The Business Transformation Podcast

The Business Transformation Podcast-014-Seth Owings

Leveraging context, cognitive psychology and human behaviour to drive sustainable business transformation [014]

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"I feel like that's our job in business transformation is to try to facilitate some of those moments that would lift someone out of that rut"

Check out our latest podcast with Managing Consultant Seth Owings.

Seth Owings, who has over 10 years experience in transformation and combines cognitive psychology and human behaviour to help companies build better systems for the customers, employees.

Originally in technology product management, with a product design background, Seth moved into customer experience with UX, and now fully embedded in transformation.

He has an excellent extensive background in digital transformation and process and organization design with a passion for industrial goods and manufacturing verticals.

Seth is just as comfortable in the trenches with engineers as he is presenting to C-suite and is consistently recognized for his ability to bridge the divide between technical and business audiences.

His work history includes many fortune 100 fortune 100 and global companies, including Rio Tinto, shell Walmart, Coca-Cola home Depot and Verizon safe.

Join this conversation and learn the key takeaways, maybe you can do that in your team and organisation too!

“I feel like that's our job in business transformation is to try to facilitate some of those moments that would lift someone out of that rut.”

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Transcript

(intro)

Welcome to the Business Transformation Podcast. I’m your host,Heath Gascoigne. This is a show where I cut through all the hype and noise and get to the facts of what actually is business transformation and what is required, how to and how not to do it. I’ll be talking to industry experts and professionals to share their stories, strategies, and insights to help you start, turnaround, or grow your business transformation. By the end of this podcast, we have some practical tips to use to make your business transformation a success. Whether you’re just at the start of your journey or midway through, I hope you enjoy.

(interview)

[00:00:00] Heath: Hello. My name is Heath Gascoigne and welcome to the business transformation podcast. This is the show for the business transformators who are part business strategists, part, business designers, part collaborators, and part negotiators. Business Transformators have moved past just business design and includes oversight of implementation of those business designs and business transformations and includes stakeholder management, coordination and negotiation.

 

[00:00:25] Heath: If you work in strategy, development and implementation and work to ensure that the strategy is aligned to the business design and technology, then you're probably a business transformator. This is a show where we speak to industry experts and professionals to share their stories, strategies, and insights to help you start, turn around and grow your business transformation.

 

[00:00:44] Heath: And in this episode, we're talking to one of those industry experts. We are speaking to Seth Owings, the trans currently the managing consultant business transformation at NCR corpora. CF has over 10 years experience leveraging cognitive psychology and human behavior to help companies build better systems for their customers' employees.
[00:01:04]Heath Gascoigne: He has an excellent extensive background in digital transformation and process and organization design with a passion for in industrial goods and manufacturing verticals. Seth is just as comfortable in the trenches with engineers as he is presenting to CSU and is consistently recognized for his ability to bridge the.
[00:01:22]Heath Gascoigne: Between technical and business audiences. His work history includes many fortune 100 fortune 100 and global companies, including Rio Tinto. She Wal-Mart Coca-Cola home Depot and Verizon. Seth. Welcome to the show. Thanks for your time. Hey, thanks for having me happy to be here. Fantastic. Fantastic. Okay. So You have a, you got a, you got a vast background and also some, an area that I quite like around psychology about human behavior and what drives human behavior, especially, , , people generally change adverse as independence individuals, but when you get them in a organization setting, when you are trying to change or transform organization with the people elements, that's a whole new kettle of fish altogether.
[00:02:05]Heath Gascoigne: So.
[00:02:07]Seth Owings: Are you; are you familiar with the origin of the phrase being stuck in a rut?
[00:02:12]Heath Gascoigne: Yep. Yep.
[00:02:14]Seth Owings: So for those who may not be aware back in in the old west, like the Oregon trail migration in the us what would happen is these heavy Laden wagons? Would be going through an area that was quite muddy and didn't have a lot of vegetation or rocks.
[00:02:33]Seth Owings: And after it had it had ranged, the carts would sink down into it. And then later when it would dry that compacted earth would be so hard. What would happen is you would find yourself in one of these wagon Rus, and you literally couldn't get out cuz you can't turn the wheel. You're stuck four inches down into.
[00:02:50]Seth Owings: Into this hard packed earth and it's dry and you can't do anything. So you have to wait until you come across a Rocky section or you can cross a river or you can do something else to get you out of that rut. And I feel like that. Our job in business transformation is to try to facilitate some of those moments that would lift someone out of that rut.

 

[00:03:08] Seth Owings: But if we just think that we're gonna go make a change and people will immediately be able to do something with that, we're ignoring the context in which they're currently operating and those limitations. And sometimes those are real material limitations, and sometimes. Those are psychological or emotional limitations, but that doesn't make them any less valid or important for us when we're thinking about instigating change.

 

[00:03:30] Seth Owings: Yes. A very good point. There, there there's there's more to more, what would to say is direction dynamics angles to the people's ability to change, like in technology, they might see it's just take one system out, place it with another. So that's pretty simple, , it's like, there's no dimensions to that.

 

[00:03:49] Seth Owings: It's just like forward and back in and out

 

[00:03:51] Seth Owings: The office of the CIO in my experience. Cause especially prone to that, to making that mistake. And I. There are so many facets of technology, whether we're talking about hardware or software that people rely on to do their jobs, or someone has spent so much time with a piece of technology that they know it inside and out, and they can do it so quickly.

 

[00:04:11] Seth Owings: And you just are swapping out for a new one, even though it technically on paper does all the same things. Yep. Could radically disrupt someone's workflow or their ability to be effective. Yep. And it's our job to make sure that we understand the problem enough and the context in which the problem exists enough, that we can design around what this change actually means for someone who's being impacted.

 

[00:04:35] Seth Owings: But isn't part of the decision making process.

 

[00:04:37] Heath Gascoigne: Awesome. So for, for the audience, it's, I might have missed that. What Seth said is they're understanding the problem before the so. As opposed to, and I've seen this quite a lot where everyone's got good intentions, I believe on these projects and programs and even organization.

 

[00:04:57] Heath Gascoigne: But we, , in some cases we play to our strengths and to the, probably the detriment of our own perception or own bias that we haven't considered. Other things like technology want to be seen or feel like they want to add value. So they see where they can add value is by changing the system. There is, like you said, there there's, the effectively is a process, but where technology comes in is after we've understood the problem.

 

[00:05:21] Heath Gascoigne: And then we under come up some options about what a solution would look like, then talk to our technology colleagues and say, okay, this is our problem. Help us develop a solution or solution options. And let's play it back to the business to see which ones best they search them. And then we'll go from there.

 

[00:05:36] Heath Gascoigne: But what that, and, but, so the first part being first, the audience here, there. Clearly what that, that C just said, understand the problem. And so part of that was validated, , maybe what does validate mean? That you can quantify it? You can qualify it. You can put your finger on the, on it and touch it.

 

[00:05:55] Heath Gascoigne: It's not, oh, that's 25,000 foot inspirational vision. It's so high and, , look at it. It's doesn't really mean much, but it's, it's, it's up there. How can you hang some requirements on that? If it's not it's too vague. Yeah.

 

[00:06:10] Seth Owings: Yeah, I'm, I'm really big on context. So there was a, a company I was doing some consulting work with and they had they called it their, their big digital transformation program and it was this global program and we get into it and we find out that, oh, What I mean, they're calling it digital transformation, but really all it is is they're trying to Institute a, bring your own device policy so that they don't have to pay for hardware for their employees.

 

[00:06:35] Seth Owings: Like that's really the end of the day. And then as we start to peel back the layers, we find out that this entire program was spun up off of a napkin sketch that the, the CI, the CEO went out to drinks with someone in the organization and then jotted down some thoughts on a napkin and handed to him.

 

[00:06:52] Seth Owings: That person took it. Did not question any part of it and spun up a multimillion dollar global program to do this thing. And they called it digital transformation. Cause that's the buzzword. Yep. And then we started doing some research to validate, okay, what's the scope of the problem? Like what's the context here.

 

[00:07:09] Seth Owings: And it turns out that company policy is employees are not allowed to have their phones on them. Once they arrive on. You had employee walk in, you've got a locker, you change clothes, you put all your personal effects in the locker. If you're caught with your phone this is a dangerous physical environment, right?

 

[00:07:28] Seth Owings: So you don't, they didn't want distractions. So then. Just the more we learned about the context, the more it was like this, not only is this not a problem for the end user, the employee. Yep. But everything about this program kind of feels like you're trying to shift the burden of responsibility on someone and make their lives just a little bit more difficult.

 

[00:07:52] Seth Owings: And what we did is we slowly. Works to earn the right to nudge them towards is like, okay, if you want to go digital, if you want without increasing your expenses massively. Right? Yep. And without violating the existing. How can we start to think about nudging in that direction? By automating some of the processes or by putting company tablets, whether it's iPads or windows, tablets, or whatever attached to workstations or machinery or whatnot, and allow that to serve as a shared terminal to do some of the things that are currently pen and paper oriented today.

 

[00:08:27] Seth Owings: And, and that's where we ended up nudging them. But I, I think it's interesting. It's not only about the broader transformation outcomes within the organization. It's also about changing how the team that's responsible for this is thinking about the problem and transforming our mindsets as the people who have the power to instigate change, to make sure that we are nudging the broader organization in the right direction.

 

[00:08:57] Heath Gascoigne: Okay. So. Just to summarize for the audience where this is CF is currently in, in the states and Atlanta. I am currently here in London. The, the, the, the issues that’s is talking about, which is, , we talk about where we are globally. , what is it by flight? It might be 10 hours, half the world, half the globe apart, the similarities.

 

[00:09:19] Heath Gascoigne: Between the issues that you are encountering in that continent versus what I see and experience and the colleagues, and, , I get a lot of emails and, , for cause of the book and people, , contact me all the time. So what you are talking about is a shared experience, which, , people in the, the, and continent European, they also encounter the same.

 

[00:09:41] Heath Gascoigne: So this is not like saying, oh, it only happens in the us and no, no, no one else. No, it is happening everywhere. So yeah, this for a, a project that could be spun up off the back of a fag packet, and now it's a big thing. And I think we had a quick chat before getting on the call and we talked about which I have instigated here on, on, on the project work program.

 

[00:10:02] Heath Gascoigne: I'm on, is we, I said now our, our modus operandi is the first. Default mode of operation for us is the question, the question.

 

[00:10:13] Seth Owings: Yeah,

 

[00:10:14] Seth Owings: absolutely. I, I think interrogating the, the problem is interrogating the problems. Yep. And, and sometimes. that interrogation can feel to someone else a little bit adversarial.

 

[00:10:27] Seth Owings: Right. And there is this concept of adversarial, AI, or adversarial collaboration where by take, it's kind of like, I guess the, the modern evolution. Being devil's advocate. Right. But if you tell me there's a problem, I'm gonna try to figure out how that problem isn't real or doesn't exist, because I wanna make sure that it it's a, it's a materially significant problem for the business, for the customer or the employee or whoever we're talking about.

 

[00:10:57] Seth Owings: Ultimately serving with this. And I really wanna understand all of the context around that. And if after poking all those holes in it, the idea or the problem or the initiative still float. You I'm on board. You've got a believer I will fight for you. Like, absolutely. But if at the end of us trying to interrogate and peel back the layers, it starts to kind of feel a little iffy.

 

[00:11:21] Seth Owings: Well, then we need to work together to figure out how do we qualify this problem better? How do we go and validate what we're seeing? Is there data that we could get that would support or refute or help us evolve? What we think is going on?

 

[00:11:32] Heath Gascoigne: Okay. That's a, that's a very good point there. So sorry. Should step back a bit, cuz we got get and into it straight away.

 

[00:11:39] Heath Gascoigne: How good is that? So, so give us a scope of, of an agenda. So we're, we'll talk about, , cause you come from a, originally a product management product design background, you've moved into customer experience into UX and now into transformation. And you have a background in psychology, so.

 

[00:11:55] Heath Gascoigne: , you, you, you presented, and I think you probably like, like me, that you take the position of representing the business on these big projects from the people element. And of course that people element is impacted by the process and then by technology and data. So we'll talk about process of people.

 

[00:12:10] Heath Gascoigne: We know how, how well are people will not represented on these projects, what what's working for them or, or. Is there a process that you follow looks like you've got a few tools in the tool bag there to when you come in to, to a project and , and, and the last one, the third point is what is working and what's not working and where's the room for improvement.

 

[00:12:30] Heath Gascoigne: Yeah. Okay. People.

 

[00:12:32] Seth Owings: People . So we talk a lot about people, process and technology. Mm-hmm we've got these three different things and innovation and transformation happen best at the intersection where those, that, where that VIN diagram overlaps. Yep. Yep. I'm a contrarian by nature. So. What I try to do is I try to position myself as the advocate for whoever's not in the room.

 

[00:12:54] Seth Owings: If this is an office of the CIO project, then I'm goanna be really hard on people and process and trying to bring that to the surface. And I'm goanna let the subject matter experts handle the technology. I don't need to get as involved in technology. If we're working on a business problem, then I'm goanna be an advocate for the people in the technology.

 

[00:13:13] Seth Owings: and why certain technologies do or don't make sense or the implications there for people. And I'm gonna let the business own a little bit more of what that viability looks like for them. So I, I. For me, I'm always trying to represent the underrepresented in these conversations and universally that's people, people who are we serving?

 

[00:13:34] Seth Owings: Who, who has the problem? There's often a big difference between who our client is and then who we're actually designing for right. The client wants to save money, but the, the change impacts people who are working, who don't even know that we exist. So being able to. Surface, what is their actual pain or what problems do they actually face that would make sense for us to try to solve yep.

 

[00:14:02] Seth Owings: In a way that satisfies whatever this business

 

[00:14:04] Heath Gascoigne: requirements.

 

[00:14:05] Heath Gascoigne: Okay. So, so, so. So the audience that missed that. So you represent the underrepresented how so? In most cases? Yes, it is the people I think like in, in, in my approach, I like to have a, I talk about the governance framework, having three layers at the project level that will take their designs and suggestions to a pro in a internal project.

 

[00:14:27] Heath Gascoigne: Design authority made up of two parts of business and a technology. Why I call those two separately and pull, put them apart. Is that technology is so well versed in these change in transformation projects and programs that they've, they've got their doc ducks lined up when it comes to presenting their ideas.

 

[00:14:44] Heath Gascoigne: And if the business don't have their ideas all lined up. Technology just eats them alive and, and they never get their voice heard. So I said, let's get the business together separately so that you guys can agree what you want. If you want to you want to standardize optimized and transform your processes.

 

[00:14:59] Heath Gascoigne: Great. Or you want to you, you have a strategy around people and that is to just want to. You wanna outsource all the rekeying low admin, low decision making tasks. You don't wanna develop, you wanna hire in at mid-level. Okay. That's your strategy, , so be it or you wanna build and develop, so you wanna keep your hiring costs and your recruitment costs low and your, so you don't go out to market and pay top dollar for a quite experienced person.

 

[00:15:21] Heath Gascoigne: So whatever it is. So you come up with your strategy in your design, then we'll put them together with technology and then we'll take it the steering committee and then get them to sign. Yeah. And so, so your, your role there is that you, you read the, you represent the business and, and you give them the voice that they didn't.

 

[00:15:36] Seth Owings: Yeah. And so when I talk about people, I'm almost always talking about whoever is at the bottom of the pyramid, right? If it's as an employee experience engagement, like the digital transformation program that I mentioned earlier, then the people that I care about talking to, and the voices that I wanna find are.

 

[00:15:54] Seth Owings: Those people who are being asked to change what they're doing. Mm-hmm, , there's clearly a benefit to the business by doing this, right. The business is gonna save money on hardware by not supplying phones to everyone, but what's the benefit to the person. Right. And if we can't communicate that. In our change management plan, we're gonna have a really hard time with compliance around this change and transformation's gonna be slow if it happens at all.

 

[00:16:16] Seth Owings: Yeah. Yeah. So when we talk about people, I I'm really focused on whoever that end user is in a B2C context. I wanna understand how are people experiencing this thing, right. If we're talking about medical, like what is the process of being seen in the medical system and what is that? Customer experience and the payment, and then the bill in America, the bill that shows up three months later, that insurance won't cover.

 

[00:16:40] Seth Owings: And now you're dealing with that, but the doctor's office has moved on. Like there's a lot about that customer experience, I think is important for us to surface to the business so that we can create a little bit of empathy at the business level for say, okay, yes, this change makes sense for you the business, but it.

 

[00:16:58] Seth Owings: Everyone else's life harder. And if you make their life too hard, they're gonna go find someone else to, to do the thing. Right. And you're gonna lose them as a customer or as an employee they're gonna resign and go work somewhere else. Oh yeah. Yeah. That's better

 

[00:17:10] Seth Owings: meeting their needs.

 

[00:17:11] Heath Gascoigne: Yep. I think you, you, you touch on, on a great point.

 

[00:17:14] Heath Gascoigne: There is and some people who would want to, let's say an academics coming into to this would look at techn, , the, the problem very technically as black and white, and they'll go, we can make this process. Super efficient, , as lean as possible, remove all the waste and it's speedy ants.

 

[00:17:31] Heath Gascoigne: The other part is their user experience was absolutely rubbish. Yep. And then to that point, there is if it's rubbish the customer,

 

[00:17:38] Heath Gascoigne: just leave. Yep. Absolutely. I think that's where a lot of the, the big four get in trouble is there's this sense of ruthless optimization yeah. Around the business on paper, but we don't actually take into account all of the impacts that, that has both for employees and ultimately for customers, there was a great scene in the show suits about a high powered New York law firm.

 

[00:18:03] Heath Gascoigne: Yeah. Yeah. Where they, they were doing employee reviews and there was this one guy who consistently underperformed. and they fired him. And then as soon as they did everyone, else's performance dropped. It turns out that that guy had a lot of institutional knowledge and was someone who people felt comfortable approaching with questions or for help.

 

[00:18:20] Heath Gascoigne: And the reason his performance was lower is because he was spending most of his time, empowering other people to be successful. Right. So if you take this ruthless optimization approach, you fire that guy, and then you didn't even think about the implication. Of that through the rest of the system, everything is so connected that that's, that's probably the most important thing for me is trying to surface for the business or for the, the technology group.

 

[00:18:45] Heath Gascoigne: What are all of these connections and how do the pieces fit together and what do, what can we expect when we make that

 

[00:18:51] Heath Gascoigne: change? Yeah. So there's a couple of points in there about the interconnected, so systems knock on effect. Right? So we'll talk about that in a second, but also I think that the thing that is that you're touching on is.

 

[00:19:02] Heath Gascoigne: There's the culture, like the old saying that culture eats a strategy for breakfast. Yeah. Like, yeah, you can have the, , you can bring in whoever you wanna bring in and pay the top dollar. And , it costs a lot of money. You'll commit a lot of money to your project, but if you don't understand the

 

[00:19:16] Heath Gascoigne: culture.

 

[00:19:17] Seth Owings: Yeah, absolutely. I think there's a, a couple really good examples. Both politically and in terms of the business I think Harley Davidson is, is one where there is such a strong culture around the customers and the customers kind of own the brand at this point. So the degree of transformation that's going to be possible for someone like Harley Davidson is really limited.

 

[00:19:42] Seth Owings: By an external force that kind of controls a lot of how the brand is perceived or used or desired. Right. And as transformation, that's our job to try to identify and say, okay, where does the locus of control reside? Does the business actually have enough agency? Around this change to make it in a silo.

 

[00:20:08] Seth Owings: And the answer is almost always no. Or does that locus control reside with the workforce, the customer somewhere else. Right. And then we need to make sure that we are bringing those voices in if we're gonna be successful.

 

[00:20:20] Heath Gascoigne: Awesome. Yeah, that, that there. So with har Davison not having the control for transformation, then they are like it, it really customer driven, but almost a hundred.

 

[00:20:31] Heath Gascoigne: Yeah. 80, 20 year.

 

[00:20:33] Seth Owings: Absolutely. And, and there's implications there, even on their manufacturing process, right? Like if they were to make certain changes on their manufacturing line that were more efficient or cheaper, but the customers could identify a material difference in the nature of the product.

 

[00:20:52] Seth Owings: Right. It's a huge issue. It's not just about acceptable substitutions on your back end. It's not just about how you manage. Your own internal processes. It's about all of the downstream impacts of that change that you're maybe not even paying attention to.

 

[00:21:07] Seth Owings: Yeah. Yeah. So that, so that there would be for all organizations and transformations to who are going for transformations to understand the end to end user journey or customer journey that there's a knock on effect.

 

[00:21:19] Heath Gascoigne: Yeah. You might change one thing for optimization here, but the knock on effect later on.

 

[00:21:23] Seth Owings: Yeah, absolutely. I'm a big component of systems thinking and I feel. As someone working in transformation, that's important for us to collaborate from a, a broader meta perspective. Like if you and I are working together on a project, I'm gonna understand, how do you think, like, how do you perceive the world around you?

 

[00:21:41] Seth Owings: Mm-hmm and use that information to help us work better together. And then together, we figure out how, so whoever the person that we're impacting, how are they thinking about and perceiving the world at a metal? Like we call it metacognition, right? What does their internal narrative sound like when you give them new information?

 

[00:22:01] Seth Owings: What is their thought process? And for me, When I think about anything or look at anything my, my mind automatically blows out. Have you ever seen one of those engineering diagrams of a card where all the pieces are blown out? We expanded it. Yeah. And you can kind of see how it would all fit together, but all the pieces are distinct, right?

 

[00:22:18] Seth Owings: Yep. And, and that's what my brain does. So when you present a problem to me, I'm immediately trying to imagine, say, okay, what would those pieces look like? And how are they connected? And which ones can we change? And which ones can we never change at all? Or we have to work around mm-hmm and the ability to identify those things quickly, I think, is critical for us in business transformation.

 

[00:22:37] Heath Gascoigne: Ah, yes. Yeah. So the key point there, so this is a modernist that is around systems thinking that there is is a knock on effect. But one of the questions I was asked when I, I joined a client recently on, on their huge transformation and said, so what's your even had to go around the room to new team members and said, what's your USP?

 

[00:22:55] Heath Gascoigne: And I said my ability to break down big problems into small. Pieces of work and it's exactly that, , there's it's, if you understand the little pieces that as they come together, it's not, not such a big deal, but when you're looking at it, like how do you eat elephant one bite at a time?

 

[00:23:10] Seth Owings: Yeah, absolutely.

 

[00:23:11] Heath Gascoigne: Yeah. Take your, take your time. So In terms of, so your role with people is that that you represent them, you, you, and, and when you come onto projects or, or, and, and the people the lowest levels. So in, I, I talk in, in terms of transformation in the three LS, you got their levels. So the levels of organization, the strategy, operations, and, and project, they have a different language.

 

[00:23:30] Heath Gascoigne: They speak up strategy, see the C-suite talk a different language than operations that talk at different language to projects and a level of. And they all high level at the top. Mid-range and then, , we're talking about technology or, and project is very detailed, , requirements levels. So when you are talking in, in terms of those people in operations, that's like I I'm I'm with the client right now and they are they it's a technology driven project.

 

[00:23:58] Heath Gascoigne: Although they'd like to call that a business lead project. And then even the technology guys will even say, it's just business lead. I say, if it's business lead, show me where the business users are on this, on our works and our in our meetings that we're having. They're not, and, and they're actually product owners, technology, product owners.

 

[00:24:13] Heath Gascoigne: So there's no business people here. , so your point is the, the lowest level are the people whose lives are changing.

 

[00:24:19] Seth Owings: Yeah. Yeah.

 

[00:24:21] Seth Owings: It's so the, the higher you are in that hierarchy, the more likely you are to reduce the problem. To what could fit on a C-suite presentation, right? You're producing the entire problem down to three to five bullet points.

 

[00:24:37] Seth Owings: And while that might be what we have to do for those C level presentations, it is. A massive disservice for us at the project level. If we can't expand that out and really dig into it's okay. Why is this one of our three to five bullets? What is happening here? Is there some precipitating event? What happens after this?

 

[00:25:00] Seth Owings: Does this need to exist or is this an artifact of some other thing that we're, that's not part of this project, but influences how people

 

[00:25:08] Seth Owings: think about the problem.

 

[00:25:09] Heath Gascoigne: Yeah. You said a key point there. I, I tell these guys on this projects, like when essentially there's, , particularly two parts of the program there's design or discovery and then design and, and develop built and said, if we, you guys here so keen to get carried away in your design, you even engaging, , supplies right now before we've done a sort of problem.

 

[00:25:28] Heath Gascoigne: So. We've gotta take our time in this discovery piece. And the reason why is because we don't understand this and we come up with designs without bringing the business along with us, what will happen if you talk to them now, and you have been, the business are quite happy to tell how much pain or how dis how much they do.

 

[00:25:46] Heath Gascoigne: Not like the way things are today. And if you don't understand that when you get to the design part, this is when they go, huh? Now you're changing my world. I dunno about this. Yeah. And see if you don't take the time to understand that problem and validate it with them, that it actually is a real problem.

 

[00:26:04] Heath Gascoigne: Not an artificial problem or one that's interpreted from the technology guys. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. If you, you found that.

 

[00:26:11] Seth Owings: Oh, absolutely. I feel like the, there's a, a huge issue here around how we think about bringing these things to the surface. And so often I say, oh yeah, this is, this is a business problem that the technology group was trying to solve with technology.

 

[00:26:27] Seth Owings: Okay. But do you actually understand what it, what the problem is? And it's like, oh, well the business said this. It's like, okay. But that was poorly phrased and also a symptom, not the root cause. Right. So the point of discovery is for us to take the. To dig a little bit and figure out the ultimate root cause at the very bottom.

 

[00:26:47] Seth Owings: Yep. That leads to all of these other things. And if we don't take that time, we end up designing a system that doesn't solve the problem. So I I'm really big on outcome oriented language with the business. So I'll give you an example. I had a financial services client. Who came to me and said, Hey, we want you to help us figure out how to get people new customers to open up checking accounts.

 

[00:27:12] Seth Owings: And it said, okay, so this is a marketing problem, probably like, but what, why, why are you, I mean, obviously everyone wants more customers. Sure. Like, but what's going on here. And as we started to dig into. I'd say, okay. Your margins on checking accounts. Cause everyone wants a free checking account. The, the number of people who are willing to pay or to have balance is high enough to get the premium accounts for free.

 

[00:27:35] Seth Owings: Like that's a very small percentage of the addressable market. Yep. So. What you're talking about is your free checking account. Well, let's look at how those are performing today and it's a, your margins are so slim and in some cases it's costing you money. And if we're adding net new customers for you, then we're increasing your overhead.

 

[00:27:55] Seth Owings: You're gonna have to have more. Tellers at the, at the bank, you're gonna have to have a bigger support team on the phones. You're gonna have to have a bigger tech or operations team to keep the website going. Like they're adding new head count. Doesn't necessarily get you where you want to go.

 

[00:28:10] Seth Owings: Mm-hmm but what we could do is we could take a look at all of your customers and figure out who are your single product customer. People who only have a checking accounter only have a credit card or only have a loan. Right. And how can we think about deepening that relationship? Because in financial services, customers who have all three of those things are the most value customer.

 

[00:28:31] Seth Owings: So if you get one customer with a checking account, a credit card and a loan yep. Like that person is gold and not only. Are they more profitable on paper? They're also more likely to stay with you in the long way stick, like you've created stickiness. Yeah. So when I talk about interrogating the problem, that's really what I'm getting at by default.

 

[00:28:50] Seth Owings: When you come to me with a problem, I don't believe you. I don't, I don't, I like, I don't believe that's the actual problem. And I'm always looking for say, okay, well, what let's assume it was a symptom. And let's start to, to try to diagnose what would cause that as a symptom. And we just keep doing that during our discovery until we get down to something where it's like, okay, we can't think of anything that would cause this.

 

[00:29:18] Seth Owings: So this might be where it's starting.

 

[00:29:19] Heath Gascoigne: Yep. Right down to the root cause. Yeah. Yep. Okay. So the, the modus opera dive for you is, is interrogate the problem as straight off the bat as a, the default. There's you take it as you don't believe it and need to be convinced. Yeah, I've, I've, I've been privy to a couple of presentations recently where that like you're talking about adding head counts is like, you are potentially gonna be adding head count here to solve a problem that you haven't defined.

 

[00:29:46] Heath Gascoigne: And so I think what you'll end up doing is just adding a head count and with probably with extra head count, increase the length of duration of these processes that you're trying to shorten. Cause there's more people involved now and they have to be involved cause you brought 'em in. And if for a, a, a need or maybe a need jerk reaction of, we need to solve a problem, therefore let's throw some people at it, but.

 

[00:30:07] Seth Owings: There's a, you, you could put nine women in a room for a month. You're not gonna get a baby. Right. like throwing more people at the problem doesn't necessarily help you get to a solution any faster, especially if you've skipped over that discovery or that problem interrogation phase, and you jump straight to.

 

[00:30:27] Heath Gascoigne: So, how do you go about that then? Because some, some people will take that is a personal well, not say attack, but a criticism when, , they feel like, like I said, technology I'm feeling will pick on them is they, they want to add value. They feel like they're adding value. And so the way they add value is by building something and some change.

 

[00:30:47] Heath Gascoigne: But what, what we haven't done. Understood the problem, but they're so keen. So how do you start that conversation and say, Hey can we, , I think the most scariest thing for anyone on a project, well, those leading it, when you suggest. Put down tools, they say, oh no, if we put down tools, we know we don't know how long this down tools is gonna be.

 

[00:31:05] Heath Gascoigne: It could be a week. It could be a month. It could be two months. Oh, Jesus. Everyone's gonna be idle for a while and nothing's gonna happen. So it was like, well otherwise you're running off, down the wrong street. Yeah. Yeah. So how, how do you, how do you approach that?

 

[00:31:18] Seth Owings: I mean from a activity standpoint, I feel like collaborative workshops, right.

 

[00:31:24] Seth Owings: Are the, the right tool to get people in the room and give everyone a voice without putting pressure on that voice, needing to come through a microphone, right? Like everyone has access to a pad of sticky notes or no cards or whatever, and can add stuff to the board. Right. And then it's my job as the facilitator of that conversation to help synthesize as we go and refine.

 

[00:31:46] Seth Owings: But the, the whole process in those early discovery workshops is really more about gaining consent from the group to do the interrogation. It's about getting the client on board with us, asking questions or playing the naive expert in some other, , element. And, and we're gonna play down with the business a little bit so that we can ask stupid questions without other big fear of, of what's going, right.

 

[00:32:10] Seth Owings: So that getting permission for that process. And then once we get into. There's a, a couple ways I like to, to structure some of those conversations and they can take place over the course. Several sessions and different artifacts, but one of them is DBF, desirability, viability, and feasibility. So we talked about people, process of technology.

 

[00:32:31] Seth Owings: This is a different VIN diagram, but it's similar. So Des

 

[00:32:34] Heath Gascoigne: desirability, viability, viability, and visibility, viability and visibility. Okay. You listen as you got that. Yep. So is a one on one. Listen here.

 

[00:32:45] Seth Owings: Yep. Go ahead. For for desirability. Does this problem actually exist? How many people does it impact and do they believe it's a problem?

 

[00:32:56] Seth Owings: Right? Is it something that they are actively looking for a solution to. Viability is if we, as the business were to provide the solution mm-hmm , would that make sense for us financially or make sense for us in terms of our long term strategy? Right. And if we're talking about a an employee experience problem, or an internal transformation, Does this thing actually save us the money or have the impact that we think it's gonna have, or are there downstream impacts that are gonna erode the value of doing this work, right?

 

[00:33:29] Seth Owings: Yeah. That's the viability conversation. And then feasibility is, do we actually contain the tools and the capabilities to execute on this? Or is this gonna require us to go hire people with the skillset or is it gonna require us to go do some sort of vendor exploration to find a partner. To help us execute.

 

[00:33:49] Seth Owings: So we don't currently own the technology. So I, I like that as a frame for the conversation and what I'll often use as a, a, a backdrop for that conversation. I call it a service map, cuz it's not a proper service blueprint, but anyone who has touched service design or even business architecture is probably familiar with what I'm talking about.

 

[00:34:12] Seth Owings: And what I'll do is I'll create a rudimentary. Version of that. So at the top we've got, what is the customer interaction or what is the end user, the employee interaction level. Right. And then the, the next level is who are the employees or the other stakeholders? That this top group is interacting with.

 

[00:34:33] Seth Owings: Okay. And then what tools or groups does that second group rely on? And at the very bottom, what the systems or the technologies, the things that are at play at these various stages. And as we're having this conversation, we add to this. Service map. And we start to lay out and say, okay, we are slowly as a group building a consensus around what we believe is actually happening in, in the, the field or in the business, in the organization.

 

[00:35:03] Seth Owings: And at the end of. Building this artifact. What we have documented is all of our shared assumptions about this ecosystem, about the, the context in which the problem exists. And then what we can do is we can go back and flag the things where it's like this. Don't we feel like it's true, but we have no data to support this.

 

[00:35:22] Seth Owings: So we're gonna flag it right. Uhhuh. And then those become your marching orders for the next step, which is let's validate. We have all these assumptions. Everyone has agreed what the assumptions are. We've got it documented. Now let's go out and validate whether or not those assumptions are true. And that validation step is critical before we get to design.

 

[00:35:41] Seth Owings: Because just, just because we have consensus around the assumptions, doesn't actually mean that the assumptions are correct.

 

[00:35:48] Heath Gascoigne: Yes. Yep. Yep. Okay. So those are the misstep there, there there's the three step process. Well, three phases. Desirable durability viability, feasibility first, you're gonna work out is it actually a, a problem?

 

[00:36:01] Heath Gascoigne: And do they do the people that I can say technology will say this business has got a problem for them? No, let's go talk to business. And is it actually a problem? And then the viability of if we were to provide a solution. That doesn't make sense both, , tactically strategically and will it, will it give the right outcomes that, that you intend from it and save money, increase, , market share profit, et cetera.

 

[00:36:23] Heath Gascoigne: And then the third being FEAS feasibility, do you have the internal capability, either buy, build to borrow? , if we don't have it, go get it, how you're gonna get it. And then you put together a service map and that, and that I think the key part. And there's there's we talk about business led or collaborative.

 

[00:36:39] Heath Gascoigne: Co-design, there's you getting the people together to, to your words, there, to form a consensus of understanding of what is actually happening in the business today. And the key part where I just, we just covered this on, on the project now that I'm on about assumptions and this will be clear of one of the first things we do.

 

[00:36:58] Heath Gascoigne: And I get involved as the statement of work to understand the scope and everything and the vision, but the glossary part of that is the glossary terms. So we're all on the same page talking the same language, same terms, mean the same thing to everyone. And then that's the key go over some it's repeating all things.

 

[00:37:13] Heath Gascoigne: The same people's assumption is what we believe to be true, but we haven't. And so, , if we've got a lot of assumptions as, Hey, it's like dependencies, are they real or artificial? Cause if you're not careful, you end up chasing these artificial things like mirages on the horizon. Yeah.

 

[00:37:30] Seth Owings: Absolutely.

 

[00:37:32] Seth Owings: Okay. I mean, I, I, I feel like that is 90% of the work is identifying which things are Mirage and which things actually have water and, and being able to guide the, the working team who's responsible for transformation away from the mirages and towards the water is the skill that it, that we really need as the, the Vanguard of this

 

[00:37:55] Heath Gascoigne: transformation.

 

[00:37:57] Heath Gascoigne: Nice one. I'm gonna quote you on that one to, to direct them away from the Mirage to the water. Okay, so, so that's, so that's your approach. You, you gotta, I'm sure there's a, there's more tools in the tool bag there. But the summary there that the three approach, the, the three step desirable or desirable the viability desirability, is it desirability?

 

[00:38:17] Heath Gascoigne: Des desirability. Yeah. Desirability viability and then the feasibility and then the service map is, is pretty key. I, I, I like that. If I, something similar, like the user journey map, similar kind of concept. Yeah. Now in terms of the third point of our agenda, the what are, what is happening in the industry?

 

[00:38:35] Heath Gascoigne: Well, from your perspective, what's working well that yes, like keep doing it. Industry's got it down, pat, , our, the industry spokes people for business transformation. If there is one, well, digital transformation, they're doing a great job and they've got the messages out there. Everyone understands it very clearly.

 

[00:38:48] Heath Gascoigne: , what the role of a business is or they don't, and what's not working and where's improvement.

 

[00:38:52] Seth Owings: Yeah. I feel like this is one of those things. I don't know if you've ever heard the Quip that I've never met an agile organization that actually was agile. Right. And I kind of feel the same about transformation.

 

[00:39:05] Seth Owings: Right? Everyone talks about it, cuz it's the big buzzword. Everyone wants to be doing it, but I don't think a lot of people actually know how to do it well. And I think what we end up. A lot of times is a business or a client that has such aggressive expectations around timeline that we are not given the opportunity to properly interrogate the problem, understand the context, validate some of the assumptions before we get into the sign.

 

[00:39:30] Seth Owings: So you're forced to run with some of these assumptions. And I think that that will always create a degraded product, whether that product is physical or it's a process, or it's a change to the organization. , whatever it is. I, I tend to think about everything in product terms, just cuz that's the background, but background.

 

[00:39:49] Seth Owings: Yeah. I, if it's all the same to me, right? Like we're talking about the practical implications of how someone is behaving in a certain context and then we're gonna throw a change at them. Right. And, and I just don't think that. As an industry or as just businesses across the board, we just don't have a lot of tolerance for people to do the exploration.

 

[00:40:15] Seth Owings: And I think that is the, the one thing that would radically improve the results of what we're able to do is if we had the time and the budget to actually properly handle discovery.

 

[00:40:27] Heath Gascoigne: Oh, yeah, I think the, the key, you said it, the, the, the lack of tolerance it's the necessary, the necessary time that's needed.

 

[00:40:35] Heath Gascoigne: I, I just started with the new client and I met with the CIO and the CEO and the COOs going to me. So tell me what you do exactly. And I'm telling you go. So basically you are like the horse whisper of the executive chair division as. Yeah. Yeah, that's it? Yeah. yeah. If you wanna, if that's what, I'm the horse per for the executive level.

 

[00:40:57] Heath Gascoigne: Yep. That's it. So you're there as. These guys are so keen and for the lack of tolerance part even on this program I'm on is that they've got some artificial dates that were said from the guys upstairs and they are doing everything, almost breaking their backs to achieve these dates of implementation.

 

[00:41:16] Heath Gascoigne: ? So I come along to, to your point of, , question the question or the and investigate the problem, like, why are these dates? Yeah. Why have you set these dates? For what, what, what's the driver?

 

[00:41:27] Seth Owings: I mean, I, I, I feel like in my experience, nine times out of 10, the dates are entirely arbitrary or they're tied to things that shouldn't matter.

 

[00:41:33] Seth Owings: Right. They're tied to, well, we have a board meeting next week and it's like, okay, so you want me to rush something with a week's notice? Because you have a, like, there's this, what we're missing here is this management of expectations around what's involved. Right? And if you want something that's gonna have a meaningful impact to the business.

 

[00:41:53] Seth Owings: We can't do that in a week or a month. Like we need a little bit more time to breathe. The. Thinking about product design for a second. There there's this cycle towards the end of product design where, okay, we're gonna start to release it. And now we're looking for ways to quantify what's happening in the wild.

 

[00:42:15] Seth Owings: Right. And we get that feedback in mass and we make changes and there's this iteration and we're continuing to evolve it, right? Yep. Yeah. And that element of product design hasn't quite made it into. Business transformation, this idea that it is okay for us to you, you said earlier, the only way that eat elephants one bite at a time, right?

 

[00:42:36] Seth Owings: It's okay for us to start with these incremental changes that people like or would adhere to, and let's get compliance around some of these things and it may not have the massive business impact that you want, but you're laying the groundwork for people to listen to you when you start to change the bigger things.

 

[00:42:53] Seth Owings: But if you walk in with a huge stick, And smash up the existing process without talking to any like the compliance is just never gonna be there. Yeah. And you're gonna eventually end up having to replace that staff with someone new who doesn't know any different. Yeah. So that that's, those are the two areas I feel like we could improve having, having more time and, and more tolerance for the discovery.

 

[00:43:15] Seth Owings: And then. Specifically this iteration or this incremental approach rather than expecting, oh, this is our one and only shot at transformation. So we have to do it all now. Cause if we don't, we'll never get another opportunity. And I think that. The test and learn mentality from product design is really important for us to adopt.

 

[00:43:35] Seth Owings: Every time I run a project, I I'm gonna do it a little bit differently, cuz I wanna try to learn and improve around my own process. And how can I be better as someone who's leading some of this

 

[00:43:44] Seth Owings: work?

 

[00:43:45] Heath Gascoigne: Yep. So you, there's a good two points, key points there. So the, the time and the time and tolerance for the discovery work and then the using a term for product development, the it of incremental development and that, that test and learn part.

 

[00:43:59] Heath Gascoigne: Now, , we talk about, you said a bit earlier before that, about the agile. Organization the, the aspirational was that is the the, the Mirage on the horizon, everyone to be agile and say, have you ever met an agile organization or , or no. So

 

[00:44:16]  Heath Gascoigne: well, any, any

 

[00:44:17] Heath Gascoigne: time I ask someone why they want to be agile, the response is almost always.

 

[00:44:21] Heath Gascoigne: So we can move faster. And I was like, that is not what agile is ever gonna get you. Right. If you have bad inputs today in your waterfall environment, and you take those same bad inputs and you try to break them up into sprints, it's not gonna improve just like the sprints themselves. Don't do anything.

 

[00:44:39] Heath Gascoigne: Yeah. So that, that's a, that's a big, that's a whole nother topic on agile transformation, but agile, agile does not mean. Agile means you are better able to adapt or react as you get new data. But that doesn't necessarily mean that implementing agile is like flipping a switch and you're gonna be moving faster.

 

[00:45:00] Heath Gascoigne: But you asked what I thought the industry was doing well or where we're doing better. And I. I'm seeing a lot more conversation around some of the things that are near and dear to my heart around empathy, around research, around incorporating the, the voices of the people that are being impacted.

 

[00:45:18] Heath Gascoigne: And, and there is a trend towards moving away from monoliths. And I feel like a lot of. Business projects and transformation programs have historically tended to be more monolithic we're we are going to in our ivory tower, make the change and disseminate the change. Yep. And then everything will be better after we have done the change and anyone who doesn't follow it is wrong and should be punished, , and I, I feel like there's a lot more of good organizational change management and.

 

[00:45:50] Heath Gascoigne: IO psych and other things that are starting to bleed into how we think about framing, the problem, how we think about understanding context, how we think about validating some of these things. So I'm seeing more conversations in that thing. And that makes me very

 

[00:46:03] Heath Gascoigne: happy.

 

[00:46:04] Heath Gascoigne: Okay. So summary conversations are happening more from the, the people pro people part.

 

[00:46:09] Heath Gascoigne: So I just, just for the, for the audience who just a reminder that Seth is on the other side of the world and the. Problems and issues. And what is happening in America is the same as happening here in the UK and, and Europe that this is, it's almost like , the, the symptoms and the issues are consistent wherever you are.

 

[00:46:32] Heath Gascoigne: It's not isolat or America's very special. And then cause those guys are just on their own and no, this is, this is a symptom of the, of the sector of the industry or the projects programs themselves. So no, so, so yeah, cause I know I'm gonna get a few questions off, but that's America and it's not like that here in the UK, we're no, this is, this is how, this is just how it is.

 

[00:46:53] Heath Gascoigne: So, so it's a very good point there. Good points there. So the, the empathy the conversations, the monolithic is, , none of this big bang and we're gonna, , we're gonna apply it to you and you must adopt otherwise, , basically you're out. So the conversations are happening. I'm, I'm happy to, I am happy to see that I'm even happy to see that they are projects.

 

[00:47:12] Heath Gascoigne: Even they brought me in asked then to this project here. From the technology side to bringing the business business transformation, business people representing the business from technology like, wow. Okay. So things are changing. So that's now, so that that's, that's very good. I, I like what you said about agile about agile doesn't mean going faster, it means your ability to react and that's so good there.

 

[00:47:36] Heath Gascoigne: I I'm gonna use it. Monday, we go back into the office that yeah, they they're trying to implement a whole new organization around agile to be fast. And so I've said the same thing. So this is not unique to, to UK. This is, this is not, I'd have a biased on, on, on this. This is a shared experience. Yeah, absolutely.

 

[00:47:58] Heath Gascoigne: Okay, so Z we'll wrap it up there, but so, so to summarize, so all that you said in a, in a, in a heartbeat, is that your role here your background, project, project design management, moving to customer experience to UX that you represent under, under underrepresented. That is most cases, the people, but people in operations for, for, for the listeners that are hearing there, that is people in the operations.

 

[00:48:24] Heath Gascoigne: So the people that's lives will be changed by these transformations. It means bringing them, involving them, consulting with them, understanding their problems, not just, guessing you, you talked a little bit further on after that, about, , the, the co consensus gathering forming, and then.

 

[00:48:41] Heath Gascoigne: Validating those assumptions. So we're getting away from the, the assumption being the definition. That is what you believe to be true, but you haven't validated it. That's, that's what you're doing. You're validating it to, to your approach on in interrogating interrogating the problem and you interrogating the problem with the your, your three step.

 

[00:49:01] Heath Gascoigne: Approach feasibility, no desirability viability and the feasibility first to make sure it actually exists. So not like technology going, oh, well this is a problem. We think business has got no go to the business. Is it actually a problem? Second, the viability is if, if it could be fixed, will it achieve the outcomes that you intend cost benefit, market share market position.

 

[00:49:24] Heath Gascoigne: And the third feasibility is that do you have the capability to execute? If you don't to buy, build to borrow, you're gonna go out, get it, build it, borrow higher. However, you're gonna do that. When you bring everyone together, you use a tool, a service map that gets it from the customer level down to the so external and the internal users who supports that down to technology and systems that again, support that.

 

[00:49:46] Heath Gascoigne: Former consensus all the assumptions. So this is the universe, so we understand it. So this is you board in the consensus of what actually happens in organization. And then this is your shared assumptions that the, the action items being you go and validate key part there to the audience. And I, and I, I know some guys that are working on watch this as understanding and validating the assumption.

 

[00:50:08] Heath Gascoigne: So here we have, Seth is a, a subject matter expert in it background in, in human psychology and, and also organization psychology. And then we're talking about consensus people, understanding people. Key part. We think these transformations are, are mostly technology driven. No technology is an enabler.

 

[00:50:29] Heath Gascoigne: Yeah. Yeah. Yep. Okay. And then the, the, the things about what is working are not working the area. That is probably not working. Was it a time intolerance and discovery is there is a lack of that. So we need to collectively, , put our hands up and say, look, it's gonna take time and you gotta need to commit the time.

[00:50:47] Heath Gascoigne: I think what maybe the C suite and knows that are, , responsible for the change or they're accountable there heads on the top and block doesn't go well. Is they, they see that let's get some momentum now and okay. We might take some, some technical debt, some change debt here. But it's gonna be less than it is in the future, but it's actually other way around you rush this.

 

[00:51:06] Heath Gascoigne: You're gonna get more technical debt at the end. Yeah. Yeah. So you're just delaying what you think that you're speeding up. You're just rushing towards the big crash at the end of the big technical debt that you've just created. Yeah. And the other one is ITER from a product management sort of thinking as the it of incremental development and then test and.

 

[00:51:26] Heath Gascoigne: On this project here, they have this, oh, this organization actually there's they have a agile philosophy of fail fast. Yeah. And I go, okay. Just be careful with the fail fast part. There's there's always two parts to it. Right? There's to your point, interrogate the problem. When you're asked to build a solution first before you just, just want to go and build it and, and fail fast.

[00:51:50] Heath Gascoigne: As I question. Question that cause I, what I don't see is no one's questioning it. Yeah. Okay. Awesome. And then the, the, the things that you're liking to see there's the conversations are happening, which, , I, I do like is that from an empathy people perspective that conversations are happening and there's some good change management framing the problem and validation that is happening right.

[00:52:11] Heath Gascoigne: That's great. You just

 

[00:52:13] Heath Gascoigne: post just the, the last couple minutes there. We don't need to watch the whole thing. You got it all summarized 

 

[00:52:19] Heath Gascoigne: my man. We did talk about the later on, we'll give you a bit of a breather. , we'll come back in a, in a few months and I'd like to have that conversation around the agile cause that's a different conversation.

 

[00:52:29] Seth Owings: Oh yeah. I'd love to, I I'd love to talk

 

[00:52:31] Seth Owings: about Andrew.

 

[00:52:33] Heath Gascoigne: Yeah. Good stuff. Okay, man, mate. Thank you very much. We'll wrap it up there. I'll keep you updated. Or when this comes live give it a week or two and it'll come up and I'll send you a link and then, then you can go for later. Do what you want for it.

[00:52:43] Seth Owings: Awesome. Thanks so much heath Okay.

 

[00:52:45] Heath Gascoigne: Thank you very much for your time, Steve. Okay. Catch buddy.

Heath Gascoigne Business Transformator

Heath Gascoigne

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.

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