Thought for the day:Journey to the centre of the business

Communications and outsourcing expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day.

Communications and outsourcing expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day.

We are currently working with BigCo, an ex public sector organisation that was privatised in the mid-80s. Maggie's millions were well spent and you'd never recognise the old company now.

Or would you?

Our role was to help them transform from a project-based culture to a programme-based one. You may have experienced this yourself, it's not really anything to do with project or programme management per se, but the way the company actually operates. You can change the company culture if you can nail it down.

With this customer we were told that they had an entrepreneurial, go-go culture. On the customer facing side they certainly did, but as we dug down into the back offices we found a different culture, one that was risk adverse, product not customer focused, and when we dug even deeper (to the senior management layer) we found a rigid, zero risk and zero tolerance, do as I say, no consultation, just do it, culture.

Now the really strange bit, we didn't find anyone at this level who was around in pre privatisation days! So where had this culture come from?

It seemed as if the old blame, no-risk culture had grown rings of acceptability, and the further out from the centre of control, the more acceptable the image of the company was - assuming that a dynamic, can do image was what you wanted.

Are all companies like this? Can you skewer them, pull out the skewer and find a bore that goes from flexible to solid as you move from the outside in?

We think not, but maybe we haven't reached the centre of every company yet.

What's yours like?

Do all big companies have a central core which is resistant to change? >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Martyn Hart is chairman of the National Outsourcing Association and practice director at Mantix, a consultancy that delivers value from complex programmes.

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