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28/11/2019
Consultant's Guide to Parenting

Consultant's guide to raising children: business transformation

Transformation in business

Business transformation is about big sustained changes. The kind of changes that reduce costs by 30% or enable a new growth strategy. Big change needs big effort, from the whole organisation.

Hence, transformation is not done lightly, yet often fails. It requires a tough compromise – free-up capacity by doing less of what you normally do. This means sacrificing near term and relatively certain outcomes for the possibility of a longer-term step-change. The organisational will and leadership to maintain this trade-off over what is likely to be a multi-year process is often lacking.

But putting transformation in the too hard box is not an option. Businesses that don’t transform tend to go bust. The world changes and the current business can’t compete anymore. You must do it. The transformation imperative is equally pressing for parents.

Transformation in parenting

Having a child is a big change. Think the release of the digital camera on Kodak. Your many years of perfecting your social persona (including the ability to lip read in nightclubs, be hilarious in text and apply make-up whilst walking) are suddenly an irrelevance. Your child does not care that you once ran a marathon under three hours or that you can quote large sections of your favourite TV show and they probably never will. Those days are over; it is time to transform.

The transformation is not becoming a parent (or having more children) – that’s the shock that drives the need. Transformation is the process of change across family dynamics, personal skills and household finances, processes and infrastructure to become an awesome parent. As with business, the challenge is the capacity to change whilst sustaining the basic day-to-day of being a parent and the core elements of your pre-child existence (work, social life etc.).

How do you deliver successful transformation?

There are three key elements to successful transformation:

  1. Accept the need to change and that you have no choice, make sure everyone agrees, recognise the trade-offs and make the tough choices in full recognition of their implications. Training is going to get cut, accept your gym body will swiftly atrophy
  2. Plan it properly with some early wins that make people believe and free-up capacity combined with longer-term change. Optimising the washing, drying and putting away process is a great place to start
  3. Get help if you need it and recognise that not everyone can join you on the transformation journey. If your friend Bob from school can’t adjust to you as a parent, and is not able to realise dropping in at 10pm on a Wednesday expecting beer and banter is no longer acceptable, Bob needs to be let go.

Transformation requires you to give stuff-up. You must be ruthless and considered. Balance is important, you shouldn’t totally scrap the old you or business – you have invested a lot in it, and it has some great elements, re-purpose them and don’t lose your identity.  

A worked example

You have just had your first child. It’s a girl. She is beautiful. Ahead of the birth you had around nine months to plan for this moment but lost eight of them to finishing that master’s degree. Your knowledge of early 19th Century Bolivian politics is world-class, but you are concerned that the pram you bought is too bulky and inhibits getting in and out of the house.

It is day one back home and paternity leave (a bit like Chapter 11 bankruptcy) isn’t what you expected. You were going to use the time to do some essential child-related DIY, installing baby gates etc. You had even bought paint for the garden shed but your sleep-dulled brain is now understanding the hubris of your pre-birth ambition. Painting the shed has now been eclipsed by managing to get dressed and showered and feeding yourself on something other than bowl after bowl of Coco Pops.

The day-to-day of parenting (tactically responding to the change) has subsumed all your capacity.You know you need to transform – if only you had more drawer space for the baby’s stuff, you could release 30 minutes a day lost to searching for things in a pile at the end of the bed – but where will you find the time to make these changes?

Your daughter is finally asleep. Every part of your being is telling you that you to need to sleep to be ready for the next onslaught. But you show superhuman will and leadership, recognising that something must change. You sit down and develop a 20-day plan. The following are critical:

  • Execution capacity needs to increase to provide breathing space. Businesses call in management consultants, you bring in your mother-in-law. She moves in and gets stuck into the washing backlog. Wearing clean underwear has never felt so good
  • The pile of baby grows that are already too small and six pairs of cute but totally useless baby shoes are testament to the good will of friends and family, but its not being well used. The last set of visitors generated washing-up and ate the last of the non-Coco Pop based food. All future visitors will be expected to look after the new child for at least a 30 min slot so you can get on with re-organising the house
  • With some freed-up capacity, the house needs to be transformed. The inefficiencies are clear. Storage space is a critical constraint to efficient household operation. The initial decision to put all your own clothes in the loft provided immediate capacity but people are starting to ask questions about why you are always wearing the same pair of pyjamas.

Transformation is a state of mind

The world doesn’t stop changing. Children get older and their needs change, and you might have more of them. Transformation is an ongoing imperative. The highest performing businesses and families consider transformation to be a continual process and core competency. They get good at it and compete on their ability to do it better than others. Start the journey today and perhaps you could become an aspirational parenting life-style Instagram influencer.

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Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

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