The other day I was asked to framework a neat and natural flow that could sort out a daily but important practice for a large organisation. Currently the practice is, as usual, only supported by a sprinkle of request and bug tracking systems, email, calls and meetings.
(Note: Thingamy is a framework and comes empty, each business practice or process must be built bespoke. Luckily nothing that takes much time, two to five hours for even complicated practices.)
OK, here's the issue: In any organisation you have machinery, equipment, computers, software, people and processes - and amazingly enough, not everything works all the time. Duh.
At least that's how we users see it. Reading the manual is for sissies, things should work like we're used to dammit.
And stuff does not have to be broken, annoying is as bad. Time consuming or plain stupid processes makes me go "arghhh!" as well.
Of course stuff has stickers with help line numbers to call where you can listen to muzak, software has bug reporting systems where everything can be dumped into the lap of frustrated developers. And as a last resort you have a supervisor who nods and promises "to do something about it".
See the problem here?
Help-lines who have to struggle with people who forgot to plug in the monitor, bug reports that could have been solved by RTFM. And supervisors who has to go to his boss, who has to go to his boss before the issue transcends the organisational silos to where it perhaps could be solved. As if that ever worked.
Now you see it?
So, taking a cue from real life practices, like hospital emergency receptions, we built a proper flow from report to solution using a system of appropriate triages - allowing for any kind of problem from "oops forgot to plug it in" to good ideas for changes to business processes to be appropriately addressed by the right person at the right time. And once started nothing can stop it while all can see what's up, so no way to avoid accountability and pressure to fix asap.
The best part was that I found yet another business practice that is amazingly similar across utterly different types of business or size of organisations.
For me that means a "template" that I can easily tweak to become bespoke. Almost like having a out-of-the-box application using our framework. Does not matter if you're in production, transport, services, software, tech, whatever, stuff breaks apart everywhere. And, come to think of it, any random group of co-workers at lunch will always bitch about something that needs fixing, so why not have a proper system in place so the fix will happen?
BTW, if you're not easily bored, here's a 8 minute demo of one version.
Just spent a few days up in Scandinavia, those European outliers from where I originally hail, and was positively reminded of a few things.
Cold misty weather of course...
Despite going against the grain of the classic growth theories of most other countries the Scandinavian countries are constantly on top of GDP per inhabitant statistics year after year despite (or because of?) being highly egalitarian and having a wide social security net built in. Highest taxes and highest level of living standards, wasn't supposed to be like that.
Ditto for the work environment. Again more of that egalitarian, flat organisations and a distinct lack of positions-based power still proving to be highly efficient.
Combine those two and this does not come as a surprise: A new kind of business consulting is emerging up there (and I'm sure, elsewhere as well).
Not the classic write-invoices-with-both-hands, create big fancy reports to be used internal-strategically by top management (sorry McK and BCG, don't take it personally), but another kind that actually is rooted in real life need to address strategic business issues.
I see a trend where the purveyors of all kinds of business services, after finding that much of their work will have little success without addressing strategic issues, have accepted reality and added a Business Consulting group to their palette.
Seth Godin mentioned something along those lines the other day when he wrote about PR versus publicity:
"PR is the strategic crafting of your story. It's the focused examination of your interactions and tactics and products and pricing that, when combined, determine what and how people talk about you."
Exactly, pretty much a business consulting gig if you ask me.
If you're in advertising should it not be the same? Is Apple's message the one you find on the wall of bus station shelters? Is it not the products, the presentations, the packaging, the pricing, the shops, in short the whole combined shebang?
If you're in product design, ditto. Nothing matters unless rooted in the overall strategy.
If you're in investment banking tinkering with mergers & acquisitions is that anything but business consulting? How could you ever get a deal going unless you address the overall strategy of your client?
If you're a lawyer drafting contracts or Terms Of Service is that not as strategically important to the client as packaging, pricing, colours, design and distribution channel? Ask Facebook's lawyers after their little TOS mishap the other week!
If you're in enterprise IT, how could you not be concerned with overall strategy? Heck, the stuff you deliver sets the processes and how products are delivered, how customers are handled and how margins are distributed, nothing but strategic that.
Nope, at the end of the day, in these increasingly holistic and transparent times, everything is Business Consulting, the rest only the implementation of parts.
So why don't more business suppliers and services do what some modern Scandinavian firms do; raise the flag proudly with a proper Business Consulting group as a natural part of their offering?
And in the same genre, why should not purchasers of advertising, PR, design, IT, legal services and so forth invite those to the strategy sessions while demanding real strategic insight?
Been head down in Keynote lately. Busy producing presentations and other non-blog content.
Usually I have nothing but contempt for the format, at least as it's too often used - one dash PowerPoint template, one dollop overcrowding of bullet points then then use as manuscript with back to audience. My yawn reflex kicks in automatically when I see the cables being plugged in and with the first 11 points coming up I slide out from the deck for some networking and coffee.
At least that used to be my modus operandi.
But lo and behold, starting to like the blasted thing again, it allows a certain freedom in rhythm that is hard to attain otherwise. And the images of course, but that can certainly be overdone as well.
So now, please allow me to indulge in an experiment; a slide deck instead of a post. Be warned, no cute images, mashed up "old" ideas and points-of-view as well as the usual lead-out to own wares coming up in this A Government Dilemma deck: