MCA Awards Interview: Change Management Consultant of the Year 2016

Tim O’Hanlon is Partner and COO of GE Healthcare Finnamore. At the 2016 MCA Awards, he was named the MCA’s Change Management Consultant of the Year and also led the team that won the Change Management in the Public Sector Project of the Year. In an interview with the MCA, Tim discusses his career in consulting and shares his tips for an award-winning project.

Congratulations on your success at this year’s MCA Awards. How did you find the Awards process?

The interview was challenging but great fun. It is a very valuable process to go through.

The ceremony itself was tremendous. It is a great event to be part of because it really celebrates success and drives the desire to be recognised in the market place. It is a powerful way of enhancing the industry and attracting people to it. I think the information we receive from clients, sometimes, is that we don’t celebrate success as much as we should and the MCA has given us a platform to do that.

You have now lead two projects that have won Change Management in the Public Sector Project of the Year (2013 & 2016). What do you feel makes an award winning submission?

I think a few factors can really make a compelling argument for a submission. Definite clarity of what the challenge was in the first place; articulating the problem in a language that is understandable to the judges, irrespective of the sector you work in.

It is also important to give examples of the challenges you have faced and to define the outcomes of the project with real values. Having the client there to articulate the journey from their point of view is extremely valuable.

You also managed this year’s Young Consultant of the Year and had another consultant shortlisted. What management tips would you give when looking to develop the next generation of leading consultants?

I think it is about the entire team promoting and supporting the aspirations of our young consultants. We have a very strong induction programme where new recruits are assigned  a buddy and a mentor, as well as their line manager. They are given room to grow and learn and we allow them to take risks. We have an essential consulting skills boot camp that is very solid ground work for them. They are moved around different jobs, and are not locked into a particular skill set for a particular client. Progress is monitored on a continual basis and they are recognised and rewarded for their good work.

You have been a management consultant for 28 years. Can you tell us a bit about your professional journey?

I started in the automotive and manufacturing industries. In each company I worked for I came across management consultants. I found the idea of coming into a business, sharing expertise, transferring skills and then moving on to the next business quite exciting. One of the consultancies I worked with approached me to join them and I said ‘Yes’.

I have moved firms a number of times since then and ended up running my own consulting business with a couple of partners. When I turned 50, I decided I didn’t want the strain of my own business so I moved to Atos Consulting and then 5 years later to GE Healthcare Finnamore.

From early in your career you have sought opportunities to publish and present your work, from trade publications to international conferences. How has this helped you as a consultant?

I quite enjoy presenting and I have had a number of books published. I think the reason is because it is relatively free marketing. It promotes what we do and it entices people to have a conversation with us. In turn, you get the opportunity to attend conferences and learn from other people.  It has really helped me raise my profile.

You have worked in 46 countries. How has this has changed your career?

Quite simply, you get to work with people in different cultures which is a very important aspect to management consulting. The ability to be able to recognise and work with people from multiple backgrounds is something that a good management consultant must be able to do.

Whilst working abroad you encounter different challenges. It is all invaluable experience which creates what we call ‘war stories’ – anecdotes for clients to remember which can emphasise your points. By travelling around the world you can build more stories over a period of time.

You have recently joined the MCA Board. What role are you looking to play within the MCA over the next few years as the consulting industry develops?

It is about helping the industry develop and evolve its profile. We have a moral obligation to demonstrate how we add value to the government and private sector. This means getting the market to re-understand and appreciate what consultancy can bring to the table over and above what they might be hearing. Consulting Excellence will be a valuable tool to showcase this.