Photo by Diego Jimenez / Unsplash

The antidote to business consulting?

One year ago today, together with Tom Bregman, I co-founded Transition Agency, a disruptive startup which aims to be the antidote to business consulting.

Some might suggest that there’s nothing wrong with the consulting industry — after all, companies are still paying consultants to ‘solve’ their problems.

But, in most cases, all that’s being achieved is an incremental improvement in how businesses operate — slightly more profitable, fewer emissions, and less risk to the business than the year before.

This hit home while I was running Future-Fit Foundation. No end of companies wanted to work with us to understand what society required of them — but when they found out just how far away they were, many decided to look elsewhere to get a stamp of approval for what they were already doing.

For me, this stems from a paradox at the heart of our attempt to create a fair and regenerative society — individuals within business are rewarded for achieving short-term outcomes, not for developing the multi-stakeholder collaborations we need to build a resilient ecosystem of businesses.

While discussing what we'd learned at Future-Fit, Tom and I reached three conclusions.

First, we were right about the need for a clear destination for businesses. Incremental thinking didn't put a man on the moon — and if that route had been taken we'd still be at the top of Everest looking up. Businesses will be just as doomed to failure if they respond to today's systemic challenges in an incremental way.

Second, the barriers to fundamental change within organisations are huge — but from our experience in working with wannabe Future-Fit companies, the behaviours needed to overcome those barriers are strikingly consistent across businesses of every shape and size.

Third, those same behaviours are the key to building business resilience in today's world — but they can't be outsourced.

This last point is made in a new book: The Big Con: How the Consulting Industry Weakens Our Businesses, Infantilizes Our Governments, and Warps Our Economies. As the authors put it, “The more governments and businesses outsource, the less they know how to do.”

Relying on consultants to drive change within your organisation is like paying them to go to the gym for you, in the hope that their effort will make you fit. That approach can't work, but consultants encourage it anyway. Since they aim to maximise billable hours, it's not in their interest to get you into shape so that you can do your own heavy lifting in the future.

To build your organisational muscles for change, what you really need is the right guidance in the right place at the right time, backed up by a team of world-class coaches to help you apply it.

That's exactly what Tom and I set out to create. Since then we've been developing a completely new "Business Resilience as a Service" model to deliver what's needed — and I'm delighted to share that Transition Agency is now open for business!