In a world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity (VUCA), one thing is certain: you are either knee-deep in a tough challenge, or one step away from it smacking you in the face. In this environment, change is constant, but not every organization manages it well. In 2004, I tackled one of my first big challenges as a young professional. I helped a large matrixed organization implement transformative change across their company. This experience set the tone for the rest of my career, teaching me how to quickly solve complicated organizational problems, fight through adversity, and generate creative solutions.
The challenge: Design and implement a change management strategy for several global Six Sigma initiatives that redefined Caterpillar’s sales and operations planning processes using SAP technology.
The scope: Five countries, five business units, 12 manufacturing facilities, and over 400 business users.
With an impending launch date, the change management plan had to be implemented quickly. So, I snapped into gear and got to work.
My work on this effort could be categorized into two phases: immersion and action-taking.
PHASE 1: IMMERSION
The first thing that I did was learn everything I could about the project and its goals.
I immersed myself in information, deconstructing the:
- Six Sigma projects and their objectives
- systems, processes, and people that would be impacted by the changes
At the same time, I had to learn the organization:
- Business model
- Organizational structure
- Change management methodology
I did as much as I could on my own and was guided by:
- The Change Management Consultant assigned to the initiative
- Hands-on workshops and courses that taught me the LaMarsh Change Management Methodology
- A support system of people willing to answer all of my questions
PHASE 2: ACTION-TAKING
After sinking my teeth into this business challenge I went to work, implementing the change management methodologies that I’d recently learned.
In this phase, I:
- Developed and executed a strategic communication and learning plan that accelerated the acceptance of changes and ensured that they were sustained long after implementation.
- Planned meetings & training events that built consensus and cascaded strategic vision throughout multiple organizational layers.
- Created and maintained documentation of findings including Stakeholder Maps, Readiness Assessments, Risk & Impact Analysis; Root Cause Analysis; and Desired & Future State Analysis.
Key projects and accomplishments included:
- Crafting storyboard and key message for promotional video with the CEO
- Co-leading the development of E-Learning course, on-site training sessions, and training materials.
- Coordinating multiple meetings and events that built consensus across all organizational levels.
- Creating multiple communications including articles, interviews, videos, presentations, and visual media.
This experience left a lasting impression on me and shaped the rest of my career.
Although I ultimately left this role to pursue another opportunity, making that decision was a struggle. I found the company to be a great place to grow and develop, filled with people who were willing to help. Additionally, I had grown to love change management and evaluating the motivations and behaviors of change targets.
After leaving, I quickly learned that I didn’t need a title to be a change master. As I faced one tough challenge after another, I realized how well this early experience had prepared me to approach difficult situations. I was grateful for this experience because it gave me the confidence to tackle tough problems and a framework for managing complex change.
Outlined here are mindsets that were formed during this timeframe and have been with me since.
Mindset #1: Enterprise Thinking
- Having to deconstruct this organizations internal infrastructure to understand the connections was challenging, yet exciting. In my MBA program, I had studied Organizational Behavior, but seeing it first hand was electrifying.
- This has helped me today become a true enterprise thinker, maintaining a sharp focus on enterprise and departmental goals, but also viewing every organization as a series of interconnected systems with interdependencies across multiple departments and stakeholders.
Mindset #2: Change Management
- In my role as a marketer, I’ve found my change management experience an especially useful skill. Marketing programs today look dramatically different than those of the past. As a result, marketers have to garner buy-in from leadership. They also have to generate support and consensus across multiple departments.
- Change management allows you to be an effective “internal marketer”.
Mindset #3: Empathetic Marketing
- The process and methodology for both Change Management and Strategic Marketing are similar. In fact, I often refer to change management as marketing turned inward.
- For instance, the rigor involved with doing stakeholder analysis and exploring how employees are thinking, feeling, and acting helped me learn how to have empathy for end-users and targets