Solving the Change Management Puzzle
David Slight left Microsoft after two decades to build Quora Consulting from the ground up. We talk to him about the importance of cultural change to help with technology adoption. Going independent is never easy. Leaving the greener pastures of an established organization can be a challenging transition for even the most dedicated and patient facility managers. However, if executed correctly, going independent can also be a rewarding experience that opens a host of new possibilities that were previously nonexistent.
No one knows that better than David Slight, president of U.S. operations for Quora Consulting, an independent consultancy with a global presence based in the United Kingdom. The consultancy specializes in helping mid-to-large size organizations transform workplaces and work practices with a focus on improving productivity and controlling costs.
Having worked with Microsoft for two decades, David has years of experience in IT and honed his skills in the world of technology before transitioning into facilities management and eventually building Quora alongside managing director John Blackwell.
We started off by asking David to tell us a little more about himself and why workplace and work practice transformation interested him.
David: John and I have known each other for over 20 years. John comes from the world of commercial real estate, facilities management consulting, and management consulting. I came from the world of technology — I was at Microsoft for 20 years — but we met originally because we were both looking into productivity in the workplace. John and I came together from different perspectives and we worked on this over the years. Both of us realized that technology by itself and the workplace design by itself wasn’t enough. We had a really good working relationship because we were both after the same goal, but also bringing very different perspectives and capabilities into the conversation.
With that history of both being consultants, working over that period of time with a very large number of clients, we built up a unique perspective on workplace strategy being more than just about a place to work. It has to encompass technology, facilities, culture change, process change, but all of these things have to be looked at together. This is really the core of our message, that when you want to bring the strategies of workplace technology, HR and business process together, there’s really only one place you can do that and that’s right at the top of the organization. Large organizations have developed into this delegated hierarchy model where these people basically don’t talk to each other. IT never talks to workplace, HR never talks to etcetera, and so what we’ve been doing over the last five years with Quora now is building models and doing engagements where we get people to bring all perspectives together.
David also told us more about the inspiration behind starting Quora Consulting and the services they provide.
David: When you’re talking about capabilities, you often hear people talk about maturity models. They’re a very well-accepted way of talking about not just the vision or the strategy, but maturity models allow you to lay out an execution plan.
What John and I realized was that we could bring technology, workplace and HR maturity models together into this holistic perspective and that’s exactly what we’ve done. Back in the ‘90s, this thing was a huge spreadsheet and it became an online benchmark and now there’s an app that you can use with clients so not only do they create a model at different stages of their improvement, but they can also see how well they’re doing, measure and track their progress towards these maturity goals.
We asked David to tell us more about what it means to be an independent consultancy and how that label shapes Quora’s approach.
David: Our consultants’ advice is at the capability and enabler level and separate from the partnering relationships that sometimes steer you in the wrong direction. If you get your workplace strategy from a commercial real estate provider then they’re probably going to suggest you have more commercial real estate. Another thing that I would say, which is maybe a little tongue-in-cheek, is if you get your strategy from a big consulting company — they’re going to want to sell you more consulting.
We develop the models, we put the model and the goals in place, we give the organization the ability to track their progress through the maturity model and the app to track and report their own progress. If they want to call someone back in, they can do that, but there’s no necessity to keep having consultants on-site the whole time. That’s really where the independent advisor comes from.
In the same independent vein, we run a series of summits in London with people from all over the world. We run three or four a year and those have been independent because they’re not product pitches, it’s a genuine discussion between people who’ve implemented workplace strategies.
Working with such a large and universally recognized corporation like Microsoft, we asked David about the transition from Microsoft to Quora.
David: I was very lucky by linking up with John, who introduced me to a really great group of people called Workplace Evolutionaries (WE), they’re a community within IFMA. I spent quite a lot of time working with WE and John to understand facilities and that was a big change. I’m still a consultant, I’m still listening to a customer, still bringing perspectives and helping them change, but I was doing it in a completely different area.
We asked David about some of the most important observations he made when running a successful workplace with such a large staff that reaches across so many different departments like Microsoft.
David: About ten years ago, the business consulting team I was part of began to realize people had all this capability in their software and they weren’t using it. In our case the answer was adoption. We spent about four or five years until we realized that it wasn’t necessarily a technical issue, people just weren’t using the capabilities of their software and the parallel is that they weren’t using the capabilities in their workplace.
We went away for another four or five years and the fundamental we came to is that organizational change management is more than just HR and culture change – it’s about the way people work.
We are finally beginning to address adoption. In other words, we have all this capability but. quite frankly, the people just aren’t using it and we’re finally getting to understand why. This is another critical part of it, it’s not just about providing technology or a workplace, you’ve got to have the change processes and the organizational level of change.
This is what I was basically doing for 10 years, trying to understand change management, what it actually means, and what you need to drive adoption. If people don’t use technology or facilities like they’re intended, you might as well have not even bothered.
Having been in the industry for a long time, we asked David about some of the biggest mistakes he sees facility managers make across the board.
David: I’ll be kind to FMs because the IT folk are just as bad. If you think about the organizational model, the budgeting and the investment portfolio model, all of this is delegated. You have support services: infrastructure, HR, even legal and accounting come into this a little bit, but they’re all cost-based, they’re all part of the overhead, they’re not in the value chain of the organization that produces the margin, the profit.
For a long time, these delegated teams and departments got budgets and spent a lot of money. These days, the premium on investment money and the cost base of the organization is critical so there’s been a lot of cost pressure on workplace facilities, on technology to reduce budgets, produce and explain how they’re relevant.
Providing services to a wide range of large corporations from Coca-Cola to Nike, we asked David about the key principles in approaching potential clients with such high profiles.
David: Whether it’s commercial, nonprofit or governmental, whether it’s a global or national organization, today the majority of the cost in any organization is its people. It’s often said 70 percent of the cost is the people, 20 percent is buildings and machinery, and 10 percent is technology and services. We come at it from that people-focused perspective: how are you going to get your people to be more effective?
As every workplace strategist will tell you, the physical environment in which people are doing their work has a huge bearing on the culture and the way they do their work. It’s this idea of bringing it together, it really makes a difference and sets us apart in our approach which made us realize there’s a place for it in nearly all corporations.
To learn more about Quora Consulting and how their consultants can help your business achieve better workplace and work practice functionality, visit their website.
What are your thoughts on independent consultancies? Can they provide valuable insight that larger consultancies are unable to? Join the conversation by telling us what you think in the comment section below.
Photos: Shutterstock, Wilfred Iven