Product Is The New Consulting

frameworksframeworksWhen offered a solution that would positively affect their company in the next 12 months - but could impact their results in the next 3 - 80% of CEOs in large US corporations said they would not go ahead.

… funny - Paul Polman must read the same stuff - see below - though he remembers 75%) … still either number is fundamentally depressing. (I will ‘re-find’ that quote and post it when I do !

Yesterday, I posted this piece about long term thinking in a short term economy. Of course the problem is driven by the quarterly financial reporting that IS the US business world. Everyone plays the game - with one very interesting and notable exception that I heard about yesterday …. Unilever  - who have “putting an end to quarterly reporting and (are) changing the company’s compensation system accordingly.”

Great interview on NPR with Kai Ryssdal BTW.

Polman sees a lot of dangers lurking around the corners for businesses that increasingly worry only about pleasing shareholders every 90 days, with their quarterly reports.

“I saw a recent survey in the U.S. that 75 percent of the CEOs were willing to postpone the right decisions if it would affect their quarterly reporting, and that cannot be healthy for the long-term of the business,” Polman points out.

He lists the ever-shortening tenure of CEOs as one major challenge for companies in today’s global economy. He’s been at Unilever for four-and-a-half years – longer than many peers at other major corporations.

Hold that thought - because I had lunch with a buddy a couple of weeks ago - and in the process we covered off solving all the world’s business problems (needless to say we also discovered - if not created - several more).

One of the topics was categorisation.

I talk and write a lot about stove pipes and how Social Business is breaking down (we ‘hope’, but that’s a different topic) those walls. But people are stove piped as well. How often do we hear that someone who has been in Marketing for 15 years, must mean that they can’t know about Sales. Or if you have run operations for a semi conductor company for 10 years - then no way can you be qualified to run a partner program for a SAAS company. And and and …. Everyone suffers from this classification problem, which is one reason why actors have forever taken very very different roles to avoid being type cast.

But in business you are ‘typecast’ (though stove piped is a more accurate word), because of the industrialisation of Business (and Sales in particular). We have stove piped function, organization and people. It is a problem. And it isn’t new. The fact is that though someone might be  known for one thing - there are a lot of other things that they are capable of and do - even though it isnt recognized.

This is actually at the core of the offer for the business I co-founded called Expert Alumni - a business focussed on the ever growing skills gap challenge that is hitting core industries as baby boomers hit returement.

Corporations are masters of ‘management through silo’.

A colleague of mine works specifically in the SAAS space. He is known for very specific models and knowledge that allows a SAAS business to understand itself better - and make more money - more consistently. Sounds good - no ? But with all that we were talking about how cool it would be to deliver a full service. Let’s call it ‘full John’. .  ‘JAAS’ for short - that’s right “John As A Service” - whereby you get to call ‘John’ up - and he would bring his worldly knowledge to bear on the challenge you laid out. It’s rennaisance man right ? The most interesting man in the world model.

“Very Interesting - But it Won’t Work” as Art Carney used to say ….

To quote Einstein

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

… which would suggest that any enterprise that has a problem would do well to bring external people into the organization to solve them - but that is happening less and less.

Some quick observations

… and as I re-read this in the cold light of morning - I have decided to add more as they come up …

  1. We live in tough economic times - and people are without jobs, those with jobs fight hard to keep them
  2. People in corporations are employed to do their job, but to bring in consultants to solve your ‘Wicked Problems’ could be seen as you admitting that you can’t do the job that you are employed to do.
  3. Corporations are increasingly focussed on the short term not the long term (see the opening of this post)
  4. As such, programs of work need to be tightly bound, short in tenure and result driven
  5. The asked for results are often the wrong thing - personally I always like to measure

Now of course, there are plenty of people working in corporations as ‘consultants’ - but I would contend that they are more surrogates for full time workers. And lets not get into how that came to be) And I am specifically excluding those kind of temporary workers. I am talking about the heavy hitting, strategy setting, big thinking consultants that can make a difference …. in the long term.

And all of this JUST at the moment when the need for that thinking is paramount.

I have written before about the need for corporations to think as flat as they can, to be customer centric, to break down the silos. And everybody I talk to agrees. But it isn’t happening because it can’t be solved ….

  • by the self same people that created the problems
  • by people playing defence
  • in three months
  • by a series of projects
  • easily

Which is a core reason behind my thinking that ‘Product is the new Consulting’ and why I have steadily been turning solutions into logical quantifiable products that can be bought through a license.

EMail me at  ‘john [.] philpin [@] beyondbridges [.] net’ if you would like to know more, disagree or have more insights ….or just comment below.

June 14, 2013