Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Embrace change and reap the benefits

“Challenging status quo and yourself to learn, and crossing industries broadens your knowledge ”

... and with it brings fresh ideas, new insight, and to your new employer. The days of working for one employer your entire career is truly a ticket to failure. Embrace change and reap the benefits to follow. 12 years as an interim consultant, means you wear many hats and add many feathers to your repertoire so to speak. Creating strategies to drive innovation into organizations is just part of what I do, I quickly realized in 1996 that there was more work to done around complexities in change in Lehman Brothers Investment Bank than just creating and delivering strategies.

In the wake of the merger of Kleinwort Benson - Dresdner Bank back in 97, the businesses from these companies operating in multiple locations had been merged into one but had yet to jell into a cohesive team. Adding to the stress from its change of identity, the group had to develop a road map for the merged organization that would modernize and simplify the portfolios across (funds, asset management and client valuations). Only then would we be able to free up the resources needed to focus on driving growth and improve business processes.

Joining VISION Consulting in 2000, led to the global transformation (Warner Music, AOL, Time Warner) based in Los Angeles, the biggest change effort ever seen within media conglomerate, ultimately involving hundreds of people from 4 continents, the sophisticated internet bank solution for HBOS 'Intelligent Finance'. The size and scope of such a task requires strong change leadership from CTO and our consulting team. I was actively involved in translating the client vision with VISION group CTO and instrumental in optimum solution design for Digital Asset Management/DRM 3G platform and internet architure tools.


Strategic & Tactical Transformation in 4 dimensional space

2004: MBB Six Sigma Project Lead driving spain's largest bank Santander acquistion change for Abbey Bank across regional frontline and operational businesses, transforming 4 domains (people, strategy, processes, technology) ... changing minds to think differently relates to divorcing people from their parochial thinking, to emphasize that as a new corporate entity we needed to begin acting and thinking together creates the foundation for organisational effectiveness and operational excellence. Changing behaviors, staffing structures, functional alignment, refining to create smoother dynamic business areas is the balancing act..

Converging & Optimizing Enterprises

Prior to the de-merger of (Thames, RWE, nPower), we had multiple technologies used for similar functions, and this created a level of complexity that is difficult to manage. What usually takes a year and a half to evaluate an extensive portfolio and to decide which of the applications and technologies are needed going forward as well as how to manage the migration to a target state, was completed in couple of months. Our target state represents a 40 percent reduction in applications and a 30 percent reduction in total technologies by the end of 2010.

Regardless of the technology challenges, however, change leadership is still and always will be about people. Blending cultures. Evaluating mixed together businesses who were accustomed to supporting one operating company in one geographic location but now must support multiple operating companies across different geographic locations and decentralisation to form a architecture and strategy group that also had responsibility for standards and IT processes. Through this group, we implemented common processes for development, change, release, workforce and project management.

Everyone Needs a Stake

Along with the new identity and structures, we needed to motivate people to embrace change as individuals. I believe people enjoy a challenge. But they need to believe the challenge is achievable or you'll have failed before you even get started. On the other hand, if it's not a big enough challenge, then you won't get them in the game; they'll think of it as just the initiative of the day and lose momentum, winning factor is keep it real, action-oriented, innovating.

Making compelling case for change

There's also the question of, (WIFM) "What's in it for me?" This one is tricky because the answer will vary from person to person and location to location. When you speak to mixed groups you can't always know how to personalize the benefit for each individual, this tends to diffuse the water cooler gossip. But you can speak generally to the benefits of change to the company, which will in turn benefit employees who are shareholders. Or you can take the opposite approach and talk about how, if we don't change, we risk under-performing our competitors. And under-performing the competition is dangerous because it puts jobs at risk. In all situations I stay positive and motivate people around positive messages.

Turning Negatives into Positives

Tailoring your message when you are talking to specific groups is a good way to gain people commitment. For example a specific client had a portfolio of legacy technologies that need to be phased out. The people working in on these technologies and business are were concerned about their relevance. To get them on board, I explained to them that as long as they are willing to learn the technologies and new processes we will make the investments needed to retrain them accordingly.

Leaders Need to Change, Too

One thing that helped me to develop strong change leadership skills was my ability to create change. Everyone gets comfortable in a role after a while and complacency can set in without you even knowing it. So you always need to find new ways to learn and to challenge yourself. Accredited executive coach in systemic leadership, behaviours, performance, corporate psychology since 2001, I empower clients with know-how on what makes people tick. I facilitate and enable change, develop, conflict resolution to take place and liberate the potential of the human dimension in organisations, unlocking the blocks of organisations.

For me, that means I don't sit in one place too long. I've been in several industry sectors: financials, energy & utilities, consulting, media telecom, transportation and architecture design. Some of the career moves I've made were lateral and continuing to learn. Adapting and creating to new cultures and structures, developing new relationships and comprehending new business models and markets makes you sensitive to how individuals react to change and what makes change harder or easier.

I constantly refine and adapt frameworks, methods, models, techniques and tools and keep abreast of trends to use practical pragmatic ways to help implement change often serving as a "voice of reason" for organizations, a sounding board who can influence the tough C-level and senior teams. Calling it as it is, pointing out flaws, uncovering the truths, and making recommendations on how to remove complexities and implement improved cost-effective value-adding solutions. This also allows for helpful suggestions on the amount of change an organization can absorb over a period of time.

I spend 30 to 50 percent of my time as hands-on leader on client change initiatives during the past couple of years while at the same time fulfilling my strategic role. When I first became a corporate executive, taking on the role as a strategy design manager with Chevron Oil in the early 90's, I quickly realized that the old dictatorship style of leadership was put to rest and a refreshing more entreprenurial style was emerging. We learn that we have to take time to understand the needs of our constituents and stakeholders and help them along with enabling technologies, adapting and managing change. Without these basic change leadership skills, no leader is going to get far or for that matter measurable results.

Appetite to keep the client moving forward

Up and coming executives should make sure they are moving around within their companies and making selective, intelligent choices to move to other companies. You'll see that type of activity in the background of people who excel at change leadership. Its knowing that to be successful, you need to learn from successful people, having worked with some of the best people in the industry, there style rubs off on you. In the end, to inspire change in others, you have to embrace change in yourself first.