Change Management Interview: Geraldine Maouchi

At Q7 Consulting we are aware that we live in times of uncertainty and organizations need to be flexible and must have strong cultures of Change Management and Leadership in order to succeed. The current pandemic has brought on many challenges but also many opportunities for organizations. One of the opportunities is to ride the increased wave of Digital Transformation and as with any transformation, Change Management and Leadership are essential.

Continuing our new series: interviews we have personally done to industry leaders, business managers, chief officers and entrepreneurs from all kinds of professional backgrounds and industries, getting their perspectives on how they managed and implemented Change in their organizations and throughout their professional careers; in this fourth episode we interview Geraldine Maouchi, leading expert in Transformation across several industries and organizations with the profile of a Chief Digital Officer (“CDO”), sharing her knowledge through academia and providing enriching content through several articles.

In this interview we tackle another main topic in addition to Change Management and Change Leadership: Digital Transformation. As the implementation of Digital technologies were reaching their limits in several ways such as scalability, ROI, talents management… it became obvious that implementing Digital in a traditional organization requires a full transformation of the organization.

Please find below the main questions addressed in our interview with Geraldine Maouchi with to the point answers for easy reading.

What have been your takeaways from managing Change?

Clarifying the WHY and WHAT should we Change, WHERE are we aiming to go are pre-requisites and then comes the HOW. The key takeaway is that it is all about HUMAN management. Whatever we implement: a new business model, new organization, new tools, new processes… the success depends on our ability to manage the HUMAN side of the Change. If there is no vision, if there is no culture, if there are no values, people won’t know where they are going. At the end of the day, it’s the people making things happen. And as the Covid crisis demonstrated, clear and shared Culture and Values are key success factors.

Reporting and partnering closely with the CEO, the Chief Digital Officer initiates as a first step a full assessment of the digital maturity of the company. It includes every field of the company: manufacture, logistics, finance, marketing, etc. The CDO suggests a first proposal of a new vision that involves digital layers for several topics: business model and technologies, and also the experiences with the consumers, the partners and the employees. As part of the Executive Committee, together we define the new vision and the transformation it triggers. The CDO really needs to ensure that as a first step to a Digital Transformation, the full vision and strategy are shared with both the members of the Executive Committee and all the collaborators. As the company gets more mature digitally, the Chief Digital Officer regularly suggest redesigning the organization in order to apprehend the Changes and ensure the roles and responsibilities of everyone evolve as per the transformation and digitalization. This organization redesign part is key and supports the transformation.

In my assessment I try to look at an extended scope: the company business, the value chain of our industry disrupted by technology and a bigger picture of how other industries may have been impacted and how they have evolved.

Companies seldom look outside the box (other industries) and this narrows the opportunity for Change and innovations. This can lead some time to reinventing the wheels that other industries may have already experienced, missing their good learnings. In Digital Transformation, looking at the big picture is key.

What is your advice to people who start managing major Changes in organizations for the first time?

Make sure you understand where you are going and push your hierarchy to answer this question. Make sure there is a back and forth collaboration with your hierarchy: Top-Down, Bottom-Up and fight to get the means.

As in the previous question, make sure to have all prerequisites in place. I would add as well that in order to monitor the Change, a clear governance is key. It helps to quickly raise through bottom-up processes the issues faced and address them accurately and efficiently.

What was your role in making Changes in the organization and were the Changes clearly linked to the mission and vision of the company?

When you Digitally Transform an organization, it basically involves Change Management from the start. As soon as the company wants to establish a CDO, they should already know that Change is inevitable and implies a transformation at all levels and all fields of the organization, thus full engagement of the C-levels, investments and means.

For a Digital Transformation, Change Management is very complex. Whether in B2B or B2C companies, implementing digital technologies in whatever field will not only require additional skills – whether through the upskilling of the collaborators or the insourcing of the digital expertise, but also an acceleration in the speed of executing the day to day tasks, thus requiring more agility, an entrepreneurial spirit, more autonomy and an obvious mindset of Change in terms of the management style.

  • B2C Company: A B2C company is already in contact with the end consumer. It can watch how the technologies have affected the consumer behavior. In order to stay connected to the consumer, a B2C company needs to ensure that it is present in all potential digital and physical channels, that the brand experience is homogenous and seamless for the consumer. Data and analytics can really help monitoring the brand performance and the consumer behavior. The Change is quite challenging and transversal as most fields in the organization will be impacted as everyone needs to understand the new KPIs (quantitative and qualitative ones) and be able to react to any situation.
  • B2B Company: A B2B Company is quite challenging. As it doesn’t know the end consumer, thus it can’t predict how its consuming behavior will evolve, thus will face difficulties in adapting quickly to any Change. Disruption can come from Digital native brands that produce, personalize and sell competitive products/services directly to the consumers, which impacts the whole value chain. Depending on your core business a B2B2C approach could help to initiate the Digital Transformation, as well as enhancing the partnerships among the actors of the value chain. Developing a B2C spirit in a B2B business is a step by step Change.

How did your companies support you in getting ready to lead / manage Change?

There is only one response to that: the CEO’s full support, the Executive Committee’s full collaboration and the CDO’s empowerment through her/his own budget and her/his own team, just like any other C-Level of a company. It’s an investment. Whoever invested into Digital Transformation, has succeeded in the longevity and sustainability of the company. Without budget you are not empowered, without your own team you cannot make things happen.

Keeping in mind that the objective is not for the CDO to keep the leadership on Digital, at the end of the day, each field should take the responsibility of its digital layer. In terms of Change Management, each leader and C-level should support his team to become more agile, to solve things faster. As demonstrated as well by the Covid crisis, internal collaborative tools and mobility tools support in addressing any situation, anywhere, anytime and through any device. Empowering the collaborators is a performance lever. If the Vision and Strategy are properly shared and understood, and everyone has the same Culture and Values, then this should not lead to chaos but efficiency.

What strategies worked and did not work to communicate the Changes and what strategy did you use to generate a sense of urgency with people?

What worked: 

  • Partnering with the CEO  from defining the Vision to redesigning the organization at every phase of the digital maturity. The organization needs to evolve as we get more mature digitally.
  • Securing the means and investments from start, even if we grow organically as the company must be ready for scale-up.
  • Test, Fail, Fix & Learn culture.
  • Give perspective and demonstrate to collaborators that by changing they will learn more new things and will sustain and enrich their careers. Help them project themselves in their own careers.
  • Recruit digital experts interested in growing with the company, developing their role and build hybrid expertise.
  • Build a first ecosystem of partners to help infuse knowledge.
  • Use a pilot approach and involve the whole organization, all the business leaders (sales, marketing, finance, logistics, IT, etc.).
  • Innovate.

What did not work:

  • Going blindly into quick decisions or stereotyped ideas, or launching a project in emergency (e.g. like developing eCommerce in emergency, or hurrying to develop Social Media communication).
  • Trying to copy the competitors.
  • Rushing people to go digital. 
  • Not taking risks and daring innovative ideas.
  • Have a “silo” approach, with a team of digital experts not integrated in the traditional business and entities.

These last ways of proceeding demonstrated that it creates a mess in a company, quickly reaches a ceiling and does not allow it to grow organically and properly. A waste of money and time and a stress for both the traditional experts and newly recruited digital experts, who are not in good conditions to trust each other, learn from each other and grow together.

The sense of urgency comes when you explain and demonstrate how the Change will secure the business and thus everyone’s careers, will enrich the collaborators’ knowledge and implement a self-learning culture where team members seek to grow with the company.

How did you approach planning Changes? How well were the Change plans followed and how did you approach Changes to the plans?

Through a Test, Fail, Fix and Learn approach, whatever the size of the project. Ensure regular checks as we move forward, be quick to fail and quick to fix. Remember how to succeed because the pilot will be the proof of concept and then you can deploy it more broadly. If the project is large, break it down in small parts and short milestones.

It’s not important how much trouble you got from point A to B, always keep the vision in mind. Adapt all the time with the ultimate goal in mind.

What strategies did you use to attain milestones and make achievements visible?

The Pilot mode and the Test, Fail, Fix and Learn approach, are success factors in digital companies.

The complexity in traditional business is for the management to accept to fail and not blame others in case of failure. Digital Transformation is teamwork. Not only with the internal collaborators, but with the ecosystem of partners as well. Avoiding pointing at failures and focusing on solutions allow a fast adaptation and great team spirit.

What did you do to keep people committed? What did you do to keep people from going back to old ways?

Believe in sustainability. That every individual effort has a global print. In general, it’s very hard to Change. Moreover, when the business is successful and people don’t feel the need to Change, or when you have been doing the same job for many years. But Change within the Digital Transformation is definitely a chance to keep oneself up to date, secure both a career and your company’s sustainability.

Be consistent and act as a citizen. Showing the collaborators that they cannot expect, as consumers themselves that other business answer their needs and expectations across all channels, while refusing themselves to support the Digital Transformation of their own work and business. As an example, we cannot expect the eCommerce to serve us in pandemic times and not participate in building digital capabilities in our own company. Because we are all part of a value chain, of an industry and we are all citizens and responsible actors of a global economy.

Be present on the ground as a leader. As a C-level and part of the executive committee, I ensure to fully go through the business and the market before coming up with recommendations. In addition, Digital is a “Do It Yourself” thing. Being entrepreneurial and hands on is key to understand them. Being close to the team and reachable allow to address quickly any situation and show support. Lead by example, by being both a leader with vision, managing politics and by being hands on and understanding the impact on the operations. One of the best memories are those when we delivered projects after amazing teamwork.

Admitting the mistakes. Sharing our own mistakes fast enough in order to quickly find solutions and correct. This is a tricky one in a traditional business with an old mindset, moreover for a C-Level drowned in office politics.

Did you underestimate or overestimate what was needed to be done to achieve Change?

I faced both because whatever the Transformation, we may have the Vision but the road to it is not predictable. There is always something that pops up and impacts the transformation. That is why the Test, Fail, Fix and Learn approach that we apply in Digital Transformation is helpful. As we adapt and readapt all the time. Learning and enhancing at every step.

In a Digital Transformation it is also extremely hard to properly estimate the effort in order to achieve Change. Sometimes we have to urge for training or additional services as we would discover gaps in end-to-end processes when building the new business and the new organization.

What worked in planning and executing Changes?

To my perspective, the pre-requisite to any transformation and Change Management is a clear and efficient Governance. It allows to address any issue, any crisis, any problem, any happy success, with a fluid Top-Down and Bottom-Up communication.

In Digital Transformation you deal with an ecosystem of external partners, so you must have fluid and fast communication both inside and outside the organization.

Team spirit is key to secure learnings and knowledge sharing. It is important to have regular team events whether online or in presence.