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Ministry of Defence falls for management consultancy bllx

The Ministry of Defence recently hired a Director of Transformation on about £160,000 a year. But what exactly does a Director of Transformation do? Well here’s a brief description of the MoD’s “Transformation Vision”

“My vision for 2016 [is one] in which users will have information capabilities that are tailored to their mission, location and role, accessed at the right time, through a choice of devices over a cost-effective, modern and adaptable infrastructure”.

OK? Does everyone understand that?

And here’s the Director of Transformation’s plan for 2015 MOD will refresh the digital roadmap that determines future digital activities.”

I have a confession to make. In the 1990s, I worked at the management consultancy Gemini Consulting which was part of the CapGemini group

At the time, Gemini Consulting was getting slaughtered in the marketplace by the big accountancies’ growing consultancy businesses. The problem was that the accountancies could deliver the trendy product of that time – BPR (Business Process Reengineering) – for often less than £5,000 per consultant per week. This was much cheaper than the £7,000 plus expenses per consultant per week that we at Gemini charged. The accountancies could undercut Gemini’s prices because they used armies of ‘billing fodder’ (cheap, inexperienced consultants) while Gemini tended to have more experienced and thus more highly-paid staff.

In order to fight back against the lower-priced competition, Gemini tried to find a smart new way of dressing up its services to make them look different and more valuable than those of our competitors. After a few real turkeys, they came up with the idea of ‘Business Transformation’. Gemini’s big chiefs even wrote a book calledTransforming the Organization and, if I remember correctly, Gemini tried unsuccessfully to trade-mark the phrase ‘Business Transformation’ as a product only its consultants could deliver.

Reviewing the book at the time, the respected magazine The Economist wrote with great prescience that a true transformation ‘would employ an army of consultants for a century – and cause endless disruption’.

Most organisations can be improved, but very few need to be ‘transformed’. The great thing about ‘transformation’ was that it enabled us consultants to sell massive consulting contracts where we lucratively, and possibly sometimes unnecessarily, totally restructured our clients’ organisations and also put in huge new computer systems, again lucratively but perhaps unnecessarily.

Eventually, even governments caught the transformation bug. When he was PM, Tony Blair was forever using ‘transform’ and ‘transformation’. He promised us a‘transformation’ of the NHS, a ‘transformation’ of secondary education,‘transformations’ of all our public services and even had a meeting with top civil servants where he explained the ‘Seven Keys to Transformation’ which would lead to a ‘transformed civil service’.

Here are just a few typical public-sector job ads as the current government also seems to have caught the transformation bug (click to see more clearly)

 Transformation

In fact, on today’s Guardian website, there are no fewer than 126 jobs (mostly in the public sector) using the word “Transformation”.

Alistair Campbell said history would judge Blair as a ‘great transforming Prime Minister’. Blair’s government helpfully produced a chunky report called The Transformational Government Annual Report in which it detailed the many successes of its Transformational Government programme. The aim of theTransformational Government programme was: ‘Delivering better, more efficient services for everyone’. The programme seemed to be central to the government’s ambitions for improving public services as it explained in typical consultant gobbledegook: ‘Government is committed to a range of citizen-focused activities designed to optimise service design and delivery, and is proud that the United Kingdom is held up as providing some world-class examples of Transformational Government’.

The only thing that transformation has ever transformed are the ever healthier bank balances of the consultants who fool politicians, bureaucrats and business bosses into launching their massive, deluded transformation programmes.

As for the MoD’s great Transformation Programme led by its Director of Transformation with his Transformation Vision and Transformation Plan – do you think Putin will be worried? No. I thought not.

(Regarding the Comments function – I think it is mainly working, though I know some people have had problems. If the problems persist over the weekend, I’ll get my ISP to look at this on Monday)

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