Mutterings of a consultant

June 2, 2008

Does power really go to the people?

Filed under: worklife — grantfrear @ 2:00 am
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We all have an ability to voice our views through blogs, facebook and various other web2.0 mechanisms.  This ability is however restricted (if that is the right word) to the public domain.  Very few of us have the ability and permission to engage in a similar way within the organisations within which we work.  While arguably the social domain is more interesting than the enterprise domain it seems that enterprises are missing out on a great deal.  

This was the recent topic of a post by Andrew McAfee from Harvard Business School.  He was invited to discuss management challenges and positioned this issue at the centre of the issues that he sees.  For those who have not heard of Andrew McAfee he coined the term Enterprise 2.0 and is the leading thinker in adapting Web2.0 and applying it within an enterprise.  

He makes a very good point about the use of Web2.0 within enterprises.  It does not transfer decision rights, the management team are still responsible for the decisions and management of the organisation.  In this way management power does not go to the people.  What these tools can do is connect the management to the people and to harness the enthusiasm and commitment of the people for the benefit of both the organisation and the individual.

Most organisations persist in one-way communications (top down) with a slight interruption in the form of management 360 degree feedback surveys.  Enterprise-discourse (the enterprise equivalent to social discourse) is left to the lunch room and coffee breaks.  As such it very rarely makes it to the attention of management.  The net result: lost ideas, disaffected staff, disconnected management.

Enterprise2.0 is not about handing the keys over to the team, rather a more positive and inclusive way of engaging the team.  Lets hope that today’s leaders can recognise this and have the strength to embrace it.


May 22, 2008

Consulting 2.0 – adding to my thoughts

Filed under: General rambling,worklife — grantfrear @ 9:05 pm
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In a previous post I presented some open questions about Consulting 2.0.  The main reason for presenting open questions was that I really had no formed ideas on what Consulting 2.0 actually is.  All I could find on the web was bitter posts by disgruntled ex-Consultants.  So where did this leave me?  In that somewhat uncomfortable place where one has to think for oneself, put ideas on paper and see what people think.  So here it is (comments and critique appreciated).

Purpose of consulting – best start at the beginning

The way I see it the purpose of Consulting is to apply experience, knowledge and expertise to help a client change.  Clearly change comes in many guises and therefore this broad definition allows for advisory engagements, implementation engagements, strategy engagements etc.

Consulting 1.0 – how have we traditionally delivered on the purpose

Consulting has typically been practiced through people.  The model of Consulting 1.0 is to bring experience, expertise and knowledge to the client through a people channel.  Teams, large and small, descend on the client and practice their craft.  Approaches differ, some are more collaborative, some present themselves as the sage.  What is common however is that the client must buy people to get access to the experience, expertise and knowledge.  Other aspects of Consulting 1.0 that are easy to observe include – proprietary methodologies, closed engagements delivered by one firm, protecting property etc.  In Consulting 1.0 value comes from what you have managed to harvest internally and how you can channel this through your people.

Consulting 2.0 – emergent methods to delivering on the purpose

One of the issues with Consulting 1.0 is that it does not scale.  People are a constraint to growth and ultimately constrain clients and their ability to change (i.e. get access to people and experience).  There are however emerging models whereby services can and are being delivered in ways that ease the reliance on people.  One of the challenges with these models is to ensure that the value proposition is redefined, no point selling the IP and experience without the people as this will chip away at the bedrock of your business.  Emerging models are packaging the IP into services that support the core business, to bring revenue to the Consultant when the client is helping themself change.  A recent example of this in my world is the leadership academy.  This sets about helping clients improve the leadership capabilities in their businesses.  It brings together great IP from consultants (in this case human capital expertise), packages this with contemporary thinking from business schools and wraps this together to support the core services (people oriented) of the consultant.

So in summary my current thoughts on Consulting 2.0 is summarised as follows

– Less reliant on people to support change in clients

– More open and less protective of IP

– More collaborative

– Complimentary to 1.0 models not a complete substitute

– Technology enabled

– Scalable

– Supports change in clients when the consultant is not there

April 25, 2008

Enterprise 2.0 – even some accountants get it

Filed under: worklife — grantfrear @ 1:23 am
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My peers from Australia are commitment to innovative business ideas.  One such example is the adoption of Enterprise2.0 and Web2.0 in a business that is more frequently associated with conservative accountants.

So going back to the Internal Audit pitch I mentioned in a previous post.  Much to my surprise our proposal included innovative ideas on use of Enterprise2.0 and Web2.0.  Not only was this the last thing that I had expected in a proposal for internal audit but also to my surprise the lead audit partner was articulate, knowedgeable and enthusiastic about Enterprise2.0.  In fact this enthusiasm went as far as the Australian team developing a prototype wiki and blog to demonstrate how we would work with the client in a modern collaborative model.

This clearly demonstrated to me that our team in Australia had fully understood the potential impact and uses of Web2.0 technologies and Enterprise2.0 thinking. Internal audit is at its core a collaborative activity, client and consultant work together to review and provide a degree of challenge to the actions of a management team. What better way to get client and consultant working together than through a Web2.0 platform. A wiki through which reports can actually be developed by a virtual team, online environments to share experiences and to capture knowledge and learning, blog sections to allow the open sharing of knowledge and the discussion of critical issues.

As you can tell I was very impressed by both the thinking and the commitment. A few of my team have approached my about the use of Facebook as a business tool. Clearly I am very supportive and in true Enterprise2.0 style I am not applying any controls or structures onto what they are developing. The power of Enterprise2.0 is that it develops and changes in a way that makes most sense to the participants. I will no doubt put up a post when my team has something to show for their curiosity.

In the meantime if anyone is interested check out Ning and create your own social network.


April 18, 2008

Multi-disciplined teams (again)

Filed under: worklife — grantfrear @ 1:49 am

I know I have written about this before however I had such a great experience recently that it warrants a little more discussion. 

I was recently drafted into a team to present a pitch to a client for internal audit work.  My initial reaction to this was to groan.  Not only was I very busy but internal audit is something that I do not really have a passion for.  If I was to spend my evenings preparing I would rather it be on something that excites me.  Needless to say I got over myself and put as much as I could into the presentation.

The process by which we brainstormed the content was by no means optimal however when we all managed to get together for our rehersals something magic happened.  Not only did we gel as a team but we also started to see the opportunity from each others perspective.  As we talked through the presentation content we all started to develop a more robust understanding of the client’s issues and their vision.  Not one of us had a complete and comprehensive picture until we came together, each with our own experiences, opinions and areas of expertise.

We pitched up on the day for our presentation and suprised even ourselves.  We had passion, insight, perspective, wisdom and showed that we were a tight team and were committed to the client and their vision.  One of our team had a quote (see below) that unfortunately hit the cutting room floor during rehersals.  I thought that it was great so here it is.

“When our views come from a common source we are likely to be surprised together – and with greater magnitude and impact.  Things work best when we are busy forming our own independent views and sharing these with our colleagues”

April 14, 2008

Discovery vs. experienced based processes

Filed under: worklife — grantfrear @ 10:12 am
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I have for a while been thinking about ‘process centric’ consulting.  This form of consulting is particularly good for solving problems that are unique and advice based.  In this situation the consultants value comes from the fact that they have a process or methodology to solve a particular problem.  This approach has been the bread and butter for consultants for years. 

From time to time a problem appears that requires a different approach.  Most often this is the result of a well known or common problem presenting itself to the client.  In this case the client values the consultants experience.  Where have you done this before?  What solutions should I be evaluating?  These are the questions that indicate that you have stumbled into one of these situations.

Applying a process centric method to these problems can really frustrate a client.  They can percieve this approach as learning on the job, of taking too much time, of being unsure and uncertain. 

It is clearly important to recognise the situation you are in, apply the right approach and make sure that the team you have deployed on the problem is appropriate to the problem itself.

In summary: 

Process based problem solving model looks like this:

  • investigate-interview-analyse-recommendation

Experience based problem solving model looks like this:

  • hypothesis/expectation-current state-gaps-recommendation

April 2, 2008

Workplace design

Filed under: worklife — grantfrear @ 8:56 am
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We are currently planning to move to a new office.  This is a significant event on a number of fronts.  Not only is it a hugely expensive exercise and requires a huge commitment, it also provides an opportunity to review culture and the role that the workplace/environment plays in recruitment, retention and performance.

The first of many decisions has been made.  When confronted with the decision to move to a part of the city that is in the middle of urban regeneration or a main street location we decided for the safe option, main street it is.  While there is great potential in developing areas of cities the amount of unknowns was simply too much.  In my mind this is just the start.

Tradition 1 – 0 Contemporary

The next frontier is the fitout.  We currently have a very traditional workplace.  It looks somewhat like a filing cabinet for people.  It encourages order, conformity and following tradition.  Much has been written about the role of the environment in creating a culture.  For example innovation seems to thrive in open plan, non-hierarchical environments.  While for a time it seemed the battle in workplace design was Funky vs. Functional.  Now it seems that you can have the best of both worlds, Funky and Functional. 

The following pictures should provide some food for thought.  These are images of the Google offices in Zurich, a city that has a strong brand of tradition.

March 24, 2008

Visual Thinking

Filed under: worklife — grantfrear @ 1:38 am

Perhaps its is because I have broken my arm that I have rekindled an interest in visual thinking. While one handed typing is certainly a slow and error prone existence, it is more likely the recent article in fastcompany that made me stop and look into this again. It seems that corporates are investigating visual alternatives to help address complex porblems. Even Microsoft under the leadership of a NZ CFO resorted to images in an attempt to explain and improve corporate financial reporting.

So where has this latest research sent me; firstly to amazon to buy a recently published book; secondly to a blog ( and thirdly to YouTube for something entertaining.

March 12, 2008

Multi-disciplinary Teams

Filed under: worklife — grantfrear @ 12:08 am
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I have recently started work as part of a multi-disciplinary team through the Committee for Auckland.  While I have been in similar named teams in a business environment the disciplines represented are typically the many disciplines of business.  This group is truely different combining people from business, government, healthcare, engineering and creative disciplines.

The mandate of this team is to bring people together to work on issues that relate to the Auckland region.  While the team is still forming it is clear that working within a multi-disciplined team is both rewarding and challenging. 

Rewarding – getting insights into how different people think about issues, opening your eyes to the talents of others, better understanding of talent across disciplines

Challenging – having your views challenged from a perspective you know little about, getting people focussed on a single goal, translating insights into action

These challenges have been overcome before and no doubt the team that I am working with will come through early teething problems.  My experience thus far is giving me a better understanding of how IDEO (widely recognised as one of the worlds most innovative companies) works.  They have a concept of t-shaped people (broad and deep. Broad in their skills and interests and able to work with a wide range of people. Deep in their knowledge and experience in one or more disciplines) and cross-functional collaboration.

Time will clearly tell and I am hoping that I will be able to apply my experience in ways to improve how I work with clients and with my workmates in the future.   

March 5, 2008

Car pooling

Filed under: worklife — grantfrear @ 8:11 am

After realising it would be difficult to manage without a car for work I decided to try a car pooling system recently introduced to Auckland. It is called cityhop and operates in a similar way to schemes in Europe. So today was my first real chance to use the service. Somewhat uncertain, having not really read through the user guide and conditions of use, I log into the web site ( and make a booking. The only hiccup encountered was how to exit the Auckland City Council carpark. A quick call to the operators of the service and I was on the road.

Overall a very positive experience that has given me renewed energy to keep riding a scooter to work, to encourage my workmates to continue to investigate public transport options and to stave off the day I need to buy another car to support the family.

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