Change is a constant. The capability of organisations to effectively plan and implement change continues to grow, flex and consolidate itself in the Australian market.
Servicing clients across industries, I see vast disparity in the levels of change maturity within organisations. Few places claim to have ‘nailed it’, however, particularly within Financial Services, Change practitioners are likely to have the support of an established team, tools, templates and hopefully a framework.
Outside of the FS world, I speak to clients who have varying levels of appreciation and exposure to Change. They’ve heard of the value add it can bring to Transformations, and with trepidation are looking to build their own companies Change capability. But where to start? Sometimes it can seem like a chicken and egg scenario. Is it best to get in someone tactical who can immediately get across the detail or wiser to invest in someone strategic who can manage senior stakeholders, create a heat map and take a longer-term view?
I sat down with Change Director Naomi Mascarenhas who has worked across a variety of industries and organisations within her Change career to date to obtain her thoughts on what has made her so successful in driving and implementing change.
Naomi is an experienced project and change professional with extensive executive-level capability in the provision of strategic advice and delivery of fit for purpose program, project and change solutions.
She has worked in roles including portfolio change and program lead, head of change management as well as in specialist change advisory roles in the finance (including insurance, banking and wealth management), aviation, utilities and healthcare industries.
She is comfortable building and leading teams as well as taking sole responsibility for delivery of end-to-end project and/or change solutions. She has a particular passion for communication and often writes communication materials on a freelance basis. She is open to full time, part time or consulting opportunities.
Why do you think it’s critical for organisations to build a capability to manage change?
Many studies show that organisations spend vast amounts of money on change and yet very few change programs are ever successfully completed and/or deliver the promised benefits. This isn’t necessarily because they miss the mark regarding what is required, but is frequently based on what many Change practitioners describe as the belief that ‘if we build it they will come’.
The basis of this belief is that the benefits of any change will be self-evident, understood, welcomed and readily accepted by those impacted, and sometimes this is the case. However, in the main this isn’t how we work as human beings. The need for change can and does evoke fear and uncertainty, and when faced with this people can resist and/or find ways to hold on to what they know, and our investment in new ways of working is never realised.
Building a change management capability within an organisation helps to focus attention on those impacted, and enables the application of planned and proactive actions and activities to bring them along on the journey and facilitate a smooth and sustainable transition. Most importantly, it ensures any disruption in the ability to do business is minimised.
What factors do you think have been critical to the success you have achieved in your career?
Success can be defined in different ways. From the perspective of the organisation I am working with, I measure success as delivering an outcome that exceeds expectations, builds trust, credibility and confidence. From a personal perspective, it’s also about expanding and deepening my knowledge and experience base through taking on new and varied opportunities.
I am by nature a pretty curious person and seek to develop a level of subject matter expertise in any given situation as a strong foundation for delivery. It can be easy to make assumptions, suggest a cookie cutter solution or burn time going in the wrong direction if you haven’t built a knowledge base by seeking relevant information, asking the right questions and actively listening to the responses. As a leader, I think this is additionally important in being able to provide consistent direction and useful insights to team members.
Having a diverse perspective of business from traversing different roles, industries and countries is a tremendous asset, as is a willingness to take on tasks and opportunities that scare me a little. Whether this is getting involved in trying to turn around an initiative which is in jeopardy of not delivering, navigating the complexities of an industry or business model that is unfamiliar or seeking to understand subject matter which seems confounding in its detail – all provide an opportunity to learn and grow.
I am particularly grateful to have been able to build my knowledge base by working alongside people who have had a generous willingness to share their expertise.
Can you highlight any career defining moments?
Most of my moments relate to people - great leaders and teams who by their behaviours, trust, confidence and generosity have enhanced my knowledge, capability and experience, and established themselves as my role models.
At the outset of my career, I worked for a woman who held the first ever dedicated executive level diversity role at Westpac. I was a fresh-faced graduate, and she was a determined, indefatigable and trailblazing woman who had experienced and achieved more than I could ever imagine. Watching how she operated, using data to build her case, establishing defined programs of work to ensure ongoing focus, forming her arguments to engage, convince and cajole was such a gift. She provided me with opportunities to do things I never knew I could, offering support while encouraging me to find my own way.
Fast forward a few years and I had the opportunity to work with another Executive Manager who had been the Chief of Staff for a well-known politician. His knowledge and vocabulary were mind-blowing, and he too provided similar opportunities to stretch and grow. He never looked down on my relative naivety or inexperience, but coached, mentored and shared endless stories and anecdotes, the lessons of which remain with me to this day.
I was also fortunate to lead the change management team at AMP when it was an adjunct to the Human Resources function. The team comprised a diverse group of highly professional, focused and hard working change practitioners whom I greatly respected. Despite our diversity and possibly due to a magic combination of an aligned purpose to shoot the lights out, openness to differing points of view and low ego, we were able to achieve a level of output, delivery and comradeship, which I still regard as a benchmark.
What advice would you share with females on how to progress their careers within change and transformation?
Have confidence that even if you don’t have the answers to everything you can and will find them. Sometimes thinking we don’t know everything stops us from taking on a new challenge, or results in shrinking back at the very time we should be stepping forward.
Remember that: (a) You have a kit bag of prior learning and experience that can be tremendously valuable, and (b) Team members and stakeholders are exceedingly keen and often looking for an opportunity to contribute or share what they know. In my experience people are willing to help if you ask – often the hard part is asking (not to mention having to chase them to obtain what they’ve promised)!
Be adaptable and flexible in your expectations of yourself and situations. There are frequently many paths to get to the same destination. If you reach a dead end, find an alternate pathway.
Often change and transformation roles come with the perception of needing to be available all hours. Aspiring to work-life balance (no matter what your family situation) is nothing to be ashamed of, and is not a reason to self-select out of opportunities.
And once you get there, invest the time and energy (ongoing - not just upfront) in building a good team and developing a shared understanding of the journey ahead. Have a plan, clear roles and responsibilities, and establish regular opportunities to discuss progress and problem solve.
Are you thinking of change? If you’re reading this with a niggling desire to embark on the next challenge in your career, then please reach out. Equally, if you are working within an organisation looking to build their change capability, I’d love to speak to you.
Principal Consultant - Change Management Specialist
IT & Business Transformation
DD: +61 (0)2 8986 3119