Change as a service

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Written by Nick Ribeiro on 22 February 2016

Halfway through 2008, I was given a supplementary role that enabled me to run a zero-budget Business Unit selling health and safety offerings to, well, every customer segment out there within a radius of 750 square miles.

I knew nothing about running a business, about the fire triangle, about Legionella pneumophila. After all, I was a simple man working in Learning and Development, taking orders from a distant silo.
Bitter, wasn’t I.

So I inherited a small team – two casual bank staff on established (and ridiculous) contracts, and one permanent administrator. Together, under the part-time management of another colleague, they had done a good job.
Breaking even was the only KPI. Profit an efficiency saving. Honest.

The first couple of months coasted. Mid-year forecasts suggested all was well. And then the business boomed, as in BOOM. The recession came. We survived that year partly because there was just enough goodwill in the pipeline.
But as you know, customer loyalty soon diminishes. Fire safety soon becomes of little value to organisations, irrespective of legislation and the threat of prison. Your value proposition is questioned.

So what did we do? Quite simply, we scrutinised before the crisis hit.
We looked at ourselves. We accepted our archaic time-sapping paper processes, our lame training offerings, our crap quarterly A5 newsletter with its MS WORD 97 graphics, our laziness, our blinkeredness in leveraging the value that the business and, more importantly, the potential its people possessed.

It wasn’t easy. Coping with change is never easy unless you’ve had a fab new haircut.
We talked and argued with each other. We talked and semi-argued with our clients. We traded services (training for venues).

We reached compromises, but not in everything.

Over the next four years, Business and Marketing Plans were requested…. and read. Analytics data, derived through Google and our state-of-the-art CRM system (aka Excel) became our evidence and support ally.
Digital and SoMe (YouTube, Twitter) became our competitors’ envy, UX/UI our platform (new website, vans and laptops!).

We began to pay more attention to the macro goal of organisational safety, not our own financial safety.
Yes I know I sound like a TV bank ad, playing the emotional card.

‘Yay you’ I hear you scream with deep sincerity.

OK, so you’ve learned nothing new. But what I want to share is that I don't think we would have achieved our levels of success if we had operated within a department - a Costa within a Waterstone’s, another line on someone else’s budget.
We wouldn't have been as self-scrutinising, as creative, as permitted to ask why…to try, to fail…to succeed. Don't get me wrong, we were watched, but there was trust. Maybe it was an ultra-covert coaching thing.
And what of the business? Well we got through the continuing economic woes and handed over the business, some of which now runs as its own commercial entity.
Now I'm not suggesting for one minute that I am brilliant. I have a mirror to remind me. But perhaps I am suggesting that your department should become more self-sufficient. With all this talk of our value as a service, it does make me wonder.


About the author

Nick Ribeiro runs PT3, a micro Learning and Development consultancy helping organisations develop the use of digital technology as part of their learning and performance strategy.  Find out more: and @PT3HQ