Breaking Brexit

Stop Talking … Start Doing … and lets get ‘Breaking Brexit’!

Say we are a small rural business in a sleepy town or village just keeping pace with rural living … chances are Brexit (Britain Exiting the EU) are not top of our day to day business priorities let alone thinking about Breaking Brexit.

Attempting to research, comprehend, assimilate, learn, understand and apply usable information about Brexit is not exactly the most appealing proposition we have ever encountered.  As only one person in a very frugally staffed micro enterprise, firm or business, we’ve tried the early morning Brexit themed breakfasts hosted by the local chamber of commerce.  Done the local junket to the local hotel and heard the latest Brexit consultants pitching the possible problems.  Hell we have even done the ‘must-do’ online Enterprise Ireland Brexit Preparation Scorecard and completed the very informative 2 days Brexit training course.  Just to be safe, we’ve made an appointment to attend a weekly coaching clinic with a knowledgeable business mentor from our local business support board who’s going to help us tack head the task of formulating a preparation strategy to deal with any negative impacts from Brexit … right?

If so … armed with a comprehensive Brexit preparation strategy and matching implementation plan we’re Brexit ready … right?

If not … how are we going to be Breaking the possible negative impacts of Brexit on the business?


I’m sure your hoping for something a bit different to the normal dry boring in detail horror story told by another clock watching, all knowing, self promoting consultant.  I’m hoping to avoid making a dogs dinner of it and instead weave a more interesting K9 theme through the narrative of possible practical approaches to breaking brexit.  As a project manager, I would not promote myself as a Brexit expert, specialist or consultant but I do help in formulating strategy and then lead projects to implement those strategies and get the job DONE!.  The idea at the heart of this post’s objective is to get people talking, thinking and hopefully doing something about Brexit.  While there maybe lots of possible sources referenced or cited in this post, this post is not intended to promote or endorse any particular source, view, option or opinion so the reader is asked to keep an open mind when sniffing around linked sources for information, learning and wisdom. In order that this post continues to add value, the post will be a living post being extended over time with new sources, information and knowledge deemed worthy of consideration. If you have something related you feel is worthy of sharing, please add your comments below.


Brexit Problem StatementExample ‘Problem Statement’


Sniffing Out The Problem

Perhaps Brexit is not really a problem, perhaps it is not our problem, perhaps the problem is not worth fixing or can be ignored, worked around or transferred away.  One or two nose full’s is usually enough to get a good sniff of the level of stink coming from the problem.

As a project manager, before starting a journey down the road of a new project, I find it helpful to have a good nose around so as to fully sniff out the problem first and establish as good an understanding as is possible.  Think of it as letting the dog see the bone, or in this case the problem.  The level of insights into the problem should be summed up into a clearly defined one or two line paragraph of text that can then be documented as a ‘Problem Statement’.


Personally I like to measure our knowledge of the problem by asking a very simple question … “What is our objective?”

Dog With A Brexit Bone

The Bones Of A Good Objective

If the objective is not clear and time bound, things can smell fishy. Applying five whys (asking why at least five times) to problem and objective will usually clarify what exactly needs to be better defined.  Without a clear objective, this dog turns endlessly scratching and sniffing around in the problem in the hope of digging up a full appreciation of what is really needed.

If the objective is clear and time bound, chances are the problem has been well defined also so we could now take up the bones of a good objective and run with it as there should be little to impede progress and further refinement later.

Keeping it Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable and Time bound when possible is the SMART thing to do.  The important thing is to define an objective from the beginning, something we can get our teeth into, something to keep us chewing over Brexit, something perhaps along the lines of:

“Implement 100% (Measure) of the Brexit preparation strategy by December 31st 2018 (Time Bound).”


Example SMART Objectives

Making the objective time bound also helps to create a sense of urgency … the date may change as your learn more but start with a reasonable practical limit and keep in mind …

“UK will leave the EU before April 2019”, “Adopting a wait and see attitude is not wise on this occasion.”, “Those that plan and take action now will be the winners.”

(Denis Casey, 2017)


As I mentioned earlier … an objective is critical in my personal view.  Researching and studying the subject of project approaches since 2013, the academic knowledge would tend to support this view.  Understanding the problem and forming an objective are pretty much always the first order of authorised business in quality, project and innovation management, lean six sigma and business strategy formation.  So, while ‘Sniffing Out The Problem’ and digging up ‘The Bones Of A Good Objective’ doing something rather than just talking about Brexit to this point was the easy bit.


Like many micro firms it’s a dog’s life just facing up to a pack of obstacles to fight a way through.  The biggest of these obstacles can be making the time and space to safely hand off the day to day operations to someone with a comparable level of passion, knowledge and judgement someone just like you!  Assuming we’ve found a competent clone … the next biggest problem is knowing where and how to begin to sniff around the problem and avoid becoming distracted by the more urgent day to day problems or perhaps going off track to be distracted at the sight of a nice shiny quick fix.  Jumping to an early solution can be so much simpler, faster and appealing than staying on track and keeping to the long hard road.  As my grandmother would say … it’s the old dog for the long road and young pup for the puddle.  We loved our gran but she was barking mad … {I wonder could it be hereditary? }

Brexit Granny

If we’re disciplined enough to air on the side of good practice and choose to make a more robust strategic commitment to follow our grandmothers advise to prepare with a stitch-in-time, we will most likely save more than nine and perhaps thanks to the wisdom of granny … save the business while we’re at it.  Before we can begin stitching up a well embroidered and detailed implementation plan for Breaking Brexit, we’re going to need to do our research to understand the possible impacts on the day to day business ‘as-is’.  Next we’re going to need to identify the gaps between the ‘as-is’ business and where the business needs ‘to-be’.  Only then having a detailed implementation plan can be utilised to realise all the Brexit preparations contained in our Brexit strategy ready so we can measure again the new level of Brexit readiness.


Next we need to dig a little deeper into ‘The Brexit Problem’ and have a good sniff around using freely available sources to see what we can dig up as little treats and nibbles of knowledge to help us when Breaking Brexit.


The Brexit Problem

Researching ‘The Brexit Problem’ we will need to be sure we have a problem, that the problem is in fact worth fixing, that the problem is our problem and if we can … we need to confirm we are the right people to fix it.

To better understand the possible answers to such questions it’s helpful to first learn more about what Brexit means from an Irish Perspective. Researching this, I turned up some interesting resources, articles and sources which I recently encountered and hope you may find helpful.


A Scent Of Brexit

69% of Irish SMEs view Brexit as main threat to world

  • RTE business News (Dated: 21st 2017)


A Hard Bexit  is coming – take advice from the scouts and ‘be prepared’

  • by Local Enterprise Office Mentor Programme Consultant – Denis Casey (Dated: 19th June 2017)


Ten things Irish businesses should consider ahead of Brexit

  • By UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Barrister – Paul McGrade (Dated: 20th Sept. 2017)


What does Brexit mean for your business?

  • By Charted Accountants – Parfrey Murphy (Dated: 28th June 2016)


Brexit what’s next for Irish Business?

  • By Ibec clg


Brexit Scorecard

The Enterprise Ireland self-assessment Brexit Scorecard should help you gain further insights into the level, width and depth of your businesses current Brexit preparedness.  It’s a free and simple online scorecard which as far as I can tell comes with no strings attached or consultants anywhere in sight.  It’s a simple 1 to 10 rating system across business domains that an individual can hastily do in 10 minutes but I would not recommend rushing this.

Having done a few, a practice I found most beneficial is to turn the filling of the scorecard into a mini-workshop for your business team of up to five or six participants and then explore in greater detail the possible areas of impact and rate each of the four questions within each of the six business areas being scored (Dated: 21st Sept. 2017) including:

  • Business Strategy
  • Operations
  • Innovation
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Finance
  • People Management

Having an independent facilitator can greatly help to probe and prompt insights into areas those closest to the business could otherwise fail to explore.  At the end of scoring you can ‘opt in’ to receive further Brexit communications from the Enterprise Ireland or Local Enterprise Office if you so wish.  Finally, you can choose to download and print the self-assessment results including some helpful extras like resources, events, possible next actions to consider.  While self-assessment is enough to trigger further discussion and deeper thought, I believe the rating of the scorecard is merely the beginning of a greater project effort to best understand the possible factors impacting on your business as well as the level, scale, priority and possible strategy required to manage, transfer or avoid any negative impacts.  I say negative impacts because based upon experience, it is also my firm belief that Brexit can be an excellent opportunity for some highly valuable incremental and radical innovation to realise some of the many possible opportunities that Brexit can expose.  You may also wish to consider doing as much homework in advance of meeting a coach, mentor or consultant during your first free Brexit clinic in your Local Enterprise Office so you can maximise the value of gaining access to the external expert.


Example ‘Project Charter’


Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Before you rush off to seek the insights of others like a young pup, the old dog would suggest the good practice of communicating a clear vision of your business objective, any early outline action items, the method and metric needed to measure project success or failure.  So you will most likely need to bring it all together into a single (if possible) A4 document so everyone can chew it over together while analysing the ‘as-is’ business in preparation of forming the strategy.  The new trick being taught is to focus all data into a single go-to source document called a ‘Project Charter’ as the focal point for all the most valuable nibbles of information and knowledge treats relating to the project.  The ‘Project Charter’ can also capture other items, but at this point, starting out by adding in your ‘Problem Statement’, ‘Objective’ and a ‘Measure and Metric for Success’ is enough to keep the dog interested and hot on the trail of project success.  You may later choose to put more meat on the bone and add outline action items, risks and a ‘Project Timeline’ identified as the project progresses.  Also, keep in mind that this ‘Project Charter’ is a simple summary of the project that is constantly changing as a living document for the entire project life cycle.

Example ‘Project Timeline’


Creating a timeline is a very simple and quick high level 50,000 feet visual view of the overall project as well as a good practice in project management.  The BBC published a UK perspective article as a helpful infographic that outlined the “Steps to UK leaving the European Union”.  This infographic can help to inform your individual Brexit business preparation project timeline.  After all, it not like your teaching an old dog new tricks, simply align all your project dates in time sequence along the length of a horizontal line and bingo … a project timeline.


The Great Brexit Bulldog

Go Fetch!

Armed with a single A4 page as a ‘First Draft Project Charter’ and the ‘Scorecard Self-Assessment’ you could be ready to take the next ‘Three steps to a successful Brexit for your business.’  as suggested by Denis Casey:

“Step 1 – Prepare a simple financial model for your business.

Step 2 – Carry out a structured risk assessment to determine the likely impact on your business.

Step 3 – Develop action plans.”

 … or you may choose to go fetch a more appropriate approach that better fits your business situation.


Dog down the Brexit Path

Barking Mad

Regardless of your approach to forming a Brexit Strategy, you’d be barking mad and possibly make a dogs dinner of it by choosing not to take the bone between your teeth and run with the pack on the heals of a proactive positive Brexit preparation strategy.  If your not busy barking at the moon, we still need to take a closer look at how to implement that Brexit strategy and extend our project to add an ‘Implementation Plan’ to get us a lot further down the path to being truly Brexit Ready.

Whilst the above outlines one of many high level possible approaches for small to medium Irish organisations to consider when preparing for Brexit, finding the desired approach to best fit your organisations requirements is as individual as each organisation … its my personal belief if you can research, choose, blend and tailor and plan correctly … detailed preparation can support good planning and greater success.

Breaking Brexit Kanban

Example ‘Project Kanban’

If you are this far along the path to Brexit readiness, I would imagine your doing better than most and no longer just talking about it, your doing … which means you have chosen to join the pack as one of those Irish small organisations who are … Breaking Brexit.


Example Approach:

SPI Minimal Approach Wheel

The ‘Simple Project Implementation’ (SPI) Approach

More Resources:

  1. Coming Soon! Simple Project Implementation (SPI)
  2. RTE business News – 69% of Irish SMEs view Brexit as main threat to world
  3. Denis CaseyA Hard Bexit  is coming – take advice from the scouts and ‘be prepared’
  4. Denis Casey – Three steps to a successful Brexit for your business
  5. Paul McGradeTen things Irish businesses should consider ahead of Brexit
  6. Parfrey Murphy – What does Brexit mean for your business?
  7. IBEC CLG – Brexit what’s next for Irish Business?
  8. PWC – Brexit: The Implications for Irish Business
  9. Chartered Accountants Ireland – Brexit a Guide
  10. Parfrey Murphy – Help Your Business to Survive Brexit
  11. British Irish Chamber of Commerce – Brexit Business Survey
  12. ISIM – Brexit Survey Results
  13. PWC – Key moments since Article 50 was triggered
  14. Small Firms Association – Brexit, A Guide For Your Business
  15. The Association of Data Protection Officers – Will Brexit complicate GDPR?




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