I talk to Maz, a seasoned Salesforce Programme Manager with decades of experience around CRM and Transformation projects.
We talk about life, and the importance of being human. I invite you to listen in on our conversation here. Enjoy!
Pei Mun Lim 00:19
Hi, Maz Welcome to OnThePeiroll my podcast. How are you today?
Hi, I’m great, and I’m looking forward to this conversation. Really looking forward to it.
Pei Mun Lim 00:30
Thank you, I would consider you a very, very good friend, although how we’ve met is quite interesting, isn’t it? to recount the the incident, and then you can put your flavor into it. So a few years ago, I interviewed you for a role in my company. And one of the things that I felt, that was for, I think, a senior project manager role. One of the things that I felt very keenly during the interview was, you should be the one interviewing me, because you are far more senior and far more experienced than I am. And that kind of started a friendship. What was your memory of how our friendship started?
Well, actually, it was exactly that memory. I remember the office, I remember you were there. There was a colleague of yours. Yeah. And what I loved about it was your humanity. So you asked me the questions that you needed to ask me. But it was the way that you asked them. Okay. And I find myself I found myself a liking you personally and professionally. Right? Because I could have had that scenario with many, many people. And it would have just been like a sanitary encounter like a hospital, right? And you go in, then you get the operation, then you move out which you are not left with any kind of experience, any kind of joy, any kind of aha moment. So yes, I connected with your both your professionalism and your humanity. And I thought, well, this is an interesting person.
Pei Mun Lim 02:23
So yeah, I think since then, even though you didn’t get the position, which was a bit sad for me. We continued our… we continue talking. And we had lunches and we talked about projects and about life in general. And your friendship to me has enriched my life. And I’m really so glad that you have said okay to the podcast. Let’s start with you giving our listeners a flavor of your journey to where you are now professionally.
Well, I have to be honest, and that’s my trademark straight. There is no plan there no rhyme, no rhythm to it. Okay. I’ve pretty much followed mine dress and my passions now. So okay, I enter into the world of consulting because I did not want to pursue a career as a physicist. Okay. So the start of it was okay, I don’t want to pursue a career as a physicist, I end up doing, you know, working for the big accountancy companies, but only in accountancy company, not the consulting side, I become a chartered accountant, I think, Okay. I do not see myself playing around with figures in the back office. I think I will die. Okay, so it’s been really useful to do this. And like many times in my life, I had a chance encounter with a friend of mine, a colleague of mine, who was older and sky work in copper recovery, it is so exciting. We get to do this, we get to do that. Right. So I basically switched into corporate recovery. And it was indeed exciting. You know, as a part of that I was part of a small team that managed a chain of hotels that had gone into administration called finding the show, tada, remember, to did everything from your getting involved in marketing to say, how do we get more, we need to get more customers, we need more business coming in. Right? That’s one side to get involved in that on the other side, renegotiating contracts with suppliers, right? So being able, you know, you’re, you’re you’re supplying me, I don’t know, television, services, laundry, whatever it is, right? And I say, hold on, right? We need to renegotiate the contracts because the company is going into administrations I no longer want to pay those kind of prices, right? So is that you know, that diversity of work. And so you want to be really surprised them to learn that that work of In fact, getting involved in the improvement and management of businesses because the whole idea was to make these businesses tick better, and find a buyer right. Sell them So I did a few of those business. I mean, another one was London arena, when it went into receivership. So believe it or not got involved in the sell side of putting, you know, getting business in our event in the London arena, then all the management side. And that included, like helping people to take those metal barriers. And you know, when you go to concerts, you actually imagine me in a suit, right. And I’m taking this mental barriers out of people putting him in, you know, now so that you can have crowd control, or having these conversations with the fire brigades around the emergency procedures or London ambulance. So that was a really good training grandmother. I love that. And that led into consulting, and where did I end up, obviously ended up in the finance function. And, you know, business process reengineering, which was the Vogue at the time, and the RP right. So that was really big, because that was my chartered accountancy background. So I did that. So I was involved in implementing JD Edwards and PeopleSoft, right? You know, and various different businesses, and then the Hot Topic became shared services. So why don’t we get these, you know, massive savings and everything else and put it into a European shared services. So I ended up doing that. But I, but I had a pivotal encounter in my life, where I actually it was two things. One realization was that the all of the work that I was doing, actually, ultimately was leading to people losing their jobs. So that hit me one day, and I actually, I remember that I was in an assignment in Belgium. And somebody brought that attention to me Where in effect, a logistics manager who had worked in this company all his life, was supporting a, you know, two children in university was going to lose his work a job because of my work, my findings, my recommendations, that was devastating for him, because he wasn’t ready to retire, right? Because this is all again. And then but also had a big ability impact on his ability to put his children to university, right, so now got me thinking, I don’t really want to do this. And about roughly the same time I encountered a project a Salesforce automation project in front of a company called revenue contract. Okay, so IBM was writing is Salesforce automation software, because the pricing and discount terms was so complex, that the sales people couldn’t price properly when they’re in front of the customer.
And I got involved in that. And I thought this is addressing this is all about selling. And if you sell more, right, to generate more revenue, there’s going to be the potential for the company to generate more jobs. And at the same time, as I was interested in Buddhist philosophy, and I thought, okay, karma. So I have been responsible, whether I realize it or not for many, many people losing their jobs. Now, if I go into this side, and I help companies to do better in the demand generation space, right, then, quite possibly, I’m going to help these companies to create more jobs. So I may be able to balance these these skills, right. So I made that that jump and that choice in 1998. And since 1999, I have been totally focused on the front office base of how do you get more customers? How do you retain your existing customers? And how do you grow the value of your customer base? Okay. So it’s taken many kind of incarnations. So I’ve done it from the strategy side, where, using the peppers and Rogers framework, you segment your customer base and into segments, and the segments are unique, because the financial value they represent to the company is different by segment, but what they want to lead from you are a different set of facts for each segment. Okay, what is it that I’m giving you, of interest you that stuff? And what is it you’re going to give back to me, right? And then that’s where the experience can be different, the value proposition can be different, right? So that’s when you end up treating different customers differently, which is absolutely a huge mindset change from companies who are product focused, and they want to do what they want to do is they want to standardize a process, standardize their operations, as if it’s a manufacturing facility, even though their service operations and deliver one level of service to every single customer, right. So I’ve done that. But from then on, I’ve done you know, the customer journey mapping, the experience design, including, you know, having these if you’ve got the personas and you put yourself in that persona and you go mystery shopping, and then you see how how did these companies and employees interact with you? How does that leave you feeling and set Right. So I’ve done that. On the other hand, I’ve had the privilege of running a data mining and predictive analytics. Right? So way before me right now, a AI is hot, right? But the fundamentals are the same. It’s just that instead of human beings and model is doing it, right, it’s technology doing it. But what’s forgotten is that is actually pattern recognition, connecting things up finding things in the data, if it’s a large enough data set, right? So one aspect of data mining is clustering, right? Oh, PMS have something in common, right? So how do we segment a customer base or something, so he can help you to get unique clusters? All right. The other one is targeting all marketing really works on the fundamental thing is, if I’m communicating with a bunch of people, I’m a marketer. But one of the things that really, really helps is if I target the right people, right? At this point in services, if I want to, you know, sell clothes for new babies, I better know who the new moms I was going to be the new month, right? If I send it to every person is a female isn’t going to work. So So the other aspect is target targeting so. And so whilst I was not a modeler, and I can’t model for the life of me, and I had a right hand, man, who was super, super bad this right. But what I could do is I could understand what this particular technology, or allows marketers do at a business level, right. And so that brings me to the other thing, so I ended up I am first and foremost, as I see myself as a business consultant, helping clients to solve challenges or problems in their customer domain. But pretty much everything now gets done with technology. So I had to get used to technology. So I had to learn ERP systems when I was doing finance, functional engineering, right? When I got into the customer domain, I got into CRM systems and custom analytic systems, etc. Right? So now I’ve arrived at the point where I really don’t know what am I right? Am I a business consultant? Am I a technology consultant, because often my work involves implementing technology. But the thing that’s never left me is that I, unlike most technology consultant that I’ve come in for pretty much every single one, I start with a business, what is the business seeking to change? What’s the business domain? And then what how will that technology, you know, help to make things better, as opposed to here’s a technology? How do I fit the business into it? Yeah,
well, that’s pretty much all I’ve done. But in you know, lots and lots of different flavors and across different industries. And the latest kind of thing for me is, you know, implement, I’ve done digital because I spent some time in a digital agency. So we helped to, you know, redesign websites put in ecommerce systems like ATG was a hot ecommerce system, right? So this was kind of like you were doing digital transformation before it was digital transformation. So I remember working for a company called Sage Publications as a client. And so they are academic textbook publishers and journals, right? And very much on the social sciences side of things, right. So they sell to universities, and they sell to all kinds of librarians libraries around the world. And the whole business is around, here’s a textbook or something, I need to get it to you who is a professor in some way. If you like this textbook, you will tell your students to go and get this textbook, right? And then, you know, I will be able to tell these textbooks. And so this this bit about interacting and getting that influence was all manual process. So there decided many, many years ago to say, why don’t we platform it on a digital right. So you as you as a lecturer can come in, you can see the details and write about the details. You can see what textbooks are available to you can request copies to try out right, or we could. And so you take out all the manual work. And you can see who’s used one, what copy and stuff. And you can also know when it’s time to get the copies back. So yeah, so I’ve been I’ve been doing that. And I think the latest version of that was going into the Salesforce world in 2013, which is how we ended up meeting right because you’re working for a Salesforce consultancy.
Pei Mun Lim 14:17
That’s right. That’s right.
Why Salesforce basically, you know, I one of my best friends, unfortunately no longer with us. We both did CRM strategy and experienced design work, he happened to be working in CloudSherpas. And we had lunch one day I remember the day and I remember the restaurant because he’s one of my best friends. It was in reading and he said mazz we’re here is hard. We are moving in from smaller mid sized implementations to enterprise ones. And we now need people who can actually properly manage projects, do the engagements, but we’re also going to move from Salesforce implementation to computer advisory, you know, sorry, CRM advisory. And so you have the skill sets for that and that’s how I ended up showing Cloud Sherpas, right? And I’ve stayed here, because now with the experience of doing that, there’s a role to play, I enjoy the front end work with clients. Again, what I find is unique about me is I start with what are your business challenges, not what the technology can do for you, right? Although I seek to educate them, right. So when you do the business requirements, and solution design, and new kind of process is a combination of what the business are trying to achieve, and what the technology will do. And what I also love the bit about leading a team, and when I say leading a team, that’s gonna be very, very different from, hey, begin being in charge of a group of people. So when you start an engagement, you do not have a team, you have a group of people, right, this distinction is very present for me. So first thing to do is how do you convert a group of people into a team. So I kind of really enjoy that challenge. And one of my domains of satisfaction when I look back on my life, and my career is the number of people that I see having impacted their lives, right. And I’m right now I’m thinking of at least two young women who are remarkably talented. But when I came across them on engagements, they were not listened to. They were demotivated, one of them had absolutely lost her confidence, or because they were seen as women, they were seen as young, they were seen whatever they were seen, but they weren’t seen as professionals. In both cases, I could see, I was able to spot the talent, here is a really talented person, but whose voice isn’t being listened to isn’t being encouraged, who isn’t given the right role, right? In the assignment, the engagement and being able to provide them with whatever was missing, but it was guidance, whether it was confidence, whether it was simple as saying, I know, you can do this. So I’m making you the lead technical consultant, even though you’re the youngest person on the team, right. And don’t worry, I am here, right by your side. And anything that you can’t handle, you talk to me, we will do it together, right. And I will carry the risk, you’re not carrying the risks, right. And I remember a particular engagement, which was a mentioned bank, and this lady who was my lead technical stuff, we had to implement, you know, encryption shield. Nobody had on team had done it. And she was really busy. And she didn’t feel comfortable. So I went home in the evening, even though you know, stuff. And I did all the research on encryption of this and played around with it. And the next day, I kind of did an education session for that and then said, Okay, let’s set some time aside, and you and I will go and configure and implement encryption together side by side, right. So those kind of memories. So if you say what keeps me in the game, is two things, I generally want help companies to create a better relationships, what I call Win, win mutual Win Win relationships with our customers. And secondly, I genuinely enjoy leading teams, right and impacting people’s lives.
Pei Mun Lim 18:21
So that segues quite nicely into one of my favorite topics, which is high performing team, you mentioned that there’s a distinction between a group of people and a team, walk me through your process about how, when you begin an engagement as we do in consulting, you might get group of people with you, with whom you may or may not have worked with before. How do you turn this group of people into a team who performs really well and who’s loyal and who is cohesion is tight? What’s your..?
Yeah, so the, you know, what are the fundamental principles of customer base strategy that I learned from the peppers and Rogers group was treat different customers differently. So that then comes down to treat different human beings differently? Right. Okay. So how can I treat you if you’re on my team differently? Well, first of all, I could keep my mouth shut. And listen. You have a history, right? Of how you arrived up where you are, you have certain skills, you have set weaknesses, things that you want to do things that you don’t want to do right there. You might be an early bird, somebody else is a labor, right? So I’ve got to know those things. Right. So I almost always start with listening. Yeah. And then try and find and it’s a two way dialogue. And then the next thing that I do, which I think is incumbent upon me, and it’s also deeply to do with the way I like to work, I work with a team to plan out the game that we’re playing. Okay, so this is the Going game, right? Then we basically go into roles. Who is playing? What role? What contribution? Yeah. Third thing is I make it really clear to everybody that the only differentiation between us on the team is on the basis of role. It’s not about status, hierarchy, sex, gender, age, nothing, right. So and this is what I’m one of the things I learned working for Maersk shipping in Denmark. Still, the most amazing place that I work with, people have different hierarchical levels, but you wouldn’t know the way they interacted with each other with deep respect. And you wouldn’t know. Right? So. So I basically, it’s only differentiation as far as I’m concerned on the team based on rock. So that’s what I want to agenda, then I basically stopped there. And I asked the team if they’ve got any questions, right? If they don’t agree with the game, right? If there’s something that’s not they feel that’s wrong with a game if they don’t agree with the roles, right. And the other thing is, how are we going to work together without certain certain rules on that. So for example, if you and I are working together, one of the rules I would have is, if you’ve got a bit bitch about me, please come and do it to my face. But in a private setting. Don’t do it to other members of the team. And because this gossip and bitching, kills, trust, it kills rapport, I will respect you. And if I’m leading the team, and there’s something you’re unhappy with, I want to know I want to know what you are unhappy about. Because I cannot see how you can actually want to come into work want to come into this team and want to give your best if you’re unhappy? It’s impossible. I don’t I don’t know how people think this is possible. Right? And the other thing, you know, with me is, I’ve always been, there’s in my mother kind of style that works for me. Please, if you’re my boss, please tell me what the mission is. What what are we seeking to accomplish and why? Please tell me what my role is. But do not tell me how to do the work. Okay, leave me to use my own creativity and resourcefulness to figure out how to get this done. I might even come up with a new way that’s never been done and stuff, and be available for me if I get into trouble, right? If I can’t stuff trouble and guidance. So I so you know, my kind of contract with the team is you figure it out how you want to get this mission and job done. You’re in terms of role, right? So long as you understand the mission, you understand your role and contribution, you figure out how you’re going to do it. And my door is always open, right? So if you’re running into problems, the entire team runs into problems. And I asked the person who’s there to kind of give existence and structure the team. That’s my biggest problem, right? So I got to sort it out. Right? So that’s what I do. So there’s no dimensions and then simple things like taking the team out to lunch and paying out of my own pocket, not expensing it, then it is the company paying for it. But me saying, hey, I want to take you guys and girls out to lunch. And it’s on me as my way of saying thank you for the contribution that you’re making. And then things will come out in a social setting, which will never come out in a work setting, right.
I mean, I have learned from clients, I’ve done those clients, really senior people, and they’ll tell me about marriage problems that have because we’re talking over lunch, right? They’ll tell me about their problems, they haven’t children at university, or whatever else it is. But also you get this, there’s something about a social setting that lets the work persona go, and people become human. And when they connected him, oh, you’re interested in hiking semi or you went and suddenly you have this built need these human connections built, which in my view is what actually right? bonds the team together, it is possible to hate the client to hate the assignment. Right? Okay, and still turn up because you enjoy the colleagues that you’re working on. It’s almost like, hey, let us all bond together and get this done and get out of here. Right. Okay. So I just pay attention to them. And I think the final thing I want to say is, I pride myself on seeking to get the task done through people, not against people, right. I mean, so there’s no kind of like magic script, but there are elements like a recipe. And then depending on the situation, like a master chef, you’ve got to know how to use those those. Those ingredients yeah?
Pei Mun Lim 24:53
Yeah. So let me just try and summarize you said quite a lot that which is amazing. But one is is simply treating people how you’d like to be treated in the way that you’ve described, what you want your boss or your manager to do for you. That’s what you are doing for your team. That’s how you creating this tight knit thing. And the second thing which you identified is just being human about the whole thing, just allowing the little connections between us strengthen the work relationship, would that be a…?
I would say, I was, I would phrase it slightly differently. I would say, see, see the human being actively see the human being playing the role. Right, then there is then the other aspect is actually actively seek to cultivate those, those human connections, those micro connections, right. So when you turn up, I mean, I shall remember this, I would, I would drive for three and a half, four hours on Monday, right to get to the client location. And I would walk in and just somebody would say, Hey, good morning, man, it’s nice to see you. And that would just lift me up, I would make that four hour journey. worthwhile, right? And then I’d be on a Thursday, you know, four or five o’clock, I’d be finishing getting ready now for our journey to go back, right. And one or two mature members with team would say, Hey, you know, have a safe trip. Now. We’ll see you next Monday. That’s what I mean, there’s little things create the space for that, how you either pay attention to the people or not. And that’s the point. I think in business context, it is so easy to focus on the task and the rules and everything of roles and deadlines and forget that there are actually people with human needs and emotions.
Pei Mun Lim 26:58
Yes, well said, I agree. If you had, you’ve had many, many years in the consulting space. And you mentioned the two ladies that you have formed a strong mentorship kind of relationship with. And having seen the consultants come and go, what do you think, are the key personality traits or character traits? let you choose how you want to respond? That you can seen someone and you said earlier on you spotted a potential? How do you how do you classify what those need to be in order to become a really, really good consultant?
Okay, so I don’t think there’s a generic answer, because there are all types of consultants, I would imagine that the kind of characteristic a strategy consultant has to have is going to be very different to say a Salesforce technical consultant, right.
Pei Mun Lim 27:58
I’d like to hear what what they are. So when you think technical developer or CTA, is that what you know? It’s right. Yeah. Yeah, I’d like to hear what you think.
Well, you know, when you’re doing strategy, consultant, classical strategy, consultant, heck of a lot of it is crunching data. Right. So you want to get you’re looking at the market, you’re looking at the trends in the market, you’re looking at competitor research, you’re looking at your own, your own company, looking at where the margins are, where the costs are making projections, playing around with Excel sheets, all that kind of stuff, a lot of it is data gathering, and data crunching, and then making predictions, right, a lot of that. And there is research base, but actually, probably those people, many of them couldn’t even cook an omelet. There’s no practical skill involved, right? It is pure cognitive skills, right? I need to get this information, gathering information, put in a spreadsheet, good. So do the scenario stuff. Now, when you’re looking at a technical consultant, a developer, right, that developer better know how to code, they need to understand the system, right? They need to understand coding, they need to have come across those instances before but they must have beyond the beyond. Above beyond that a real passion for coding. So they’re…
Pei Mun Lim 29:21
Talking about hard skills now the difference was…?
A developer doesn’t really need soft skills. Really, honestly, good developers that mean, when I’ve had developers on my team, the most the most, the most effective way I can make them productive, is do the front end with interacting with the client, get the information, the use cases, user story, whatever they need, yeah. And then saying, Go and lock yourself away. And I don’t care whether it’s at home and stuff, go lock yourself and just code, right. The last thing developers want is to be an open plan office. They’re sitting in front of a computer with all the noise and they’re coding and Then somebody other comes in ask them questions. Because as soon as you enter the code, and there’s a logical thinking stuff, the last thing you want to be doing is pulled out of that, right? So they, in my opinion, they don’t need the kind of analytical skills, right? That the strategy consultants, they don’t really need a business process awareness and understanding that a traditional operational consultant would do, right. But they better know how technology coding and being able to be logical and do that. And they tend to have a passion, right? They are the ones that are they are, you know, they’re going home in their spare time, and their coding, or doing in a part of a community of coders, they are learning a new technology, you know, that’s their thing. They are in love with the technology and the coding part of it. People don’t really, you know, come really high on their radar. And they really don’t have a deep interest in in the business domain. And that’s fine. Okay, so I don’t think there was a particular skill set common to all consultants, right. If you’re going to one of the big five, what used to be to call the Big Five consultancy? generically, you had to be smart, you need to be able to work long hours and be flexible, right? They were often when you came in as a junior consultant, I remember, you have reams and reams of methodologies and tools. Right? So you just need to know when because when you start, okay, on this particular assignment, in case we’re doing this business process Engineering here at the tools, you’re given those tools expected to execute those tools, right? And then whoever is leading that team, or engagement is your kind of coach. So generally, you just needed to be reasonably spot. Okay? Being able to follow a script, right, these tools and stuff, ask for guidance when you needed it, and generally work long hours.
Pei Mun Lim 31:58
Okay, I’m sorry, you identify what Dilbert would consider an engineer when you were talking about the developer? Yeah, it’s what they do on the code really well. In a consulting vironment, though, there is a career progression generally. And that kind of generally leads to a team lead, or management type role. Do you feel that there’s some people who should just be left doing what they love, and not be pushed? Or encouraged into a leadership role? Which skills are going to be needed? Well,
I think so let’s look at at least the leadership management role. It’s a, it’s a unique skill set, and it’s underneath. So just because you’re a fantastic developer, or technical architect, says nothing about whether you’re going to be a good leader or manager or actually, whether you should be designing and delivering any training or not. Okay. Because one of the things Believe it or not, I actually I have done and I’ve done very well it design, and deliver training, why I have not been the technical subject expert in that, but I understand human beings, right? Because my primary interest is human beings, how do human beings lead, right? And then, and then structure that and do it that way. So it’s the same with leading and managing, you never in my world, you don’t manage people because you manage resources. But with people, you have to lead them, and you can only lead them by connecting with them. Right? And if you don’t actually have a genuine interest in people as people, right? Okay, and you would really be much rather be, you know, playing around with technology, latest technology, writing religious code, and all that kind of stuff sorting that technology problem, then I think you are unfit for that role. It’s the two of you don’t go together, right? Does that mean that every single person is technical should stay in that role? Now, some of them may develop an interest in people or they may have enough now surround people and management to be able to take on the role, although my personal experience, honestly is they suck. You take those people and you put them in a leadership management role. They insist on treating people like Coke, and it doesn’t work. Yeah.
Pei Mun Lim 34:41
Absolutely. Just kind of on the subject of transformation, which has been a buzzword for quite a while and I think you’ve given a couple of examples. Have you Okay, me rephrase that. I’ve seen a lot of transformation projects or programs not go quite right. Tell me in your own words, what are the things that can go wrong? And what are the things that a company should think about before they embark on something as big as this?
Okay, so first thanks that I hate that word transformation.
Pei Mun Lim 35:29
And that concept, right? So what is the only instance that I can think of transformation? Well, there are a couple, but one of the transformation is a caterpillar into the butterfly. There is no semblance between the caterpillar and the butterfly. They are completely different organisms, they do completely different behaviors, right? And no one ever would connect this and this right? Most companies, when they talk about transformation are doing nothing of the kind. Nothing of the kind, right? Okay. So the basically might saying we’re doing we’re doing a whole bunch of change and interconnected change and complex change, but they’re just changing in multiple dimensions, right? The mindset, the operating paradigm is still the same command and control. Even if now you’ve got, you know, you take this switch, right, from working in the office to working remotely, we have companies done, they have deployed software, to spy on their employees to see what you know, where they’re clicking, how long is that PC open was that that is? So from a technological perspective, you can see how we got to transformation, people are working from home, and they’re using technology and all this stuff. But behind it is still the command and control mindset. Okay, so I think that’s the first thing. So any any kind of big skill change? What is going to catch you out? Is what you don’t know. You don’t know?
Pei Mun Lim 37:03
Ah, how do you plan for that?
That Well, this is the interesting thing. So you have essentially, if you look at Ashby’s law of record to requisite variety ins and these kind of things. So you can either select these engagements, right? Or geared up on an efficiency model, we want to get that fast. And we want to use the least amount of resource, right? So he assumes a perfect world assumes a world where, you know, you’ve been to this destination so many times, right? You’ve done it so many, you can plot the exact path and know exactly how long will take on stuff. And that’s the assumption behind it. And the other assumption, right, is governance, governance, right? If we just get governance, a lot of control, right? Well, actually, in the domain of the unknown, governance doesn’t really count for anything. It just slows you down. Okay. And also your, you know, when you’re doing transformation, you really are pioneering it doesn’t matter who’s done, what is unique environments, just company has done that there doesn’t mean we can take what they’ve done and replicate it here, right? Our unique environment, it will be different that even if it’s the people that we have are different, right? Our history is different. So generally, you’re embarking on a journey that’s going to have complex, it’s complex, multiple dimensions, you’re seeking to change, things will go wrong. And that isn’t the thing is going wrong is not a fault of people, it is inherent to the process. Right? There will be you know, it’s like the snakes and ladders game. You do. You’re absolutely you know, absolute best. But it’s actually slightly worse than that, because you’re playing on this board. You can’t even see the snake. Right? You seem to be doing everything right and sunny. So this is it. So I think one thing is if there’s wishful thinking, which leads to an efficiency, mindset and approach which says, we know exactly what path to take, and what resources and what time. And because we know that path and resource in time, we can put a governance process into make sure people don’t deviate from this path, right. But actually, when you’re doing transformation, you’re you’re going to in a territory, you’ve never been for a new after navigate your way through, some things will go around, some things will go wrong, you’ll have to detour and come back. And some things will completely catch you by surprise. I can remember of a client where they had this huge transformation program, but there are multiple business units and one thing that could and the product data was essential to it right. But suddenly out of the blue came the news is that this basically crap two different products using the same product number. Oh, yeah. Because you got different business units, different product systems, right? Okay, and then the way they were sold to the Jews, and the way they had structured their product information and quality, just to clean data was gonna take months and months of work. Right? So who is going to change that product code? Because if you’ve got that product or a component in that machinery being used customer, right, okay. And then you have the political been fighting right as to who should change who should not change, or you have this management mantra of, you know, is what I call these Salesforce equivalent of one org. Okay, so we’re going to have one view to the customers, except that the brands have unique power. And when you put a customer portal in there, where customers going to log into each brand says, I don’t like that design. That’s not going to work for my brand, or my customers. So I want these these changes. And ultimately, you end up with the resourcing model and a plan, which says one unified Yeah, but you each brand has its own thing. And then you have four different integrations. Right. So I think, I think the way that people approach transformation is just completely wrong. They are assuming that it is a predictable, deterministic model, like the soling in a solar universe. Yeah. So when you launch a spaceship, you know how the, you know, you know, the gravity and stuff, it’s always gonna be the same. But in human world is almost never the same, right? So they approach it completely wrong. So they go for a predictable, reductive model, whereas actually, you are charting new territory, things will surprise you need creativity, you need to be able to double back, you need to learn as you go along. So you need Slack, you need extra resources, you need Slack, you need to basically, so for example, let me get when, when I’ve been in some programs and programs start to become derailed. Do you know what happens? The stream of the streams that are directing the program, they need more time, they’ll be something not some business problem or technical problem of political problem will have come up that they need to deal with. But the governance framework says come in to my meetings and show me why you are behind and then give me plans, how you’re going to fix it. And every time you go, you spend more and more time now in this governance meetings, trying to explain why you are stuff and trying to stuff rather than actually getting to rather than governance, what these actually people need is come and help me out, right? I need more resources, right? Or we need to rejig the timeframe, or I need you to deal with this political problems. I’ve got four brands that I can’t I have to take orders from, but you guys up there, smash them together and come to one. And so it’s actually that the flip side. So that’s the biggest thing, I think, is a combination of wishful thinking, along with what I call a predictable solar universe model, right? Whereas what you’re actually doing is you’re not farming, you’re pioneering. And so you have to approach it differently.
Pei Mun Lim 43:06
So I, you probably couldn’t see it, but I was nodding very violently in my head. Because I’ve been there, I’ve been there. So given that corporate, big corporations, they want, they want some certainty. Okay, we want to transform the thing. I want a rough idea of how much it’s going to cost, how long it’s going to take. So you still need that. If you were brought in to put the transmission program in place, how would you approach it given that you now say governance is what kills problem solving and creativity when things get a bit sticky? And having a predictive modeling mindset is not the way to go? How would you plan approach this?
So you know, when you do project management, and you’re doing planning, yeah, even with a linear kind of model, and you’re doing resource estimates with timeframes, there’s a range right? Everything goes perfectly when things fall apart, right? But what what is incentivized in this is the the top down pressure to go to a lower end assume the ideal world, right? So when I am asked my case, and let’s say there are six different phases to a journey. I say I can’t tell you the timeframe or the cost for the six phases, I can give you a range based on what has gone before, right? Somebody has done it in 12 months, somebody has taken, you know, four years. So where are you on there could be anywhere along the line, or you might actually come along and change the game altogether. You might want to do it in six months, but you might be the one that that takes six years to do it right or it blows up. So I, I when I do my planning are these things is range. So these are range. So that I will say, Okay, so here are six phases that we’ve got on this methodology. Let us plan an estimate to a certain degree of rigor phase one. Okay. It’s only once we are certain way through phase one, we’ve got enough information that we can actually give a reliable or reduce the degree of uncertainty and phase two. Okay, things may come out of the woodwork, where it’s actually a lot easier, a lot more complex, there might be political stuff, whatever, that then allows you to, you know, firm out the next face. Hmm. So when I, when I joined, NC noon was the first consultancy that I ever joined, management consultancy, and they’re called the fusion methodology. And that was what it was, and they were way ahead of that time, which was you cannot estimate plan all of this stuff, and it’s pointless. Anybody who basically starts going to Microsoft Project, you know, and planning it 24 months is an absolute waste of time. Honestly, I would fire that person if they were working for me, because they obviously don’t know why. They might know Microsoft Project, but they don’t know. So but that’s what they would do, you know, you do it face by face. So as you get to a certain stage, say mid midway through this phase, you now start planning, you should have enough information to start planning. And as you progress, expect, you get firmer and firmer, right? And, and I would do this. Now, this completely, of course, goes against how projects are sold and bought. So you’re given a minimum information on an RFP? Okay. You have to make huge assumptions, right? Huge, huge, huge assumptions. And then you bid and of course, you know, that if you bid on the highest side, you’re likely to lose. Right? So who wins is the people that make the most unrealistic assumptions around how easy or hard It will be? Yeah. And then, depending, and the clients want a fixed price, engagement, typically rather than time and materials, okay, so then you basically start the whole engagement from a very, very cool place. Because you have taken an engagement and assumed the degree of certainty, that is not their degree of knowledge that is not there, you’ve agreed to fix price, and often on optimistic scenarios, right. And then as soon as you start, the whole team is under pressure timewise. And they’re having to burn through the hours. And that’s when the stress takes hold. Right. So I mean, so I think that is, you know, if it was me, as probably explains why I don’t do those roles. You know, why i’m not i used to was most once been, you know, I used to have a sales target when I was in a digital marketing agency, as an account manager in my portfolio. And these things, but typically I in the consulting world have stayed away from those roles, right? Because I don’t have the personality for it. I can’t just wing it, I can’t just say, Hey, you know, I’m just gonna sell this. And I don’t care if Pei and her team have to basically work seven days a week for 40, you know, weeks of the year to deliver this, I just think that’s inhuman. So I try to give realistic answers. So I tend to be, I tend to do well with clients, where I’m in front of them in a workshop, and it’s consultative selling. Okay, let’s have a look at your situation, right? Let’s look at what you’re trying to achieve. Let’s look at the options. Let’s look at what the paths are, and how this kind of stuff and therefore my point of view is this right? I tend to do very well clients who are willing to engage in a dialogue and do that. But just, you know, just put fake figures together an RFP and assume it’s all gonna work out, it’s not my thing.
Pei Mun Lim 48:57
Well, given that, you know, and understand projects, from small to big, complex, and also humans that you have to deal with people that you need, on the client side, and also upper management. In all these years, what do you think are some of the lessons you’ve learned about human behavior?
There is no such thing as good and bad people. This is absolutely false. Most human beings are that behavior is a function of the situation they’re in. Okay? So, when things are going well, people are relaxed. People are forgiving, people are playful, right? And these kinds of things. When things become stressful, then people can come out all kinds of ways, right? I think that’s number one. I think number two is generally people either tend to fall in the optimist, they’re optimists or pessimists. Very few people are realists. Right? Okay. I think there there is that in the people. Feelings matter immensely. But in the work environment, we are told to suppress our feelings. Yeah. So you, you do that and but they they leak out our anger or resentment or disappointment leaks in terms of gossiping and bitching. We saw the safety valves that people use to get rid of externalize the whatever’s eating away on them. So if you can make constructive ways to create constructive mechanisms for people to express what they need to do is a much better way. So what I mean by that is, even if you say, I’m leading a team, we create an environment where people can honestly express what they have. Yeah. And we just, you know, in and I like to do this exercise of … take a circle divided into three, what’s going really well. Right? And it can be for us as a team and for you, right? What’s going really well, what’s working really well. What really isn’t working? Yeah, that we need to pay attention to. And what’s, you know, somewhere in between, it’s okay, enough, right. So let’s not mess with that right now. But at some point, we might want to look at it. So I think, I think is that I think the other thing is most of us to do our best really need to be doing something meaningful. I don’t I think there’s very few people that can be told, hey, dig a hole, fill it up, dig a hole, fill it up, and we’ll find out meaningful. And you might be able to do it first and second. But after a while, it just becomes is soul destroying, right? I think that so you’ve got to respect people need to have meaning. They got to feel like whether they realize it or not, they’re doing something meaningful, useful, right? Okay. The other thing I realized is that we will do more, we will take on more danger, we will, we will pull more ourselves into something when we’re doing it for people that we care about. So you as you know, for yourself may be too scared or not willing to do A, B and C, right? Okay. I mean, let’s take an analogy by jumping into a river or something, you may not be confident in swimming. Yeah. So you may be hesitant, but if a small child that is tough, or an adult, somebody who’s near to you is in that river, and are struggling, you are likely to jump in. Okay. And I think this is that this is so many when you look at work environment. If you really care about the engagement, that it’s meaningful, you feel like doing something useful, right? Okay, that’s one dimension, you’re gonna eat more. Secondly, if you actually genuinely care about the client, and the people that are affected, or your team, so Take me for example. I love working in the customer space. And generally, when I’m with marketers, salespeople or service people, we connect, why is that? I have spent many years working with marketers I like the people that I marketing. I know they’re quirky. I know that creative. I know the brand story people I can understand why those people hate the technology ification of marketing, because it reduces that creativity to routine data script process, which is anathema to people in marketing, right? Because the kind of people attracted to marketing are into stories into color into sound into and they created. So I respect that when I get on with them. But I’ve seen with sales people sales and account people,
it’s a tough job. Right? Anybody who thinks honestly thinks you can hit your sales quota just because somebody gave you this revenue, revolutionary new methodology with the five steps and you just execute them is wrong. It’s not like manufacturing widget. sales. People also have to be creative and improvise. Yes, there is some process you need to follow. But a lot of it is being in front of the person in front of you and try and understand who that person is and what they’re trying to do. And make your pitch. Right. They gotta like you some sense. They gotta like what you’re putting forward, right? So again, you can’t just process fire. and standardize it. And because I’ve carried that I’ve had quotas, bad targets to me, I know, if you’re getting towards the end of the quarter, and you’re way behind your target is incredibly stressful, right? So, so me when I, when I’m trying to do any work in that space, I genuinely want to make these people’s lives easier, I really want to help them to sell more right or make it easier. Same thing with salespeople, I’ve actually spent any time in a call center, they suck. Right? The T environment and the incredible pressure, right? So you got to you got a customer, and it’s a difficult interaction, you really want to help, but the clock is ticking away, and you’ve got a time to close, right? And you know, you’re being measured on these things, right. And if you ever come across an instance where you know, the phone goes down in a call center, it’s not because that person doesn’t care about you name it, that human being had to end that call to meet their metric. Okay, otherwise, they would have been punished for it. So that’s, I think, you know, that’s the bit I think that being able to relate to people step into their shoes, and just look at the world from their perspective. When when we look at people, from our perspective, they look crazy. But very few of us are actually crazy. If you saw the world, the way I saw the world, if you see yourself the way I see myself, if you see one of me stuff, most likely you would end up doing exactly what I’m doing. So when people say that person is lazy, ridiculous, no human being is lazy. It’s just what would motivate you doesn’t motivate that person, you find something when that person finds something that motivates him or her, you’ll see that energy and how they get into action, right? I could go on about this for a long time.
Pei Mun Lim 57:09
Sorry, you were just saying that… And I’m just thinking about my children, the only thing that’s motivating their computer games right now. To find something else. No, that’s amazing. Sorry, what you’re actually bringing forth is just empathy. Really, the way that you describe all the people, the groups, people that you’ve had to work with, in identifying with them is just empathy. And it sounds like that’s one of the key things that’s made us such a successful person in everything that you do.
Okay, so, this is where my character traits going to come out where I would never describe myself as successful. Okay. I truly consider myself to be ordinary, an ordinary person having lived an ordinary life, however, I strive to be a decent human being. Right. And part of being decent is empathy. But don’t get me wrong, right. I have also have a ruthless side. Yeah. So I remember in the very early days, I was in Coopers and Lybrand, we were doing a computer auditing assignment. I had a person working for me, I was the team leader. So explain what needed to be done. explain the process, this person needed to be done. said, Hey, do you understand? Are there any questions now explain when it needed to be done when the work had to be complete? And I gave him my number and said, and obviously email, if you encounter any problems, right? You’re not sure of anything. call me or email me? Yeah. Okay. Um, nothing happened. I sent an occasional email say, how’s it going? It’s all going well, neither Anything is fine. But so the due date comes when the deliverable I need the deliverable because I need to review it put it together, we get to things and stuff. It’s not it’s the work is really poor. So I look this chap in the face and I say What happened? I don’t understand. I explained it to you. night, I checked in on you, I told you I was available. And he said, I didn’t understand I didn’t understand it well enough. I was too afraid to ask. Right? This was a Friday I remember. And I said okay, so let’s just go through that now. What is it that you don’t understand that? Let’s just go through okay. And I said we need to take as many months time as you need now because I expect this to be finished by nine o’clock Monday. So you’ll be spending this weekend redoing this. Okay. So yes, I I have empathy. But I’m not a walkover. So my contract with people is that we are professionals, we are here to do a job. My job, if I’m in a leadership position is enable you to do your job. But your job, if there’s anything in the way of doing your job you call me. Right? If you cannot take the obstacles out of your way, then it becomes my job to take the obstacles out of the way. Right. Okay. So yes, I would like to say to coins, I’m incredibly have a lot of empathy. But I stand for a set of behavior, what I call professionalism, right?
Pei Mun Lim 1:00:43
I think we have to, in our job roles as project manager, because we can’t just be empathetic, otherwise, nothing gets done. So I identify with everything you’ve said that. Now I’d like to just go back to an ask you, you say you’re not successful? Tell me what is your definition of success?
I think.. I think there are two different things. Um, I feel very uncomfortable. Some people will describe me as an expert in certain domains, right. Sorry. So some people will describe me as an expert in certain domains and have the right domain. But I have a very British sense. Like, I feel pompous in describing myself as an expert. Right. Okay, I’m successful. I know many people, I think, again, it depends on how you measure success, right? I have met people along my career who I mentored and coached. And today, they have far superior positions in companies than I do. Right.
Pei Mun Lim 1:02:10
So your definition of success then, is corporate progression.
Yes. And I and the reason I use that, as a professional is I think a lot of people use that as a definition of success, right? For me, success is being and so I’m only successful if this is the definition of successful. If so, to pursue my passions, right, of areas that I’ve been interested in. And when something is violated my soul, I have said no. And if that has meant basically quitting a job, I’ve quit a job. Right. Okay, so I remember being asked to go on an assignment in a tobacco company, and I refused.
Pei Mun Lim 1:02:55
I did too.
Right? Okay. I remember being asked to go on an assignment to help a, a payday lending company to make more money. I refused. Right? So the certain thing, so if it is, success is having some sense of abandoned adventure, and I haven’t violated my soul. And on the way, I’ve actually had an impact on people’s lives. Even if it’s a few, then I’m successful. Yeah. But I don’t think most people will use that as a definition of success. They will see it as I you know, in consulting terms, you are successful if you’re a partner or a senior partner, or a managing partner, or you’re running a practice, right? Whatever our success could be in terms of how much money you earn, or how much you know, you’re an influencer, or you’re a thought leader, or whatever else, right? I think in those terms, I’m not I wouldn’t describe myself as a success. But I’m happy with my own definition.
Pei Mun Lim 1:03:57
I like your definition. And that was what I had in mind when I said, because I think if I were to maybe if I could have a time machine or some magical device where I can go back into your path and talk to the people and teams that you’ve worked with and spoken to and made an impact on and just get a testimonial from everyone. I think most of it would be fairly glowing, and would mirror my how I felt with you, even though we’ve not worked professionally, but the impact you’ve had is such that I feel that you’ve had the same kind of impact with the people that you’ve touched in your life. And that was what I meant when I said..
Well, by that definition, I’ve got to tell you now when you use that language I find myself deeply moved I think that actually is what I set out to do. actually kind of like influence people’s lives for the better. And the people that I like to really influence for the better is people who have talent, or I can see the seeds of talent, but they don’t have the confidence in themselves, right? Or they’re just being beaten up, or they don’t they don’t they don’t see their own beauty, or the power that I see in it. Yeah. So yeah. So I would like if that was the case, yes. Honestly, for me, if it was came to my deathbed, or my basically, you know, on my gravestone and all I said, was Eli’s a decent human being? That’s enough for me.
Pei Mun Lim 1:05:47
I think definitely. You and I have not had very, at all, any professional crossovers. The one time that was a little bit close was when you and I had dinner with a young lady. Was that young lady, one of the two that you were talking about?
Yes, that young lady is now a successful Salesforce consultant with Deloitte digital in Germany.
Pei Mun Lim 1:06:16
Amazing, amazing. And I had during that dinner, a flavor of how you are at work in the way that you’ve interacted with. And I could see, so all the things that you’re telling me now, it just coloring the edges of what I witnessed that evening. So I think there’s no doubt that you’ve had some really strong impact positive impact on the people that you’ve worked with. And I know you mentioned about being ruthless, because I can be like that as well. And again, in our industry, we have to because our customers paying us for result in competence. And that’s the expectation that we set. And that’s what you’ve set with that individual. And he wasn’t forthcoming. So, no, I don’t think that mas any definition of success that we’re talking about. It’s been quite a really good conversation. Let’s just, I’d like to just close with one final one, which is, what are the values do you hold highest in yourself?
The first thing that actually comes to mind is decency. You are either a decent human being or not. And for me, a decent human being is one that treats people correctly. So not diminish another human being dignity, right? Not steal from them, and I including stealing from them their freedom to choose for themselves. Now. I have only when I say freedom choose for themselves. I’ve had instances on the team where I’ve had a conversation with someone and say, Listen, you got a choice. You can choose to be on this team, in which case, this is the behavior I expect from you. Or if you’re choosing not to embody this behavior, you can choose to leave the team. Okay. But I’ll let you choose. Right. Even though I may have been tempted, you know, part of me screaming out to take them off the team or something. But I still believe that they have a choice. And I’m happy to give them that choice. And the second chance, right. So I think for me is that the value is decency, right? Not stealing people’s freedom and autonomy to choose, including holding them to account for their responsibilities, right? I think it’s being responsible. So if I take on an assignment, I take on an assignment, that means owning the responsibility for that, right. I believe in I actually I’m not one for honesty. Honesty can be really brutal. On the contrary, I think you have to be really good at the art of little white lies. Because the one thing human beings we don’t do well is truth. Truth when it flatters us great truth when it doesn’t, puts our sense of esteem, social status, identity at stake, right. So I think it’s really is decent seeing, responding or being responsible, allowing people the freedom to choose their path in life. Kind of like, you know, one of my values is like, I’m only going to pass this way once as it were, if I can kind of do something to enrich your life and put a smile on your face. I’d like to do that. Right. In a professional National context, I tend to be the one to call out what other people don’t call out. So have this tendency to say we need to deal with life as it is not some utopian vision, not some fantasy, right? Okay. And I think the final thing, probably that title up is I protect those that I work with and care for. So my if you’re on if you’re on the team with me, and you’re working with me, right, and I just had the role nominally and I mean, role leader, right? Then my deal with you is really simple. Let us work together. Let’s work stuff, I will protect you for as long as you are doing the right thing, you believe you’re doing the right thing, and you’re putting your heart and soul into the work, right? If the consequences are negative, I will take them. I’ve had things go wrong, and clients or even people higher up in the consulting center, and ask for who’s to blame? And I will say me, because I lead the team. No, no, we don’t mean you who know me, right? The flip side actually is if you work with me, I and I will not take credit for the work that you do, I will absolutely make sure that you take credit. And the right people get to know. So the people that tend to work with me, tend to learn really good habits. Right. And they tend to get promoted and actively go out to bat for people who I believe deserve a promotion. So I think those would be my kind of key values. But I’ve had to wrap it up. Just be a decent human being. And if you’re going to leave a trail, leave a trail of some happiness, where you’ve uplifted people, you can look at that say, you know, I did something positive, make life a better place, maybe not for everybody, but at least those people that I encountered along the journey.
Pei Mun Lim 1:12:15
Think you most definitely have done that. And I’m at least one of them. So man, this has been a fantastic conversation range so wide, ranging from technology to humans to values and I can actually go on but you think we’ve run out of time. So I just want to thank you so very, very much for giving up your time to talk to me today.
It is genuinely been a pleasure Pei, ever since I met you on that day. So what you say of me is exactly mind for you. I really hold you in tremendous regard.
Pei Mun Lim 1:12:58
Thank you so much, Maz. That means a lot to me. Thank you. All right. Take care.