The Ironic Manager Blog

An Ironic Perspective on the World of Work

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Do you want dirty or clean consulting?

Do you want dirty or clean consulting?

We went to sit in the garden to drink wine and chat.  Her sister scurried about the kitchen as we talked, the smell of simmering spices drifting on the breeze.

 I hadn’t seen her for nine years - my time in Australia detaching me from her life of high-end consulting in Europe. A couple of years prior, she’d been approached by a previous client to become Head of Projects - her dream job - so she’d quit her VP role at a major consultancy and thrown herself into it. That’s what we chatted about.

And she hated it. Oh, how she hated it.  

20-odd years before, she’d cut her consulting teeth on a project for this company. It had made her career. She had revolutionised the service offering, producing a system that enabled employees to contribute to the design of the working environment in a dynamic, ongoing way in direct response to their customers’ needs.

If the core customer was a hurried and hassled office worker, design around their behaviours. If a suburban housewife, then around hers. If a high-end executive … you get the picture.

The result of the system was spectacular. Employees were engaged, the bottom line improved, and profits rose. Even better, because the design varied from branch to branch, competitors couldn’t copy it. They couldn’t find a pattern to copy, because the ideas were contextually unique.

Long story short, she became the blue-eyed girl of the consultancy and started on a stellar career.

But it was now different. Her previous client had been through the wringer, all its competitive advantages thrown away. So they hired her back to recreate the magic. But she couldn’t. I asked her why.

She was very precise in her answer. When she was the consultant on the project, she refused to advise until she knew what she was advising on. She would work a night with the night-shift, spend a day with the truckers, work the warehouse, visit different branches and speak to white and blue collar workers about their experiences. She never assumed she could make a good call without knowing how it would impact jobs across the company.

But she couldn’t do it anymore, for two reasons.

Recent Comments
Guest — Swavek Mankowski
I am a "dirty" consultant and I'm Proud. F* Yeah !!
Friday, 03 November 2017 22:06
Guest — Samantha
This world is very complex, you can twist the traditional way and do you own method to win this game.
Sunday, 01 December 2019 10:34
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Employee Experience: Why the Future of Work Starts Today

Employee Experience: Why the Future of Work Starts Today

In May 2017, I was privileged to be able to present at Australia's first ever Employee Experience Conference, hosted by PwC in their wonderful new premises in Barangaroo, Sydney.

The below is what I took away from the event.

From the C-Suite of a Big Four Firm

To have an idea book-ended by arguments from a Chief Economics Officer and a Chief Creative Officer was fascinating. Different perspectives. Similar conclusions.

The Chief Economics Officer: The economics were in-your-face brutal. Traditional powerhouse economies (the G7 / G20) are being caught up and overtaken by emerging economies. All signs are that the key indicators of economic health in many of the G20 countries are beginning to flatline. He predicted that talented people will start draining out of these countries and go to where the emerging money and interesting new work is.

The data is obviously worrying leaders. There was a great degree of pessimism about the chances of serious growth in all major English-speaking economies. Likewise, there was evidence that people didn’t believe their leaders were capable of comprehending and delivering the technologies necessary for becoming more competitive in such a world.

Except for Australia! Australian leaders are confident they can deliver growth - despite being seen by their employees as the least capable of comprehending and delivering new technologies of all leaders in the English-speaking world. That’s some disconnect!

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What makes your culture so fucking special?

What makes your culture so fucking special?

I was told my questions about organisational culture were too subtle. Change of tack.

And it's a serious question. What makes your culture so fucking special?

Because everybody makes the claim theirs is. With scant evidence. Let's look at why that's the case.


Organisational culture became a thing in the 1980s. It died a bit of a death in the 2000s. It's now back with a bang.

There are two basic arguments about cultural forms.

  1. There is a 'one best' cultural form that will work for any organisation
  2. Different cultural forms fit different organisational types

The 'one best' argument was championed by Tom Peter. He argued that there were 8 components that made up a great culture. If your culture had all eight it would be excellent.

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Facebook kills culture fit. 4 reasons it's the best move!

Facebook kills culture fit. 4 reasons it's the best move!

Facebook has 'prohibited the term “culture fit” when providing feedback on what interviewers liked or disliked about a candidate, requiring interviewers to provide specific feedback that supported their position.'

I'm backing Facebook on this one. Not for hitting diversity percentages or how it looks to the market. That is just an added bonus. But because culture fit and personality evaluation are screwing up hiring and recruitment. It's become dysfunctional.

According to Glassdoor Economic Research's 2015 data, the average interview process now takes 23 days, up from 13 days just four years ago. That's more lost time and considerably more cost.

It has to change. It's hurting the bottom line, the candidate experience, and good recruiter's livelihood. It's being driven by the unreflective fear that by hiring somebody who doesn't fit, performance suffers. Well, not as much as not hiring anybody at all. Or hiring a compliant zombie.

Facebook's stance on culture-fit is a great starting point. Here's why.

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This is how you should think about culture if you want to be ready for the future of work

This is how you should think about culture if you want to be ready for the future of work

Culture is not something your organisation has. It's something your organisation is.

What does that mean? Settle down comfortably and I'll do my best to explain.

Organisational culture became a thing in the 1980s. It was dreamed up as an American response to Japanese competitiveness. In very simple terms, Japanese workers worked longer hours and were more loyal to their companies than American workers. They seemed to live, breathe and sleep work in a way that the American worker did not.

The reason, it seemed, was because Japanese companies had strong cultures and American companies didn't. The Japanese workers understood and shared their company's values, beliefs and norms. That wasn't the case with the American worker.

For the American worker, work in the 1970s was purely technical. He didn't have to live it or love it. He just had to do it well and take home his check. That was the psychological contract. A fair day's pay for a fair day's work. While the Japanese worker's work infused all parts of his life, the American worker left his work at work when he went home.

Now it's a bit more like this!

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The Ironic Manager seriously rethinks how organisations work at the most fundamental level and offers a variety of solutions for businesses struggling to cope with the ambiguity and stresses inherent to contemporary organisational conditions of constant change.

Richard has been helping businesses and people deal with leadership, management, communication, technology and change for over twenty years through his training, coaching, speaking and consulting services. 

His innovative research is highly regarded by world-leaders in management and leadership. 

Maybe Richard can help you?

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Over twenty years helping people managing change understand why resistance happens and develop quality vital communication skills that aid successful business transformation.


Research recognised as exceptional by world-leaders in the fields of power, leadership and organisational change, receiving considerable praise for its originality, depth and rigour.


Extensive training, coaching and mentoring experience in professional development in well-known organisations, governments and business schools across the world.


Consulting on change, transformation, culture, organisational narrative, innovation and creativity, and communications to private and public sector organizations and entities.

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