Navigating Change and Business Growth: Stuart Waddington’s Expertise
In episode 34 of REDD’s Business and Technology Podcast, get ready for an enthralling episode with hosts Jackson Barnes and co-host Nigel Heyn as they engage in a thought-provoking conversation with Stuart Waddington, a seasoned business consultant. This episode offers a deep dive into the realm of strategic business thinking, change management, and the agile mindset.
Delving into the intricacies of addressing core challenges, Stuart’s insights go beyond quick fixes, advocating for transparent dialogues with influential stakeholders. The discussion unravels the art of orchestrating change, underscored by a compelling case study of a transformational project currently under Stuart’s guidance.
Drawing intriguing parallels between business dynamics and human behavior, Stuart eloquently discusses the hurdles of change and our inherent need for control. As the conversation unfolds, He paints an intriguing picture of the evolving work landscape, shedding light on the potential of remote work to reshape traffic patterns and positively impact mental well-being.
With a personal penchant for physical challenges like mountaineering, Stuart’s approach to business mirrors his commitment to embracing discomfort for growth. Tune in to this episode for invaluable insights into strategic thinking, change management, and the intersection of personal and professional development.
#BusinessStrategy #ChangeManagement #AgileMindset #BusinessInsights #StrategicThinking #PersonalDevelopment #ProfessionalGrowth #LeadershipAdvice #InnovationInBusiness #BusinessConsultant #RemoteWork #MentalWellBeing #SuccessStrategies
00:00 – Opener
00:23 – Stuart Introduction
00:44 – Stuart’s career background
02:22 – Stuart’s most exciting project that he did
04:45 – How do people engage with Stuart regarding technology projects?
06:15 – Stuart’s methodology
10:40 – F.A.C.T.S.
11:24 – Stuart as a Consulting CIO at the age of thirty-one
12:53 – Understanding the patents of the business
13:09 – How did technology factor into Stuart’s career?
13:31 – Electronic Data Processing
14:53 – Technology Transformation
17:53 – AI in businesses
18:11 – Challenges of businesses in 2023
21:10 – Businesses like stability
23:34 – The working-from-home setup
25:01 – Working in an office = Culture
26:47 – How does Stuart engage people in the business’ vision?
29:02 – Maximizing 1-on-1 with the staff
31:48 – 3 common traits business leaders fail at
36:09 – Process in identifying business gaps
40:10 – What to prioritise first in those business gaps using the FACTS analogy
41:54 – Agile Thinking
43:38 – Why is change so hard?
50:01 – What’s next for Stuart Waddington?
53:07 – Outro
If you would like to discuss any of the topics discussed in this episode further with a REDD expert or if you would like to be a guest on the show, please get in touch either via our website, [email protected] or through any of the links below.
Hello, welcome to Redd’s Business and Technology Podcast. I’m your host, Jackson Barnes, and I’m yourco-host Nigel Heyn. Today we’re sitting down with the director of Business and Technology PerformanceAdvisor at New Arenas Capital, Stuart Waddington. In this episode, we’re speaking about maximizingbusiness’s performance by engaging people to execute on business strategy. Stu, thanks for coming in.Yep,
Good afternoon, gents. Please be here.
No problems mate. Let’s start with your background. So what have you done in your, I think 25, 30 yearsin your professional career?
Well, 25 or 30 years is kind because that’s just the consulting part of, I’ve actually got my 40th schoolreunion in a couple of months time. So
Mate, the podcast list wouldn’t have got that. You didn’t have to. Yeah,
No. So I’ve been doing a lot, look the last 25 or 30 years in the consulting spaces it’s called. It’s been aninteresting one because it took me about 10 years to really work out what I wanted to do when I grew upand I sort of almost fell into consulting for me why I like it. I love goals and so that’s in my personal life aswell, competitive sport, still doing that. But for me, I grew up in a small business family, so I’ve alwayshad a real affinity for the customer and teams of people. And so I think I grew into consulting perhaps,and so over the last 25, 30 years, it’s more about been getting more complex projects because a projectis that ultimate thing when a business owner or the wants to make change and they commit fundingteams distraction because projects are distracting to running the business and there’s a lot of elements Ilove, there’s a start, there’s a middle and an end. There’s just a great satisfaction I suppose about thatplanning, the executing and all of the challenges that go with execution over say an 18 month to twoyear period. It just suits me. I dunno what else to do otherwise.
Cool. Looking forward against insights in this episode from what some of the exciting projects you’vedone in your past career. Let’s start set the scene on an example of the most exciting project that you’vedone.
Oh, look, exciting is always a great gift, isn’t it? I mean, I wear my heart on my sleeve so clients know thatif they’ve got a problem, they know they’ll get their best. A lot of my work comes essentially throughreferral. I’ve owned a consulting company, we grew that to about 20 people sold out of that and havebeen basically doing complex programs. So collection of projects at any given time to bring aboutorganizational change. And it typically involves people, processes, and technology. In many cases,organizations have made a start, haven’t quite got to where they need to build that momentum throughto successful conclusion, and that space really excites me. So probably the most interesting one of late,and it actually goes back pre covid and that’s probably why I think it’s interesting, is that it was meant tobe a six to seven week restart of a program over in New Zealand with a big insurer.
About four or five weeks in, they asked if I’d stay for four months and that four months ultimatelybecame 25 months. The reason, it was interesting because of how it came about, some of the challengesthat we had during including another takeover offer and the fact that it finished and was handed overjust before covid started and had that not happened either I would’ve been stuck in New Zealand tryingto finish it off and I’m not sure how that would’ve been done given that everyone all of a sudden, literallywithin the space of a week had to work from home. So everything that we’d done digital front end knewclaims management systems, you name it sort of thing. It was a transformative set of systems andprocesses and people change for the organization and then everyone had to start working from homeand there were 400,000 Kiwi customers that may not have been able to be serviced effectively had wenot got that program in. And so for me, that’s sort of up there with some of the interesting ones that I’vedone with great impact.
It’s meant to be a little project and then covid hit and then it was a massive, massive project that wentup the importance chain really quickly. That’s right. So how did people engage you historically? Is it whenthey try and do a rapid technology change or digital transformation project and it falls over, then youcome in to pick up the pieces and put it back together? Or do they engage you first to say, Hey, we wantto do this transformation, consult on it?
Yeah, look, I remember saying to a client who’s become a friend who’s actually my first client inconsulting, and I said to him after about three years of multiple projects because okay, Stu, you fix thatone, can you go and fix that one? Et cetera. And this was while I was actually still working for aconsulting firm. I said to him after about two and a half years, I said, when are you going to give me aproject? I can start from the beginning. So he goes, Stu, don’t you understand? That’s why I get you. Yousee things differently and you help create the patterns and the resilience and the likes of the teams canactually really get focused around what we’re trying to do and then you help run at home. He said, that’swhy I engage you. So since that time it’s like, oh, okay. So that was a real learning moment for me. I thinkI was, I dunno, about 30 let’s say. And I think that advice at that time, that was me learning about me asmuch as anything else, has really provided me some bedrock about how and what I do to make sure thatly outcomes are achieved.
Some clarity. Looking forward to getting some insights out and picking your brain here, but nija, wheredo you want to take this one first?
Well, it’s interesting since you, I’ve known you for, I think remember 2007 we first met something thatsomething you’ve always wanted to do is challenge the status quo, right? So going back to your historyand Whitney, your arena as a business, all of that, do you want to talk through about how yourmethodology, which I remember as facts, such a strong methodology that I still remember to this day,14, 15 years ago, how did that come about? Was it the thing you were doing with the fleet business overin the uk? Yeah, so can you talk a bit about that? I think it’s a great story to tell.
Oh look, that was me getting myself out of a spot of bother actually because helped a large US financialservices company in the automotive space. I won’t talk about client names per se. I’d helped with the mand a of a UK company. They put me in as C I O for 12 months and about five weeks in, we were sittingaround the boardroom table and the C E O brought out the existing business strategy for the firm flippedover mission, provide the lowest cost automotive finance with the best range of products and the bestcustomer service. And everyone’s nodding sagely. And I’d been there five weeks at that stage and I was31, so a bit young and maybe wet behind the ears on how a deal around an executive table. And I said,that doesn’t make sense guys. Everyone said, what do you mean you’ve only been in the automotiveindustry for five weeks?
I said, well, sorry to rain in your parade. I actually don’t think you’re in the automotive industry, butwe’ve got 75,000 vehicles under lease around the country to British Airways and Marks and Spencer andall these big important firms. I said, I get that, but as your C I O, I said, I actually think we’re in theinformation business because the customers, they’re typically a C F O or a HR director and they’ve got aproblem called, I’ve got hundreds or thousands of people who’ve got the right to get a fully surfacedvehicle as part of their package. And so we actually take away the information management problem sothat they can get on with their business. I said, look, can I come back and give him a thoughts onThursday? Because I used to go up to Birmingham on a Monday morning back on a Wednesday and thenTuesday afternoon and up on Thursday morning.
So I remember being on the train, Virgin train out of Houston up to Birmingham and thinking, righto, I’vegot to be able to explain why I can see and say these things. And so I came up with this approach andsaying, well, yes, I may not have worked in your business, but all businesses fundamentally work thesame. They have a D N A in the same way that humans do. And so I articulated that is basically for agiven focus, what value are you trying to create? You’ve got to attract people to it. You’ve got to contractpeople if they’re interested. I will give you that magazine if you give me $10, you’ve got to be able totransact it. I’ve actually got to give you the magazine, you’ve got to give me the $10. That’s the two-waypromise we just created in the contract.
And if the magazine’s good and I like your $10, we’ll do business again. Everything’s the same. And I saidto them, it doesn’t matter whether you are a post office, a florist or doing full service washing machines,businesses and what they do are fundamentally the same. And so I said, I come up with this model and Isaid, so you think it’s all about sales and I can see your people popping champagne corks when they do adeal. I’m in the next building across, but I can see through the glass and I’ve got a team of IT people thatI’m managing and we’re going that deal sheet, how do we actually do that? Our systems aren’t set up forthis, so you think you’re making money there, but you’re blowing it out the back door via me. So I said,we need to think about the business differently.
And I said, if I can propose to you that this is actually about an information management business andthat cars are driven by your customers employees, but your customer wants the information insurance,roadside assistance, F B T, et cetera, et cetera, we will transform this C E O. Got it. And we ran it throughthe business. So we reorganized the business around that, that C E O become the global c e O. He tookthis model, we ran that model through Europe, Mexico, and Australia I think as well. So that was thegenesis of facts was me having to explain what I’ve just thought a bit differently. I suppose
It’s such a granular way of breaking down challenges to this day. To your credit, when I’m stuck with acustomer, I’ll say facts and run through it and it’s a very simple way to actually get some clarity. So whatdoes
Fax stand for?
So focus, attract, contract, transact, and then only two things will ever happen. You’ll either sustain thebusiness because you both delivered on the transact the promise or you’ll suspend because one of youdidn’t work for you. That’s fine, but you still learn from that process as well. We do the same thing whenwe put a body through the M R I to work out where are the issues in the body. Once we know wherethose issues are, then we can go and make a healthier body. A business is just a body, it’s full of cells thatrun around trying to be important and do things that they’re meant to do. And when they don’t work,that’s when projects arise because then you go, ah, that’s not working. What do we do?
I want to circle back to you. So you said you essentially, you were a consulting c i o at 31 to quite a bigautomotive industry. That’s pretty big feat. How did you get there before we unpacked where you’re atnow? I mean, getting to that 31 is pretty impressive.
I’ve been working since I was seven.
I’m actually not kidding. No, my parents were slave drivers. No they weren’t. No. I literally did my firstpaid days work as a seven year old mum and dad had a curtain and wallpaper shop up at Ashgrove. Iminded my little brother and dad gave me a dollar the Saturday before when they were at a dog showdown at Redlands and when dad gave me that dollar, he saw my eyes light up and he goes, oh, do youwant to come into the shop and do some work? I’m like, oh yeah. And he gave me a dollar for workingon half Saturday because shops could only be open back in the old days we’re talking. And so I’ve beenaround customers and dealing with adults I suppose since I was seven. So by the time I was 31 I, I’m notgreat at math, but I had 20 something years of work experience and as I said, I’ve got a great affinity andlove for business and I’m really passionate about the way in which people and teams and businessescreate value because inquisitive and a problem solver, I love getting in there and turning the thingaround.
So facts really was an extension of me to be able to explain what people ask me quite frequently. How doyou understand our business so quickly? Well, I understand the patterns of business, then I need a wayin which I can gauge with you to together so that we can pinpoint how it can improve.
Okay. Did you study tech in between that dollar for looking after the younger brother and at 31, did youstudy technology as well?
Yeah, look, I worked first job out of school with Logan City Council, so they actually gave me a cadetshipto go through uni, do my first degree, and I think it was about 1988 I think it was. I spent a year workingin what was then called the E D P department, the electronic data processing. So yeah, I learned a lot,but I already had I think skills in that space. I think kids at that stage were starting to learn to usecomputers at school and stuff. And so we were just at that stage where it was all just starting to happen Ithink. And I gravitated towards it, moved on to look after the Australian Stock Exchange help desk forBrisbane for the automated trading system back then as well. Then finished union nipped off to, well ona world tour as it was then one year gap year and five years later. Anyway, came back married, havinglived in Finland, went to speak another language and had done some more tech type stuff over back inLondon as well. So I sort of gravitated into it. But I walk a line between, if you like, technology andbusiness. I mean everything has to serve an outcome. It’s not tech for tech’s sake, but for whatoutcome? How does it drive a human outcome or a business outcome forward? And so I walk that linebetween the two. So I suppose I’m a bit of a translator in some respects.
Stu, on that vein, can you share any real moments of technology transformation apart from that insurer?You mentioned that you’ve really seen a massive uplift in that organization. Any examples of stuff that
You’ve done? Well, I’d go back to the UK when we’re talking about the facts, where the genesis of that,there was a situation where on a weekly basis, I think from memory it was about 50 of their clientswould get a floppy disc with the database on it so that they could then go and update it at that end. Nowwe’re talking 1990, so the internet was just starting to become a useful thing, but prior to me arrivinguse of the internet at work was banned. So one of the first things I did was say, well, that’s silly becausethat’s the future. And so we talked about the why and the like. And so even that was a little bittransformative that people were across the business were allowed to investigate and use the internet inthe hope that they become familiar with it. So that as we then roll things forward, so for example, thatparticular floppy disc system, I laugh about it now, but we somehow engaged a Russian outfit to actuallydevelop a developer system to automate that and enable real time exchange of information.
You think about it now, it’s ludicrous that we chose Russians, but anyway, but that again wastransformative. The C E O came to me one day and said, Stuart, we need a call center went, no problemLen. I’m pretty sure the technology is there. We can put one on Mars. Why do we need one? Everyoneelse has got one. Maybe why I didn’t object to it. I was just trying to make sure he could actuallyunderstand or help mount a cases to. What value would having people able to respond in a morecoordinated fashion, what would that do for the customer’s businesses as well as the client’s business?
I think you’ve got a unique skill, Stu, which we mentioned the show a fair amount, which is thattechnology translation to the business. And there’s a lot of gaps with a lot of IT managers and CIOs. Andthat’s I think why you’ve just accelerated so much in your career that is an art form to not just go, cool,well what tech are we getting? And then put a business case, I want this many dollars for this technology,but actually creating it. Why do we questioning it first and then putting a business case is like, no, no, weare doing it for this reason to move the business forward this way. So that’s well done. Well,
I think before Simon Sinek came out with you start with why I think Stu coined it first, right? So I wentfrom you about 14 years
Ago. I won’t lay claim to that. I think it’s just one of the most basic things of being a human. Whenpeople feel in control of anything, they’re more likely to sign up. I understand the why that that’s themengaging. That’s the first bit of engagement.
It’s funny, and also what you said about floppy distance saying you can’t go on the internet and that kindof stuff. That’s funny. So it’s almost like now there’s a lot of businesses with AI who are like Ban ai, banchat, D P T from being used in our business, that kind of thing because it shares data. I feel like that’s thesame kind of thing with the internet back in the early nineties, right? Absolutely. You’ve
Got to experiment because how do you learn?
Very much. So let’s pivot a little bit. So what are the common challenges you are hearing from businessesin 2023?
Well, if I could say it’s both opportunity and challenge, and I’d go back to people, people no surprise inthat for me, everything goes back to people. But look at our context. Lowest unemployment rate in along time, three and a half percent. If you overlay that with, I think particularly coming off the back ofyears of good times, so to speak as well, people are used to getting things perhaps a little bit more easily.There’s a sense of waiting or relying on businesses or the government to give me what I’m due and I’mnot just talking the millennium or millennial supposed mindset, and I dispute that. I think it’s too broad abrush to think that millennials just want things too early. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I dothink that people aren’t as readily available to look after themselves and commit to things, whichsometimes were a little bit hurt.
And so there’s a lot of me first and then everyone else. And so particularly when you’re on projects, andI’ve seen this, and this is probably if you like, one of the unfortunate parts when I’m in a consultingleadership role, so program director or look, I have no joy in moving people on from a project, but I dothose things because it’s necessary sometimes to make sure you’ve got the right team. If I can’t help anindividual or a team become a better version of themselves, then I have to go and find someone else in alow unemployment environment. Unfortunately, some people will opt out because things can get a bithard. And for me in the space I’m in, when you are going in a journey from a point A to point B, it’salways going to be hard. If change was easy, everyone would be able to just do it For me, when you’vegot context like we do at the moment, so low unemployment, rising interest rates, new technologies,they’re probably, you’ve got an abundance of government and scrutiny or legislation or the like as well.
Yeah, you’ve got all these forces on businesses that from a business owner’s perspective, oh, one morething to deal with from an individual’s perspective. Well, I just want to turn up, I want to do a good job ifI can, but well, if I don’t like it, there’s another one over there. And so there’s all these things swirlingaround at the moment where businesses like stability. Unfortunately, if you try to stay stable, you’regoing to go the way of the dinosaurs. So it’s about finding that way through. And so some of the researchI’ve been doing just to sort of parlay into some of the extracurricular activities, as I mentioned, I’vealways done a lot of high performance sport last four or five years I think it is. I’ve been really focused onmountaineering, not something I would’ve ever picked by the way, but I think it was just my time in NewZealand, beautiful country and lots of mountains.
But some of the reading and just the experience, like if you want something bad enough, it’s a bit of acliche to say you’ll find your way there. Probably a better way to put it is you’ll find a way to navigatethere and some of those skills and ways of working. I think that when I’m working with a business, I candraw those parallels between the physicality of personal objectives and how do we get individuals andteams and businesses aligned so that we can go on a journey to a significant place that is worth gettingto, not as a death march because that’s a poor form of leadership, but on a day by day basis looking forpeople to bring their A game. We may not have full certainty, we may not have full control of this, but byworking on, as I said night before, it’s about resilience as well, how do we help people navigate? So forme, I want to make sure that when they’re at work, they’re working with as much certainty as we canprovide, that they’re working in a healthy tempo. They’ve got healthy and respectful relationships witheach other, and we try to avoid friction, but it’s just inevitable part of being human. And so I think these,you’ve got to do that while all these other stuff’s going on outside the building, so to speak. So
You’re saying to you that what you are seeing in the challenges that businesses are facing is findingpeople. People aren’t as loyal. So maybe retaining people and then getting ’em engaged on the journeyand then managing those people are the biggest challenges that you’re seeing.
You said that so much better. I should have said that at the start.
I’m just summarizing. I do want to unpack that actually, but I want to ask you something that I didn’tprep before. Beforehand. What’s your opinion of the whole working from home thing these days?Because there’s been a lot, there’s an old Victorian premier who said the people who work from home ahundred percent of the time should essentially get paid less than people that are in the office full time.What’s your
Thoughts? Jeffrey says a few things and look, he’s quite a wise, wise individual. I don’t agree with him onthat one though. No, I think it’s about balance. I think people have become used to it. I think there arecertainly some benefits in workplace flexibility. I think even beyond the immediate human ones andimmediately for the business, if you can be productive and work from home, great. I don’t think it’sapplicable for all roles. I’m not quite sure how that would work for a nurse, for example. I mean otherthan the great nurses that move red firefighters, et cetera.
Well, that was his point was that those people should get paid more or that people work from homeshould get paid less.
Yeah, maybe I only saw the soundbites then because didn’t quite, it’s ISS quite a layered structure thatyou would’ve to put in place. But I think the technology, it’s forced us to use technology. So certainlytraveling less is a good thing. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for costs, et cetera. Qantas hasaccommodated it by putting airfares up, good on ’em. But I think if we’ve got more, I think it comes backto flexibility. I think working from an office is important for culture, it’s for those water coolerconversations, et cetera. So I think being in an office is great for culture. It’s hard to replicate that overZoom or teams or whatever.
We’re an IT company and we struggle with that culture
Remotely. Well, exactly. But I mean over the last or since Covid hit, to be honest, I’ve probably only done10% of my work time in front of clients. I’ve had one whole engagement with C e O and executive teamin Victoria. I never even met them. Not even once over a six or seven month period of that engagement.It was remarkable. Could it have been better that was in the throes of covid? Could it have been better?Absolutely. I mean some face time and whiteboards and all that sort of thing that could have acceleratedthings. So I think it’s a blend. I think that’s what we’ve got to look for. And I think it’s to mandate, forexample, across a public service, I don’t think that’s healthy. I think it’s got to come down to what is thebusiness, what roles we’re involved. So I think when it starts to put into some sort of instrument, like anenterprise agreement, I think that it’s starting to stray into, it’s being a little bit too favorable for theemployee. Whereas I think the business needs to have just an adult conversation with all of itsemployees about what works for the business. If we do well as a business, you do well as an employee.So let’s have a chat.
So let’s unpack that one a little bit then, because I think definitely that managing people if they’reremote is definitely harder. No one’s going to argue that way. If you can swing around the chair andspeak to someone, it’s easy to manage those people. So at a high level, how do you get staff or peopleengaged in the business’s vision?
It’s got to make sense for a start. Look, it’s got to have a purpose. I mean, because I think it’s easy towordsmith stuff, but if people don’t believe it, they’re not going to sign on. If they can’t see themselvesin that they’re either going to stay for the journey, maybe they’re getting paid well and they’ll justpretend to be busy and pretend to be engaged, et cetera, or they’ll leave. So authenticity is important.Strategy also needs to be executable. I have done a lot of projects off the back of big four, 140 page slidepacks. They’re beautiful. It’s not that they’re useless, this isn’t, I’m not trying to slag them off in terms oftheir utility, but there is a missing link between going from your research and analytics of a market mighthave. And those guys have got the bandwidth to do that well, and they generally do, but when they strayacross the line of, but how do we do this?
That’s where I start putting my hand up. And I think there is a join point, a necessary join point to saythere’s our strategy, but our next step in this is executable strategy. And if you miss that point, for me,errors of execution start, that’s where the seeds are, which I typically pick up some months or whateverlater, which is when I think mentioned earlier. Sometimes you’ve got to go backwards before you canthen go forward. You’ve got to go back to root. This isn’t working. I thought we’ve got a great plan. Lookat this PowerPoint pack. That’s not the plan. That doesn’t engage people. So to your question, it has tobe simple to understand. It’s got to be purposeful and it’s got to be something that people can, yourteam can absolutely sign up for if it’s missing. Any of those seed of doubt have already begun to creep in.
Yeah, it’s very hard. You can create as much strategy in the world without the execution. That’s probablythe hardest part. What’s your advice for getting the most out of individual staff?
Well, again, do they understand their role? Do they understand why they’re playing that role? Does italign to their objectives? Are they skilled enough? Do they have the tools to do that job? Do they have agood leader? Do they have an environment within which they can work? So sometimes I’m not a projectmanager, program director. I take those titles on. The only way I’ve ever been able to probablyadequately describe it is I create environments where successful outcomes become possible. And that’sa very broad role title. But within it, it’s basically, it goes back to facts. I look for what’s missing so I cango and help fix those. And again, I’m not some Mr. Fix it, but I, I’ve worked with people who can. So onceI’ve identified what needs to carry forward, what do you leave behind and perhaps what do we need todo differently, then people start to get that clarity about the project mission.
Because if the business knows what it’s overarching mission and vision is, then the projects to helpimprove the musculature or the breathing or the whatever is not adequate for that. Because a project isabout adaptation to a different sort of demand. And so again, this is if you like some relatively recentlylearned theory about when we do exercise, we’re doing it for a reason. An elite swimmer doesn’t all of asudden decide to take on the dietary advice of a sumo wrestler, for example. They’re not going to swimreal fast if that’s, they follow that path, but they might follow the path of someone who’s breaking worldrecords and the like as well. Business is the same. We don’t do projects just for the fun of it. They hurt,they use money, they burn people out. But if we know that clarity about why, and we’re really sure onthat and people have signed up, that’s that mission question you asked before, a project has a mission.Our mission is to do this so that we can go from point A to point B. If everyone’s clear on that, thenpeople start to understand their role. They understand their role in the team. That team understands itsrole in the business as well. Everyone does a great job. Business moves on, it grows, something else willchange, it’ll do another project, so on and so forth. There’s no finish line. It’s one of my favorite linesfrom Nike actually.
Stu, you’ve been someone that’s always parachuted into fixed challenges. I think I’ve known you for awhile. Are there three common traits that you see leaders or business owners consistently fail at, whichcauses the people to lose that disconnect? What would three traits that I’m sure if you look at all of yourexperience, it would be, and I guess listeners here will go, well look, hang on a second. I got that in mybusiness. Maybe I should ask you for help. But what are the three common traits that you see? Yeah,
Again, lack of clarity about the why. Things that can look good on 140 page slide pack sort of can maskthat real clarity. There’s a great attributed to Abraham Lincoln at the end of a rather lengthy letter thathe wrote to someone that said, I apologize for writing such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write ashort one. So that work to really distill down the why. Because if you can’t say to people in a really shortspace, if you need 140 pages, quite frankly to say why something needs to be done, no, it’s not going tohappen. That’s background material. You’ve got to be able to wrap it up on a page so that peopleengage. So that’s the first one. Second one is having, I think moved too quickly from right, we’ve got aplan, let’s go. For me, a lot of people, sometimes a lot of projects, sometimes get a lot of what I call B AU people.
People who are used to the rhythms of your normal business cycle. Oh, he or she’s fantastic. You getthem onto the project just because they’re good there doesn’t necessarily make them good on a project.It’s like saying, oh, that person’s great at sales, let’s make them the sales manager. Look, there’s wholepodcasts on how that is not a great idea, the same thing. So for me, as part of preparation for what isn’tinvariably going to be a long intense period of doing hard stuff, preparation preparation’s important,making sure that you get people. So for me, it’s almost like there’s B a U people and there’s projectpeople. It’s not that you don’t work together. It’s not like entirely different animals, but project peopleare probably, they’re highly goal oriented. They’ve got probably shorter attention spans. They thrive onchallenging complexity and making sense of things. And that’s not calling it B a U people. They just solvedifferent challenges, different tempos, et cetera. Should they be on projects? Absolutely. I meanprobably in s m E roles to make sure that there’s a bridge between point A and point B. No projectshould just go off into the ether and build stuff and then come back a year later and go for people just togo. But that’s not what I wanted. Okay. So vision, clarity, preparation. And I think that the third one is justmaking sure that people looked after.
It’s like throwing on a high performing footy team on and not allowing the strapper or the water runnerto come on at times as well. People get hurt doing projects. Change is hard. It’s physical, longer hourschanging minds. Oh, Joe’s left. Oh, okay, who’s going to replace Joe? Things happen. So looking afterpeople and being ready to look after people, that’s part of your preparation. So they’d be my threethings because I see them at the start and the getting ready to go. In the early stages, I typically getcalled in an early stage of things don’t feel right and people call it, that’s a gutsy move to call that aproject’s not going well. That starts hurting egos when, so ego actually, if I can pick a fourth thing, ego, ifpeople can just be a little bit less about ego and more just calm and rational and the like, don’t forcechange. Force change doesn’t work.
Sounds so simple. But yeah, that’s actually really good advice. Thanks.
Well, you mentioned before that part of what you do is try and find out what’s not moving forward andidentifying it. What’s the process you go through students to identify the biggest gaps in businesses?
Well, back to facts. I need a model, I suppose to visualize how a business is structured. So again, attract,contract, transact, sustain, for example, take focus as well. Yeah, for me, focus is about strategy,governance, leadership, et cetera. Attract is about marketing and getting people interested in whatever itis you’re selling. And the contracting is about making sure that you can come up with an agreement thatwe’ve got something that we can exchange. Transact is about delivering the goods and is saying, did thatwork for you? Can we do that again at some point? So I need a model like that so I can go into anorganization and as quickly as possible, understand not just what it’s selling but how it’s working. And Ilook for how people are engaged. If marketing don’t do their job well, the salesmen aren’t going to bebusy. If a salesperson over promises, then how do you deliver? And so people won’t want to do businesswith you again.
And then the delivery’s bad, then they all want to come
Back after, right? People won’t want to come back either. So there’s this flow that goes through abusiness. So I look for flow, I look for barriers to that flow, I suppose. And then you say, is it a processissue? It might be a product issue, might be a service issue. So they’re the typical three things that bringabout blockages because marketing services, sales, sales services, you transact people. So there’sinternal flow, but at each point you’re still dealing with a prospective customer in marketing from sellingsocks. I want to speak to you, Jackson, about the great socks that we’ve got and whatever the sellingmechanism is, whether it’s online or direct sales, someone knocking on your door to sell you socks, theydon’t do that these days, I’m supposing. But there are humans involved in that chain. So now thatapplies whether you’re selling a banking product, mining equipment, as I said, flowers, cars, it’s allfundamentally the same.
And you could close a Commonwealth Bank branch, for example, on a Friday, redo the library and whathave you. Could be selling flowers there on a Monday, physical presence, a way to sell, again, putting inplace the right product and people to do that. So businesses are fundamentally the same. It’s just in thesame way that humans share 90 odd percent of our D N A, and yet we look different and we’reinterested in different things. It’s the same with the business. So for me, getting in early with a model,looking for the blockers, and that’s where your project issues are going to be, fix those. Nothing. I mean,you can end up plugging holes in the dike every now if something else will pop out. As I mentionedbefore, the one over in New Zealand, about 12 months in, I think it was, there was another takeoveroffer quietly. I was under an N D A, I actually had to slow the program down, so this is about 150 to 170people. I had to slow down. I wasn’t even allowed to tell ’em why we were slowing down. Peoplethought I was mad that I wasn’t trying to bring this program to a conclusion, but we had to slow it downbecause we were under due diligence.
Yeah, things happened. Pivot, I’m sure covid probably made you pivot that other project as well.
Oh, well I’m glad that happened after, otherwise they said I would’ve probably been because I was flyingover backwards and forwards. I did 55 return trips, toland over a two year period.
In that kind of facts analogy, when you’re looking at a business trying to find where the biggest gaps are,how do you then prioritize where to start first? Yeah.
Well fax is fundamentally, it’s a way of communicating with business stakeholders. It’s not just my tool touse, it’s the one perhaps I bring, but it’s a translation device. It enables me to say, look, here’s someissues that we’ve discussed and we are seeing, let’s look at the impact of these as to, because you can’tmake all change instantaneously. As said, change hurts. So which ones are we going to work on and inwhat priority and what resources are we going to give them? And maybe we’ll do that much of all of thatthat you could do because that’ll do for now so that we can move on to the next thing. So prioritization isprobably one of the key things I think in any other, a business performance oriented change processbecause again, constraints of resources, time, money, people, et cetera comes into play.
So how do you weigh that up? Do you weigh the opportunity if you do a project here, for example, allthe risks? If you don’t, what kind of methods do you use to help prioritize?
Yeah, well, so I mean once you understand where the issues are, then you say, well, what are options forresolving that? It might be a bandaid, bandaid. Sometimes a band-aid’s fine. You’ve got bandaids on topof bandaids, on top of band-aids, then you’ve probably got a problem. So you’ve got to have a verytransparent conversation with usually executives and leaders in the organization. I think one of the keythings, depending on what scale of organization, you may need to get the board involved as well. And Ithink, so some of the work I’ve been doing around agile thinking, not just agile processes. So it’s not justabout standups and three M sticky notes and all of that. I mean they’re the things you use, but it’s thepractice, it’s the mindset, the agile mindset that’s important. So depending on the scale of yourorganization, if there’s a board and it’s providing corporate governance services to the business, thenyou’ve got to engage them on the journey as well.
The only way you’re going to get a business case of some scale across the line, if you’re dealing in aprivate company and you’re dealing with an owner, then that’s probably whenever your keystakeholders. But if you’ve got to be able to describe, and this is why facts, it’s very visual process as well.I mean it’s literally a heat map that you end up drawing out of all the steps in that flow of business. Andthen first time we did it on Nigel’s business, I remember him sitting back going, my God, I can see mybusiness up on the wall. And it’s quite a powerful moment. And it starts the conversation about, well, wecan’t do it all, so what are we going to do? Then you’ve got permission to get down to that next level andsay, well, we’ve got options for each of these issues and it ranges from, we could put all of our effortthere or we could spread effort across a range of things and try and lift the organization. So it’s maybe along way round to answer the question, no specific why
There’s not a do this first,
Right? There’s not a do this first. It’s not saying that marketing’s more important than selling. It justdepends on the circumstances.
Ive a couple other questions. Stu Nij, do you have anything else you wanted to
No, lovely. Listen, I’m very conscious that Stu has so much to share, and I was going to think that we’regoing to run out of time, so cover your questions and we’ll have to get Stu back into all those excitingprojects you’re working on to share more into the future. We
May need a part two mate, but I think the one thing I wanted to pick your brain on was change. Why ischange so hard and what is an example where someone’s, an organization that you’ve led or been partof whatever has done change really well?
Change is just hard for humans generally. We like patterns. We think we’re very sophisticated. We’re justsophisticated animals, and in a way there’s patterns. We wake up, we need some bre, we want to feelmeaningful, we want to feel loved, et cetera. But what we most want and I think is we actually want tofeel in control. And so once we’ve got a sense of control, someone else coming along saying, I’d like youto do this differently, that’s disruptive. It disrupts your sense of control because all of a sudden you’vegot to apply energy to probably not only doing that thing, but maybe doing project or just doing somechange that’s different to what you’ve got used to. So it’s inherently jarring to how we go through ourday. But if we go through that appropriately and if we can make sure that people understand thebenefits, there’s a variety of little graphs and memes and all sorts of things that go along with this, andtypically you change, people will use those and bring them out to help people go across the divide ofdespair or whatever it is in change.
And different people feel it different way. I mean, I love change, but I still react to it. But because I’vebeen doing it and helping people for so long, I’ve probably got mechanisms for coping with it a bitdifferently. So again, I think different organizations, depending on how much change they’ve had orexperienced or need to, if you’ve got a burning platform project, if people can see the fire, they’re eithergoing to jump and run the other way or they’re going to go and get some hoses and start hosing thisthing down and they’ll contribute to making the change. In terms of an example, look, I’m working with aclient at the moment, and it’s relatively small business in the scheme of things.
They’ve been going for about seven, eight years I think now they’re good at what they’ve been doing,but they got me involved. They wanted to do something a little bit more difficult and the like, and I cantell you and mentioned this to nij on the way in, because I’ve been dealing with some of the things today,what I’m dealing with is the hurt of making change. The reactions I’m getting from some parties in thebusiness are not rational relative to certain facts. Part of my job is to help them deal with that. Whilst itmight be rational, it still hurts. So getting through it, and even what we’ve got through now, I mean quitefrankly, we’re so close to the end of this project where they were a year ago, and where they are now ischalk and cheese. It really is. It gives them a platform to do other projects of this scale moreprofessionally, safely, financially beneficial, et cetera, reputationally, et cetera.
But because of where they are in the cycle of this one particular project, it’s a little bit like that. The timeat which long-term prisoners are most likely to escape is in the final year of their long-term sentence.You are so close to the end, it is just almost cripply hurting and I want to escape, but if you can just holdon, and this is if you like, part of almost the coaching element of what I do with people is to try and helpthem towards that rationality so that they can persevere and get to that end point so you can breathenormally again, go, wow, actually this isn’t a bad place, is it? No. And you know what? Next time you’llstill feel pain, but you’ll go to another plateau as well. And that’s how businesses grow. And again, it’s thesame thing with my mountaineering.
I started off on a little couple of thousand meter mountain in New Zealand and went to Everest basecamp, and that’s five and a half thousand meters. It was in Argentina in January. That was almost 7,000meters. You don’t just wake up one day going, right, I’m off to Everest, seen a few weeks. It doesn’t workthat way. You’ve got to work towards these things. And that to me is part of that similarity betweenbusiness and human performance. There’s a lot we need to learn. It comes back to being human andhow do we grow as individuals?
There’s something crippling. If you ever look at a traffic map, the times of day that cars travel around, ifyou look at one of those and see people get up a words of the same kind of timeframe or the same road,we look like ants, that really hits you, hits you and go, oh, we are just sheep.
Of habit, right? Yeah. Creatures of
Habit. Well, therein lies one of the benefits I think of code because for a little while there it reminded uswe could still do work and we had fewer cars on the road. It was great for the environment, it was greatfor people’s mental health in some respects, I think for a while there. So I don’t
Think covid great for people’s health really
Meant mental health in terms of it took a while to adjust, but once people started realizing, hang on, Ican work from home now, I don’t think it’s fully the answer, but I don’t think we’ve explored workingfrom home to its full benefit yet. Because if we can stop people creating a peak hour, that’s great fortraffic management, great for the environment, probably great for people’s mental health because youdon’t arrive at work after an hour on the Pacific Highway with road rage. If you could work on differentdays, you’re easing traffic burden, you’re easing people’s mental strain of getting to work, et cetera. Sowe’re not done yet with the work from home. Just rounding back to your question
Before. No, I do agree because I think there’s a lot of different people and some people need that watercooler talk and interaction with people to function well. And a lot of people have actually had a negativemental health from the soil. People in Victoria in particular who are forced to work from home, that kindof thing.
If you’re forced to, not a great outcome. If we can find that balance, great for the individual, great forbusiness, great for the environment,
Different personalities I guess depends on what they need, but in some individuals definitelypersonalities,
What’s next for Stuart Wellington?
Well, actually it’s been an interesting year. Actually put a LinkedIn post out about it a week or two ago, Ithink it was because my son who’s at uni said to him about a year ago, do you want to come and tryconsulting? He’s doing finance law at Union. He’s been working for a legal firm for about three years andhe’s really enjoyed that. But I said, well, do you want to actually explore the business side? So he’s beendoing a bit of work with me the last year, and we just clocked up the anniversary of him working with mea couple of weeks ago. And what I’ve loved about that is it’s reminded me of the importance of actuallyworking with other people, but on a collegiate sort of basis as well, because he’s brought a youngperson’s views and questions and what have you.
He’s challenged me. So we’ve gone through the learning curve of him trying to see what does dad do?He’s become a credible individual in his own right, and he’s actually worked on some pretty cool gigsover the last six months. So we’re exploring where that could go because that could be interesting if itwas to become an intergenerational business type thing. I’m hoping I’ve got a good 10 years left of medoing what I do. I love it. But equally, in 10 years time, he’ll be 32 and he’ll be at that age where goodruns on the board as well. And I think he’s really got an affinity for understanding how businesses couldperform and how change can be made as well. So that in a personal business side of things is perhapsmy next big thing. Equally too, as I said, he’s 22, my daughter’s 19, she’s doing in engineering. I’m goingto go through my own transformational, I suppose in the next year or two to find out wife of 31 years,we’re going to start looking at each other and going, God, we’ve just got the six month old dog aroundthere. What do we do? And that all parlays into how we live our lives, our control, because for a whilewe’ve had to learn how to be parents and still learning. Now we’re learning how to let go of kids into thewild themselves,
Downsizing, adventuring, mount climbing.
Well, yeah, I love being fit and I love doing things which are a bit unusual, I suppose, just as much asanything, not just ticker box, but I love pushing and seeing what I can do. Did a 54 K trail run on Saturdayand plumb some new depths on the physical side of things there to keep going. It’s good fun.
Awesome. Stuart mate, thanks for coming and sharing your wisdom. Really appreciate
It. Pleasure. Thanks
Fellas. Yeah, Stuart, I’ve got to say in wrapping up, you’ve always been someone that’s open to aconversation, willing to lend in air, challenging the status quo. Hats off to you. You’ll have my respectforever, mate. Thanks. So I really appreciate everything you’ve done to help, not just me, but so manyother organizations. So thank you,
Mate. It’s been great knowing you all these years and hopefully that’ll continue. Absolutely.