Ever since I graduated in 1998, I knew I wanted to be a management consultant, but I didn’t quite know what field I wanted to be famous for. Thankfully on my second rotation six months into my career at Ernst & Young in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I found my calling and I've stuck with it for 21 years and counting!
Me and my husband
That calling was organisational change management which essentially is managing people related changes as organisations go through business transformation. This field appealed to me because much as organisational change is an institutional journey it also is a very personal one. Being able to bridge the two worlds and making it a good experience for the people experiencing the change is very gratifying.
Over 20 years, the fundamentals remain the same...
My job has spanned many types of change programs be it technology adoption, operating model change, process improvement, shared services, outsourcing or even post-merger integrations. That too in various countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, China, Australia, South Africa and United Kingdom! And although industries, technologies and organisations have changed dramatically over 20 years - the fundamentals of organisational change have remained the same.
Me teaching 'Consulting Live' in Bangalore India (my class and I)
Organisational Change Management is all about understanding why the change is happening, what is the reason change must happen, what does it mean to change and most importantly help bridge the gap between the old and new to prevent the change from being a painful process to the person impacted.
The key take-away I’ve had about change is that the people need to believe in the change and feel compelled to change for status quo is now not good enough. If there is no strong desire, you can put the best system, tools and processes in place, but you will not gain the return of investment you made in the first place. In short, you must appeal to people's hearts and minds.
With some of the T&O team in Brisbane when I visited them in September
How to appeal to people's hearts and minds:
Whether we're rolling out a new performance management tool in Accenture, or whether we're implementing a new HR system with a major resources company, the ability to appeal to the hearts and minds of the people is vital so they will rally around to embrace the new way of working rather than feel it an imposition. Some recommendations are:
Leaders need to be their authentic selves Leaders should never shy away from regular and open honest conversations. Inviting feedback and understanding people's concerns/fears not only allows leaders to mitigate change early but helps build credibility and trust. Most importantly, leaders should actively “walk the talk” to show they not only believe in the change but genuinely want to help their people work their way through the change and make it as smooth sailing as possible.
In managing change, leaders should always ensure they say what they do and do what they say. And that it is ok to also say “I don’t know but I will follow up and get back to you”.
Leaders should never shy away from regular and open honest conversations. Inviting feedback and understanding people's concerns/fears not only allows leaders to mitigate change early but helps build credibility and trust. Most importantly, leaders should actively “walk the talk” to show they not only believe in the change but genuinely want to help their people work their way through the change and make it as smooth sailing as possible.
Facilitative Communication Style Accenture places a huge focus on storytelling. We are equipping all our leaders to be masterful storytellers because if you tell a story in a way that resonates, you can compel people to change. Think about a movie you've watched where they've told a story so well that it stays in your mind long after the credits have rolled.
Communication is always a key component to leading and managing change. We work in highly chaotic environments which require effective communication to adapt to change. I’ve learnt over the years the best way to do that is to create experiences that foster ongoing collaboration and communication. These experiences will empower and involve everyone in being accountable for driving the positive change forward. This means leveraging off all the new ways of communicating be it storytelling, infographics, videos, podcasts to name a few.
Accenture places a huge focus on storytelling. We are equipping all our leaders to be masterful storytellers because if you tell a story in a way that resonates, you can compel people to change. Think about a movie you've watched where they've told a story so well that it stays in your mind long after the credits have rolled.
Balancing Digitisation vs. Human Touch
Advanced technology is at the core of virtually every company’s business transformation agenda today. This is where there should be careful reconciliation between increased digitisation while maintaining a human touch in the organisation ― this reaffirms my original point about creating an overarching sense of purpose and collective ambition.
The above three points are also good reminders to all of us here at Accenture especially our leaders. Change is constant in our organisation as we keep up with being client relevant. In my 12 years here, I have been impressed with how agile and flexible we are as an organisation to adapt to change quickly and that’s impressive given we are 500,000 employees spanning 52 countries!
In saying that, we must not lose sight of our employee value proposition as Accenture’s main “product” to the world are our people. If we don’t manage the people equation right, we will never reach the aspirations we have set for ourselves be it a growth number, revenue target or even an organisation people want to work for. By continuing efforts to appeal to our very own hearts and minds, I am confident our people will unlock significant value and potential for the organisation.
At our recent Year end party in Auckland NZ, Waiheke Island