trainconsulting in Transformation

Why we’re realigning ourselves as a management consultancy

For many years, we at trainconsulting have been grappling with the question of how we, as management consultants, can make valuable contributions to society and drive sustainability in our ecosystem. I have already discussed the general circumstances in my latest contributions, and we are also featuring them extensively in the run-up to our Systemicum 2021.

Let’s briefly recapitulate a couple of core facts: We currently have an economic system that’s almost exclusively geared to quantitative growth. We also have a global financial sector that, for the most part, has become detached from the real economy and, as a result, no longer serves the real economy’s interests. There is a widening gap between rich and poor worldwide, while individuals are growing increasingly isolated. Cumulative GDP growth in the EU is expected to be more or less zero over the coming two years (2020-2022). Unemployment is rising worldwide, in some cases to record high levels. The number of people at risk of poverty within the EU has continued to grow slightly over the last ten years. And this is against the backdrop of 60% of Austria’s total privately held wealth of EUR 1,750 billion is in the hands of the top 1% of residents, while half the population has an annual net income of around EUR 17,000 euro (source: https://kontrast.at/einkommensverteilung-oesterreich). In Austria, this trend has increased strongly over the past few years, reflecting the trend in the USA. All of these issues have contributed to the rise of (especially right-wing) populists. They use the growing societal discontent to instigate changes that undermine democracy. I will spare you the concrete examples.

Luckily, we can also observe a great many positive global developments that usually get lost in the bad news, such as the massive reduction of severe poverty in the world, as well as sitransformationgnificantly better access to clean water and education. Another positive development is the EU’s Green Deal, which has the potential to create a framework for the further greening of the economy and society. In a world experiencing such upheaval, companies are facing a myriad of challenges in attempting to find a sustainable means of survival. The main issues are still related to competitiveness, efficiency and ensuring viability – and, in some cases, the sheer pursuit of profit. At the same time, pressure on organisations is growing to provide decent working conditions with opportunities for development and, more importantly, meaningful work and more sustainable products. This pressure is coming especially from younger demographics and, interestingly enough, to an ever greater extent from large investment houses, which are increasingly in search of “green investments”. We can safely expect the pressure to continue growing. This pressure is needed in order to create a sense of urgency for the change the world needs.

Conclusions we have drawn from all these developments:

In addition to our consulting work with companies of all sizes, we have also done consulting work for around 50 NGOs and civil society organisations, in some cases pro bono or at strongly reduced daily rates. We have enabled employees of such organisations to attend our training courses at no cost because we believe that the civil society and organisations that serve as a counterbalance in the development of society and ecology are in need of both support and know-how. Balance is also the magic word here: We believe that cooperation (including fruitful dialogue) between government organisations, NGOs and private companies is a prerequisite to successful development.

As a result, some time ago we began addressing a growing number of these social issues in our consulting work with companies. Our aim was to help establish issues related to the sustainable development of democracy and ecology as relevant concepts from an economic point of view. The SDGs (sustainable development goals) are a useful guide in this regard (https://www.sdgwatch.at/de/ueber-sdgs). To mention just one of them, I would like to highlight the eighth SDG here: Decent work and economic growth. The promotion of long-term, broad-based and sustainable economic growth, productive full employment and decent work for all. Does this sound challenging? It is challenging – and it’s absolutely essential.

How did we set up this change process at trainconsulting?

After a broad analysis of these developments, our clients, their interests and our own profile, our whole team made a collective decision to set out on an even bolder mission:

“We advise organisations on how to responsibly and boldly shape their future in a rapidly-changing social, ecological and economic environment.”

Seit letztem Sommer sind wir nun daran, Vision und Mission zu schärfen und unser Geschäftsmodell weiter zu entwickeln. Wir wollen in Zukunft zunehmend Unternehmen dabei begleiten, zu schönen Organisationen zu werden, die die Welt besser machen wollen. Schön sind für uns Unternehmen, die in der Wahrnehmung der Gesellschaft einen Beitrag für eine bessere Welt leisten, die Werten verpflichtet sind oder sich stärker in diese Richtung bewegen wollen. Unternehmen, die neben den notwendigen Profitabilitätszielen ihre Verantwortung in und für diese Welt als relevantes Ziel verankern möchten. All dies verändert in der Folge auch die Geschäftsmodelle von Unternehmen. Genau dort sehen wir auch die relevanteste Veränderung in den Unternehmen und eine unserer zentralen Rollen als Berater*innen.

BeraterInnen Team

Since last summer, we have been working on sharpening both our mission and our vision and on further developing our business model. In the future, we want to increasingly support companies in their efforts to become “beautiful” organisations. We see companies as beautiful when society views them as contributing to a better world, when they’re committed to a core set of values or when they want to move to the next level in these areas. Companies are beautiful when they aim to anchor their responsibility in and for this world as a relevant goal in addition to their indispensable profit targets. As a result of these trends, companies’ business models are evolving. This is precisely where we see the most relevant changes occurring in companies as well as where our central role as consultants lies.

For this to happen, we know that many existing patterns in both companies and society at large need to change. That’s why we started doing it ourselves: Pattern change is a central part of the transformation process because patterns will ultimately determine whether existing actions will be perpetuated or a new course of action can be set. Patterns can be the force that moves us forward, or the obstacle that hinders our development.

And now, after having traveled a couple of miles down this road, we can see all the more clearly how fundamental this change is – both for our clients as well as for ourselves. We assume this will require us to work even more radically on the quality of our consulting services, to become even more agile and more oriented towards real-world trends. Discovering how to organise effective and cooperative learning in complete transparency is what’s needed. This is a challenge for consultants – who, after all, have the reputation for being extremely competitive. It’s a challenge for people who have chosen to enter a profession which definitely requires a healthy dose of narcissism. The question we are focusing on most intensely is how to balance economic necessity with social and ecological responsibility. How can we be profitable enough to be able to invest in a healthy and strong way? Which projects do we take on wholeheartedly in order to do justice to our own mission, and where can we – or must we – draw a line and forego profit in order to stay true to ourselves? Such issues are bound to sound familiar to leaders in many an organisation.

We will keep you posted about how this new path is progressing.

Would you like to get to know companies that are setting a new and socially relevant focus? Would you like to learn about and discuss their solutions for conducting business sustainably?

On which relevant issues is your company creating new momentum?

You are cordially invited to a dialogue with experts and practitioners from the scientific, business and civil society community at the Systemicum on March 4, 2021: www.systemicum.eu

 

Lothar Wenzl

Lothar Wenzl

Systemic organisational consultant for profound transformation processes that help to create beautiful and successful organisations.
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