The Thames from Ludgate HouseI’m in the midst of a small but interesting piece of work for some old property industry contacts, and it’s really caught my imagination. I’m talking to some businesses that have successfully transformed their company with input from a firm of consultants, and the stories that are emerging are compelling and inspiring.

I’ve long wondered about the way publishing businesses have tried to go through this period of transition. Change management is hard. It is, in essence, a whole set of skills in it own right, a discipline if you like. And I’ve seen precious few – if any – publishing businesses call in the professionals. They’ve instead relied on internal change agents, people who agitate for change from within. People like I was for RBI, for example.

There are two problems with this:

  1. The change agents often have the required craft skills, but have to learn change management as they go along.
  2. They are part of the company’s hierarchy, so anything they say will be filtered through the internal politics of the organisation.

The advantage of bringing in an outsider to do some or all of this work is a powerful combination of skills, focus on change management and providing someone to challenge and provoke who isn’t invested into the political infrastructure of the company.

This isn’t any great insight, I admit. But having worked as an internal change agent, who is now doing some initial projects as an external change consultant, I’m beginning to see that the latter might be the more effective role.