“What I wish I knew about transformation before I started” – Six enterprise leaders’ journeys

Ask anyone who has led transformation in an enterprise setting, and they’ll tell you that hindsight is a beautiful thing. We sat down with six leaders to grill them on what they wish they’d known before they started out on their transformation journeys. From the importance of cross-functional communication, to having clean data, to celebrating failure – here are some key lessons they learned along the way.


Foad Farrokhnia, Head of Enterprise Capability & Growth – Telstra

“What I wish I knew before I started on transformation projects is the fact that they're not transformation ‘projects’, really – they're just the constant, it's just almost BAU. It's constant change, constant adaptation, and so I think if you keep thinking about an end state that is too close, you set yourself up for failure. The idea is going back to that phased approach: chunking it down into iterations, and looking at how you can meet some of those objectives with a much longer-term aspiration. That’s how you're going to see some success in your transformation.” 

“I think if you keep thinking about an end state that is too close, you set yourself up for failure.”

Foad Farrokhnia, Head of Enterprise Capability & Growth – Telstra
 
Sarah Jones, Director, Ad Sales Transformation – News Corp

“I think I would have appreciated understanding that it's not a straightforward journey – you don't get up and go to work on Monday knowing where you're going to be on Friday. It's understanding that ‘successful’ transformation changes, and you do take two steps forward, then have to take one step back, and guess what? You'll also go to the side as well! It’s about understanding that that's what the journey actually looks like – it is not linear. You know what your direction is, you know where you're looking to get to, but what you think the path will be is probably not the path you will take. I also did learn that sometimes my role is to blow things up. I didn't realise this, I always assumed that if a meeting derailed that this would be a bad thing, but actually, no – part of my role at times is to disrupt, blow up, then to go ‘right, well then, how are we going to fix that?’ Because that's the only way to actually do it.”

“Part of my role at times is to disrupt, blow up, then to go ‘right, well then, how are we going to fix that?’”

Sarah Jones, Director, Ad Sales Transformation – News Corp
  
Carolyn Sewell, GM, Digital & Telesales – Toll Global Express
 
“As far as transformation goes, don’t take on more than you can actually cope with at any given time, because there is still the day job. While we tried to create small project teams, inadvertently in these types of processes you are still quite lean on your resources, and you do find that some of your key stakeholders are people who have quite busy day jobs, so it becomes a bit difficult to manage – chunk it down into small bits and engage your teams and take your people on the journey. Also, have clean data! If I'd known how bad the data was before I started, I would have worked to try to do something different – it’s about having the data as clean as you can to expedite the process.”

“Don’t take on more than you can actually cope with at any given time, because there is still the day job.”

Carolyn Sewell, GM, Digital & Telesales – Toll Global Express

Daniel Bacon, Head, Commercial Excellence – Amgen
 
“I think one of the most important things when you start on any kind of transformation project is to understand how aligned you are within your organisation – particularly at the leadership level. I think it's very easy to identify a need or an issue, but in terms of aligning against what the organisational readiness for change really is, I don't think you can underestimate how much work needs to go into that part of the process as far as what are you hoping to see from this piece of work.”

“Understand how aligned you are within your organisation – particularly at the leadership level.”

Daniel Bacon, Head, Commercial Excellence – Amgen

Holly Orsman Smith, Sales Director – Solotel

“I think the way we delivered the message to the business would have been more successful had we really focused on the change piece, and been more one-on-one. We had a very town hall approach, and had these sessions with the business where we were explaining what we were doing to get engagement, and by the fourth session I remember standing there and looking at all these people, thinking ‘they're not connected to what I'm saying, and we're going live tomorrow’ – I feel like it's something that we really just didn't nail, but certainly now we do things very differently. I think the approach – how we talk to people, at the right time and with the right information – is really important. Our new approach is that we have a change manager now, and that role is completely responsible for everyone adopting the change within the business – really getting that one-on-one approach going, rather than ‘everyone's going to listen to everything’.”

“I think the approach – how we talk to people, at the right time and with the right information – is really important.”

Holly Orsman Smith, Sales Director – Solotel

David Anderson, Group Chief Executive Officer – Big Red Group

“What I wish I'd known about transformation is it's as much about the journey as the destination. I wish that we could have set ourselves up earlier to celebrate both success and failure and to understand the level of cadence and clarity that's required to keep people engaged in the business – almost irrespective of the technology, or the subject matter, or the program that’s implied.”

“I wish that we could have set ourselves up earlier to celebrate both success and failure.”

David Anderson, Group Chief Executive Officer – Big Red Group

– Interviews with Blackdot

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