“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man adapts the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw
John Beckford is, perhaps, an unreasonable man. Like many, he believes that as we currently do things organisations can be dysfunctional places. He observes them getting things wrong, whether undervaluing their employees, operating with inefficient systems or mismanaging information. John is unreasonable enough to keep trying to change things and downright persistent enough to get results.
John has spent more than 20 years, working with directors and senior managers on improving the effectiveness of their organisations. He encourages them to make the most of the brains, as well as the brawn, of their employees. He works with directors and managers to diagnose the business problems they’re facing and identify ways to cure them whilst also acting as a personal mentor, working with individuals to improve their own performance. Of course it’s rare that organisations can talk about their problems in the singular: there are usually several that require attention even if only one is presenting obvious symptoms, so it takes more than a plaster to fix things. The idea is holistic medicine for organisations based on diagnosing issues, the development of a shared model for the future and the supported implementation of that solution. The real trick for John is to teach the organisation to learn!
Management scientist Stafford Beer described the role of a consultant with three letters – GPF – meaning guide, philosopher and friend, and that’s how John sees his work. Unlike many large-scale consultancies, John focuses on developing a solution that is uniquely yours. Rather than taking your problem away and bringing back a perfect answer that doesn’t work in context, John believes you need to work together to develop a shared understanding of the world – and to recognise and accept differences between you. You need to know and trust each other if you’re going to embark on processes of change together.
John is proud of the working relationships he has established. People he has worked with for many years still ask him for help and advice when necessary, which he takes as a good sign. And they still buy him cups of coffee, which he takes as an even better sign. That’s not to say John is everyone’s cup of tea – or coffee – and he’s not in the business of forcing his services upon those who see the world differently. But some of John’s best clients are also the ones that give him the biggest arguments, he says; “if you can have a shouting match and still get on with the job the next day, chances are you’ve got the sort of relationship that can deal with the real challenges of the organisation”.
A consultant for 20 years, John works primarily at board level developing, supporting and enabling decisions on business planning, information strategy, performance management and quality. John has engaged in substantial projects with organisations such as GNER, AstraZeneca, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Arena Group and National Express.
His experience and knowledge base extends to banking, financial services, railway management, logistics, food production, steel production, chemicals, pharmaceutical research, property management, retail motor distribution, law, healthcare and tertiary education. Projects have encompassed most of the major challenges facing contemporary organisations including the exploitation and integration of information systems, radical re-engineering and change management to substantially improve business performance, managing regulatory compliance, sale and acquisition of businesses, and managing recovery and turnaround situations.