About the Episode
If change is the only constant in life, why do so many organizations still find it so daunting? What barriers keep us from embracing change and breaking free from the status quo? John Kuforiji, an IT project manager, joins us to discuss the change management best practices that can transform the culture at your workplace. If you want to drive innovation and make change easier within your organization, don’t skip this episode.
Meet Our Guest
As an experienced project manager and change management consultant, John Kuforiji has assisted in the launch of large-scale changes across organizations of all sizes and industries. He’s a dedicated, results-driven, and innovative IT project manager with nearly a decade of experience in building teams, nurturing relationships, and exceeding client expectations. From IBM to PwC Canada, he’s helped many organizations better manage change and digital transformations.
Lindsay McGuire: Hey everyone. Welcome to practically genius. I'm Lindsay McGuire, and I'm very excited to be kicking off our first episode of this new show from Formstack this season. We're asking real geniuses to join us, to talk about topics that matter to change makers like you, and what better place to start than with change management. Your organization. Won't be able to sustain a spirit of innovation without change management, but who owns change management. And how can we start to build cultures around innovation in this genius spotlight episode, we're diving into those questions with John Kuforiji, a PWC consultant with over a decade of experience in helping organizations realize value through change management practices. He has some amazing advice to share about how organizations can adopt, adapt and build cultures of change. With that let's hear from John about how organizations can thrive in a changing environment. What drove you to get involved in change management? When we think about change, it can seem very scary. It's unsettling, and it can be difficult as well. So what attracted you to get a role in change management?
John Kuforiji: I started managing project about 10, 12 years ago, and I was back in Nigeria at a time, a young project manager, and I was implementing this security project for an organization in the energy sector. One of the largest local, all producing companies, um, in Nigeria at a time. And we did the good work, the design, the implementation, everything went really good, and it was the time to get to the people aspect of it. You know, where we deploy to users that are actually gonna use this solution. And my name self, knowing nothing about change management. We deploy to everyone as we've always done, but all of a sudden I got a call from one of the C levels. Like the, the, I think it was the CFO, the, the, the CFO for the organization called me and said, I want you guys to take all your stuff out and get out from this organization.
John Kuforiji: Basically, you couldn't work. What we did affected him. He got into the office just back from vacation and because the solution was designed in a way that if your devices was not compliant, it locks you up. So you couldn't work, you couldn't do anything. And that was what happened at the time. And I went back and I was discussing with someone and the person said, why not manage it properly? Instead of going, you know, big bang, use a face deployment, let's use the communication channels within the company. Let people know this is coming. The president call change management at the time. It was just more like a face deployment and having a deployment plan. So we worked with the communication department of the company using screensavers to communicate, letting each department, each location, knowing when it was gonna be their turn. And, um, one of the other things we did at the time was to work with the it team, which was more like the technical team. We trained them on the application. So in change management that is called change, having chain champions, they were our chain champions, and they were able to go to all these other places to talk about the change. They were the first level of support. So when we deployed, if people had questions, they were right there and there to like, you know, calm nerves. And that was actually my first experience with change management.
Lindsay McGuire: One thing we have seen a lot is no matter how much time you put on the front, end of planning everything, uh, seeking out the right solutions, building a process. If you don't do the second half of that, you will fail every single time. So you definitely made some great points of it's always coming down to the people. And one thing you brought up that I think is really interesting. I'd like you to talk more about is you identified those change champions, bringing those people in from the very beginnings and ensuring that they are within that whole entire process. Can you talk a little bit about how someone can identify those change champions within the other departments?
John Kuforiji: I'll use an example. I worked on a project recently with one of the government departments in Manitoba, and it was still, it was a digital transformation project where we had to change from the usual way of paper based, moving file from one room to the other and things like that, to change it to the digital way, create workflows where the process flows all through from start to finish. One of the things I did was I spoke with the different ads of the department to identify people who knew a lot about the job. That's the job function. And then people who were more it savvy people who were able to use computers that had a very good advanced knowledge of computers, because the thing is you are able to train those people easier. So they, they already computer iterate to an extent they have some of the skills you need.
John Kuforiji: And at the same time, they know the job function. And at the same time they are from they team, they are from that particular team. So they have the rapper rapport with other members of the team. And it's easy to get questions for. Like, I would find it easier to ask my colleague a question about something rather than go to a consultant that just came into the organization because the relationship is there as I, so that's how I usually go about chain champions. I find people who are more who have relative knowledge who have the minimal barrier points to the change that is happening because it's easier to get 'em on board and then they just help the other folks. If it's a core it project, we, I would usually work with like the it department, the it team, um, because it expected that they have a bit of an advanced, it knowledge, it background. That're able to help, you know, the non-IT users and because it's their environment, they provide support to those people on a daily basis. They have that relationship. It's the help desk. We all call when we have issues. So by working with the help desk, you know, making them change champions, it's easy to get that change resolved and of a successful change there.
Lindsay McGuire: So how do you go about changing that mindset of, well, this is the way we've always done it. So this is the right way to do it. Or there shouldn't be a need to change. How do you go about changing those mindsets?
John Kuforiji: As much as we want everyone to adopt, we want everyone to be able to get the benefits of the change. We want everyone to be able to use what we, the, the change that has been implemented. It's at times you, you cannot win everyone to your side. Not everyone would want to come on board. At the end of the day, it boils down to the person and being able to overcome the barriers that I've been identified for some people they just want to keep started school. They don't wanna change. They've been doing it for the last, how many years. And they're gonna tell you that, like I've been doing it this way, this works, you know, they're gonna tell you that. And the goal is just to get as smart as, as much as you can get from the people to adapt and be able to use this solution effectively. So you're able to get the value desire from it.
Lindsay McGuire: One of the things we did was we surveyed 2000 us full-time and part-time workers and asked them different questions about, you know, how are you adapting your processes? What are you doing in your day to day business? And we then segmented all those answers by digital maturity level. And we realized there's a huge gap between the most digitally mature organizations and the least digitally mature organizations when it comes to how they identify, how they're using their time and how they identify, how those changes, impact them. For instance, the least digitally mature organizations. A lot of times their employees are wasting at least two hours per day on those manual and repetitive data entry tasks and things like that. And yet they have the mindset you talked about of, well, this is the status quo. This is how we've always done it. This is how I've always done it. And then layering on top of that conversation. We also found too, that there's concerns about, well, what happens if this is automated? What am I going to do? Instead of that, thinking of, think about all the things I could do. So I think it's very fascinating. You bring that up, cuz our research definitely showed a lot of what you just talked about.
John Kuforiji: The future. There's gonna be a lot of changes. We're talking about automation, intelligence, your machine learning, deep learning. COVID showed all of us. A lot of things that could happen rapidly. We went from going to the office to everybody, working from home, everybody doing things the way deep, not been used to. So things are gonna change organizations based on previous ways, we've endured things, you know, businesses. We kind of very reactionary to how we do things COVID happened. We dunno what the next disruption is going to be. And organizations are preparing very well for the next disruption. There was an article that I was looking at and you would see that a lot of the organizations that we have today are not necessarily prepared for the future yet, which could go in many ways. It could be a green art future where it, we are more environmentally conscious. It could be a more automated future where everything is AI machine learning and automation is key. It could be a future where business is like some of these businesses that are changing rapidly and growing rapidly will end up taking over some of these businesses that are not doing well right now. So there's gonna be a lot of changes that the common denomination of everything that's gonna happen in the future, it's, there's gonna change a lot. And the successful organizations of tomorrow at those organizations that are well adapted to changing.
Lindsay McGuire: How can an organization begin to be more comfortable with change? What's some of your advice to those organizations that might be lagging behind on that digital maturity, who might be a little bit less proactive in their choices of change. How can they start adapting to that?
John Kuforiji: The first thing, the key thing is look at the data available from different sources. And you can see that there is a compelling case for change management for the people side of change of management. And if organizations want to be honest with themselves, if they look at previous projects and adoption levels, they can also see the need for that. If you keep implementing projects and it takes a longer period for your employees, for the people that adapt you to get to use those tools, change management is very important. I know a lot of organizations see it as, oh, I have a project manager that should be enough, but let's go back 10, 15 years from now, project management was almost at that level where people did not see project as like having a project manager to manage a project as key, there was a manager, an operational manager, and they believe the operational manager should be able to do things until project started fairly.
John Kuforiji: There was a lot of money being lost on, you know, we start something, we don't finish it because things were not being completed. Things were not being done the way it should be done actually, because there was no project management. That's the very, very, very short form of it. Some of the big, the top organizations have actually built their own change management framework, adopted it and they use it even with some of the clients that they work with. So I would say, look at the data. And once you look at the data, you should be convinced enough. The next thing is, it all starts with empathy, for the people, um, putting the people you work with first in, whatever change you do, we're implementing this change. We just don't wanna dump it on your lap. We wanna know what are your concerns with it. We wanna help you to adapt.
We wanna help you to be able to use this. We know you have concerns for sure there are concerns, but we wanna help you to overcome this concerns, those barriers that you think you might have. Do you need more training? Do you just need to know more about the tool at times? It's just, we wanna implement this change. We wanna know why you think about it. A lot of people would, will not even say anything. A lot of people will not provide any feedback, but the fact that you just inform them that this is coming, they feel valued. It's been valued about that. Could break a lot of barriers. And that is where it starts from. It starts from putting the people first, before the processes, before the technology.
Lindsay McGuire: Going back to what you said about having the outlines or project scopes for change management. If an organization isn't quite at that level, which it sounds like most are, are probably nowhere close to having some kind of change management system implemented for those who are just thinking about where does change management fit into my organization? Can you speak a little bit about that?
John Kuforiji: I would say it fits into everywhere. Every organization, nearly organization where no change management is required is if no change is happening, that means it's the same people coming to work. Isn't the same tools every day with no change, no promotions, no reorganization, no updates to tools, just the same people, the same thing every day. Then you could do without change management because it's just the same thing you're doing. But if there are some changes involved, you have to have an holistic approach from the technology to HR, to communications. And most importantly, from the top, there has to be the executive buying people in change management. We encourage leaders or sponsors to lead by example, there has to be that executive buying. If something is happening, people want to hear the reason why it's happening from the top. If we're changing, oh, we wanna implement this.
John Kuforiji: So people wanna know why that is happening from the top. They want to know what is changing, why it's changing from the top, the CEO, CFO, they need to take ownership and they need to communicate it. They need to be able to answer some of the questions on why and the structure or what process I recommends is, you know, at the lower level, how it's going to impact my work. I need to be able to have that discussion with my manager. So there's something we'll call a sponsor coalition for change. That is different people from different teams working together to sponsor the change. So it a corporation sort of where, you know, I'm managing this part of the change. I'm managing this part of the change in order to make it work, which is different from the chain champions, the early adopters, that's different. This is just at a top level. So HR, how it affects people's work, you know, am I, am I gonna get paid more? Am I getting more work without money? You know those questions, you need those questions to be answered. So, which is why it has to be a holistic approach. The whole organization has to come in because it usually touches almost every point of the organization.
Lindsay McGuire: It almost sounds like project managers should consider themselves change management specialists. Uh, I don't think a lot of people probably think that way, but it's, I almost find it funny that I've never thought about it that way. So what are some change management principles? You think every project manager should follow
John Kuforiji: Ideally to project managers should see themselves as like change managers because they are usually implementing a change, but for your project to be successful, especially if you are implementing a project that will impact people you should do at the foundation, your requirement should put the people that you're implementing this project for at the forefront. A very good example. Um, somewhere in Western Africa, a United nations project was done to provide Python water for the a particular village. The usual thing for the village was for them to go to the stream, fetch water and walk all the way back. They had to work a few kilometers down to the stream and come back. So they put the pipe, the ball, all, um, the tap and everything running in the middle of the village. So they don't have to work through the stream. They don't have to do, um, all that, which made perfect sense.
You know, it's, it's an efficient solution from, oh, if, if you look at it makes sense. But then it was discovered that the village did not use it, which is surprising. But then, uh, what, what we notice was because women did the Fe of water in that village and what they did was the journey to the stream and back was an opportunity for them to interact with other women to chat and, you know, to discuss. And by putting that in the middle of the late, they lost the opportunity. So they still wanted to chat and discuss. And so they would rather go to the stream, get water and come back. But as a project manager, you can ask some of these questions on why is this being done? You put the people into perspective, you put the people in four. So whatever solution you're implementing, you are making sure it is tuned to what the people would use, not what you are just implementing. You can implement the most fantastic tool and people will end up now using it.
Lindsay McGuire: I think a lot of times people make assumptions about what would help someone or what would improve a work process or insert X, Y, Z in that blank. But they don't actually do that work to ask that end user. So what actually are your issues or why do you do it this way? And if we all took just 30 minutes an hour to talk to some of those end users before we get too far down, kind of what our crazy idea is, or, you know, I just saw this shiny new tool. I, we all get caught up in that thing of this is gonna fix our problems. But if we just take the time to really talk to those people first, I think that could be a really big game changer. And one thing you shared on LinkedIn was talking about embracing the bad days cuz as we all know, change is not easy. So can you talk a little bit more about why it's important to embrace the bad days and what you meant by that message.
John Kuforiji: If you meet a project manager that tells you all my projects have been successful, a hundred percent is most likely lying. <laugh>, you know, he's telling a big light and that's the truth because you have some field project, you have some project that did not go as planned. You have some projects that you start and you are like, what the hell did I get myself into? You get a lot of that. But the point is learning. I see life as an ongoing learning session, you are learning things as you go back in the university, I did a course, it's called control systems. So when you design a control system, you have the input and you have a desired output out of that output. There is a feedback system. Now a negative feedback is good for the system. You know, you use the feedback, you put it back in order to get towards your desired output, a positive feedback.
John Kuforiji: According to what we're, what we're taught at the time is a positive feedback. Disrupts. The system is not so good. So it's all about creating your life or everything you do as that control system use the negatives embrace changes that don't go well, things that you did not do as well as you would have learned from it. Use those lessons in the future. Use those lessons in the next change because was it Thomas Edison? When he invented the light bulb band, they said, I've only learned a thousand times, I'll know to make it work. And it's about having that attitude to it. Knowing things will not always go my way, but I'm always ready to learn the lessons from it.
Lindsay McGuire: Thank you so much for joining us for this great conversation with John. If you want to keep the conversation going, Join me and my co-host Ryan for next week's episode of Practically Speaking, where we'll be diving in with some data driven insights around change management and how organizations are practicing it today.