Deloitte in the News
Inner strength: Andriy Bulakh Dwells on Changes within the Company that Spurred Transformation of the Entire Business
Flexitime schedule, diverse and extended service lines, new clients, and meditation as a way to concentrate on challenging working tasks are a package of reforms that rare companies may boast to have achieved to date. Nonetheless, this is the case with Deloitte.
13 September, 2018
It is Andriy Bulakh, Managing Partner at Deloitte Ukraine, who has assumed the role of a conductor of changes in the company. Andriy joined the company back in 2002 and propelled up to enter its command bridge in summer 2014. Since then, the regional office of the 150-year-old firm has plunged into the whirl of internal reforms.
I Have a Dream
Managing Partner passed through his first ordeal in the summer of 2014. It was the time when a serious political crisis and warfare in the east of the country further aggravated the gloomy situation in the national economy. In the context of those developments, the company’s management recollected the 2009 crisis, when even international companies in Ukraine had to tighten their belts and introduce a four-day working week for their employees.
Under those circumstances, Andriy Bulakh determined a key task for himself – to retain the team and their working capacity. “I tried to focus the team’s attention on creative matters. In no way, we wanted to repeat the situation of 2009,” he recollects.
Therefore, our first step on the road to transformation in 2014 was to determine the company’s values that would knit the team together. Each meeting devoted to this issue started with ABBA’s song, I Have a Dream, and employees were asked to make a list of adjectives with the help of which they would describe the future of Deloitte Ukraine.
This way, the company succeeded to determine the values that would help it withstand the troubled times and articulate the most realistic scenarios of the future, since uncertainty is really very destructive. “I am an advocate of the opinion that a company basing its activities on the high goals and values will ultimately be more successful than the one aiming to make just money. I want my company to be staffed with the people whose motivation is not limited to the carrot hanging in front of them,” says the head of Deloitte Ukraine.
Andriy had yet another driver to launch structural changes. At that moment, the turnover of the office in Ukraine slightly exceeded USD 15 million, whereas Deloitte Belgium earned more than EUR 300 million. “This tenfold gap was really a challenge, and I wanted to close it,” Andriy shares his feelings. “I really felt a need for substantial transformation.”
As part of internal transformation, meditation sessions were introduced in the office. Andriy Bulakh came up with this idea after he returned from his three-month sabbatical (a long leave provided in many international companies). During his creative leave last year, Andriy visited a 10-day retreat in Indonesia where he took a meditation training. A daily dose of 10 hours of meditation, a total disconnection from gadgets, and special breathing control exercises – all this helped the top manager to recharge his batteries in full.
What Andriy Bulakh believes to be the greatest benefit he gained during his Indonesian vacation is the attention training technique that may prove to be the most helpful skill in the era of multitasking. “It is known that the human brain can hold attention only for about eight seconds. By training to hold attention longer, you will be able to influence personal performance,” he says.
The experiment was held in several stages. For this purpose, a meditation trainer was invited to give lectures on the levels of attention concentration and meditation techniques. Those wishing to take up the training course were offered 5-minute group meditation sessions to be held at 15:00 each day. This is the time of the day when productivity is at its lowest, which is the best period for recharging your batteries.
After a month of meditation trainings, 69 employees of Deloitte Ukraine shared their impressions: 88% of them recognized that they could concentrate on business tasks easier, 75% of respondents admitted they could manage stress better, and 92% of them expressly wished those meditation sessions to be part of their daily office routine. Thus, effective from the last year’s fall, all interested employees of the Kyiv Deloitte office meet up at 15:00 on a daily basis for 15-minute meditation sessions.
According to Viktor Komarenko, co-founder of Beehiveor Academy and R&D Labs, meditative practices, if used right, make employees more creative, save them from emotional burning out and accumulating fatigue, “In the meditative state, information that used to be processed by the brain consciously is transferred for processing by the brain’s default systems that are able to process huge data massifs. Therefore, we subjectively perceive the results of their work as insights.”
Andriy Bulakh remembers a case when his daily meditation practice proved to be of great use in business, “We had to confirm whether we were ready to sign an agreement, and Deloitte Ukraine’s highest value contract was at stake. The ultimate decision was to be taken by an international commission of 10 members. They set very strict deadlines. I had just 30 minutes left before a game-changing call during which I had to present an accurate picture of all facts, briefly yet fully, and email the output before the call.
The task seemed unreal to be fulfilled within the available timeframe. However, within 15 minutes, I succeeded to concentrate to the extent to produce a convincing written text for the international commission. We did sign the contract. There must have been other examples, but that case is best remembered. At that moment, I thought to myself, “Just wondering... If I had not done the training, would the result still be the same?”
Another reform was a decision to abandon formal dress code and introduce flexible working hours for employees. Employees may work out of office one day a week and start their working day in the timespan from 8 to 10 in the morning, the whole week through. “There is a presumption that such flexibility facilitates better performance of conscious and responsible people,” says Andriy Bulakh.
One of Deloitte’s values is aspiration for development. In addition to numerous corporate and certification training programs for employees, Deloitte Ukraine has bought 100 licenses for www.smartreading.ru service. The resource offers summaries of the most popular business and self-development books, both in print and in audio formats. It takes about 30–40 minutes for readers to get an idea of the authors’ main theses, which is, in most cases, enough to get ‘fertilized’ with new ideas or select books for further close reading.
Transformation from within has allowed us to preserve and augment the company’s business. According to Andriy Bulakh, positive motivation of self-development at work (as opposed to the pressure of internal competition) allows employees to make business decisions based on the company’s values rather than on the idea of gaining immediate benefits. This strategy has been already paid back.
“Andriy is an example of a leader who transforms not only himself and his business, but the society, too. People like him are constantly generating new senses and new approaches,” comments Olena Bondar, Partner at Nobles Fortune, an organizer of the Conductors of Changes Forum.
Expanded awareness has had a clear positive effect on business. Although the company has been working with large business throughout its century-long history, we, in Ukraine, have decided to move beyond the established tradition. Our lists of clients have been expanded with SMEs and even startups, most of which can hardly be called businesses at all. Deloitte helps such companies to develop into competitive and attractive for investors businesses.
In addition to the above, the company has launched an innovation consulting service line. The process is built on design thinking. Instead of 6–9 months, projects now last mere 2-3 weeks, and the client receives deliverables at each stage. The demand to this kind of services has grown among both large business and startups.
These internal reforms have contributed to the process of consolidating the team and allowed business to grow. “Openness to experiments, acceptance of mistakes as a positive experience, and ongoing self-development spur the company to grow further and show progress in financial performance,” admits Andriy Bulakh.
Author: Oksana Gunko