7 Steps to Transforming the Strategic Business Model
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7 Steps to Transforming the Strategic Business Model
In this episode, we are joined by Nathan Allchin, Business Design and Operational Strategy Senior Manager at the Department of Health and Social Care and Scalability Panelist for Katerva. He is also a Non-executive Director at Carbon Kapture, a Principal HiveMind Expert for The HiveMind Network, and B2E Consulting’s Target Operating Model Principal. Before his freelance engagements, he has been an Enterprise Architect for a major UK bank and an innovation leader at Deloitte with a proven track record of success across both the public and private market sectors.
As an expert in ecosystem, sustain model, and service management, Nathan is able to see organizations as a whole and provide a clear insight into the evolution of organizational processes and policies. He breaks strategic development down to the core capabilities required to lead a smooth transition and to drive the service delivery function forward with efficient and effective systems and procedures in place. His breadth of experience includes the application of a range of industry best practices and tools that he can draw upon and tailor to the specific outcome you are looking to achieve.
Tune in to follow the direction of Nathan’s career and to learn his approach to getting people and organizations on board with medical strategies and business processes—especially during the pandemic!
Heath: The theme that, well, for the month, actually, standard now is around digital health, I’m gonna invite guys like you, seasoned professionals that got your particular approach and you probably see the world like I do in a certain way or a different way than others. Yeah, so we’ll talk about that and then what approach you use for your vision and the six hits. So, most of the guys, their audience is really same as us, you know? The practitioners, the room delivery, big for consultancy, and also independent guys so, yeah, they have their view of the world and — like I wrote my book because what I saw at the time, and I thought, why is everyone still doing it that way, you know?
Nathan: That’s a good book. It’s a good book.
Heath: Oh, thank you very much.
Nathan: When you reached out, I laughed because I bought the book during lockdown.
Heath: Oh, thank you very much.
Nathan: So, as you can tell from my picture of my books, but I’m slightly dyslexic so I’m quite a slow reader.
Nathan: And I’m always finding life’s getting in the way of me reading. Apparently, I have a great library of books but I’ve only read a third of them.
Heath: Okay, you know, you won’t be alone there. I’ve got a beautiful array of books sitting in storage right now and I’ve got one back at New Zealand that I’ve shipped from Australia to New Zealand, I think I’m gonna send it over here, the same thing, you know, you get inspired at the time so you buy a lot going, “I’m gonna get to them,” and you never get to.
Heath: But I heard this great quote, though. It’s not — about books, “It’s not the most important book you’ve read, it’s the book you write.” Yeah, so I only heard that after I wrote my book. This is interesting. You know, it might have motivated me to write my book sooner.
Nathan: And what did make you to write it? Because there’s quite a lot of work in there.
Heath: Yeah, yeah. I think it was my frustration at the time. I’d seen a lot of — like, for yourself, you get caught into these big projects and you wonder why they’re doing the things they are. Is it busyness or where they end up, it’s like I use this analogy all the time, but they’re heading this way and hoping, it’s like a bow and arrow, there’s no way in the world that you’ll end up the way you want to go. So you’ve gotta start in the direction you wanna end. Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie, seven habits that begin with the end in mind. You know, I think technology guys have taken that saying and not just begin at the end in mind or have the end in mind at the start, they start at the end in mind, at technology. And so, wait a minute, the part before the technology is understanding the problem. So let’s understand the problem first and then we’ll build something to — maybe it’s a technology solution or part of the solution is technology, makes sure it addresses the problem. So I get called into these big projects and they deepen the design or build and haven’t quite understood the problem. Well, whose problem are you trying to solve here?
Nathan: It’s our problem, Heath. We’re just trying to deliver.
Heath: Yeah, yeah.
Nathan: You know, if most of the people involved, they have at best a weak understanding of the actual problem, yeah
Nathan: Because they’re so far removed from the actual business problem. Their perspective means that they can only see through the lens of the delivery vehicle or change vehicle that they live in, right?
Heath: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Nathan: And quite often, if it’s the delivery partner, the commercials probably incentivized them that way as well.
Heath: Oh, yeah. I try to teach the guys and tell the guys, you know, you deliver and you deliver well and fast, efficiently. Yeah, you can call back for more work. You don’t have to try and drag this thing out to last as long as you can and then you under-deliver, you might have produced some beautiful deliverables but it wasn’t the result they were after, that result was a transformation, not all the artifacts that got produced. If you deliver the transformation, hey, you’re gonna do a different transformation for them. You start at HR then you’re on to finance and then you’re on to operations. But trying to continue the longevity of an existing project when you could have done it faster, yeah. Whoever wrote those commercials is —
Nathan: The game is part of the reason for that, the person who wrote the commercials was too far away from the problem too.
Heath: Yes. Oh, yeah. Yeah, if you’re looking into your governance board or bodies or the room where the governance boards are and you can’t see the stakeholders represented in the business in that room, then you’ve got a problem. Yeah, that’s the first problem. I remember going to a business design authority that had no business representatives in it and they actually changed the name to solution design because business was a bad word. I was like, “Whoa, really? So you guys are technology guys making decisions for the business? How does the business feel about that?” Oh, they haven’t consulted them. Whoa. So we’ve got a problem to start with. Yeah, yeah. And that project had been running for two years. And when I got called in, they said, “Look, we’re behind time, over budget. We got six months to deliver this and we’re out of money.” Oh, I can’t help you, I’m not a magician.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah, but technology to other people is magic, right? So, for them, their ability to associate say technology components and a technology system, how easy do you think it is for most people to associate all the components to the problem? Okay? Most of the time, I find it’s almost become like an article of faith. So you messed up the room? Yeah. Kind of like it’s been so hard, we must be doing the right thing.
Heath: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it amazes me that there’s a lot of faith. I think the faith is unfortunately placed in the wrong place, possibly at the wrong time. A few steps need to be done and they’re jumping ahead, like I try to explain to the client there’s a process to this thing, right? First, you’re gonna do this, this, and this and this and this, and why we’re doing that is so that we can group this process into common things. And first off, we’re gonna do the why we’re doing it and so what you’re gonna talk about, what you wanna talk about, that’s great. We can talk about that design but just bear in mind it’s a process. And then where you are in the process is way down there and we can have that conversation if you wanna have that conversation but bear in mind that we’ve not done any of this other stuff first. So, we’re gonna it, I can capture it and record it but then we’re gonna still have to do this other stuff. And they say, “Oh, okay,” but when they start getting carried, no one tells them there’s a process, they think it’s okay, let’s just build this thing and we’re done. Well, if it was that easy.
Nathan: What’s easier, though, for individuals? Is it easy for individuals to understand the process or is it easier for individuals to be around the campfire telling tribal stories about what their experiences might mean or the process is somehow something that is almost placed upon them rather than something they can have control over.
Heath: Yeah, that’s a very good point. And for them, from a business perspective, I’ve seen consultants that join teams with established teams and they have a particular approach or standard or some method that they like to adhere to and they go around to the business and they say, we have now adopted, for example, BPMN, we must do now everything in business process modeling language and so anyone that creates a process map must use this standard. Do you mean just this division, the transformation division, or do you mean everyone in the organization? And so they go, “No, no, everyone in the organization must apply that standard. I said, “How does that work in practice?” Well, we send them off on a two-day course to do. I said, okay, then how is that working for you? Oh, they don’t like it. I said, Why don’t they like it? Because they don’t understand it, and I said, “So what do they understand?” Quite simple. So, like a UML flowchart kind of thing for you? So who is the BPM notation for then? For you or for them? Oh, it’s for us, really. I said, “But why do you impose it on the business?” So the next question is, so how does it work for change projects? How do — when they engage you. Oh, they don’t engage us now because they’re scared of us. I said, yeah, so, basically, you guys are like speak French and you type a language and it’s pretty special, it’s different, you use it to communicate, and the business speak English and they use that language and they have used that language for some time to communicate and it’s a good language, they understand it, it’s pretty simple, but you wanna teach them how to speak French. And it’s not just any type of French, you want them to be fluent at French, but they have no problem with their English. This is the real problem. You need to get better at speaking English.
Heath: So they go, “Oh, we don’t want that.” So, who are you here to help, the business all yourselves
Nathan: Yeah, we’re back to vantage points now. So if you’re operating let’s say in the operating model, business function in the operating model, okay? How good do you think most people understanding is of the actual business
Heath: Not very good.
Nathan: Not very good.
Heath: Yeah. They understand their silo
Nathan: Yeah. They try to rationalize what they experience and, for most of them, their understanding of their organization relates to two things. One, the columns that is driven at them and largely comes in a lot of companies is driven active.
Heath: Yeah, yeah, consultation, yep.
Nathan: No, no, you’re talking at me, you’re not talking to me.
Nathan: And then, two, it’s my personal network. So, how I perceive a company is based on my personal network. So I might think because there’s great guys, yeah, in a particular department, that department’s really important to the business ’cause they’re great guys. So, yeah. I find increasingly, and it’s why I made a career shift. I started off very much in I would say roles in the operating model.
Heath: Okay, yeah.
Nathan: And I got sufficiently frustrated that I decided this isn’t working for me, I need to be in the business model. Because if I’m not in the business model, then— well, I’m certainly not transforming anything. I might be changing some stuff but I might be transforming very much. And so, yeah, that’s the career decision I made several years ago. So, on a personal level, I find my sort of day to day work much more rewarding as a consequence.
Heath: Okay, so you are more — you originally, in the, let’s say the technical operational and you went to in the operations model to the business model more strategic?
Nathan: Yeah. It was a career choice that I decided I needed to do, because I was getting so frustrated being in or having a career of what I would describe as primarily model roles. And the classic role for me that I think, evidence is this more than any, is the infamous enterprise architect role. Yeah?
Heath: Yeah, yeah.
Nathan: Where, for most enterprise architects, I don’t know what kind of architect they might actually be but I promise you there not actually impacting the enterprise. Yeah? And so, you think being an enterprise architect, being in a strategy and architecture function, you had a quite large group of people who had faith that they were instrumental to the business. Yeah?
Heath: Oh, yeah.
Nathan: But the business, they had a different view.
Heath: Yeah, yeah.
Nathan: The business radicals, because that example you’re talking about, so in that actual organizations I’m not gonna name, they kicked off an end-to-end process management function, bought a very big expensive enterprise tool to store all those representations.
Heath: Yeah, yeah.
Nathan: Head off for the training is why a smarter when you’re attending. And, yeah, they created function group.
Nathan: The business was bemused by it. Wasn’t entirely sure what the business purpose for it was.
Heath: Yeah, where the value was, yeah.
Nathan: But it seemed to make the EAs very happy. And they seem grumpy most of the time then the business was kinda like, yeah, okay, fine.
Heath: Let them do what they wanna do.
Nathan: I actually started off in a very bizarre fashion, being involved in a research project in AI when I left university.
Nathan: And that was complete. random chance. I found myself just speaking to a couple guys late one night in someone’s house. I was acting as a chaperone for an Asian girl who wanted basically me to escort her while she, you know, she went on a date with an older guy, they were in the cinema, she wanted me to hang around, everything was okay, fine. Couple of other guys there. Okay, I might as well, you know, I’m gonna be here for a while, I grab a beer, let’s get chatting. We got chatting and to the end, couple came back, my friend came back. So the guys I’ve been chatting to said to Tony who had taken my friend on a date, “Hey, you know that guy we were looking for. We found him.” Of course, I didn’t realize they were talking about me. So, yeah, so I did that for three years.
Nathan: That was intense. Very different from anything, well, you know, it’s not the typical job you do when you leave uni, right?
Nathan: Then that kind of came to an end. They were at a company, they were doing a lot of dot-com development, dot-com bubble burst.
Nathan: At that time, no one had heard of AI and machine learning, Heath.
Nathan: It’s not like now. You know, now, I’d be fine but back then, you wouldn’t go and spoke to an employment agency about any of that stuff. They looked at me like I was crazy.
Heath: Yeah, yeah.
Nathan: Exactly. What you talking about? Yeah, what can you actually do? So I ended up getting into project program management. I got a bit bored of that. I then got into more kind of commercial roles, then eventually got into technology, working my way up to become an enterprise architect, had that epiphany, that working.
Heath: Yeah, yeah.
Nathan: And then the next stakeholder, he’d been headhunted by Deloitte and he said, “Look, you’re wasted over there, come and join me over here and do something.”
Heath: I see you did a couple of stints there at Deloitte.
Nathan: Yeah. I helped them set up an innovation function. So that’s about setting up process governance for the partners, which was interesting because partners don’t tend to always like to share what’s going on with their business.
Heath: Pulled up a little info.
Nathan: Yeah. And then sort of try and I guess kind of incubate products, coach directors who are very clever, capable people but they weren’t necessarily technical. They had no background in this. What they sold was professional services. So, suddenly, now, they’re told they’re a product owner and they’re like, “Is that good? What is that?”
Nathan: Not sure. My partner seems very happy but that sometimes worries me. expectation management and say that was quite interesting. Then did some friends of mine with an M&A so I helped them get acquired.
Heath: Okay. That’s good work.
Nathan: And then helped a Portuguese DevOps company become a scale up.
Heath: Oh, wow. Okay.
Nathan: And that involved getting them onto a number of the kind of government, you know, UK government frameworks.
Heath: G Cloud and et cetera. Yeah, okay.
Nathan: And then I kind of got into — I got approached by — I get pretty much everything word of mouth, I got approached by some people wanting to do target operating model stuff, which I’ve been involved in before. And that’s kind of been mainly my shtick, I guess, TOM stuff, for a while now, is what I’m doing a bit of now through a UK agency.
Nathan: Yeah, during the, you know, I think we would have made a reflection during the pandemic so I just said, “Look, I need to be controlling my career a little bit more, I need to be getting involved in more things,” and so I became a non-exec director in a sustainability startup.
Heath: Okay. That’s very good, yep.
Nathan: Yes, a company called Carbon Kapture so that’s sort of around carbon capture via seaweed farming.
Heath: Oh, interesting. In the UK?
Nathan: In the UK but we are currently in negotiation on a number of joint ventures with farms in other parts of the world, places like Singapore, for example. Yeah, seaweed’s quite interesting. So because it has a rapid growth rate, once —
Heath: The seaweed grows fast.
Nathan: Seaweed grows fast. Well, that means is, as long as you’re careful with this carbon lifecycle, so you’re careful with how it’s gonna be used at the end of the lifecycle so what product is this gonna be used in, that gives a carbon negative footprint.
Nathan: And then, obviously, then data monetization kicks in there and that’s then something that is interesting to say, you know, owners of data centers in Singapore who have a big issue and find some kind of carbon offset.
Heath: I see. They can sell credits.
Nathan: Yeah, effectively, so they can offset part of their carbon debt.
Heath: Footprint. Yeah, okay.
Nathan: Via the seaweed farm.
Heath: I see. Okay.
Nathan: It’s kind of funky, and obviously it’s an interesting, you know, it’s a good industry to be involved in.
Heath: So with your enterprise architecture background, how to structure it to get ready to scale to expand to different countries?
Nathan: Not actually in that. scene in that. B because I’m a non-exec director so they use me based on, I guess, kind of my breadth of my experience on my commercial background. I’ve helped them in terms of putting them through an ideation and incubation process and I do most of their commercials and legal stuff for them. They actually don’t use very much of my EA background because that’s not, right now, that’s not what the business needs. The business needs to kind of get out there and start sort of, you know, selling the offset from the farms. So, yeah —
Heath: Where the immediate need is.
Nathan: Yeah, exactly. So it’s quite exciting. And then I’m involved in a consultancy called HiveMind so they’re like a member network company so we had some of these kinds of organizations in the 70s and 80s so they’re kind of very much member led so members get together and decide they want to — that there’s potentially an opportunity in the market, you know, so they go through an ideation incubation period, they pitch it.
Heath: Okay. And then the team come together and work out how to deliver it, yeah.
Nathan: Yeah, and then, basically, you know, if the kind of the collective membership think, yeah, you know, you guys are on to something here, then, you know, then let’s start shaping it and thinking about how we take it to market so —
Heath: Oh, very good.
Nathan: And both of those things are things that I only probably got involved in because of —
Heath: The pandemic.
Nathan: — headspace that gave me just to take a step back from my life and go, like I think a lot of people did in one go, I need to be broadening my horizons, I need to kind of feel that I’m involved, and just taking maybe a bit more control.
Heath: Yeah, I was gonna say, yeah, more control. Proactively.
Heath: As opposed to reactive, yeah, yeah.
Nathan: You know, I’m a family man, Heath. I’ve got two young teenagers so, you know, it’s not always easy being proactive in my position, but I’ve got actually no regrets in that choice. I’m busy but I’m happy and busy.
Heath: Yeah, good one. So, you must have now pretty vast experience. So you have, like I’ve come into different projects and I see certain things done certain ways, that what you’ve seen in, you know, maybe most recently in the department of health, health and social care is a well-established organization, they’ve probably got teams and teams of different consultants specializing in different parts of delivery and then you come along, and you go, “Okay, guys, what are we doing and why we’re doing it?” and you got a particular approach that you follow to get them on board.
Nathan: Yes. So I would say my approach normally is to understand what the actual purpose is. So I joined the test, what was then the test and trace program.
Heath: Okay. Yep.
Nathan: And the purpose of the testing and trace program was all around delivering testing capacity to the population.
Heath: Yeah, across the country.
Nathan: Yeah, across the country. So how do we test people? And then once we’ve tested them, how do we determine the best way of then, you know, tracking them and effectively encouraging them to sort of, you know, act appropriately? Yeah? That was the purpose of the program. And, obviously, that came about as a lot of governments suddenly found themselves in the middle of a global pandemic. Now, we haven’t had a global pandemic like this since Spanish influenza in 19 —
Heath: Spanish flu.
Nathan: Yeah, Spanish flu. And one of the things I did, maybe it’s my research background, I actually did quite a lot of research on that pandemic. And there was some really interesting things I found about it. I then took into meetings that I was in. So at the time, people were only starting to use the language of variants of concern, variants of interest and variants of concern. But if you look back at the history of Spanish flu, that was — it might not have been called that but that was absolutely, a lot of the analysis was all around the variants heard from 1918 to 1920, because things about — pandemics don’t kill you with one punch. They’re much more like that skilled boxer where they use combination. And so the biggest killer as a variant wasn’t in 1918, Heath, it was in 1920.
Heath: Oh, a couple of years later.
Nathan: A couple years later, and so the minute I saw that, I went, “Okay, we’re gonna be on this for a while.” Now, on the one hand, we’ve got vaccines so that kind of puts us in the plus column. On the other hand, our interconnected lifestyles actually make us more vulnerable. Then a lot of population groups were back in 1918 and what made Spanish flu such a killer then was of course the end of World War One.
Heath: Okay. People were returning back home.
Nathan: Yeah, people were going back home, we got huge population migrations, and so what we have now is we’re at that point where it’s endemic. It’s not like smallpox, it’s cross species, it’s not down to just us, and there is no historical record, Heath, of us ever eradicating a virus that is cross species.
Heath: So we’re gonna live with it.
Nathan: So we’re gonna live with it. And this maybe segues us nicely to the data topic is then recognizing both the virus’s behaviors and how our behaviors influence that in both positive and negative ways. So, one of the things that we’ve done, and as part of that move from test and trace, which is all about this landed, it’s crisis management time, we’ve just gotta create massive capability to push testing out, we don’t know how dangerous this is but it’s more dangerous than we thought it was gonna be, so it’s been quite reactive. And what’s happened, I would say, over the last sort of six to nine months is there’s been that switch to productivity. So, the UK Health Security Agency, their purpose is about prevention, it’s not about treatment. And so that’s quite a big shift in terms of philosophy. And it also means that the agency needs radically different capabilities than just massive testing facilities. And, obviously, you know, a key part of that is the role of data science, behavioral science, combined with, you know, genomics. So, you put that together and then you start thinking, okay, so if we’ve had enterprise level, truly enterprise level capability, where we are pushing out, we’re mass producing supply, because we can’t predict demand, now let’s create an agency that’s gonna flip that on its head. Now our focus is what’s the nature of the demand? Because that’s actually the right question. Yeah?
Heath: That’s the main question, yeah. Okay.
Nathan: So what we’ve been doing in terms of data is we’ve been combining data sets, many of which are available with the Office of National Statistics, combining those with datasets that are not publicly available, things like prevalence within a geographical region, vaccination rates in a geographical region, multiple indices of deprivation. Yeah? Combining those data sets to provide insight into where demand and need might lie.
Heath: Okay, so data-driven insight.
Nathan: Data-driven insights, and that’s been leading to interesting discussions around, okay, maybe we need to move from a B52 to more of a cruise missile approach, yeah? We actually need to look at specific pockets of our population for these indices, this combination tells us that these population groups are going to be more vulnerable, and that then allows you to be much more targeted in terms of then how you will proactively test those areas and then treat them.
Nathan: So we’re going almost from like macro testing to micro testing now. Because what that then allows you to do is it allows you to control, it allows you a much greater emphasis and control on the ceiling. So the way I always describe it with the virus, you’ve got a ceiling and you’ve got a floor. The ceiling is effectively how high the R rate is, how high prevalence is, yeah? And then the floor is how much of the population you’re able to test, treat, and cover. And you want to keep both the ceiling and the floor as low as possible. Now, because if you don’t have a mechanism to understand the patterns of prevalence, then you will have a hard time influencing the height of that ceiling. The height of the floor is more driven then by those indices, yeah? So what are the types of people that are more likely to get the virus than others? And some of that, there are strong correlations, for example, we know with diabetes, with obesity, but there are also strong correlations with factors like poverty, certain geographical areas, location, certain socioeconomic groups, certain cultural groups, and each of those act as almost like their own indices. So when you combine them, it almost can give you like in crude form, it gives you like a bingo card.
Heath: I was gonna say —
Nathan: The more you lighten up the bingo card, the more you know, right, that is an area we need to keep an eye on. Not because the virus has agency, per se, but because the virus is going to find it easier to start propagating in that geographical region than it will necessarily in the neighboring regions.
Heath: Okay, so the starting point is, we get to the starting point, starting point I think we’re on the same page here, talk about the purpose so you get in and make sure that everyone’s clear on probably the one thing, the future, the vision, what they got in mind. I think is a key point there is history or lessons learned so you understand what’s happened before. One of my first projects in the UK was a government organization that was implementing a legislation and insurance, they’ve just recently done a banking insurance implementation and I started and they said, “Great, you’ve done this before.” I said, “Yep. Big one.” Okay, what’s it called? Bezel 2. Okay great. What is this one called? Solvency 2. Okay. Sounds very similar, different market. So if we got any anyone else on the project, solvency 2, bezel 2, yeah, you know, that farewell that you went to yesterday? That was her, that’s the last remaining person. I said you get lessons learned. No. Oh, bugger. So, yeah, I think that’s a thing that’s often overlooked, you know, the lessons learned. You don’t want to repeat — do the things that worked, don’t do the things that didn’t work, almost age-old, you’re gonna keep doing, you know, what’s working, keep doing what’s not working, what you didn’t do, stop doing. And so your goal there was about capability, to build this capability, a capability that changed.
Nathan: Yeah, clearly. That’s the thing. So it’s getting organizations to almost kind of be able to separate what they need to do, which obviously should derive from their purpose, with the patterns of behavior and culture that derive from how they do them. Yeah? And, again, it’s that kind of those tribal traditions can form quite quickly, particularly under pressure. If you imagine these kinds of organizations with something like a pandemic or some other kind of event, when you have that external event that creates that intensity, you end up creating a very strong culture
Heath: Oh, yeah, so that’s to say — yeah, you’ve now made it even stronger. Yeah.
Nathan: Yeah. And there’s a good side to having a strong culture but if there’s a bad side, typically, it’s strong cultures don’t like to change.
Heath: Yes, yeah.
Nathan: Because there’s an element of what makes them a strong culture is pride in who they are and what they do and how they do it. Yeah? So if you try and engage an organization that has a strong culture and you start talking, using the T word, the much maligned T word, that, for them, is almost an existential threat to their identity because you’re questioning the basis for their pride and so trying to get people to understand that we’re not saying you did a bad job, we’re saying the job’s changed.
Heath: Yeah. Yeah.
Nathan: The job’s changed now. This stuff that you’re using, do you think it’s gonna help you to do that new job? Or is it designed to be really good at the old job? It’s designed to be really good at the old job.
Heath: Yeah, you need to — how do you go about that? I talk about transformation, there’s the four major causes of failure, lack of business user involvement, lack of senior leadership support, changing requirements, and incomplete requirements, and all of them are nothing to do with technology but all to do with people. It’s a psychological problem.
Nathan: So, what I used to do is I used to try and find out who was a decision maker and going strong and then be surprised when I didn’t get the reaction I was looking for.
Heath: Yeah, that’s the old approach.
Nathan: What I do now — yeah, yeah. So, what I do now is I work on their direct reports, I wait until their direct reports begin to feel that there is a problem.
Nathan: And then I get invited and I sort of suggest that feeling you’ve got, that little kind of —
Nathan: — inclination itch, yeah, I’m not saying I’ve got it exactly right but this might be that itch. And if that’s true or I’m in the rough vicinity, there are some things that we could do to scratch that itch.
Nathan: But I’m gonna leave it with you now. I’m over there. You know where to find me?
Heath: Yep. So you’ll lead the horse to water?
Nathan: Yeah, and what I find typically happens is two to three months later, I get that tap on the shoulder. But notice, it still takes that time.
Heath: Yes. Yeah. There’s a lag.
Nathan: There’s a lag, because I found that in terms of a successful outcome, that’s the best approach. Now, don’t get me wrong, Heath, I’d love those two, three months back by the time they actually engaged me.
Nathan: Obviously, the choices I might have outlined, some of those doors may have closed.
Heath: Oh, yeah.
Nathan: But I have learned that the biggest challenge is that cultural identity one, and none more so than the man or woman in charge.
Heath: Okay, would you call it the hippo? The highest —
Nathan: Yeah. And they have to be given the freedom to ruminate and reflect on what you’ve shared with them.
Heath: Just to play back on their own words.
Nathan: And, hopefully, what you’ve shared with them, you’re opening their eyes and trying to counter the confirmation bias that we all live with. You’re now opening their eyes to breadcrumbs that maybe previously they hadn’t been able to perceive. And then eventually, the weight of that leads to them to sort of go, “Okay, now I’ve gotta do something.” What am I thinking?
Heath: Yeah. I think — there’s something similar or even the same as I talk to other clients, you know, the business architecture will make visible the invisible. The things that you didn’t quite see before, like the bread crumbs, for the same reason, lead them to make their own decision, partly so that they think it was their own decision and, hopefully, it was their own decision but they own it and then —
Nathan: That’s the key thing, they own it. They have to own it. You can’t own it for them. They have to own it. And I was actually on a call today where a colleague of mine and I, we’ve got a workshop we’ve gotta produce and there’s always a fine balancing act between what’s the percentage of facilitation versus what’s the percentage of insight. And, again, this is something I’ve learned the hard way. So what I used to do is I used to go along, I do loads of work, produce loads of material, I’d be super excited, I was gonna show them the answers, you know?
Heath: Yeah, yeah. If you knew the answer.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah, if I knew the answer, that’s right, and I go along and, again, didn’t quite get the outcome I was expecting. Whereas now, what I try to do is I try and think about the framing. So I focus on the framing and then, within that framing, I basically say, “Okay, this is the solution space,” so I’ve helped them by the framing but now I’m gonna facilitate them to come up with an answer that they’re comfortable with because to your point, Heath, they gotta own it.
Nathan: So where my insight, I guess, comes is not in the actual workshop itself. Yeah? It’s in the framing of that workshop.
Heath: Okay. Yep.
Nathan: Yeah, so, you know, I’ll use simple things like an agenda. I’ll use an agenda because I’ve thought about it, kind of maybe taking the pooch for a walk or whatever, I thought about it and I’ve gone, right, here’s where the solution will be found, I now need them to come over here to this space. Once I’ve got them in that space, we’re all good.
Heath: Just getting them there is the thing.
Nathan: Just gotta get them there. Just gotta get them there. And that’s what I said to my colleague today. I said, “Look, we could do loads of work, showing them how clever we feel we are, but you know what, that’s not gonna get us the outcome we want or they want, right? Let’s just frame the problem, get them in that space and, largely, they’ll do the rest and if they need a little nudge, we can give them little nudges.
Heath: Yeah. Okay. So, from previous experience, you’ve learned leading the horse to water and forcing the horse to drink isn’t gonna get the outcome you want. So, for now, experience, you’ve lead them to the trough, you laid the trough, maybe a couple of nice things across the top of it so they might just dip their tongue in it.
Nathan: Yeah. Yeah.
Heath: And they gotta taste it and then they go, “Oh, okay, I think we can do this.”
Nathan: Yeah. And then it’s them doing it, yeah? It’s them doing it because one other thing about approach, it builds their confidence to change rather than you trying to instruct change on them. I mean, you were talking earlier about technology and business, yeah? So often, technology programs fail with the business because they try to instruct the business on the change. I mean, I love the — we’ve gotta change our business processes because the new system we’ve installed won’t support our existing ones.
Heath: Yeah, yeah.
Heath: Doesn’t last too long, that one.
Nathan: Well, what happens always, in that case, I find, Heath, is if it’s like an enterprise grade thing that the CFO spent a little money in, he’s probably gonna hang around for a while but everyone then will just go into what I call skunk works. They’ll do everything they can to avoid the pain —
Heath: Oh, yeah.
Nathan: — of going through that new workflow that the CFR has spent millions on, yeah?
Heath: Oh, yes. Yeah, I just came from — I don’t know if you saw my CV, the last role I was on very much similar to where you are, one of your clients right now, and they’d just done something similar, an enterprise installation of an off-the-shelf and no adoption at all and it’s the most painful and I was told, “You’re not allowed to change this system in any way, shape, or form,” although it is the most painful system they’ve ever experienced in their 15 years of operation. I say, “So why is it?” Because it was a painful implementation. I said, “Why do you still continue using it and doing not adopting it at all?” Because someone upstairs made a decision for someone else. Oh, boy, yeah
Nathan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then it’s then almost sort of, so quite often, I’ll be with a sponsor and sort of will say, “Okay, so how do we think the board’s gonna buy that?” And I’ll look at them, “Oh, you know the answer.” I look at them and I let them reflect and they go, “Yeah, I’m not sure it’s a good idea,” No, it’s probably not. So how could we reposition it or repackage it or what additional value could we add, almost like a sugar lump with the medicine, yeah? So we need them to take the medicine that maybe that what they’ve bought isn’t quite as nice as the shiny slides they were shown, yeah? But if we’re gonna do that, we’re gonna make it palatable so we would put up, offer them something else. Yeah, give them some kind of win. Some kind of win that we can then get them focused on the win and they won’t feel quite that bad about the minister.
Heath: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve been there. I wanna say names but —
Nathan: No, no, no.
Heath: You know, and that’s the problem with I think, the technology, it’s almost like they got the talking stick, because the budget seems to be spent there and because they have the talking stick and the closest person to owning the budget of their talking stick, they have the rights to say and do what they like, my favorite, unfortunately, the voice of the business.
Nathan: Yeah. I mean, I’ve also seen it from the business side as well. So in one like global brand organization, I went in and I saw huge amounts of shadow IT.
Heath: Oh, yeah.
Nathan: Massive amounts of shadow IT. And, of course, because of the way that kind of combination of new programming languages, data analytics, cloud, that kind of mix just allows technology acceleration on a level that kind of, you know, and I think back even five years ago and you used to have like the monolithic program, and you used to have kind of your giant Gantt charts that used to be printed out in A0 and they’d go across the walls and stuff and, yeah.
Heath: The war rooms.
Nathan: Yeah. And now, the business, you know, quite often, business units will go, yeah, I’ve got no time for that and I’ve got the scars and I still wake up with nightmares at night over that program. Yeah? Now I’ve got these guys and they say that they can just spin me something up and they’ll do it as some MVP and I don’t need to go through any righties governance processes and they wanna charge me a tenth of what I thought it would cost asked and why wouldn’t I, right?
Heath: Yeah, yeah. Sounds good.
Nathan: Yeah, it sounds good, yeah. If all you want is like a prototype or a proof of concept, that is fine. The challenges only come when you’re looking to then push the button, “I’ll have more of that, please.” I’ve seen it from both sides to be fair and I’m obviously part of the thing with what’s happening with health care at the moment is where you’ve got that explosion. You’ve got a lot of health organizations that are under huge socioeconomic pressures so a lot of our health systems are struggling to deal with a number of kind of what I call meta factors, yeah? So aging population is a meta factor. That’s why, you know, if you’ve got some spare money and you’re not putting it into crypto, putting it in medical device companies right now is not a bad idea, Heath. Yeah, it’s a pretty safe path. That’s going one way.
Nathan: So you’ve got that. A lot of Western health systems are set up around the principle of treatment. They’re not set up around the principle of prevention. And part of the reason for that is because there’s a lot more money in treatment, Heath, than there is in prevention.
Heath: Oh, yes.
Nathan: So you’ve got that. The flip side for that is that when you’re then looking at the health economy as an ecosystem, costs are going up all throughout that supply chain. So that combined with your kind of socioeconomic factors is driving the push for health.
Heath: And digitizing health.
Nathan: Digitizing health, particularly as, if you’re in the private sector, along with that demographic factor, you’ve got the fact that those people who are living longer also, their net worth is disproportionate to the net worth of the generations behind them. Yeah? So you’ve got customers whose needs for your services are growing and their ability to pay is growing. And, obviously, that’s creating a supply side trough in the market where people wanna rush and grab that market share of that client base. Because the other generations, you know, we’ll give him some old stuff or we need to provide them with a wholesale service. So we need digitization, end-to-end processing of them is as frictionless as possible so we can protect our gross margins. And they need to get the wholesale service. So you’ve got almost like a mapping between customer segmentation and the generations. And then with the pandemic, what you’ve seen is a massive acceleration of that. You’ve seen a massive acceleration where that existential driver of need has become a great rallying cry for “We have to share the data.” Yeah, we have no choice, Heath. We have to share the data, yeah? And, of course, you know, we were talking earlier about technology and magic and people’s awareness, how many people do you know who are aware of what they sign away when they sign up to WhatsApp?
Heath: I’d say, 0.1 percent.
Heath: No one.
Nathan: So take that as a principle, now apply it to health care. The reality is, people are not gonna care enough. They’re not gonna care enough about data privacy because either you’re desperate for care and you don’t have the money or you’re aging and you’re worried about aging and you’ve got money. Either way, data privacy is not top of your list. Getting treated, yeah, is top of your list. So, that doesn’t make the concerns invalid but what it does do is it does mean that the sort of trends we’re seeing are only gonna continue. Because at the end of the day, you’re asking me to compare the risks of something that’s existential, my data, with something that’s very real, which is “I’m ill,” yeah? Right? It’s not even a contest. For the vast majority of people, it’s not even gonna be a point of consideration, Heath, and so my view on that is that’s gonna lead to an explosion in service providers, it’s gonna lead to a challenge to the business models of a lot of existing health providers, whether that’s public sector or private sector. So, for example, in the UK, and I don’t say this based on any knowledge, just to be clear, it’s just my personal opinion, I can see the NHS going the same way as, say, Ministry of Justice or Ministry of Defense where they become kind of a policy and governance organizations and they look to increasingly outsource the orchestration of the operations, because they have an accountability to their citizens but there is an outside of existential events like a pandemic, it’s hard, particularly when you have this kind of, I would say, almost like technological epoch developing, the state organizations to compete with the private sector.
Heath: Oh, yeah, I was gonna say, they can’t compete.
Nathan: And so what that means it means that you’re — if you look at it almost through your service catalog, your classic service catalog, you’re going to get a tearing in society on the health care offered to them. And partly that will be driven by that strata’s needs and also partly their ability to pay. And that will then have interesting repercussions in terms of areas like, say, health insurance, because if I am a private health insurance company now I’ve got so much info right now, whereas, previously, I was having to get actuaries to work out some complex mathematical formula on how I can aggregate my risk across my portfolio. Now I’ve got a much clearer picture, Heath, on how much a risk you are —
Heath: Yeah, actual risk.
Nathan: And actual risk, and, therefore, the appropriate price range. Yeah?
Heath: Premiums will be changing.
Nathan: Premiums will be changing, I’ll take a view, do I even wanna insure Heath? Do I even wanna insure Heath? So that that will naturally then have a knock-on effect in terms of society because what it’s likely to do is it’s likely to lead to I perceive widening gaps in society in terms of a personal individual’s ability to consume services, whether that be from the state or particularly from the private sector. And I see that what’s currently happening now in healthcare, that was already happening to a degree, it’s gonna be massively accelerated through this process.
Heath: Yeah. You know, I think the pandemic has accelerated, one, digital transformation, but as you just said there, with the data access and sharing, it’s like putting petrol on top of the fire.
Heath: Yeah, yeah, so we are in for some massive change and particularly in yourself and being around healthcare, in healthcare currently and they have a long experience and then doing it, you’re well positioned to offer clients advice on this transformation. So, I’m conscious of the time, here, we’re gonna have a little bit, I don’t want to take too much time but I wanna recap what you said. First off, number one was the purpose, make sure everyone’s clear on the purpose. There’s a major part there, I think we touched on it but I wanted to say we talked about the culture. I’m a big fan or advocate of the culture eat strategy for breakfast. If you dismiss this culture, forget about how great your strategy is, you know, you getting out of the water before you started. But part of that purpose is very clear at the front, clear of the vision and the outcome that you want to achieve. You said the history so you did some research before. I think there’s a lesson here for our peers and colleagues is that the example from the previous client in mind, the mess of implementation was very similar to the next one. What did you learn? I think what I’ve seen from my career is they’ll have this term, lessons learned, but when you inspect the lessons learned or trying to read those lessons learned, they’re not very usable. The notes that someone did on a back of a fag packet and say, “This is what we learned,” so, well, how do we use that now? They need to be useful. So when the exercise comes, I talk about it in the book, is that the project doesn’t finish at delivery, the project should actually finish after the lessons learned are captured, that everyone’s just — like you talked about the business have the battle scars. They’ve been through this before and they don’t want — and so when you get to delivery and they have delivered, the business goes, “I’m glad those guys are finished now,” and then so no one’s interested in doing lessons learned. So when the lessons learned are captured, they’re not really done well, or they’re incomplete. But you call that up as like the second thing to do is that you did the history to understand what worked before so reuse the things that worked and drop the things that didn’t. But then the key part there for everyone, not just for us in transformation, is about the longevity of what we’re in now globally, it’s here for a while and we have to live with it so it’s not an overnight success, it’s going — we’re gonna fix it. No. We know it’s here and we’re gonna live with it. And I say a good part that you talked about was the impacts and so what now, you’ve understood the context and lessons. So what? What impact does that have? So you apply the thinking of what impactful insights does that tell you and how will you use that information, that’s your data-driven element, so you use the element of evidence based, evidence from past and current data so I think that — Yeah?
Nathan: You’re gonna make the conversation, you’re gonna take it away from sentiment, yeah? So you gotta — the real value of data-driven insights, it really helps you to tackle that culture piece. because it enables, once you get people to accept the data sets you’re using, it makes it harder for them to then reject the insights those datasets provide.
Heath: Yeah, so that’s like the antidote to the strong culture. So, I’m gonna quote you on that one. So, you know, maybe you make a meme out of that. So you have a strong background also in technology as well so to be saying things around culture from a guy that has a strong background in technology, it’s almost — I don’t wanna say an oxymoron, it’s a paradigm shift for I think technology guys to think about anything other than technology. Yeah, so I take my hat off to you for that. I would like to see personally the technology guys, if they acknowledge, “Hey, listen, we got a culture thing here, we just can’t go rock up and try and change this business by implementing some new system, we’re gonna understand a few things and one of them being the way that people work, the way they interact with each other. How strong is that bond? What brings them together? If we’re gonna try and break that, this is not gonna be an overnight activity. This is a long plan.” This current client I’m helping right now, they wanted to call the process that we’re trying to change or improve, a common process optimization, and I said, “Okay, you’re trying to optimize this process to make it more efficient, right? Okay, yep? You originally had one process but now it’s morphed into 12 and so you’ve got different divisions across the organization made it fit for their own purpose and now you’re telling me you want to harmonize it and put it back together? Are you sure that’s what you want to do? Let’s just say we do that but I think what we’ve just done is we’ve just speed up with the Titanic, you know? We’ve just lined the deck chairs up. No one’s talked about turning the ship, we just made ourselves faster.” So I said, “Now we gotta call it what it is. If you now think this is a transformation, we’re not talking about making our process faster or implementing technology, we’re talking about people here. People are changing.”
Nathan: Yeah. And how many instances have you come across, Heath, of RPA where clients have taken their existing procedures and just pulled them into the RPA tool and it’s like, great, you’ve become much, much more efficient on doing the wrong things.
Heath: Yes, that’s exactly it. I had a guest on just before who said something very similar, it was like now you’re just — almost the same words, “You’re faster doing the wrong thing.” Rubbish in, rubbish out. You’ve just been faster at getting bad results. So the lesson there would be probably step back a little bit to the start of the process. Understand the problem, as you said, when you’re framing, which I think that was the next one, you understood the frame that allowed you to get some form of control to help them scope a solution and that part there, I think for our colleagues, is you’re leading them to the water but you’re not making them drink. You’re showing them the trough.
Nathan: Correct. I’m not leading them to the solution, I’m leading them to the space where I can help them find the solution. Yeah? And I think a lot of our colleagues conflate those two.
Nathan: Yeah? I mean, even when you talk about — again, classic example of that, Heath, is product vendors. Product vendors will come to you saying they’re selling you the solution.
Heath: Yeah, the old solution. Yeah, that’s a misnomer, that one. If I say what you got is a technology tool or product, the solution, this includes more than just this technology product. Most likely, there are four levels we can pull — people, process, technology, and data, and what’s probably overlapping that is the culture.
Heath: Okay, but there’s the sixth step, so the sixth part is you suggest and through your previous experience you’ve learned and you can’t force, you know, the horse to drink so it is a suggestive so it is a points we agreed of ownership. When the feel that was their idea and they have more ownership in the solution.
Nathan: Yeah, if they don’t have ownership in the solution, then the implication is just in the UN, right?
Heath: And then I think a good part for our calling, because I’m guilty of that too, I would like to, because you know the answers, is your facilitation versus insights, like you keep, let’s say, the ace of spades up the sleeve or in the back pocket, you know the answer, and as you just said, allowing the space for them to have that discovery, to come to their own realization but you have to follow the frame and the space for them to have their conversations.
Nathan: And it’s interesting you play that back for me because that’s not a — I don’t have a handbook, Heath, where I’ve written those steps. That’s clearly, though, you know, some kind of subconscious system that I adapted and developed over the course of my career that’s now —
Heath: A part of your behavior, yeah. You do it by almost habit.
Nathan: Correct. It’s the — what’s the — muscle memory, yeah?
Heath: Yeah, yeah.
Nathan: It’s noted in the muscle, right?
Heath: So, I think then, you know, you talked about beginning about you being proactive instead of reactive, then I think there’s probably a book in you.
Nathan: I think there probably is.
Nathan: I think there probably is.
Heath: And I think, you know, you could even make a book out of your seven steps there.
Nathan: Yeah. I could probably do so. That’s interesting. I didn’t come to all this thinking about writing a book but, no, I think you’re probably right.
Heath: I tell you what, I didn’t think about writing a book either and next thing I know, there’s a book, yeah, so, you know, hey.
Heath: If the shoe fits.
Nathan: Well, I might be able to find it on the shelves behind you.
Heath: So that actually kind of remind me — the quote was the most important book you read is not the book you read, it is the book you write. Yeah. I think that actually was Daniel Priestley, a young Australian guy, you know that guy?
Nathan: I know the name.
Heath: He wrote the Key Person of Influence, Oversubscribed, the Entrepreneur’s Journey, and there’s one other one I just can’t recall. I met him a couple times. Yeah, he’s got a good story, the key person of influence actually was the thing that helped me think about writing a book and so, yes, if I could offer you anything in exchange for sharing your insights today, it would be read that book and then write your book.
Nathan: Okay. Okay.
Heath: Oh, boy. You know, we’ll do an exchange. I’ll send you a signed copy and you send me a signed copy.
Nathan: That sounds great, Heath.
Heath: Yeah, okay. My man, I will wrap it up here. What I’m gonna do now is I’ll record the intro and I’ll talk you up and your background history and I’ll cut that and put it at the front. Yeah, so, I’ll let you know when we’ll do the edit or get the edit done and then tag you when we post it if you wanna share it around, share it around. I think your LinkedIn profile photo, I can take a copy of that and I’ll turn it to the gray version, that’s gonna be on the main banner of the —
Heath: Okay, cool, great. Cool. Okay, my man, thank you very much. 10:30, I’m still here in the UK so it’s the same time for me, okay, same time for you. All right, thank you, Nate. Much appreciated for your time.
Nathan: No problems.
Heath: Look out for the episode, I’ll keep you updated.
Nathan: Great. Cheers, Heath.
Heath: Thank you, mate. Take it easy. Bye.
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Hi, I’m Heath, the founder of HOBA TECH and host of The Business Transformation Podcast. I help Business Transformation Consultants, Business Designers and Business Architects transform their and their clients’ business and join the 30% club that succeed. Join me on this journey.