years of existence.

Given that the average life of a UK company is around 7 years, we feel a degree of comfort from that. We must have done something right?

Like any business, we have had our highs and our lows. Overall, it would seem we have been good for our clients and achieved some notable successes from being featured on BBC TV for our “Unique and highly effective” team working programme (Prof John Adair) to helping to turn round a PLC whose shares had been suspended.

35 years of reflection and experience can give an insight into the state of people development as a vital resource in any business. These are ours:

When you reach a milestone like this you tend to reflect on the journey and one where you started.

Three things stand out.

Firstly, we set out to address what seemed to us to be the challenge of the day. Funnily enough, it is the same challenge that faces us now – Leadership and the impact this had on people and the organisation.

Then, leadership focused on the task and not so much on people. Motivation was thought to be largely achieved through pay and reward. Salary surveys popped up everywhere and convinced business leaders that they were not paying enough to keep staff. But turnover remained an issue no matter what they paid.

Today we see the same challenge of stability and turnover, but the more enlightened leaders now understand that a happy and satisfied employee will stay longer simply because they are enjoying what they do. Intrinsic motivation is on the rise and not before time.

It does mean that those who lead have some learning to do.

Secondly, although people and organisations are unique and complex, in 1989 the solutions were often “one size fits all”. They rarely worked. Small wonder that 35 years on, practitioners are still grappling with the same challenges.

The default was often to a simple solution. You were either this type or that type. You could be a colour. And fads abounded. Who still believes that 10,000 hours of practice does anything – and yet it was the wisdom of the day.

2023’s fad is impostor syndrome. There is no evidence for a syndrome. Nevertheless, you have many practitioners who make a living remedying something you have not got!

Change is occurring, albeit slowly. Slowly we are accepting that solutions should be, at least in part, based on a solid premise for which there is independent evidence. And that they should be delivered by competent practitioners who go beyond attending a two-day course on mindfulness in 2007.

We like to think that, with our links with academia and our mental toughness concept we are making our contribution to the holy grail of evidence-based practice and approaches that really do work.

The response to the idea of evidence and understanding each person and each challenge as unique seems to us to be an approach that is a long time coming but very much welcomed.

Clients want solutions that work, even if they require effort to understand and apply.

Finally, the growth of partnership.

In 1989 we did things for the clients or to the client. Very occasionally we did things with the client.

When we did, these were, by some way, the most successful projects. Intrinsic Motivation applies to clients as well as staff. 30+ years on and some of those clients are still with us.

It was also the case that clients, whilst owning the problem, often held as much of the solution as we did. The truth is that, over the years, we have learned as much from our clients as ever they did from us.

And that is where one of the most important forms of learning takes place. Each client introduced us to a unique set of challenges and, mostly, we were able to work with the client to resolve them.

This is also true of the people who have been employed by TCA/AQR and who have worked with AQR. They have all left their mark and helped to shape the organisation which still thrives after 35 years.

As we approach Christmas 2023, we send our best wishes to everyone. Those who we work with now, our partners around the globe, and, very much to all those with whom we have worked

Next, in January 2024, we will set out how we see the future of people and organisation development and how we plan to thrive for the next 35 years.

Spoiler alert! We will likely grapple with the same issues but with solutions that engage clients and with approaches rooted in solid science that have a real chance of making that difference.

Doug back in 1989

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