Complex transformation with a simple style

Transforming an organisation is not simple. Strategic Reform, a management consulting company specialising in major change projects, intimately understand the sensitivities. All facets of an organisation must be considered and aligned – from political drivers, technology capabilities, and operating and governance models, through to individual personalities and the organisational culture.

Strategic Reform’s Managing Director Trent Gale explains why even in a complex environment, a back-to-basics approach is essential.

With over 15 years’ experience in management consulting, Trent Gale founded Strategic Reform in 2010 to counter what he saw was an industry driven by methodology over practicality. Gale believes the key to effective consulting and meaningful transformation comes down to two key factors: real people and a personal style. It is these factors, which are intrinsically linked, that underpin what Strategic Reform do and why the company stands out in a competitive ICT transformation market.

In just seven years, the ‘personal approach’ that underpins Gale’s business has in his words, “put Strategic Reform at the forefront of the transformational advisory market.”

In fact, in this time Strategic Reform has become the leading Cloud transformation advisors to the Commonwealth and its reputation is well established and rapidly growing amongst large private organisations. Before starting Strategic Reform, Gale had a roll call of experience across the Federal and State governments and large multinational companies, as have many of his senior leadership team.

In starting Strategic Reform, Gale wanted to take this high-end consulting experience and refine it – offering clients a simplified, pragmatic and tailored approach to change management and consultation. Through starting a smaller company with lower overheads, Gale could focus effort on listening and being responsive to client needs, rather than just achieving economies of scale.

“By taking a personal and not templated approach, it gives us an opportunity to gain deep insight into the change that our clients require. We are able to take the time to discover the fundamental challenges for the organisation, what the likely pitfalls will be, and can use our extensive consulting experience to create quick wins while working towards long term goals.”

Gale maintains it is important not to act like the most knowledgeable person in the room, which is a fault of many consulting companies.

“We are not the smartest people in the room, our clients are. They understand their context, they understand their needs. The objectives are their objectives and should stay that way – we just bring it together for them in a way that is easy to understand and act on.”

“Yes we are highly skilled and experienced and we can stand our people against anyone in the market, but we also have personality. We are relatable.” Gale says. To reiterate the point Gale says, “It is important to take your work seriously, but not yourself.”

It is this almost humble, yet confident approach that resonates with clients. It is why the company has grown so quickly.

Trent continually brings it back to his people – the consultants who live the culture and the principles of the business he has worked hard to create.

So what defines Strategic Reform’s people?

“When we hire we look for a cultural fit, people who will take our internal culture to our clients. We want consultants with a bit of character and who aren’t afraid of taking themselves and their clients on a complex journey.”

“In our context, the ability to evolve is essential”.

What this engenders is deep peer support for each other, where emotional intelligence is high and heirarchy is out of the window.

“We try to employ a less traditional top down management approach. We maintain that everyone in the business is equal in terms of being able to set agendas and contribute to growth. “The culture of Strategic Reform is very important to us. We work continually to create an environment where everyone is accountable, courageous and willing to put skin in the game and their reputation on the line.”

Gale maintains that this internal culture and approach enables Strategic Reform’s staff to be able to strip back layers of complexity with their clients, and to pass on the courage to meet significant challenges head on.

“Take Cloud migrations and transformations for instance. If, as a client, you want to move to the Cloud but you want to go delicately, you are not going to receive the benefits you would if you made significant changes.

“If you have courage and take informed and calculated risks, you will more often than not be rewarded.”

“Unfortunately, rational arguments are not always as persuasive as emotional arguments and advocates for change face barriers much greater than just limited funding. So we explore cultural and political challenges too.”

In other words, what clients can’t see or can’t usually discuss openly.

“At the end of the day, most engage us externally for what they can’t fix internally.”

In unpacking this approach, we can surmise that a core strength is that Strategic Reform staff can read between the lines, and develop solutions that work within complex contexts.

“Those factors normally encompass cultural or political issues or staff capabilities,” Gale says.

“We make sure when we go into a business we understand the problems, the complexities and trends so that we can help our clients do the same. What we don’t do is recommend solutions before the problem is understood.”

It’s an approach perfectly tailored to both the private and public sectors.

“Both sectors have the same issues and similar opportunities. In many instances the government is trying to model itself on private commercial models, and often in our experience, larger private companies are just as complex, political and risk averse as the government.”

Which fits Strategic Reform’s goals perfectly, because while clients receive a unique service and bespoke solution, the approach to discovering and understanding complexity is the same for both the private and public sectors.

“They have opportunities to learn from another, and as Strategic Reform work across both, we have the ability to cross- pollinate insights,” Gale says.

The fact that any one of Strategic Reform’s staff can go into a business with a consistent philosophy and approach is paramount to the company’s past and future success and key to the continued growth the company is enjoying.

Yet, the journey has only just started for Gale as he looks to improve Strategic Reform’s reputation further.

“A consulting business is the hardest to build: we are in the business of selling people to people. We sell to emotion, and to be able to do that and have clients pay is what we have fought long and hard for. Now it is time to take Strategic Reform to the next level.”

While the company has targets around revenue and size, Gale is adamant that these objectives not come in the way of the company’s core approach and culture.

“We have been very selective in our growth so far, but now it’s time that were known as being the market leader in the technology transformation space.

“We want to be seen as a credible alternative to any major consulting company and for it to be known that we can compete on capability, but win on price and quality of service. We want every CXO in every government department in the Commonwealth to know what we are able to do.”

Business First is a peer-to-peer magazine: written by CEOs and other high level executives, with interviews with some of the country’s best leaders.

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