Creating Value and large scale change via being Eclectic

The dumbing of OD has led to use of tinned OD solutions, superimposed on complex organizational situations. Management via IT process and the need of managers  to look great as soon as as possible has led to massive use of these tinned solutions. When these tinned solutions fail, the vendor can be blamed and another “vendor” hired.

There is another much better of doing things however, as this post illustrates. I will illustrate a complex project based on a totally eclectic approach.

A large corporation hired me to work on a prolonged crisis between the central HQ-based Technical Presales Team and the various RSTs, i.e., Regional Sales Teams in South East Asia, Japan, China, Europe and the Americas.

There had been turf wars between the HQ-based function and each of RSTs, yet the reasons for the turf wars were different. Ideally it would have made sense to decentralize Technical Presales, but due to the lack of product experts, it was impossible.

A well-known consulting firm had just failed in this very endeavour, leaving behind a bible filled with process flow, roles and responsibilities, and what have you. My mandate was to `create uniformity“ so that everyone `works to processes”. I turned this mandate down, and suggested a more eclectic approach.

My point of contact was a very competent HR manager, very unlike my Gloria character. The HR manager and I agreed that the solution may not be uniform, and the starting point will not be the bible of processes, rather, we will do whatever works, with a very eclectic approach.

Quickly I discovered that there was huge variance in the HQ Technical Presales –RST interface between regions.

·      In some countries, the sales force was equipped only with `connections“ and after clients’ doors were opened, the RST expected that technical pre sales do everything else, including signing the deal and legal work.

·      In other countries, the RST was highly technical and all they wanted from Technical Presales was promotional marketing material!

·      In another set of countries, the Technical Presales Team was seen as “bunch of spies for corporate“ serving as an unneeded gate to prevent selling of customization of the products to local needs. Thus, the RST did everything alone, bypassing Technical Presales; however corporate could not build the customizations that the RSTs sold.

My work did not focus on all RSTs at once. First, I did a show case project with one area (Europe) and the change was very positive. The CEO and senior executives bragged about the `turn-round“ between Europe RST-HQ Technical Presales in several senior forums. Eventually, my project expanded to each RST and a 3 year effort was crowned as a major success.

The solution in each RST looks very different. In some RST`s, we worked on trust and communications, in other RST`s, we worked on mutual expectations. In yet other RST`s, we needed to replace managers with negative political agenda. In the Technical Presales team, there was a 10% increase in headcount and a massive investment in travel and personal effectiveness coaching.

The procurement department in this company had recommended not hiring me. There was no scope of work I was willing to commit to a priori, I could not estimate budget, and my travel expenses were high.

Three months into the second year of the project, the Head of Procurement told me that he heard that `the results are worth the investment, even though you (Allon) did not handle the initial  negotiation “appropriately”. And he has a point.

All thru the project, HR provided me with air cover, promoting the eclectic approach of tinkering, seeing what works and solving the problem.

No workshops or OD pre-packaged modules were used.

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Is OD hard to explain?

In my last post on OD as a commodity, I received a comment stating that OD is  difficult to market, since it is hard to explain what OD actually does. In parallel, Change Management is far more “explainable” and user friendly for the client…..except that Change Management often does not deliver.

This comment deserves some elaboration.So this post will relate to the difficulty of marketing OD, and what I propose as a strategy to promote your practice.

I believe that OD is not a commodity and not marketable as such. Were OD to be a commodity, marketing OD would be easier. There are marketing experts who know how to package commodities and lessen “shelf time”. (Unsold hours are shelf time in the OD world). In many cases, these marketing experts succeed in perfuming the pig, passing off stones as pearls, as is the case with change management programs.

OD is a professional service and can be promoted as such. However, OD  has uncomfortable truths:

  • We cannot predict when an projects ends successfully.
  • We need to confront management all the time.
  • In some cases, we cannot work with the focal point with whom clients want us to work (HR).
  • Our output cannot be measured in KPI’s or by procurement folks.
  • You need a long term investment in OD to see results.

The above makes OD unmarketable in the traditional ways that professional services are promoted. So how do you spread the word and promote your practice?  Here are a few guidelines.

1-Do good work. This is by far the greatest thing you can do to promote your practice. The more “non commodity” OD work is, the more traction is created that will spread the word.

2-In OD, big is bad.Stay small to leverage your advantage and use your knowledge for clients. Experienced consultants need to spend their time with clients;  if the experienced consultants are running big businesses, their time is invested in teaching people who often do not meet client’s expectation.

3-Network with people you have worked with and maintain relationships. Look at your relationships like the only sales tool you have.

4-Price high. High prices sell-as long as you deliver value.

5-Stop trying to explain what OD is. Tell stories of what you have done, and have other clients explain the value you have brought.

To wrap up….this winter albeit a flu shot, I had a very violent case of the flu which knocked  the crap out of me, despite the fact that I am in very good shape. It took me a month to get back to my daily running. My doctor’s advice was not to focus on running, but focus on breathing exercises and stretching….then the ability to run will return-as it did. So…focus on doing great work and meeting people, and let’s put aside explaining our profession as a commodity.

Follow me @AllonShevat

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