“Hello TOM” says Graham Hishmurgh


As the affordable housing sector continues to evolve in the midst of ever more demanding regulatory, financial and customer requirements, I have often wondered how some consultancy firms and recruiters might be responding to their clients’ latest demands.

Consultant 1: “What do they want?”

Consultant 2: “Well, the brief wasn’t that clear but I think they want a man?

Consultant 1: “A man!? Maybe we can recommend some diversity training as an add-on? What skills or expertise do they need for this assignment?”

Consultant 2: “None specifically, he just has to be called ‘Tom,’ oh, and they want him right now. Turns out everyone else has either got a ‘Tom’ already or is getting one soon”

Joking aside, there remains genuine confusion in the sector about what target operating models (TOMs) are and what they can achieve. It is also true that they appear to be one of the latest trends and like any trend, while there are undeniable benefits, there are of course also risks and pitfalls to avoid.

At Altair we have developed an approach that demystifies TOMs – we take the view that a simple definition is best. Essentially a TOM is a just detailed description of how any business or organisation wishes its operations to be organised. Typically it also includes a roadmap that sets out what needs to be done in order to reorganise itself from the current (“as is”) to the new and optimum (“to be”) arrangements.

So start with strategy – who you are and your vision and your strategic objectives are paramount. The key questions then are how your people and culture, processes (using a lean led approach), technology and organisation design all support delivery of that vision.

The most effective approach, we’ve found is a collaborative but challenging relationship between client and advisor, starting from first principles to understand in depth the current organisation and structures, current performance, the customers and their demands, and importantly organisational culture and values – all the things that help recommend an approach that will be successfully and sustainably implemented.

To be ‘implementable’ the proposed TOM must include an outline organisational structure, into which recommended detailed team structures and role profiles sit along with key work processes, IT systems and performance measures. And everything should be costed. We always seek our clients’ input and approval at every stage and once agreed the final stage is to develop a full business case for change along with a practical and detailed road map.

Stakeholder engagement is often an area that is overlooked or given insufficient attention, but can be crucial to whether the proposed TOM ever sees the light of day. It’s worth always having a specific plan to deal with this aspect at the outset of any assignment.

Usually projects like these come about because of either a financial imperative or because of poor performance. However, regardless of the reason for initiating a TOM review a bespoke approach for each client matters. Our team includes individuals who have designed and directly implemented new Target Operating Models in both housing and local authority environments. Our expertise covers all the key areas including organisational design, service reviews, human resources, process and system review/design, IT development, Finance as well as highly developed programme and project management skills, based on practical experience as well as providing advice to organisations.

For an informal chat about TOMs and how the approach can help you achieve your organisational goals, please contact Graham Hishmurgh, Senior Consultant on 07940 569395 and graham.hishmurgh@altairltd.co.uk.