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Crossing the Chasm - How Innovation Really Works

A camel, a tiger and a unicorn walk into a bar. Or rather into a CMCE seminar…

Read more about Diffusing Innovation and how we take ideas to market and grow at https://wcomc.org/2019Mar31-5


Increasing access to justice through technology (and why it matters)

Legal advice should be accessible to anyone who needs it – no matter their background or income. The UK legal system is built on values of fairness and equality, enshrined in our laws.

But day in and day out, people cannot access the legal advice and representation they need, either because they cannot afford the fees, don’t know where to turn to or the resource isn’t available. Relatively simple issues quickly become overwhelming without the right information and support.

The consequences of this can wreck lives and families, from being illegally evicted for rent arrears (Maria), discriminated out of a job (Jordan) or even removed from the country (Adnan)*.

Cuts to Legal Aid means that more and more people like these cannot access the support and legal advice they need when they need it.

A solution

There is a way to make access to legal advice more fair, more equal and faster – and it’s beautifully simple. 

Relationships are critical in putting people at ease, and expertise and experience are essential in ensuring the right questions are asked, the right information collected and the right escalations made. But access to experienced lawyers is either time constrained or expensive.

Through the Jeanie Project, we’re piloting a system which puts supportive people (in local charities and community groups) on the front line, equips them and the client with groundbreaking technology (KIM, donated under licence by Riverview Law) to ask the right questions and direct the information collection, collates what is needed and makes the material available, easily and quickly, to experienced lawyers either directly or through brokerage.

It means we can increase the number of people dealing with initial concerns, ensure critical issues don’t get missed, bring together the key information, review/triage and, if still needed, make more time effective use of the scarce legal expertise (and do so virtually, even outside office hours) so each lawyer can help more people and resolve more issues.

It’s a way of getting more support into the hands of local charities and community groups to support poor and vulnerable people like Maria, Jordan and Adnan.

Through the technology of simple-to-use online information and tools, we can equip hundreds of groups in the hearts of local communities to provide advice, information and connections to lawyers; simply, effectively, for free.

Next steps

The theory works so now we’re testing in the real world. Rolling out the technology and processes with the community groups and charities who are on this early journey with us, starting in East London, to make sure it works smoothly for them and the people they help. The quicker we can do this do this quicker we can share the KIM technology (http://ask.kim/) with more organisations that can help.

Right now we’re crowdfunding (for 30 days, the clock is ticking) - https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/the-jeanie-project/ - to increase our support for our partners. We have some initial pilot funding from the Legal Education Foundation and a lot of pro bono support to make this happen (as well as the technology provided for free). If you can donate and/or share the link above, you’ll be making a valuable contribution to #accesstojustice

We now have 30 days to raise the funds needed. If we don’t reach our target then we don’t receive any money from this crowdfunder and more people go without help. Any surplus we do raise will go into bring more partner organisations on board. 

The future 

If The Jeanie Project is as successful as we believe it will be then we can transform access to legal advice and support in this country. We are hugely excited to be part of that. We look forward to welcoming you too and making a transformational difference to access to justice.

ABOUT THE JEANIE PROJECT: The Jeanie Project is a lean, agile charitable organisation, supporting access to legal advice for those who need it most through an exciting new technology. We enable local staff and volunteers in community organisations to help identify a legal issue, and collect the relevant information to send electronically to a lawyer or adviser.
www.thejeanieproject.org.uk Follow us on Twitter @jeanieproject  



Respect, responsibility and fairness – why business transformation is easier and more valuable than you think

Written as Independent Commissioner, Direct Marketing Commission

Pile it high and sell it cheap? Doing the minimum doesn’t work any more – customers move on and the regulations work against you but can we see regulatory frameworks as an opportunity?

Acquiring customers can be challenging and expensive. Retaining them isn’t easy but mutual respect, value exchange and a willingness to keep evolving helps make both your customers and your business sustainable. Transformation, underpinned by best practice, really is win-win.

Let’s say there are challenges ahead. What can you do about it and how does the Code [The DMA Code] offer a framework for positive action?

Act in accordance with your customer’s expectations

Know your customer. Customers aren’t just numbers, objects or simple transactions - you need to know them. Do you really want to work with everyone or do you want to choose your audience?

Meet your customer need and their expectations. A customer is only working with you to meet a need. Understanding them, their need and where you fit in raises the third element - understanding your customer journey. Why are they dealing with you now, how are they benefiting and why would they stay? This is more than mere individual transactions – this is about customer lifecycles and key to retaining profitable customers. Do you want any other kind?

Be honest, fair and transparent

Value exchange - a business relationship (and the transactions which make it up) need to be mutually beneficial. You don’t want unprofitable customers (or unprofitable products and services) and customers don’t want to feel taken advantage of. There has to be a value exchange and in order to be effective, you need to know your value and theirs. It should be an equitable exchange.

Open up what can be opened up – commercial confidentiality is important but that doesn’t apply to burying terms and conditions and ways of working in the small print. Be open about what you do and why, your standards (assuming they are high ones) and be clear. Don’t hide things you don’t need to hide.

Use feedback as an opportunity to learn – transparency brings opportunities. Is there a different or better way of doing things that you’ll only learn from feedback? Not all feedback is criticism and not all criticism is negative or personal. Seek feedback and how to do things better.

Deliver what you promise – you now know your customer and what they need. You’ve agreed your value exchange. Deliver what you promise always. Sometimes this may disadvantage you – work doesn’t always go to plan but openness will win you respect and the credibility of customers. If it doesn’t, perhaps you’re working with the wrong customer base.

Be diligent

Safeguard and secure – much as safeguarding children is critical in schools, safeguarding and securing data is essential to your business. Ensure you have the right systems and processes in place and that everyone who works for you, and with you, understands them. Then double check it.

Know your weaknesses – every business in the world gets something wrong but the smarter ones seek to understand why. Customers will no doubt provide feedback but it’s important to give yourself your own space to think, reflect and correct as well. Many a good business opportunity has come from addressing a mistake well.

Continue improving – once you know your weaknesses, prioritise what has the most impact and work on that first. Continuous improvement at the right rate should enable you to stay ahead of your competition, to innovate and grow volumes and profitability.

Act responsibly

Operating protocols with resources and systems – the right ways of working have a systematic approach. Agree your protocols and back them up with the right resources and systems. Stress test them, subject them to independent review and change what needs to change. Responsibility only applies if they deliver the right result – make sure they do. Don’t rely on tickboxes and pieces of paper as mitigation.

Hold yourself accountable as partner for credit and blame – very few business transactions are simple two party affairs. Just as you need to know your customer and their needs, you need to know your suppliers and partners and their needs (and challenges and weaknesses) too. Things go wrong on all sides but holding yourself accountable will build trust and credibility.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – why wouldn’t you? A responsible, fair, accountable relationship between you and your customers is in everyone’s best interests. Unless you’re a bottom feeder out for a quick buck.

It sounds right, it feels right and it points the way. This is change you can believe in and will lead to more valuable customers, a better return on investment and a less challenging time running your business. Regulatory change does present opportunities. Worth a thought?

Originally published in the Direct Marketing Commission Annual Report


Inspiring a generation... and answering the question "What is management consultancy anyway?"

On 6th February 2018, we attended our first Livery Schools Link Education Showcase at the Guildhall. A team comprising the Master, Clerk and members of the Education Committee, ably supported by apprentices from IBM, were charged with explaining management consultancy and inspiring young people.

So how do you engage a 13 year old in the wonders of our profession, especially so against the competition of racing games et al from other Livery Companies?

“Do you like telling other people what to do? Do you want to earn lots of money?” seemed a very practical starting point (At least one that attracted some engaged responses.)

Most of the students there, and they numbered 1000 from 45 schools, were Year 9 (approx. 13 years old and third year secondary in old money). They were just about to pick options for their GCSEs (or for the handful of six formers, thinking about degree subjects post A level), and this generated some interesting discussion about what subjects were necessary to train for management consultancy. We talked through the various routes into the profession including apprenticeships straight from school or sixth form as well as post degree entry. Whilst bright, it was important to recognise that university was not the most important option for all the students attending and also to explain that a few years on the job (with degree level study whilst in work) can give you advantages over the more traditional university route.

But how you advertise and make management consultancy attractive to adolescents? Well, with engaging and charming management consultants as a starting point and the young apprentices were a definite hit in the morning, being fairly close to the students’ age and being in the midst of the learning process. The more grey haired amongst us offered more wisdom and experience but kept it lively.

The mace (and its stand) was an attractive element, including an impromptu problem solving exercise of how to pick up something very heavy and put it back in the correct place without damaging it. Live stories (client names redacted of course) helped make the experience of management consultancy real and a couple of students visited the stand on three separate occasions, each time following up on previous questions and more reflective thinking. Some of the students felt we had an important counselling role for leaders in organisations.

We were able to provide a number of resources, including Geoff Llewellyn’s “The Ten Best Things About Being a Management Consultant”. Paraphrasing Geoff, these included ‘never be bored – there’s always a problem to stretch you’, ‘make things better’ and ‘you learn from everything you do so you can share that learning on your next project’.  And there was no doubt that the opportunity to ‘advise’ others what to do whilst being paid for the privilege was an attractive concept. Always assuming you had developed the experience, expertise and people skills to be able to do that well along the journey.

So what did we take from this experience? Firstly, it was a joy to meet the young people and engage with their hopes, ideas and aspirations – conversations were fun and rewarding. Secondly, hardly anyone of that age has the faintest idea what management consultancy is let alone was considering it as a career – there is work to be done to demystify the profession, particularly outside the elite student groups. Thirdly, big brand recognition is, unsurprisingly, poor – whilst students know their Apple from their Microsoft, awareness of IBM or PWC is almost non-existent. Fourthly, there is a need to create a career path which might inspire young people into management consultancy rather than taking the same old suspects from the same old schools and missing the diversity boat. And finally, as a Company, perhaps we could recognise more of the multiplicity of routes into the profession at different stages of life. Two girls were determined to be lawyers after university but could see the attraction of a management consultancy later in life (dear Reader, they meant after 30).

All in all, a productive day, inspiring young people from all backgrounds to consider the value and reward to be had from a career in management consultancy and to challenge some of our own preconceptions about our work and how it might develop.

Let’s hope we’re back again next year, even bigger and better. The world needs more management consultants and I think we’ve started to make a dent in that process.


Tom Peters is back and he’s angry

Originally published at http://wcomc.org/2017Nov30-5

It’s 35 years since ‘In Search of Excellence’ and Tom Peters is standing before a select group in Cass Business School at the first Global Symposium of WCoMC’s Centre for Management Consulting Excellence. Now 75 years old, he still has the same passion but does he have anything new to say?

Excellence is ultimately groups of people trying to achieve something, we’re told, yet the biggest drawback in 2017 is CEOs lack of prioritisation for reading. Tom talked of the role of ‘professional student’ and drew the conclusion that lifelong learning is a matter of life and death, especially as the robot and machine age nears.

Well read

Dr Peters recently took 18 months ‘off’ to read. Nothing else but reading. A luxury afforded to high value, older, management gurus (and high fee paying business school students perhaps), some of us make do with a committed week’s reading on the beach plus regular timeslots during the week and on weekends. Still, we’ll get there.

So why the 18 month reading sabbatical? Well, the world is changing (plus ca change) and even the experts can be a little behind on big data and AI. He evangelised on how we need to become intelligent on the tech topics but reassuringly, urged us to understand rather than be experts. One can only be expert in so many domains you know.

I learned that Henderson evolved BCG with the revolutionary idea of adding ‘ideas’ to ‘management counselling’ at around the same time I was learning long division in primary school. We debated ‘whose fault is it anyway’ if organisations can’t implement the strategies the uberkids of consulting came up with. I always thought the plan was pretty rubbish if you couldn’t realise it anyway. And was there really a world of consulting without ideas?

But what was making Tom angry? The conclusion that what matters is relationships – the people, the customers, the staff (and for charities I dare say the volunteers) – and that 30 years on people still didn’t get it! His summary of In Search of Excellence was “You need to get the people part right.” Well that saves 400 pages and gives me more time to read about AI… but it is a very good point. So is the rest of management science ‘not worth a hill of goddamn beans’?

Moral responsibility unprecedented

We’ve heard people are our most important asset for decades but Tom sees 2017 as a watershed. “Business 2017 has a moral responsibility unprecedented.” To do what?

“To develop the people on your payroll. Not training but making the best learning experience and being better prepared for tomorrow. No guarantees of job security but making sure whoever works for you and with you is better when they leave than when they started. Young people are literally living a life of consulting engagements and it’s our responsibility to develop and improve others, to improve their intellectual property (IP).”

But Tom wasn’t stopping there. In a direct challenge to Dean Marianne Lewis, he implored her to fire the strategy and finance professors (perhaps they need a different type of development?) and whilst not committing to the challenge, the Dean did acknowledge that what matters most, and is hardest, is human. Yes, it is indeed a blinding flash of the obvious that we forget in the heat of the battle or the hamster wheel. Like Dr Peter’s course delegate all those years ago, sometimes we need to be quite forcibly reminded of the obvious as much as learn new things.

But let’s get back to the 80s (the future can wait). MBWA, management by walking around, still matters. It’s about staying in touch, about understanding. We can’t blame executives who sit marooned in their offices resolving problems (it is what they’re paid to do) but they are indeed missing a trick (and perhaps should be paid to do the trick rather than incentivised to stay marooned). As Howard Schultz put it, “We needed to get back to the philosophy and importance of one employee serving one cup of coffee to one customer.” And possibly better coffee Howard…

Small is beautiful (and the future)

We learned there ‘might’ be consultancies endorsing ‘buy and cut’ strategies – buy a company, fire a load of people, escalate the profits and sell up before the almost inevitable company collapse. Management consultants recommending firing people to make a quick buck? Who’d have thought… Tom extemporised on how big companies only go in one direction (down) and revealed that the Fortune 500 companies only accounted for 5% of the US workforce (but presumably a good chunk of the Indian and Chinese equivalents I’d say?).

And so the answer is help the small companies. Help them grow. The maths works – if we help four person businesses grow to five, that’s likely easier than scaling up GE. And would you want to? It’s probably easy to work with the top in a smaller enterprise for as Gary Hamel put it, “The bottleneck is always at the top of the bottle.”

Diversity and harnessing the power of youth

But what would Peters Inc ideal board look like? Not the elderly white men from the same old schools anymore but a real mix. Two people under 30, 3 women, 1 IT/data analytics superstar, one or two entrepreneurs, a venture capitalist, a person of stature with a weird background (like a famous artist), a design guru, a maximum of 3 MBAs and finally no more than one person over 60.

Members, there is hope for you yet!

And Tom makes a good point. There is plenty of research (not least Mike Hudson’s) which demonstrates the value of diverse and balanced boards. We do indeed need to look like the world in which we live, whilst also retaining the right mix of skills and challenge on the board if we’re to have a hope of moving beyond the overanalytical vanilla model. But let’s not talk about MBA programmes again.

And one insight took me back to 2000. Tom’s reference to his ‘least selling’ book – the Professional Service Firm 50 (PSF 50), the book which inspired me to be a consultant (shorter sentences and a punchier read than “In Search Of…” too. To be excellent at what I did, to be focused, to do what I loved (listen, understand, inspire, push) and to help others be the same. Not for me the riches of devising intellectual strategies for big companies but the joys of helping smaller teams and organisations get better (not just richer). As the author said about PSF50, ultimately it was about how each division/department/team/person could embark on the journey to excellence and value add. You don’t have to transform everything at once. You just need to motivate the individual components to be the best they can be. Or more eloquently put, “Excellence is getting the job done and implemented.”

Hamster CEOs, capacity issues and the power of nice

But I had a burning question. In a world where execs can’t escape their office, relentlessly doing the same things, how important did he feel was mindset in leadership?

“Look for nice. Promote for the right reasons. Ensure your leaders can develop their people and dig deep into their track record of how that’s worked.” In other words, get the right leaders in the first place and make sure you evidence they can do what they need to do – people and relationships. And I quite liked his ‘no jerks’ rule.

As we moved towards ‘the wrap’, Tom urged us not to put Mr Spreadsheet in charge of the organisation (we really should fire those finance professors you know) but acknowledged the need for the technical skills in the right place. Character plus analytics was the answer.

And we heard one final plea. To reinvent MBA as the Master of Business Arts, to broaden the thinking and get out of the box of ‘overanalytical vanilla models’. Not a completely original idea but a damn good one all the same.

So this weekend, as I sit in the coffee shop of the Photographer’s Gallery reading strategy&business latest article on digital transformation after an hour wandering in Tate Modern exploring Ilya And Emilia Kabakov’s Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into The Future, I think a wise old management guru has probably endorsed my weekend. And yet I still have so much to learn…