“How come they don’t have a clear name for what you do?”

Here’s John, thinking out loud: “This business transformation is giving me a headache. A friend of a friend says he knows a guy who can help. He gave a pretty vague description of the help provided, and said that I would find out when I call him. Well. Let’s give it a try…”

Click.

“Hi, this is Tim Selders.”

“Hi Tim, this is John. I got your number from a friend of Erics.”

“Ah Eric! Yes, we’ve worked together. These guys make such incredible yachts!”

“I hear they do, yes. And from what I heard, you’ve helped them with some innovation things.” 

“That’s right. We rebuilt their innovation process and opened it up, so they’d be much more flexible to introduce new technologies into yachts they were already building.”

“Mmmh. I also heard that you claim to be able to work with any company.” 

“Uhm. I don’t think I’ve made that claim, but would you like to find out if I could help you?” 

“Well, we’re not in yachting or toys.” 

“Okay. So, what is it you do?” 

“I’m CTO at Xco. Basically we’re a smaller version of Zco.”

“Ah. Zco published meagre numbers because their new line is overdue almost a year, right? How are you doing?”

“Yeah, that’s because Zco is an oil tanker that can’t be turned. Xco business is good, we work agile and a few of the people here actually get it. We’re in what some would call ‘old economy’. But I see an easy way out. If we commit to making a move into digitisation, we will grow 15% every year. Just like that.” 

“Okay, so business is good now. And you’re leading the ABC department? Are you making that change happen?”

“Yes, CTO leading up ABC. 20 people on my team.”

“Sounds like quite the workforce for making a change!”

“Sounds like it, but we interface with pretty much all other departments at Xco and they’re very good at slow decision making. Or careful, as they call it. Sometimes I think we’d need to be 30 people to get everything fixed here, but the CMO would probably outhire and outcomplicate us anyways.” 

“Oh, that’s interesting. So, about this way out… What if you’d widen the scope of that way out, so that you don’t just do it for large business but also smaller ones?”

“Yeah, as I said: we have one way out. And I just told you we have no people that could do that.” 

“No, no, wait a second, John. You’re not saying you have a people problem, right? If you look at Zco, they have a people problem. I mean look at how other mainly traditional industries have re-invented themselves. Take agriculture. Some of the larger Dutch companies do incredible stuff. Also Eric’s company, by the way.

“Yeah, I too read Harvard Business Review, so I know the examples from other industries. Maybe I should copy that article 200 times and spread it around here at Xco.” 

“Sure, but have you guys captured this way out in any way? Is it a vision that leadership knows about? Have you presented it?”

“Well, they wouldn’t g…”

“And you’d need to turn this into an easy system to explain this move to your peers first, and to your clients quickly after. And train your sales team to tell this story. Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I hear, you could still cover some ground before concluding the others don’t get it.”

“Oh, I forgot, you’re a coach too…” 

“Oh, come on John, put the gloves down for a moment. Let me ask you another question: how are your processes geared up for this change you’re proposing?” 

“Okay, okay, that’s enough. I’m not saying you’re right, but you’re actually saying some interesting things. How come they don’t have a clear name for what you do?” 

“Cheers! Well, I’m somewhere on the crossroads of business, innovation, design and the future, that’s for sure. I’ve tried to focus for a long time. But really, I’m wired to solve problems, usually on a strategic level, and that’s just what I’m good at. So, that’s what I do.”

“Hah. Makes sense. What’s the weirdest company you’ve worked for then?”

“I have a list of things I’ve worked on lately. I’m not sure if it’s weird, but maybe you’ll enjoy hearing that I helped a company on capturing their vision for the future of ski shoes?
Let’s be frank now John, working with me really comes down to taking the plunge. You want your people to make moves too, right?” 

“I do. Darn, let’s meet. On the condition this was the first and last time you’ve used my words against me.

“Can’t promise anything. Next week?”

“Let’s do so.”