We caught up with Lee Timmins, Senior Vice President at Atos Consulting to find out about life as a consultant, Atos's success at the MCA Awards and what they have been learn from the British cycling team.
How did you become a consultant?
As a line manager in manufacturing and supply chain, I worked with several consulting firms and liked the focus on performance improvement that they brought. I decided to try it for myself to broaden my experience – the plan was for just 3 years and yet here I still am!
Atos won two awards at the MCA awards, what makes those projects stand out as great consulting work?
Both projects delivered tangible and significant outcomes. Our approach at Atos is wherever possible to stay with clients until results are delivered and both projects are good examples. Also the subject matter and context for both projects were extremely challenging, one dealing with NHS reforms at the coal face and the other dealing with the aftermath of a national tragedy.
You won the overall Project of the Year for your work with the Hillsborough Independent Panel, how did you manage to establish trust with the families involved considering the levels of emotion surrounding the issue?
It was much more about our approach and the way things were done rather than what we did. All interactions and communications were carefully considered and planned, face to face wherever possible, respecting the ethos that the Panel and the Secretariat had put in place. Good case management technology also helped us to collaborate on documents, supporting the feeling of transparency.
Atos is about to release a report entitled ‘Marginal Gains – Maximising the performance of your most valuable workers’ which is based on performance improvement adopted by the British cycling team during the Olympics? What can you tell us about it?
Knowledge workers represent about 60% of the national wage bill and yet there has been relatively little progress on work design to improve performance in that role for many professionals. In fact in many cases we see the absence of work design.
Our research says that roughly 50% of professional workers feel that they can be up to 50% more productive if they were able to adopt a structured approach to improving the most important aspects of their work (such as skills, communication, collaboration, access to information, the work environment etc).
Our concept borrows heavily from the sporting world where the aggregation of marginal gains across the many factors which impact on the performance of an athlete can have a dramatic effect. Applying this concept in business is experimental. We are trialling it internally with our consultants to prove the concept before we take out widely to clients
It also raises questions for managers of professional staff (like me!). How many of us see ourselves as a coach, working tirelessly to improve the performance of our team?
What has changed in the time that you’ve been a consultant?
The industry went through some very tough times post 2008 and this forced many of us to really examine value propositions for clients. These days consultants must be even more paranoid about staying relevant, bringing genuine innovation and delivering value for money. Clients are quite rightly demanding more and we have to step up.
What does the future hold for Atos?
We are growing quickly at the moment and we expect that to continue for the foreseeable future and so bringing new people into the organisation is a big focus for us. Much of our recent growth is driven by new and innovative solutions for clients and we will keep our focus on this, especially around the digital agenda.
What is your advice for anyone in their early years in the industry?
Learn! Consulting has always provided fantastic opportunities for young people to broaden their skills. In Atos we encourage all consultants to make progress with learning and development goals, especially those new to the industry. And technology is changing the world for our clients ever more quickly which means we have a lot to stay on top of.