How We Work



Exponential Consulting helps Chief Executives, General Managers and others with P & L responsibility to achieve dramatic change in critical business units to improve business results. How? Clients engage Exponential Consulting to:

  • Work jointly with senior leaders and their teams to achieve particular organisational goals and objectives involving dramatic change – culture change, organisation design, new ways of working, change management, introduction of new technology, mergers and acquisitions, raising the bar on sales and service skills and sales and service management read more on Consulting
  • Work jointly with senior leaders in a one to one coaching, mentoring or sounding board relationship to achieve dramatically different results in professional, personal or organisational settings read more on Coaching
  • Develop senior, middle and emerging leaders and managers, in particular their capacity to initiate change and respond effectively to organisational and individual challenges. For example, we can facilitate individual and group experiences that provide the opportunity to reflect on and develop leadership and management practice read more on Developing Leaders.
  • Design and develop corporate training programmes as an underpinning foundation of change initiatives e.g. to develop management, customer service, business development or selling skills read more on Training.

Undoubtedly, the situation you are facing is unique – perhaps you have tried some things that have not worked very well. The usual thinking and usual approaches are not what you need. We think differently. We have a different perspective. We act differently. Expect a paradoxical mix of clear process and flexibility.

We think differently

Stephen Billing has studied complexity in organisations and written a doctoral thesis on how consultants contribute to organisational change. As a result, we think differently about organisations, about individuals, about improving performance, and about change. Because we think differently about these important aspects of organisational life, we approach challenging change situations differently. And that is the secret of the successful results our clients achieve. Stephen is at his best in complex, ambiguous or difficult situations.

We have a different perspective

A cornerstone influence on our approach is the radical thinking of complex responsive processes formulated by Ralph Stacey and his colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire. Stephen Billing is the only person in Asia Pacific qualified with a Doctor of Management degree in organisational change. Ralph Stacey himself was the supervisor of Stephen’s doctoral thesis, in which he explored the contribution that consultants can make to organisational change. Find out more about the Doctor of Management degree.

Stephen says, “Most consultants (and their clients) pay great attention, as I do, to deliverables such as reports, workshops, analysis and board papers. While these things are important, they are nevertheless artefacts or tools used in the service of the intentions of those who initiated the consulting project. Many times I have come into situations where the reports of previous consultants containing excellent analysis are sitting on the shelf, with no progress having been made towards actually implementing any actual change.”

“My research showed that organisational change and improvement actually takes place due to the multiple interactions that take place during the process of producing these reports, workshops and board papers. The reports, workshops and board papers are useful in the process, but are not ends in themselves. Unfortunately, these artefacts are often elevated to ends in themselves, especially when consultants are involved. In fact, their usefulness is actually due to the interactions and conversations that are sparked and seeded by the production of the report. In many situations, the interaction is subordinated to the production of the report, because people don’t realise it is the interaction itself that directly leads to actual change in organisations and individuals.”

We act differently

Conventional approaches to change involve attempting to get the target audiences engaged with the desired change. Perhaps through coercion, although this is not so common these days. Or perhaps through a persuasive approach with strong key messages and powerful means of delivery (e.g. strong presentations by powerful people, professional multimedia, visual displays, written words and persuasive techniques).

Stephen believes these conventional approaches are not effective. They give rise to techniques that disguise their true intent by using sophisticated means to try to make the change attractive to the target groups. They gloss over the problems of the reality of the changes in the recipient’s world by making strong appeals to concepts of ideal futures. Essentially the change is disguised with lollipops. This inevitably leads to manipulation of staff in attempts to achieve the change initiative’s intent. These attempts to ‘spin’ the change ultimately gain only token acceptance while, in the shadows, initiatives suffer a slow death by passive resistance that is never acknowledged or discussed, except in forums where management are guaranteed never to find out.

The approach of Stephen Billing from Exponential Consulting allows you to understand what is really going on in your organisation so that you can respond in a genuine way. Be prepared to be surprised! It is counter-intuitive. Staff can see through attempts to gloss over the unpalatable aspects of change with glitzy persuasive ‘communications’ strategies.

Instead, we work to understand the different viewpoints of the populations who are targets of change, engaging in a joint enquiry into solving the problems of the desired change with those responsible at the coal face. This means discovering from the point of view of the recipients of change what the problems will be, taking them seriously and working jointly to resolve them. We are then able to synthesise these different viewpoints into an approach for your organisation that will make sense to those involved, identifying the advantages and disadvantages of different options.

This approach recognises communication as a two-way concept, a dialogue. High powered PR campaigns and mainstream corporate communications initiatives concentrate on the ‘key messages’ of the change, making sure these are included in all communications. Perhaps surprisingly, many clients don’t realise that despite the hype, this is actually implementing one way communication. And staff see through it. It is taken as a given that it is important to articulate these key messages, define the target audiences and identify the channels of communication that will be employed. In fact many ‘communications plans’ incorporate a table with those very headings at the top. While this is a standard approach in the industry, most practitioners do not acknowledge that it is at odds with their everyday experience of communications as a two way process. Essentially ‘communications plans’ set up this way are the essence of a one-way approach. After all, they are called "key messages," not "key responses".

No wonder the targets of change resist. We have to move away from this one-dimensional view of communication. It does not work in times of complex change! Stephen Billing is able to navigate the ambiguities and complexities of political dynamics to get to the heart of the different points of view, and actually bring about the practical changes that your organisation needs.

Expect a paradoxical mix of clear process and flexibility

Paradox is about contradictions, which are ever present in organisational life. We do not seek necessarily to resolve paradox, but to be able to hold different, sometimes extreme possibilities at the same time with relatively low levels of anxiety. For example:

  • Stephen is a good project manager, but while he understands project management dogma, he does not let it get in the way of achieving results for clients.
  • He sets clear objectives and milestone dates, while retaining flexibility in the way the milestones are achieved.
  • He focuses on the current stage of the project while also looking ahead to the next stage.
  • He holds the organisational line and yet is consultative in the way he approaches managers and staff.
  • He is able to have ‘difficult’ conversations and yet be empathetic in the way he relates to others.