Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The web gives us a critical advantage over this virus

As we come to terms with the news that UK schools are about to close for what could be six months, I find myself reflecting on how lucky we are.
Imagine if this had happened before the mass adoption of the web?

When I was at school there was no internet. A pc was a rarity. Mobile phones unheard of.
I would not have been able to order what I needed online - and there certainly was no opportunity to experience e-learning, virtual classrooms or any of the other digital innovations education has been dancing with, but will now have to adopt on a mass and 'business-as-usual' scale. Imagine facing the next six months without any of that.

Of course, the same is true of business.

The web allows us to continue to trade, to continue to meet and do deals, to collaborate on ideas, concepts, prototypes, launch strategies and projects of all kinds.
We are exceptionally lucky that Covid19 comes at a time when we have the technology to physically self-isolate WHILE socially connecting. This is the only time in history that has been possible.
The web has given us a critical advantage vs this virus.
We can continue pretty much every aspect of trade and education. We can maintain our economic progress. We can do it while improving our relationship with our planet.

All  we have to do is get over the shock and get used to a few new tools.

We can do this.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Covid-19: You can only predict with the data you have. Scary numbers in context

Like so many commenting on this Covid19 crisis - I'm no expert. I just connect the dots to try to understand - just as I do with anything else I experience.

So here's my guess on what the Government is up to:

1. They were always planning to put the vulnerable in a long period of isolation. The bet was that in isolation very few (comparatively) would succumb. They were expecting the 10s of thousands of deaths number they now hope to manage us towards.

2. Acting in this way early enough would allow the wider society to continue to function and - crucially - the NHS to cope.

They assumed that those requiring hospital beds would broadly be in that vulnerable group with limited exposure. But lots of younger folk need some care. They survive - but they need NHS resources. That's what the data shows from Lombardy - and that creates the crisis point for the NHS.

I think the tipping point moment for the Government was when they recognised (only this weekend) that there were likely to be up to half a million cases in the UK already - not the few thousand detected. In that scenario it is highly likely that those now being asked to isolate for months include large numbers who have already come into contact with the virus.

That could result in significantly higher numbers of deaths than an earlier invocation of isolation for the vulnerable would have caused.

If you take a (broadly) mid-point mortality rate between the Chinese and Italian experiences you end up with 100,000s of thousands dieing in the UK. This sounds scary big but remember, 550,000 people die in the UK every year and many of those this virus will be accountable for are substitutional rather than additional (ie folk who may well have died in the same 12 month period).

To provide some further context, if 100,000 people do die in the UK - that's one in 600. Alcohol or drugs kills 1 in 34 , heart disease 1 in 4. And the average American has a 1 in 77 chance of being killed by firearms.

Had we moved to isolate the vulnerable earlier, the period of social distancing for the rest of us that is now required could have been significantly shortened. But you can only predict with the data you have. And that 500,000-cases-in-the-uk guestimate is very new.

My guess is now that restrictions will only be lifted once the vulnerable are secured and the hospitalisation-rate among them calculated.

The Great Pause has begun.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The business logic of Planet Experience

There has never been a better time to shift the way you create value to elevate the planet's experience to the level of the customer's experience (Planet Experience). 

Analysis by PwC in 2018 showed while 72% of companies mention the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their annual reporting, only 27% include them in their business strategy. What that says is that they value sustainability - but struggle to make it part of their business as usual.

In Planet Experience, we have a framework for operationalising sustainability and placing it at the heart of value generation and business strategy.

Planet Experience makes for a better business model. Costs fall, innovation drives increased benefits.

1. In acting fast - being proactive - you gain market leadership and get ahead of legislation. 
2. You attract and retain customers, talent, investment. 
3. Drive creative innovation. 
4. Reduce risk to supply chain.
5. Cut energy costs.
6. Cut raw materials costs.
7. Cut water costs. 
8. Cut waste disposal costs. 
9. Savings fund transformation costs. 
10. Sustains the eco-system in which you wish to seek to continue to generate profits. 

Evidence? Take a look at the Ray Andersen TedTalk below. 
Now you are ready to act - get in touch. First hour free 1-2-1 consultancy via video link until the end of April.

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Friday, February 28, 2020

Reframing consulting for the next decade

Consulting's core activities are being outmoded by the rise of digital and the demand for digital transformation.

An hypothesis: Clients need consulting to be reconfigured to prioritise and master:
  • Handling ambiguity
  • Enabling sustainability
To illustrate why I believe these are the fundamentals of successful consulting in the next 20 years, I am going to (first) reference Dave Snowden's Cynefin framework - a conceptual framework to support decision making. The following illustration is from Dave's Cognitive Edge site. 


Consulting has, for the most part, operated in the ‘good practice’ area of the ‘Complicated’ upper right quadrant shown above. This is the realm of: Sense - Analyse - Respond  (in order to decide/act). The connections between cause and effect are complicated but knowable. Experience and expertise help discern those connections. And that has been the role of the consultant - the subject matter expert.

In many 'Systems Integrators', some of what also gets called consulting has has even fallen into the ‘bring the best practice’ area of the Obvious (see above). Here connections between cause and effect are well known and clearly visible. You just need to Sense-Categorize-Respond (see typical Business Analysis and vendor assessment work). The latter is commoditised, the former is outmoded by today’s digital requirements. 

Now the need is to handle the ambiguity of cause and effect experienced in Complex environments.

In complexity the connections between cause and effect are unknown. This is the realm of experiment, trying, new ways, understanding the connections by finding them. That's not analysis. No expert has a head start. The expertise required is in reading emergence (ie making sense) and in responding (ie getting on and doing as the best way of validating the emerging value. We can and should become expert in that.

Today's problem statements are far less of the 'How can I best respond to what I know?' variety and more of the 'How can I better understand what it is?' The latter can help us get to the former, but leaping straight to the former is an error in complex environments.

So consulting has to change what it does and how it does it, to:

1. Deal with the ambiguous, complex requirements of the digital world.

And that's not all...

Customer Experience has driven digital transformation to date - now there is a new dimension to CX to consider - Planet Experience (PX).


Customer Experience drove the last 20 years of business success. Digital Transformation consulting has recognised this with the culture-change, processes and platforms to serve great CX.

Sustainable success in the next 20 years demands we add a new dimension to Experience. To great CX, (and the accompanying Employee Experience and Workplace Experience longevity demands) we must add PX - the elevation of the relationship with the planet to the level of the relationship with the customer.

I have written at length on #px in recent posts and shared initial frameworks for value generation and org maturity assessment. Core to this is the understanding that customers, employees and the culture of successful orgs over the next 20 years will demand we understand and create value for the planet just as much as we have the customer in the previous 20 years.

And just as those organisations that were built to partner the customer from the word-go ended up out-competing incumbents when they reached the scale of their older rivals, so, my hypothesis suggests, those organisations that are built to partner the planet will do so to the benefit of people and profit, too.

Example frameworks include the following:
Given the PX imperative, consulting has to change what it does and how it does it, to:

Deal with the ambiguous, complex requirements of the digital world.


Handle the rising prioritisation of concerns for the planet.

Situational analysis (with the aid of Wardley Maps) shows us there is an increasing need to make sense at scale - revealing the task of the 21st Century consultant is to create confidence (on the certainty axis below) in complexity.

There is high demand for, but low understanding of digital transformation. This is evidenced by the high use of the term and the wide variety of meanings applied. We are far from 'Defined' (see above) yet demand is close to Common (on the Ubiquity axis). This suggests an urgent need to shift from hand-made solutions (Genesis) to take our clients toward greater certainty.

To do this we Productise as many of the capabilities that deliver emerging best practice as we can - ie we have to become expert in discovering emerging practices in complexity through repeatable and scalable ways of Probing, Sensing and Responding with end-user facing artefacts as rapidly as possible.

These ambiguity-handling activities respond to the need to move clients to greater certainty, enabling them to take advantage quickly as each practice emerges; productising the output at speed and achieving confidence (greater certainty) as each is defined.

As each new understanding of part of the complex emerges, this will drive value-building activities, creating higher-order outputs - just as productised nuts and bolts enable the building of higher order products when they replaced hand-made objects at the start of the industrial revolution.
The above slide illustrates some principles of action - mapping the amount of productisation vs customisation required in consulting activities across the project lifecycle.  Ambiguity is at its highest in the early steps.

Of course, how you act on the strategic imperatives I have outlined above will vary depending on your organisation's cultural, quality and profit goals. 

What is consistent is that different kinds of skills and ways of working will be a basic requirement of Consulting 2020 and beyond. For example:

  • Divergent thinkers who seek to work at the speed of digital.
  • Those who have comfort with ambiguity- learned through experimentation.
  • Natural and continuous disruptors.
  • Less focused on analysis and more focused on evidence-through-testing to answer clear business questions
  • Those skilled in start-ups, experienced entrepreneurs.

Processes and products focused on delivering emerging practice. eg:
  • Hypothesis generation/ideation.
  • Rapid, insight and value-led iterative prototyping of strategies as well as of products and services.
  • Tools and capabilities to prioritise and roadmap with an eye on the horizon for disruption.
  • Frameworks for PX in sustainable businesses.
  • Processes for the rapid productising (and scaling) of emergent practices.
Taken in total, this understanding and the action it requires of us, provides both the ambition and vision for Consulting for the next decade; its mission:
Create confidence in complexity for people, planet and profit by handling ambiguity and enabling sustainability.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Sustainable value propositions demand the integration of PX

Click to enlarge. Feel free to download and share.
Treating the planet with the respect we have come to understand must be accorded to our customers is not only a 'nice to have' - a box to tick in the latest ESG commitment or vision statement - it is a business imperative in the customer relationships of the next 20 years.

Just as great Customer Experience treats the customer as your partner in a relationship of mutual benefit, so Planet Experience elevates the relationship you have with the planet as one of mutual benefit. The purpose of great customer experience is to reduce the cost of customer acquisition (through recommendation, retention, brand extension cross-sale, upsale etc). It ultimately generates a relationship of trust which is the key ingredient in increased Lifetime Value (LTV).

Planet Experience offers a way for us to integrate the increasing concern your customer has for their planet. The planet can't trust you. Your customer can. But unless you integrate PX, they will see you as the enemy - the exploiter of the thing on which their life -and that of their children - depends.

That is a very powerful motivator. And one you should be integrating into your relationship with them right now.

I have shared frameworks to approach this in previous posts. Today I share a simple way to get started on this with Customer Value Propositions (see diagram). We must ensure PX is one of the key constituents.

Customers know the high price of low cost. It's up to you to demonstrate that when they trade with you there is not just reduced damage to the environment vs alternatives. You need to construct value propositions which call out the benefit they deliver for PX as much as they benefit they deliver for the customer.

Good luck - you've got the whole world in your hands.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?