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.

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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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Don't Blame Recruiters, HR or 5,000 Bad Apples. Blame the System.

Don't Blame Recruiters, HR or 5,000 Bad Apples. Blame the System.

This is a follow-up post to Psychology Gone Wild | A New Organisational Tyranny?, examining how we need to stop blaming individuals for organisational messes and instead examine the systemic issues that cause bad or anxious behaviours.

Thanks to Chris Ngo, Futurist Thinker for Humanity Preservation, for posting the question that instigated this response.

NB: For any recruiters reading this, I will get to recruitment in the 2nd half of the post.

The Return of Systems Theory

There's an increasingly significant re-emergence of ideas around systems theory (a school of thought about organisations that briefly sparked into life in the 1950s). When you hear people talking about systems leadership, systems thinking, design thinking, complexity theory et al (listed in no order of preference or importance), you are seeing evidence of this re-emergence. 

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Culture eats strategy for breakfast! Doesn't it?

Culture eats strategy for breakfast! Doesn't it?

Peter Drucker once said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast". Or maybe it was lunch? Perhaps even dinner?

It is, or course, apocryphal. Ducker never said it. It has been repeatedly misattributed to him for years. The only person we know for sure that wrote it was Mark Fields, of the Ford Motor Company, in 2006. Because he stuck it on his office wall and people saw it there. 

But what does it mean? Was it relevant when Drucker supposedly said it? And is it still relevant now?

Answering these questions is important. To explain why it's important, I'd like to turn to Jeffrey Rothfeder's incisive article on the Volkswagon scandal. In it, while paraphrased slightly, he writes:

For decades, Volkswagen has practiced a management style that imposes rigid goals and punishes middle- and lower-level employees who are unable to keep up with the pace. Executives formulate bold strategic objectives and timelines, with little input from others. Rank-and-file employees, pressured by the expectations placed on them, try to deliver at all costs. Intimidation at every level, which creates a borderline, or sometimes over the borderline, unethical culture.

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