Eliat Aram on the role of the Tavistock Institute in developing leadership

16 November 2018 Consultancy.uk

With entities in the public, private and charity sectors facing seismic shifts in the way daily operations are run, thanks to digital transformation, changing workforce demographics and a multitude of other issues, short-term fixes simply aren’t enough to guarantee a group’s long-term success. Speaking with Consultancy.uk, Tavistock Institute CEO Eliat Aram explained the importance of not-for-profit organisations in helping entities of all shapes and sizes build for the future.

Founded in 1958, professional services group Sioo was formed by eight Dutch universities, in collaboration with players from the consulting industry. Focusing partially on the scientific sector, the not-for-profit institution supports clients with managing organisational change and transitioning to a more agile, future-proof business model. In order to celebrate its 60th anniversary, Sioo is hosting a special event on 27th November 2018, which will be attended by alumni, teachers, partners and a host of others representatives interested in organisational development. Sioo Next 60 is a day-long event hosted in the Dutch city of The Hague, and will feature a number of expert speakers, including Dr Eliat Aram , CEO of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, based in London, UK.

When speaking with Consultancy.uk, one of the things Aram was keen to flag up straight away is that Tavistock Institute is not like other consultancies. Like Sioo, having been around for 70 years now, the company is still run as a not-for-profit, working nationally and internationally to promote a learning culture in organisations and communities through developing the capacity of talent to think through actions, change and put into practice new insights, while accompanying a process of change of quality of conversations and engagement. The firm’s clients are diverse, ranging from public sector organisations, including the European Union, several British government departments and third sector, to private clients.

“We are a bit of a misfit in the world, we are not this, we are not that,” Aram expanded, “but from that, we derive quite a lot of creativity. We are not a university organisation or a think tank; we are not a typical consultancy, but our position between the two means we can fill in areas where the field does not usually go. We want to be on the ground and engaged while applying critical thinking, to ultimately make a difference in society. We also have an activist side to us, even taking on issues around social justice in our global reach.”Eliat Aram - CEO at The Tavistock Institute

Unconventional roots

Aram herself is the first to admit that she did not have a conventional journey into consulting work. Born and raised in Israel, she came to the UK “for one year,” 24 years ago. Noting her academic background, she obtained a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Hertfordshire. It was there that she developed as an inter-disciplinary practitioner, straddling work from psychology and psychotherapy to organisational development consultancy and coaching, having been invited to join the Complexity & Management Centre, to study and understand organisational dynamics and behaviour using the lens of complexity and chaos theories.

While still having trained in psychotherapy to become a clinician as well, in 2005 Aram joined the Tavistock Institute full-time, pulled by her interest in working within an independent organisation to apply academic ideas to business and society. In 2008, she had become CEO, though it proved to be something of a baptism of fire for the then-new boss. “On my first day in this position, the financial system collapsed (Lehman Brothers). When I arrived I knew little about how to run an organisation, amid all this chaos, so it provided me with quite a learning curve, but an important opportunity to learn and make an impact at a key moment.”

According to Aram, another thing that sets the Tavistock Institute apart, and makes it a perfect fit for her mixed training, is the way the firm operates. She explained, “We do a lot of work to helping clients resolve internal conflicts, and teaching them to think critically to find where this could be a systemic solution… We work with multidisciplinary teams to identify issues which perhaps were hidden and work to help organisations put on the table issues which were maybe under the table before, maybe avoided or even denied.”

Further explaining what sets the Tavistock Institute apart, she added, “We don’t believe in short-term quick fixes, instead we look for hidden or unconscious issues. As a result, our work often takes a much longer period of engagement, but what we do in that time is develop the internal capacity, so when we leave, we are sure to leave an organisation which is able to examine itself critically.”

A slow-burn approach might occasionally be difficult for clients to swallow, in an economy driven by a lust for short-term results, but the Tavistock Institute’s achievements suggest that it is a technique which ultimately rewards patience. The group has won numerous accolades recently, and last month, it was named the Best Business Change & Development Consultancy at the Greater London Enterprise Awards for the second successive year.

“We don’t believe in short-term quick fixes… Our work often takes a much longer period of engagement… so when we leave, we are sure to leave an organisation which is able to examine itself critically.”

Moving forward

Aram also stressed the importance of teamwork in moving any project forward. The firm seeks to tailor its solutions by working extensively with clients to match the skills of consultants to the needs of businesses. Aram elaborated, “We tend not to work alone, so we don’t work with an idea that we have already got all the solutions. On the contrary we look at our own dynamics in our team and what they might bring to the client. We therefore spend a lot of time as a team to make sense of what is happening.”

Recently, the Tavistock Institute has worked with a broad range of entities to deploy these methodologies. This includes being commissioned by Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) to develop and assess an Armed Forces Community Healthcare Navigation pilot in South Birmingham; being engaged by The Big Lottery Fund, alongside DMSS and CWASU to support the Women and Girls Initiative to form a community of networked services that is stronger and has greater influence; and working with NEETs in Action to develop an intervention, based on existing methodologies, to reduce the risk of young people to become NEETs (‘Not in Education, Employment, or Training’) across Europe.

Having also addressed a a wide audience as part of the TIHR 70th anniversary festival last year, explaining the role of “orphans” or “misfits” in the world, Aram will be speaking at Sioo Next 60 to illustrate why she believes organisations like the one she leads and like-minded Sioo are so important. The key contribution firms of this nature can provide, according to Aram, is aesthetic and compassionate leadership.

She concluded, “To be out there and engaged in the world is important for us, to make a difference. It’s again about that hybrid position we operate within, where we can inform ourselves and our clients with our assessments, as well as helping to act and change according to them.”

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How a change toolkit can help consultants deliver transformation

23 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Changefirst is a company that provides a cloud-based transformational change toolkit to consultants and companies. David Miller, Founder of Changefirst, sat with Consultancy.uk to discuss how the toolkit known as ‘Roadmap Pro’ adds value to consultants. 

When David Miller called time on his 15-year career with American Express to found Changefirst in 1995, change management was a different animal altogether. According to Miller, even as recently as five years ago, the business of change was much more manageable. The pace of change was slower and project timescales were longer.

Since then, however, the accelerating pace of change and the widespread impact of digital transformation has completely transformed the role of change management professionals. Those working in change management now face more projects, with diversified end-goals, new ways of working (e.g. agile), and are left with shorter timescales to deliver them. The drastic alteration in the sector prompted the IT and services company based in West Sussex to develop a new SaaS-based toolkit for implementing change more effectively.

An example of this is that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based services in the HR technology space have been steadily increasing in recent years, as companies explore ways in which to reduce costs and access new innovation in the space. SaaS can reduce the cost of ownership, an HR department’s dependence on IT support, improve employee experience, and increase the speed at which value is yielded by change.

How a change toolkit can help consultants deliver transformation

Speaking to Consultancy.uk, Miller explained, “The pressure from digital transformation and the race to reinvent business processes means that the sheer pace and volume of change projects can be overwhelming and chaotic. Organisations needed a whole new way to respond to the challenge – one that is quick and easy to use and supported collaborative working; one that is online and can rapidly scale across the organisation itself. We saw these trends emerging and they were the inspiration for developing the Roadmap Pro tool as a SaaS-based approach to implementing change projects.”

Consulting sector

The SaaS toolkit provided by Changefirst, named Roadmap Pro, has the potential to yield value for consulting industry incumbents, as they are so often drafted in by clients to oversee complex change programs. However, firms might still be skeptical of the need for an external tool to do something that in essence is already part of their core business, and something they theoretically know inside out.

When asked how Changefirst believes it can make inroads into the consulting sector, Miller noted that not all consulting firms have the same level of change management capabilities. Indeed, the toolkit is designed to be tailored to firms, depending on their level of know-how.

“Our solution can help and how consultants choose to use it is likely to differ based on the change management maturity of their firm," Miller explained. "The more capable firms can utilise Roadmap Pro to increase productivity, improve client delivery, consistency and to rapidly on-board new hires and contractors. Less capable firms also might want all these benefits too, but it's highly likely they also want the ability to rapidly increase their client-facing change management capabilities.”

The toolkit is an ‘Out-of-the-Box’ solution, supported by Changefirst’s service offering, which enables clients to deliver higher time-to-value returns compared to other approaches. It is mostly configurable, and the ability to customise it is increasing during 2019, with Changefirst working with new clients to make changes that ensure the software meshes with their clients' implementation methods, while giving them the advantages of the installed content. The system takes the best practice content the firm has built up since it first launched, and makes it available in a state-of-the art, SaaS-based software solution.

“We’ve spent 25 years building our ‘best practice’ model," Miller added. "We have a huge database, that we are able to query, and that tells us a lot about what is happening during change projects. We continuously synthesise that with the lessons we have learned from working with over 300 organisations around the world. This has enabled us to build a methodology which was described by Forrester Research as one of the three most used change management methodologies in the world.”

“We’ve spent 25 years building our ‘best practice’ model... We continuously synthesise that with the lessons we have learned from working with over 300 organisations around the world.”
– David Miller, Changefirst

Roadmap Pro uses this wealth of experience for three key building blocks, which integrate these capabilities: effective online learning; change management diagnostics and analytics; and pre-populated change management planning. It also creates high levels of client engagement, enabling consultants to easily collaborate with clients.

Feedback

There have been some fears in the consulting sector that the leveraging of technology could risk the cannibalisation of hourly work. However, Miller regards this more as an opportunity than a problem.

He argued, “If you look at all the reporting from the analyst community, it’s becoming clear that clients want more digital support and what is called 'Reusable Assets'. In other words, they want IP that consultants have used left behind so they can continue to use it. Consultants now have a big opportunity to create continuous revenue streams and client ‘stickiness’ by using digital tools on assignments and then letting clients continue to use their tools. These firms will also sell more hours and generate more opportunities by on-selling and supporting clients' use of the tool.”

Indeed, the benefits seem to have already been judged to outweigh the perceived risks. Roadmap Pro was only launched in early 2018, but Changefirst’s partners are already using it to deliver a variety of major projects. These include usage in a major real estate change for a European media company; in the outsourcing global IT services for a Brazilian manufacturing company; for implementing a new global HR business model for a European chemical company; and for implementing industry changing technologies for both infrastructure and for new ways of working in a major transportation organisation.

According to Miller, clients have already presented the toolkit with “tremendous” feedback. The interface and the marriage of content and software have drawn particular praise, but Miller concluded that the bigger picture here is that Roadmap Pro can help the firms looking to challenge the Big Four. Indeed, with many firms looking to leverage technology to increase their competitiveness and digital presence, technology like Roadmap Pro is undoubtedly playing a role in seeing such companies win more of the bids against larger organisations around the world.