In this Age of the Customer (AoC), many traditional businesses are under threat and need to change. Organizations often have the need to rethink their business strategy and operating model – but they often don't know how to approach the problem. Today, they tend to ask others to do it for them, when in reality; they need to do this for, and to, themselves.

We’ve been helping our clients rethink how they deliver value to their customers – thinking about how to industrialize their approach by working “Outside-in” – bypassing the political challenges of individual silos. The central part of an engagement is normally focused around a “big-tent” workshop format (with 20-80 people in a room); where cross-functional teams are facilitated and guided to elucidate a set of “service propositions” that together form the core of a future-state – a new way of working, or a new way of engaging each other to solve their own problems, even a new operating model. Along the way, they will use a number of core Forrester techniques– from persona design, through customer journey mapping … before getting down to processes and metrics design.

Rather than one person talking from the front of the room – telling everybody what to think – these teams compete with each other, sharing artifacts and ideas at key stages. Throughout the workshop (typically a 2 day affair), they learn from each other, steal each other’s ideas … they co-create to build their solution. Change is not done to them – the outputs are theirs; the ideas in the service propositions are theirs.The net effect is that it builds engagement and buy-in to the future state solution.

What this workshop format does is break the commitment to the past way of doing things (and organizing the business). Indeed, it also acts as a basis for organizational redesign. At the core, it is about helping a client build a sustainable business transformation effort. If you think of executive coaching as a 1:1 thing, this is more akin to “team coaching” or “organizational coaching” – a coaching approach that draws out the answers they already have, but don’t realize they have.

Of course, there are many things to do in the planning stages such as getting the right people in the room, stakeholder interviews to diagnose the core problems, workshop design (they're always custom designed) … indeed, most of the real work goes in up front. Post workshop, it involves taking the artifacts developed during the workshop and turning that into something that the client can use going forward – probably a target reference architecture for the business, a new operating model, an organizational design. Many things can come afterwards and, of course, the challenge then becomes one of transitioning to this new way of working. Program design, governance frameworks, metrics … the list is endless.

One more thing – this might sound like something that can only happen at a very high level or at the edges of an organization. Well yes, it is entirely appropriate there – but it can also equally apply at the level of a department or function within IT, or some part of marketing. For example, I used it very successfully in one major client’s EA function to help them reinvent themselves. In two days, they went from a disparate bunch with very patchy methods and inconsistent results, to completely nailing the value proposition they deliver internally (both within IT) and to the business as a whole. As a follow on, it now looks highly likely that we will use the method set to help them reinvent a major aspect of their core business (with massive senior executive attention). In another organization, following M&A activity, it’s being used to articulate how the shared services organization needs to change (and operating models that support them). In another, it’s helping a major technology player reinvent themselves. 

The point is that to really change an organization – you've got to change the way you engage the organization. Or putting it another way, your furniture will not transform your organization, you have to engage your employees to do that !!