The transformative power of dance – morph proud to sponsor Streetfunk community work

Morph is all about enabling business transformation. To transform requires an openness to change born out of a growth mindset.

Do you have a growth mindset and what engendered that in you? Were you encouraged to feel capable and adaptive?  Or did you have to overcome adversity and find that strength yourself?

Access to new opportunities, challenge and positive role models are so critical in our formative years – attending a dance class for example and attempting a complex move, standing up and performing in front of an audience and working together in a “crew” helps kids develop self-esteem, confidence and teamwork skills.  

Dance can transform children’s outlook and their lives, but as with so many opportunities, such classes can be beyond the means of families on ever tighter budgets.

Morph is proud to sponsor Sussex-based streetdance school, Streetfunk, in its mission to support the local community by providing classes for children for whom such clubs are not affordable.

Streetfunk is looking for more sponsors to make that difference – can you help?

Click on the image below to hear Streetfunk’s appeal on BBC Sussex

ESG and the SMB

ESG – it’s not just for corporates!

Large or small, there’s great benefits to businesses from focusing on ESG . . . if you do it right.

SMBs need to ensure that they’re building ESG into their future vision – how do you go about making ESG an opportunity for your business vs just another compliance task?

In my blog for Shirlaws I share some tips for success.

The future of the workforce – let’s be more elastic!

New ways of working – beyond hybrid

The world and its HR department are busy talking about working models at the moment, with the primary focus on how to make hybrid working work.  If we’re going to throw things up in the air, as Covid19 has forced us to do, let’s take the time to think expansively about what work and teams should look like in the future.  As well as thinking about remote vs on premise, let’s think a bit about inhouse vs outsourced and whether all of your team need to be formal employees.

Flexible resource

There are a lot of strong arguments for what has traditionally been called a Contingent Workforce: a labour pool hired on an on-demand basis consisting of freelancers and consultants who are not on the company’s payroll.  A contingent workforce provides a business with agility and flexibility and saves on administrative costs. 

Elastic vs Contingent

While this has traditionally been termed a “Contingent Workforce”, the current buzz term for this is “Elastic Workforce” and I must say I really prefer that.

While Contingent Workforces are all about cost management, Elastic Workforces are all about, what is to me, the most exciting advantage of having access to expert freelancers and consultants: addressing skills gaps by gaining rapid access to experienced professionals already equipped with the skills required to support and deliver effectively.  So, the focus of an Elastic Workforce is on what it allows you to do if you flex and stretch, take a fresh perspective and combine it with your established expertise and experience.  “Elastic” focuses on the value you can add to the business vs the costs you can contain.

For you to really maximise on the ROI of an Elastic model, you have to view your freelancers and consultants as a network of partners vs as a supplier list. You have to work with people you can trust, invest in your relationships with them, keep them close so that they have a fundamental understanding of your company culture and can operate as a fluid and effective extension to your team.

Elastic heart

In the words of Sia, I have an elastic heart, I’m very happy to jump in and become an extension to my clients’ teams and they tell me that this gives them excellent ROI.  And in turn, morph relies on an elastic multidisciplinary workforce of trusted experts to ensure that we have the right tools and capacity to deliver.   

In recent months, I’ve been working closely with a client team, providing them with support in developing a future-facing diversification strategy. And I now move forward in supporting them with developing marketing excellence to support that transformation. I’m there to turn my hand to whatever other support may be needed.   The arrangement works, because it works, there are no retainers, no punitive cancellation charges, extreme flexibility.  It’s different from the traditional client-agency relationship and it yields better results.

Is Elastic for you?

Need some help shaping or implementing your marketing strategy?  Need an extra pair of hands and a fresh pair of expert eyes to get you through an intensive strategy planning phase?  Do get in touch and let’s see how we can help.

Elastic not plasticine

Finally, I need to bust a myth.  A few have posed the theory that morph takes its name from a little orange plasticine man, Morph, star of 70’s BBC kids’ art show Take Hart.  I have to admit, Take Hart was a major inspiration for me in my formative years and, yes, there are quite some parallels between morph and Morph.  As you’ll see from this video, Morph (the orange plasticine man) is always changing, shape-shifting, stretching, flexing and adapting, the perfect role-model for the modern market researcher.

Here’s a handy article on how you can keep your workforce elastic:

Data – is it all a blur?

Data – love it or hate it?

I’m a big fan of data, good data.  How do you feel about it?  Honestly now , how data literate are you?  And how data literate is your team?

It’s a BIG issue

The reason I’m asking this question is that I sense that the word data has taken on a new and mythical meaning ever since we started referring to “BIG data” often in conjunction with the term “AI”. And this is th point at which many people started hearing “BIG (scary) data” and started backing off.

If you’re pretty data literate you may be feeling that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here but you love data so here are some stats that illustrate the scale of the problem:

  • According to a 2019 study by Accenture, Just 21% of the global workforce are fully confident in their data literacy skills — i.e., their ability to read, understand, question and work with data1
  • 74% report feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data
  • And it’s not something that leaders are immune to –  only 32% of business executives feel able to create measurable value from data 

Trying to fix the problem and inadvertently making it worse

Businesses aware of the value of data and the need to make better use of it have typically introduced either a specialist data-analytics function and/or self-serve data analytics tools (More than 2/3 have access to business intelligence tools and data analytics software according to the Accenture study). While, on the other hand,  just 20% are focused on upskilling their workforce in general.

These efforts often compound the issue as staff, nervous of dealing with data, feel ill-equipped to use the tools provided and the existence of a specialist team confirms their creeping suspicion that data is the domain of data specialists.

Avoid! Avoid!

As data takes on these mythical proportions, perfectly intelligent people start to back away from it because they believe that it’s complex, technical and something they’re not qualified to get involved in. (Check out my blog on “digitisation” which definitely has the same response).  

These feelings result in people avoiding data:

  • The Accenture study found that 1/3 of those who feel overwhelmed by data find a way to fulfil the task without data. Furthermore, a minority of them will just avoid the task entirely.   
  • And leaders are people too – 2/3 of C-suite executives, senior managers and directors would go with their gut feeling over data-driven insight.

Is it any wonder then that 60% +  of all enterprise data is never analysed?

No surrender!

More worryingly still, those scared of data can be inclined to surrender – discounting their own expertise and common business sense “well it doesn’t seem right to me, but I’m not a data expert” laying businesses vulnerable to misuse and misinterpretation of data.

Debunking the myth

We need to debunk the myth that data is something new and scary: data is that stuff you’ve been using for years, the facts and figures about your business, your market, your customers – it might have become bigger but it’s still the same stuff. And this stuff is critically important. So it needs to be on everyone’s job spec not just that of the data science team.

Data is just meaningless numbers unless someone with an understanding of the business and market context is there to specify the data cuts and interpret it.  We need data experts, but we need them to work with the rest of the business. They need to make data accessible and digestible to the business vs blind the team with data science.

It’s all about data literacy

A good way to focus on ensuring the data literacy of your team is by having a data literacy strategy. 

The term data literacy itself can sound quite scary but it’s really not – here’s a very simple definition from MIT Sloan –  the ability to:

  • read data, which means understanding what data is and the aspects of the world it represents.
  • work with data, including creating, acquiring, cleaning, and managing it.
  • analyse data, which involves filtering, sorting, aggregating, comparing, and performing other analytic operations on it.
  • argue with data, which means using data to support a larger narrative that is intended to communicate some message or story to a particular audience.

And another thing that makes this less scary is that, importantly, we don’t all have to master all of these aspects of data literacy to the same level – it’s about having the right level of data literacy for your role.

How to build data literacy

It’s great to see a growing lobby for data literacy to be taught in school, however that doesn’t solve the problem for businesses now.  So it’s down to businesses to make sure their teams are well equipped to make good use of the wealth of data available.  The great news here is that this doesn’t require extensive investment – it’s really accessible to any business. 

There are a wealth of free resources available to guide you in upskilling your team such as those provided by The Data Literacy Project.   

And many how-to guides which typically boil the process down to:

  1. Determine which skills are needed by whom
  2. Develop a roadmap to get there
  3. Provide training to upskill your team

So what’s holding you back?

Fancy some further reading?

This Accenture/The Data Literacy Project report is great for arguing the case for focusing on data literacy in your team.

This MIT Sloan article gives a guide on how to implement a data literacy strategy

And Here’s a handy read from Harvard Business Review which provides a clear guide on how to boost your team’s data literacy.

And do check out the resources provide by The Data Literacy Project.

One year into the pandemic – why is customer service still struggling?

Customer service – it matters

It’s an occupational hazard for those who work in customer experience – we can never just be a customer.  When we’re on the receiving end of good or poor customer service, we’re always deconstructing it, what made that such a good experience or what made it so awful?  And how does that make me feel about this brand? 

Why the obsession?  Check out these stats if you need convincing that getting customer service right is critical to business growth.

Service gaps exposed

2020 was a bumpy year for customer service.  It’s understandable: with businesses thrown into disarray by rapid decline and growth of different business streams and businesses forced to digitise and switch to remote working rapidly, many businesses have struggled to cope and adapt.  Customer service has been faced with a combination of increased volumes, a dramatic shift in the nature of customer issues to handle, total disruption of systems and workflows and workforce under pressure. 

It’s been fascinating to watch how businesses have responded to the customer service challenges that the pandemic has thrown at them.  The vast majority of businesses had to really think on their feet with, according to this report by Salesforce, 88% of businesses saying that the pandemic exposed service gaps.  

And reportedly there’s high awareness of how customer service is struggling and a commitment to improve.  But, we’re one year into this now, why’s it taking so long to fix?

Here are a few theories:

Rapid digitisation

Typically the response has been to invest in new technology (78% of businesses having done so during the course of the pandemic) and there has clearly been a move towards digitisation with increases in the number of businesses using each of a large number of digital solutions.

But digital migration is complex stuff and prone to failure if the right building blocks aren’t in place – the need to transform at speed means many will have gone off half-cock underestimating the time and effort involved.  

Over-reliance on technology

While there’s been an investment in technology there’s also been a reduction in the number of businesses offering the more human customer service elements – phone, email and in-person customer service.  Digitisation is not about making everything digital, but rather putting digital in place where it makes sense – sometimes you just need to speak to someone, so investing in a great digital system but removing the human elements will leave customers frustrated by lack of empathy and resolution.

Customer centricity (a lack of it)

Businesses are growing increasingly aware of the importance of customer centricity but this can’t be achieved by just telling staff to be more empathetic. 

You really need to give thought to your workflows but more importantly, you need to look at them from the perspective of the customer experience not the internal process.

Are customer service processes thought of as workflows or as customer journeys – there is a key difference here. 

And were customer needs taken into account in the service design (i.e. was the customer insight building block in place?    

When businesses look inwards focusing on internal operations, cost reduction etc.  but give little consideration to the customer experience the customer service pips start to squeak.

Change as a one-off event vs ongoing need

Many businesses will have fallen into the trap of viewing digitisation of their customer services as an initiative, a one-off event vs an ongoing process.  Each new phase of the lockdown will have brought with it new operational challenges and customer needs and expectations will shift through these different stages as customer needs and expectations are impacted by socio-economic backdrop, consumer confidence and experience of service in other categories.  The model needs to keep adapting to hit the right notes. Hitting the right notes can have a fundamental impact on your bottom line, so this is a worthwhile investment.

Back to basics

So how do we fix this?  I’d argue for a return to basics and that doesn’t mean a return to analogue – please do continue with the tech solutions!

There’s a trend to calling customer service teams customer success teams which is great – let’s focus on a positive outcome for the customer by all means! 

But maybe focusing on an older term customer care is what’s needed now.  To deliver good customer service you really need to care about your customer, understand their situation, needs and priorities and whether the experience you give them is delivering against those needs today and whether it will be fit for purpose tomorrow.  It’s pretty basic, but it works.  Give it a try.

Do get in touch if you’d like to know how.

Getting to grips with complex value chains – it’s child’s play

What do people do all day?

Anyone who’s ever interacted with a toddler will be familiar with the why stage – a toddler’s need to ask “Why?” ad nauseum.  It’s an important developmental stage but also utterly infuriating. 

So, here’s a confession.  I don’t think I ever grew out of my why?-phase, indeed I just went on to add other open-ended questions to this such as how does that work? And what would happen if?

I blame the parents – their answer to all of these questions was just to bombard me with answers and supply me with books packed with facts. One of the best being Richard Scarry’s  What do people do all day? I’d highly recommend What do people do all day? to anyone who wants to get a rudimentary grip on business models and value chains and have unashamedly visited these texts on both of my children and all of my nieces and nephews – watch out Daisy, you’re next!   

Make it visual

Imagine my delight then, when a business system’s manager friend of mine came to me last week and said “I’m working with HR, we need a way to get new starters up to speed quickly, they can’t do the usual physical tour of the warehouse and factory, view the processes, understand how it all hangs together and how we fite into the value chain, we’d really like to visualise how our business works, who does what and why” – he’s now working up a Richard-Scarry style visualisation of the different functions in the team and how the business interacts with the outside world.

No laughing matter

Do give Richard Scarry a read, you might learn a thing or two.  But, admittedly, value chains can get complex and value chain complexity can cost you dear, so you may need something a little more orthodox to visualise your value chain. If Richard Scarry isn’t doing it for you, then check out Duke University’s site for useful value chain tools.

If you fancy some lighter reading, I can also recommend another Scarry text:  The Funniest Story Book Ever it really is the funniest story book ever.

Why businesses need authentic wellbeing

Let’s be honest

Yesterday, it was announced that The UK boss of KPMG, Bill Michael, will step aside having reportedly kicked off the week by telling a 500 strong “town hall” gathering of the firm’s financial consultants to “stop moaning” about the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on their lives, and to stop “playing the victim card”. Ouch.  He later said the comments did not reflect his beliefs – weasel words! What’s most shocking here is not that these, despite his protests, are his beliefs, it is his candour and choice of words.  So why am I not surprised?

What we say vs what we do

You, like me, are probably bombarded with article upon article about employee wellbeing, how it’s more important than ever in the current circumstances, not only because it’s right to care about your people but because it’s proven to impact your bottom line (according to Big 4 firms ironically).  So, on a theoretical level, there’s a recognition that, with the extended lockdown, working from home (WFH), home schooling, social isolation etc. people are under incredible pressure, feeling the impact on their mental wellbeing and, be they aware of it or not, at high risk of burnout (check out this HBR article which nicely summarises the impact of Covid19 in 12 charts). . Any leader worth their salt must be aware of this now.   

Whereas, in reality, we’re seeing an increasing normalisation of lockdown/WFH not to mention the general Covid19 backdrop. Recognition of and allowance for these added pressures has been forgotten.  Far from being supported, many are being asked not only to function as normal but to go the extra mile. Businesses have got empathy fatigue. 

All of these businesses, particularly global corporations, have HR teams, wellbeing programmes and espouse the importance of wellbeing.  Even Bill Michael claims to be a believer:  “Looking after the wellbeing of our people and creating a culture where everyone can thrive is of critical importance to me and is at the heart of everything we do as a firm.”

Authentic wellbeing

Which brings me to my point.  There’s much talk about authentic leadership.  We need to start talking about authentic wellbeing.  Employee wellbeing is not a bolt-on, an initiative or a programme, it’s not something that should be left to the wellbeing team, a publicity stunt for your social channels/CSR communications, it’s not a tick-box exercise, a head massage in a meeting room in the middle of a week of 12 hour working days.  Your leadership team needs to truly buy into the importance of wellbeing and weave this into the fabric of the organisation – wellbeing starts with feeling valued. It requires authentic and transparent leadership, a listening and learning culture, civilised working hours and workloads, flex-working programmes that treat employees like adults, wellbeing metrics and measures vs just weasel words. And then you can start offering head massages if you want to.

At my previous agency Breaking Blue, I got to see this done properly and to reap the rewards – a loyal, motivated and resilient team, happy and with fuel in the tank to go the extra mile when needed, because they weren’t expected to do that day-in-day-out.  And we got head massages too.  Hats off to the BB leadership team who really lived these wellbeing values and to the team who invested their trust in us.  Fundamental to this was a flex-working policy that offered true flexibility and really worked for everyone – authentic flex-working if you will.  Please get in touch if you’d like to know more about that – I’m happy to share.

Also check out Make a Difference for fresh and authentic perspectives on all things workplace wellbeing.

Embracing the spirit of Kaizen – we can all learn “new tricks”

Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

Good news: I’ve just been awarded The Change Management Professional Certificate and that means I get my Saturday afternoons back! This lockdown I’ve decided to brush up on a few skills.

When it comes to change management, insight leadership and governance I’m very much an autodidact – I’ve learned on the job over the years. I have a great, intuitive sense of how to do things and ample practical experience. So why embark on a formal course and certification process?

Kaizen – it works

Well I’m a strong believer in lifelong learning and continuous improvement – call me Kaizen Kate. And gaining a formal certificate in change management has given me the chance to complement decades of experience with the latest in thinking, frameworks and vocabulary – learning “new tricks” as it were and also new words for “old tricks”.

So, what next?

Glad to have completed the course and got my Saturday afternoons back . . . so I can spend these on brushing up on my corporate governance skills via the InTouch NED programme . . . what next?

For more on the spirit of Kaizen, check out this site

Non-digital experts: your digital transformation needs you!

Digitisation – like it or hate it?

When you hear the words “digitisation” or “digital transformation” does it warm the cockles of your heart or make your blood run cold?  Putting aside the “+isation” suffix which is enough to bring a lot of people out in hives, how do you feel about “digital”? 

Digital transformation – it’s about computers right?

At a Non-Executive Director networking event earlier this week, I attended a workshop (virtual of course) on digital transformation. The cumulative business acumen in the virtual room was off the scale – this was an impressive bunch of folk with years of experience in global corporates, experienced directors, industry and functional experts.  So, it was salutary to hear their caution around the topic, the general reaction from anyone other than the digital experts being “well I’m not a digital expert so I’m really not certain how well I’m going to be able to contribute”.   

What was going on there?  These people know business and are no fools – why were they backing away from discussing a critical business issue? 

To put it simply: digital transformation is a scary term. What do we actually mean by digital?   Don’t you need to be a digital expert to understand the issues and to get involved in digital transformation? 

Were I to say to this group of people, “I’d like you to join a discussion about how we make supply chain in this business run smoother?” or “I’d like to talk about how we better serve the customer”, they’d be there with bells on. 

Fight, flight, surrender

The term digital transformation can cause a fight or flight response in the non-digital expert or often a third response: surrender – discounting their own expertise and common business sense “well it doesn’t seem right to me, but I’m not the digital expert” .

Not so long ago, a client in a leading global corporate came to me with a big dilemma, his boss, the head of customer experience, had asked him to lead on a significant digitisation project, he’d found a paper on the internet and believed they should follow that model, it was tried and tested so that removed the need for any form of design stage surely – let’s go straight to implementation!  He’d clearly taken leave of his senses and thankfully, we were able to nip this idea in the bud. 

A plea to you non-digital experts

So here’s a plea from someone who’s very much at home in the world of digital transformation – non digital experts, your digital transformation needs you! 

  • Digital transformation is all about business improvement and better serving the customer, the starting point should be a business opportunity or problem not the technological solution 
  • Digitisation doesn’t mean digitising everything, but rather, understanding where digital is accepted or even preferred, where digital improves, how best to implement it, mitigating against any perceived barriers and importantly, maintaining or even enhancing more traditional, analog/human interactions where these really make a difference
  • To do this well, we need to understand the business context, operational constraints, channel and customer needs – we need a team of cross-functional experts, not just digital experts 
  • Of course we also need to understand what digital can deliver – which is where the digital experts come in
  • The digital experts need your input and should value it, they should be keen to make their solutions accessible to decision makers and not blind you with computer science 

In short, they (the digital experts) can’t do it without you and you can’t do it without them, so please don’t fight it, don’t back off, get stuck in! 

There are some great papers on digital transformation here if that’s your kind of thing or if you’d prefer, please get in contact and let’s talk.