Ghosts Of Tom’s Past, Present And Future

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The world is evolving, business is evolving, consulting is evolving. This will never stop. So those organisations that don’t constantly adapt will wither and die. Target Operating Model (TOM) design and implementation has always been at the heart of transformation, but the approaches and methods have advanced and will continue to develop. Peeking into the past, present and future, James Cooper discusses why.

Photo of James Cooper

James Cooper, Client Director, Gate One
James will be speaking at the IRM UK Business Change & Transformation Conference Europe 16-18 March 2020, London. He will be speaking on the subject, ‘Why Beautiful Operating Models Fail
, he will be presenting this with Nigel Jones, Group Transformation Director, Whitbread
This article was previously published here.


The concept of TOM design and implementation is not a new one, but the methods employed to define them have changed dramatically. Traditional approaches used simple frameworks built around people, process and technology, with acronyms like SIPOC, POLISM and ITIL giving an air of respectability to what were quite blunt instruments.

In a world where the product was king and everyone was racing to implement as many IT solutions as possible, the primary goal was to maximise efficiencies. Productivity was paramount and technology enablement was the lifeblood of a successful TOM transformation, with little thought given to more esoteric concepts such as culture and leadership. The result was often increased productive output, but any genuine systemic change was uncommon. Organisations learnt to optimise their existing operating models, but weren’t doing things fundamentally differently. You only have to look at an organisation like Blockbuster Video, which tweaked its productivity in favour of an operating model reinvention, only to realise that the risks of this mindset are very real.


Fast forward to the present and it’s clear that these traditional practices are no longer sufficient. We see three critical success factors for operating model transformation today.

  1. People are at the heart of every successful operating model transformation. The Gate One Ripple Effect is the art of achieving more meaningful change long after consultants have left. It’s why line-led change – putting your staff at the forefront of TOM transformation – is something we build into our approach, every time.
  2. TOM Transformation is like a Rubik’s® Cube. The skill of good TOM design is to keep a balanced perspective on each of the different components of the TOM. Much like a Rubik’s® Cube in the hands of a novice, organisations often focus solely on one element without considering the whole. You move one part and another changes in a way that you have not anticipated. You twist it one way to solve one puzzle and another problem presents itself elsewhere.
  3. Beautiful operating models fail. Many organisations fail to realise that it is essential to be agile and iterative. You need to be confident enough in the design to build and test in small increments to deliver quick wins, while developing more systemic change.

We believe it is not what we do, but how we do it that leads organisations of all shapes and sizes to trust us to design their future state operating models.


However, we also know that if the shark stops swimming it dies. Therefore, it is important to constantly challenge yourself about newer and better ways to design operating models. While the layers of the operating model remain relevant, introducing new concepts and approaches to understanding and designing TOMs in innovative ways is cruicial. For example, at Gate One, we:

  • use Accelerator events to design and create prototypes at pace, gaining buy-in and commitment from participants along the way;
  • adapt and implement Scaled Agile and DevOps concepts and ways of working into digital and non-digital environments;
  • use design thinking and customer experience mapping to better understand and interpret customer journeys;
  • creating business cases that factor in social and other non-financial value into the cost-benefit analysis;
  • place an increased emphasis on the power and role of data in decision making at all levels.

We are continuously adapting, and we’re helping our clients adapt too. For us, meaningful transformation sits at the nexus of operating model, digital innovation and people change. Those organisations that can find that sweet spot, will not just survive, but thrive.

James is a Client Director at Gate One, an award-winning specialist digital and business transformation consultancy. James has 15 years of consulting experience driving transformative change in a range of public and private sector multinationals across Europe, Asia and Oceania. A proven problem solver, James specialises in Target Operating Model Design & Delivery, Portfolio & Programme Management, Strategy, Business Case development and Customer Experience improvement. James relishes building high performing teams to work side by side with clients on their most complex and high-profile programmes.

Copyright James Cooper, Client Director, Gate One

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