Confessions Of A Business Transformator: What They Don't Teach You At Business School

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I am a Business Transformator and here is my confession. Well, sort of.

I have been in the Business Transformation industry as a Business Transformator for now closing in on nearly 20 years. I am the guy that clients call to come into setup or clean up their transformations. My clients include the biggest and most powerful government in the world, and their business and processes I fix are some of the most important in the world.

But there was a problem. A problem I was warned against ever talking about, and definitely not writing in a book. But this industry is my life. I am deep inside the industry. I couldn’t sit by any longer. This is my story.

Where I am from (New Zealand), when something needs to be said, you say it. It might be unpopular and fall on deaf ears, but you say it anyway. But before we get into that, the reasons why. Why did I decide to write my book or even start HOBA TECH?

The reason is simple. I wanted to challenge the status quo and address the problems in business transformation no one wants to talk about, namely:

The Problem

(1) the business transformation industry is broken, 70% of transformations end in failure.

In business, you can learn a lot from sport. For example, American Football Coach Kevin Kelly was infamous for never punting in the 4th down which was the done thing, and give the ball away to the opposition. Coach Kelly took an a 350-student school, an unknown team and strategy from nowhere, to a national, top 100 ranking and 5 state championships, winning 90% of his games. Criticized for never punting, he looked at the stats and said, ‘it’s what you do on the fourth, and everyone did it without asking why’.

This is like in Business Transformation today. 70% of transformations fail yet, people are not asking why?

"It’s what you do on the fourth, and everyone did it without asking why”. – Coach Kevin Kelly

(2) Organisations don’t have a problem with coming up with ideas to transform their business, the problem is implementation. Organisations have a problem implementing them, and                            

(3) Businesses are afraid of Consultants. They know they need to transform, but they don’t want to start because they know it’s a road to nowhere, It’s a money sucking process. Subconsciously they are scared of Business Transformation, and they are scared of the Consultants. Year on year Business Consultants become more and more expensive, which is why companies do it themselves. The Business doesn’t have the skills, or capability, they do it on a shoestring budget on often on the back of a fag packet. They don’t have the experience, so they send them off to training and get certified (certified in things that result in 70% failure). What looked good in the classroom and the textbook doesn’t work so well in practice. The whole ordeal is a hard slog.

Businesses are afraid of consultants. They know they need to transform, but they don't want to start because they know it's a road to nowhere, It's a money sucking process. Subconsciously they are scared of Business Transformation, and they are scared of the Consultants.

I want to change this stereotype. Your clients are afraid of you. The really good consultants focus on delivery and showing real results for their clients. That’s their goal. It’s like a guarantee for clients for life. Word of mouth soon gets out from the client, they’re like a treasure. The client looks after them – their departments are not fighting each other, staff don’t leave because they’re working in a clear process and not confused with negative emotions (it doesn’t matter if your processes are broken, no respectful staff will stay, no matter how much you pay them); clients don’t leave because the company’s processes aren’t broken – no longer getting a rubbish offer, from confused staff that don’t know what to do, from their own confusing processes; the products and services do what they say. The Company hires in top managers to fix the problem, but they focus on managing what they have, not changing it, and the problem gets worse, and more expensive. It’s a vicious cycle. They need a specialist. So, when one consultant comes in and fixes it, day by day gets better. Like the clouds clearing after a storm exposing the blue skies in between the clouds.

The really good consultants focus on delivery and showing real results for their clients. That's their goal. It’s like a guarantee for clients for life. Word of mouth soon gets out from the client, they’re like a treasure.

The First Book (that never was)

It was not my dream to write the book or create the training, well not the book that is now published anyway. I was actually going to write another book. That book was called – “The Business Change Managers Survival Guide to design the Target Operating Model (TOM), quick!.

That book was a long time coming, about 10 years in the making at that point. The landing page was setup, the book designer engaged, covered designed, even people signing up on the waitlist to read it. The colour and style was intentional – like an army camouflage jacket. As an independent consultant called in to fix what those consultants (see description below) in most cases hadn’t delivered, there was a target on my back the second I walked in. They knew why I was there; I was there to keep them honest, and they didn’t like it. Going into companies to setup and clean up the Organisations project and business transformation was like a battle – literally and figuratively. It was a hard slog, but I liked the challenge. I also like helping the clients. But that book never made it to market. I was warned off writing and publishing that book. Warned by professional friends and colleagues to never speak of it, and never publish it, threatening “you will never work another day in the industry”.

Business Change Managers TOM Survival Guide Book Cover

I wasn’t going to give ‘my secret sauce’ away, my process or framework that I was becoming infamous for in my little group of clients for helping them deliver not only their TOM, but their business transformation as well. It would be a ‘tell-all’. I had seen enough, and I had had enough. I was going to tell about what actually goes on in the industry. Millions, tens of millions, and even hundreds of millions of pounds (dollars) were being spent on these transformations, that last for years, had teams of consultants, in some cases delivered nothing. Literally. Literally missed opportunities, wasted time and money including yours.

What I saw was no one was asking questions. Real questions. Like why is it that every time I come into a project or programme to help fix or setup the clients business transformation, it’s almost always the same thing. 

There is usually a pool of consultants there, a combination of big tier and little tier and a few contractors thrown in there for good measure.

When I arrive, the first thing I do is ask questions, namely ‘what is the problem?’. Most of the time, actually almost all of the time, I am met with a description of what they are building, but almost never ‘why?’ or ‘what is the problem it is solving’. When I would talk to my colleagues to really find out what was actually going on, I would say “you do know what that they are building is not going to solve the problem, right? it would be met with a quiet “Shh. We know, but they are paying us a lot of money”.

That was the first problem. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Grinders, Minders and Finders

Organisations bring in Consultants for their expertise. There are three kinds of professional management consultants in the world, Grinders, Minders and Finders. They don’t teach you that at Business School. Grinders are the doers, the specialists, but they know only one thing, don’t try to get them to do something else, they’re like fish out of water; Minders manage the Grinders, they’re the ones actually delivering, they are usually just over graduate level, just past rote learning from the text book, and on to thinking for themselves, then Finders, their job is to build and maintain relationships with current and future Clients. They bring in the business. Then there’s a special type of Finder, the Face-men Finder, ones that talk the talk but can’t walk the walk, the ones that have friends in high places who get them business at their company, they land the job and send in the juniors to do the work, turn up at the end of the contract, change a few words in the presentation to the client, and present it as their own, The client has no idea of which one they get or need. They just need someone to fix their problem.

Organisations bring in Consultants for their expertise. There are three kinds of professional management consultants in the world, Grinders, Minders and Finders. They don't teach you that at Business School.

In these consulting circles, the good ones don’t stay long, they deliver, leave and start their own practices, but the legacy they left behind is still there, in fact the great work they did is still being sold to new clients. The level of service is not a good at it was in previous assignments or years, but the lack of results the Client is willing (just) to look past in exchange for the great marketing and pretty presentations they receive, despite the Client doesn’t really care about the great marketing or pretty presentations, they care about results.

READ
Business Transformation Industry is Broken

The junior consultant’s job is to stick the client as long as they can, and they are rewarded for it. Their job is to tell the company it is sick, and that they need their help in order to get better, and only they can make it better, but there’s a catch. They can’t tell them they’re very sick, because then they would not be able to pay their tremendous bill. The junior then spends the rest of the time looking for areas to tell them they’re sick. They never leave.

I, on the other hand want to get in and get out. That’s the way it should be. Come in and do the job, pass on the knowledge and leave. That’s what a consultant is, isn’t it? The assignment didn’t say “employee” or “full-time employee”, did it?

The Business Architect is Dead

Now, when I get called in and I arrive on the client site, it became embarrassing. I was embarrassed. Not only is no one asking questions why there is a problem with these transformation projects that never end and underdeliver. No one is asking questions about the profession. I now go on site, and I am warned “you are not to use the word, name or title ‘Business Architect’ ”. The Business has a bad taste in its mouth from previous engagements, it is forbidden. Unofficially of course, no one wants to talk about it, it’s a bad word remember.

I’m told, “you’re a ‘Service Designer’ now”. That didn’t sit well with me for many reasons, first – it was now clear, the stereotype of Business Architect was destroyed. They didn’t tell me that in Business School either, and the synonym they used to replace it is even worse. ‘Designer’ has connotations of being still, or static, like a drawing. It doesn’t move. Yes, ‘Design’ is part of the role of a Business Architect, but it’s a small part .You need to ‘design’ or model parts of the Business to better understand it, but it says nothing of how you move it, let along the part-strategist, collaborator and negotiation that is needed to come up with the design in the first place, collectively with other parts of the Business, including Technology so you actually design, build and implement something that actually gets real results for the business, and not just sound good in the classroom, or look good hanging on the wall. It also says absolutely nothing about how to transform the Business from its current state, to the future state.

I am warned “you are not to use the word, name or title ‘Business Architect’ ”. The Business has a bad taste in its mouth from previous engagements, it is forbidden. It was now clear, the stereotype of Business Architect was destroyed. They didn't tell me that at Business School either.

The Business Transformator Is Born

That was a turning point, the point where the name ‘Business Transformator’ came from, and was born – the part-strategist, part-designer, part-collaborator and part-negotiator, who has moved beyond just design, and includes oversight of implementation, stakeholder management, coordination and negotiation.

It was about this time, that I decided – I will speak about it, about what actually happens on these transformation projects and programs. But I won’t put it in a book. What I’ll do is I’ll put my ‘secret sauce’ in a book, and I’ll give it away for free, well nearly. Compared to the cost of the transformations, it’s basically free, and if people saw some value in it, maybe they might want me to train them on it?

I saw that the industry isn’t improving, it was getting worse. Business Architects can’t call themselves Business Architects anymore, it’s a banned word. They’re not doing Business Transformation, they doing Business Design, and the industry is still reporting 70% failure rate.

I looked at the self-elected ‘professional body’, and its run by ex-management and technology consultants. Consultant Technology Architects now masquerading as Business Architects. Like any good former Big-4 consultant (see descriptions above), trained to seek out any opportunity and maximize it, for themselves. They have a self-proclaimed ‘book of knowledge’ that is written by no less than 180 people (I know, I was on the pilot for the exam).

At that point it was 550-pages and it didn’t make much sense then (there were 180 Authors, after all). Today it is at 850+ pages, and probably makes less sense now. When they failed me, yes after 10+ years doing this by then, all the qualifications under the sun (including Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, PRINCE2, TOGAF Practitioner, Certified Scrum Master and MBA) in the pilot exam that only 100 people were supposed to be on, despite only 2x people – myself and one other, putting their hands up when asked in the European Conference in Berlin (2015)‘who was on the pilot?’, implying the other 98-people were from and in America.

On the date the results were published on their public website, displaying all 250 names (read that again. 250, not 100), mine wasn’t on them. I made an inquiry. Not only did I not pass, ‘after the scaling’ they said(?), when requested to see or receive the actual results; areas I could improve or send it to an independent marking body like those used by Universities and students in the UK to conduct an impartial and unbiased assessment, they refused.

I questioned why there are ‘250 people’ on the list when there was only 100 people on the pilot. They said they bought a failing business and they had a certificate, so they ‘grandfathered’ their certificate, confirming they now had more (1.5x) people ‘certified’ by their standard, against their own book, who had never needed to open it nor to read it, let alone sit an exam under the same conditions or criteria, are now calling themselves “Certified Business Architects”. Oh, OK?

It was then when I received a letter from their lawyer telling me to cease and desist my line of questioning or be banned for life. Seems they were now beyond reproach and question, they send in their lawyers, to their own members? But that was not the thing that did it for me. What did it was receiving a direct email from the one of the founders of the said organisation, telling me “you(I) should get some training” – they had just approved the new ‘preferred training partner’!

After 10+ years in the business, called in to setup and turn around numerous transformations, including for the most powerful government in the world, I needed further training(?). I am not adverse the training, I actually encourage it, after it, it is how I got this far, but I thought I would check. I checked who owned the training company, and you can guess who owned it. Yes, one of the founders of the body. No conflict of interest, much? I suspect I possibly didn’t actually fail, but I was definitely a prime candidate to also ‘test their training’!?

Its time… time to Publish the Secret Sauce

It was right about exactly then, the idea of ‘The Business Transformation PlaybookHow to Implement Your Organisations Target Operating Model (TOM) and achieve a zero-percent fail rate using the 6-step agile framework’ was conceived. The straw had broken the camel’s back. I was now going to publish my secret sauce.

READ
What Is The Role of The Business Transformator?

I looked at the training that was being provided. There were and are a lot of courses available right now. Everyone is writing a course. Everyone is writing a course because they don’t want to work, but they don’t know how to do it. A couple of guys did a couple of small transformations and decided to create a course. Where did they get their information from? – another course.

It wasn’t my dream to write the book or training. I was already making enough money with my government clients. I am doing this for free compared to the amount of money you save from Business Transformation. No university does that anyway.

I looked at the universities and who is in the universities teaching this. Theorists, using methods that result in 70% failure.

You can use all the marketing tools in the book and attract and win the business. The goal however is not to win the contract, the goal is to complete the contract and deliver the results. They can show all the beautiful diagrams they want, but if you aren’t taught by a practitioner, you’re getting rehashed 100+ accumulated years of theory that results in failure.

I asked, ‘where are all the Practitioners?’ They are too busy with their clients; they don’t want to share their secret sauce. I am also busy with my own government contracts, but I decided on my own.

But why me, I thought to myself? Why am I qualified – first – because I deliver the results. Others might have amazing marketing and followers. I don’t sing loudly singing my praises, but keep quiet. My clients are the government, of the richest and most powerful country in the world. These are the most important processes in the world.

READ
What is a Business Transformator

And secondly, I want partners. I want colleagues to work with, to be more successful than me. I want to change the stereotype and have Business Transformators deliver better projects and better business transformations and be treated by their clients like a treasure.

I just don’t want to educate the next generation of Business Transformators, this is about educating an industry.

This is my story.

Signature-Heath

Heath Gascoigne

HOBA TECH Founder & CEO

Heath Gascoigne

Heath Gascoigne

Hi, I'm Heath, the founder of HOBA TECH and host of The Business Transformation Podcast. I help Business Owners, Leaders and Consultants transform their business and join the 30% club that succeed. Join me on this journey.

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