Bay Consulting Group has had an enviable list of international clients—and success stories—to match its domestic activities. Utilizing the same problem-solving approaches and techniques abroad as at home, Bay Consulting has helped the governments of Portugal and Hungary and worked as well on projects in Ukraine and the UK.
But regardless of location and native tongue, says Bay Consulting’s Hans Jansen, there is one universal truth when organizations are faced with the need for transformational adjustment. “People don’t like change,” he says. “They don’t want to leave their comfort zone, which is usually very narrow.” Given that iron law of human nature, Hans adds that, “It helps to have an outsider in the room—and it can be even better to have a foreign outsider.”
The Old World has more history than the New, and that means it can present even greater challenges to get people out of their comfort zones. That was certainly the case when a U.S. foundation approached Hans to help break down barriers to trust in Ukraine as that country moved towards democracy in the mid-1990s.
Hans’s assignment was to help develop an environmental regulatory system to prevent a reoccurrence of the 1984 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Still smarting from the calamity, the key environmental stakeholders would not even speak to each other. Hans’s change mechanism was a new Ukrainian television public affairs program he helped develop, part of the transition from a state-run authoritarian media to alternate voices supporting the fledgling democracy. Using a round table format for the show, Hans brought together environmental activists with representatives from industry and government. Despite the seriousness of Chernobyl, these groups had never spoken to each other since the disaster, let alone been in the same room.
The TV round table helped break down the silos. The group even developed some common environmental objectives. Nevertheless, despite the program’s success in this effort, the show stepped on too many toes and was soon cancelled. Not even the fact that senior Ukrainian government officials shunned state media voices and turned to this new public affairs program to learn what was really happening in their country could save the program.
Earlier in Hungary, Hans helped to pave the way for that country’s westward turn. Based on his Toronto experience, Hans was asked to lead a bid to host a world’s fair. Although Budapest ultimately failed to obtain the 1988 event, the bid effort put Hungary on the western map as a credible, outward-looking nation that would welcome progressive change. In the process, Hans helped punch holes in the Iron Curtain which fell a year later.
In Portugal, Hans worked for a London-based group concerned about maintaining British influence in that relatively poorer nation as it prepared to join the European Union in 1986. There was concern that Portugal, in suddenly opening its borders to the rest of Europe, would experience an economic shock resulting in hardship. Hans focused on a proposal for northeastern Tras-os-Montes, one of the country’s poorer regions, to soften the blow.
Specifically, he developed an economic plan based on the region’s traditional wine industry, establishing standards for local vineyards. At the time, recalls Hans, wine was cheaper than water. But Hans’s recommendations also embraced the need for libraries, schools and public infrastructure, all of which were eventually built and helped make the area relatively prosperous.
In the UK, thanks to his experience with the CRTC, Hans won a bid to help develop a regulatory model for the broadcast industry as it opened itself to more private competition. The Dutch followed suit, and Hans obtained yet another contract.
But, throughout, Hans followed the same basic consulting practices. “First, you have to overcome differences and build commonality. Then you need to have explicit and achievable objectives. And, finally, you need strategies and an operating plan.”