How to be successful in change management
How to be successful in change management
Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us don't like change. We don't always like leaving our comfort zone because change can be scary, intimidating, and confusing. Barb McAteer, the Global Head of Sales Coaching & Enablement at Akamai Technologies, is with us this week to share how change within a company or organization, can be done in a less fearful fashion. You'll learn how authenticity in leadership is beneficial to the process, and how clarity, communication, and honesty help fuel a successful change management project.
Barb McAteerGlobal Head of Sales Coaching & Enablement
Devin Reed: Welcome to Reveal: The Revenue Intelligence Podcast, powered by Gong. We're your hosts, Devin Reed.
Sheena Badani: And I'm Sheena Badani. Revenue intelligence is a new way of operating based on customer reality, instead of opinions, making data- driven decisions based on facts, instead of opinions or guesswork.
Devin Reed: And it's made up of three success pillars: people intelligence, deal intelligence, and market intelligence. You know, the things all revenue teams need and care about. Every week, we interview senior revenue professionals and share their stories and insights on how they leverage revenue intelligence, to drive success and win their market.
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Devin Reed: Sheena, can I be completely honest with you for a second?
Sheena Badani: Yeah, I'm kind of nervous now.
Devin Reed: I am not a fan of the phrase" change management."
Sheena Badani: I can take that. I thought it was going to be something harsher.
Devin Reed: I could've been harsher.
Sheena Badani: I didn't come up with it. Yeah. I didn't come up with it, so I am not offended at all.
Devin Reed: That's good, and I'm glad you were not offended. I say it because it's one of those things where I know it's important, I've been a part of it and supported these initiatives, but the phrase for some reason is just like, it's not sexy, it doesn't sound fun. It sounds like going to the dentist, which is also important, but not pleasurable.
Sheena Badani: Right before this recording, I was talking to my husband about how much he hates going to the dentist, like literally five minutes ago. So I guess it was well- timed with the change management.
Devin Reed: Fun fact, I need, and have been procrastinating setting up an appointment to go to the dentist, so maybe we're all aligned here. And the reason why I mentioned that is because we had Barb McAteer, I hope I'm saying the last name correctly, who is the Head of Sales Coaching and Enablement at Akamai Technologies. If you're not familiar with Akamai, for the listeners, there's over a thousand salespeople at Akamai. Before that, she was at Adobe, where she was doing something similar for 5, 000 employees. And we talk about change management, and the reason why I let this happen, knowing that I don't love the phrase" change management," was because Barb is fantastic at it. And she brings a interesting perspective, in my book, and what I really loved about this episode, Sheena, is she shared very specific examples with companies we've all heard of, down to kind of tactical level stuff. So she did a really good job taking a, what can be, complex concept, and making it really actionable.
Sheena Badani: Totally agree. She's amazing, and the premier expert on this, I would say, out of everyone we've ever had on the show.
Devin Reed: No offense to previous guests, but if you think you're going toe to toe with Barb, think again. All right, let's go hang out with Barb.
Sheena Badani: Barb, welcome to Reveal. We're super excited to have you here on the show. Welcome, welcome.
Barb McAteer: Thank you. I'm delighted to be here. I love the name of your podcast, by the way.
Sheena Badani: Oh, thank you. So just kick things off, just in looking at your background and getting to know you over the last few weeks, I found your background to be super interesting. You most recently were heading up sales enablement at Akamai, but before that, you weren't the specialist in enablement by any means. You spent many, many years in partnerships and alliances, moving into education and strategy work related to sales. So how did you land up in sales enablement?
Barb McAteer: Yeah, that's that's an interesting note of my background there. It's one thing that I now pride myself in, and I'd love to tell you that it was all planned, but it wasn't necessarily all planned out along the journey. Fact of the matter is, I come from a sales and a sales management background, and what was noticed as I went along my journey, was that people were pulling me in to do other things, a lot of sales enablement, almost in every role, right? No matter what you're doing as a seller, change drives the need to enable people in a different way to change the process, to change the way we engage. And so, I was always doing that, but what made a difference, and why I think I ended up at Akamai in my last position there, was because they were looking for an enablement person who was strategic, who had that selling background.
Sheena Badani: That makes a lot of sense. I think the variety in your experiences and the sales background is very well suited for a large and rapidly growing sales force. Could you tell us a little bit more about what the sales org look like at Akamai
Barb McAteer: Yeah, it's a large organization of sellers. If you look at the all- in number, it's about 1, 100 sellers. So that's got your presales, your actual revenue generating members of the team, and sales leadership. And it was both media and web, so there's two very distinct sales organizations inside Akamai that most recently, were brought together under one umbrella. So what was interesting though about the journey there, is that you had two very different go- to- markets. And generally speaking, sales coaching and sales enablement is intended to bring together, to unify, to create a methodology and/ or a go- to- market that is completely disciplined around one standard. So it was a little challenging, but what was great was that we had the opportunity to really look at both parts of the organization, and apply it as needed.
Devin Reed: I like that a lot. Now, Barb, you speak to me, and here's why: you've mentioned that one of your highest values is commitment to being your most authentic self. It's something that I value, it's something I was shied away from earlier in my career, and have more recently really embraced this. What does being truly authentic look like for you?
Barb McAteer: Yeah, it's really important to me, Devin, so I'm glad you brought it up. I too was kind of guided in a direction that was different early on in my career," Here's the way you have to be," both as a professional, but as a woman, high tech, the industry itself had expectations. But over the years, I was fortunate and had a lot of coaching and experiences with some great leaders who said," No, the best thing, and the best leaders are those who are their most authentic selves," And to me, what I defined that as was being real. That includes showing vulnerabilities, right? As a leader, sometimes we know exactly where we want to go, but we're not clear on how we're going to get there. And that's why teams are so important, right? And a diverse talent pool, or what I like to call a tapestry of talent, is really critical, because you pull on each other's strengths to get to that common goal. And being my authentic self though also means that I'm going to be direct. People aren't going to experience Barb in her personal life and Barb at work, and see two different pictures or experience me differently. Communicating directly means being honest about all things that are present and coming. And so, I think very good leadership, strong leadership includes the ability to call out that which we may not like, we may be afraid of, but we're going to deal with it as a team. So that's what I define as being my authentic self.
Devin Reed: I absolutely love that. Especially, you have to be brave to be vulnerable, I think in general, let alone in front of your coworkers, and your colleagues, and your peers. So I definitely respect that, and it is just very motivating and validating to hear that come from you.
Barb McAteer: I've been fortunate to have, and I really have had very brave, what I call fearless leaders around me throughout the journey, so they've taught me well.
Sheena Badani: So today, we want to go deep into the topic of change management. I think for some folks, it's one of those terms that's written in business books, like business process optimization, or something complex like that, but what does it actually mean? What does this mean for my business? Like when do we do change management? So maybe just to level set, can you help tell us what is change management?
Barb McAteer: The definition is important, because you're right, everybody looks at it differently, expects different things through the process, and even may focus on outputs versus outcomes. So when I think about change management, there's really three areas. It always starts with individuals, the people are going to be the most important component. But the second piece is the initiative itself, or the organizational change. Why are we doing it as a company? And then there's the enterprise piece, and that is focused on how are we going to not only drive change, but then be consistent in adopting and moving transitioning to that future state? So people, the initiative or the organization, and the enterprise. And I think the important thing is to always focus on the outcome, right? So change management, to your question, is applicable when you're trying to move from one state to another, drive a new initiative. It could be," We want to move into a new market outside of the US," it might be," We want to develop a different go- to- market. We're going to sell our product or solutions differently," but you'll know based on the motivator, and then the definition of the outcome has to be clear, in order for successful change management to happen.
Sheena Badani: I mean, it seems like a lofty, challenging, ambitious initiative, right? Especially the larger the organization, and you've come from really, Fortune 100 type of companies like Adobe, where it can be hard to get people to change their behavior, right? It's not easy, especially if you have experienced folks who've been doing something one way for many, many years, sometimes for decades. What are some common misconceptions that leaders may have about implementing this type of change?
Barb McAteer: Yeah, I think first to your point about it seems pretty lofty, it is. There are studies, one done by Forbes, that I'm constantly reminding myself about, which is 62% of employees don't want to change, and that's a lot more than half, right? So it doesn't matter where you're trying to drive a change, people are people, and more than half of them are going to just naturally want to resist. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing, it's just a fact. And so, some of the challenges or the misconceptions are that once you design the process, you know where you're going, you set your metrics in place, that it will happen. That is not the case. Change management will have challenges every step along the way. Generally speaking, it will feel like two steps back, and only one forward. The most important thing is perseverance, for the team, for the leader, for the executive sponsor. I mean, you just have to have grit. So I'd say the biggest challenge is when an organization is not truly committed to the change itself.
Devin Reed: How do you spot check that that commitment is there?
Barb McAteer: I'm hesitating, because sometimes when you spot it, you want to run, but you're invested, right? And you know that you need to finish this, at least as best you can. One of the indicators to an issue that may come up, is when members of your team or the community you're serving, in the case of Akamai, those 1, 100 sellers, in the case of Adobe, we actually transitioned to a sales methodology called value selling, and that was over 5, 000 people, right? It doesn't matter where you're doing it, but one of the big red flags is when people are actually routinely focused on outliers, and/ or they're making exceptions for. So they'll say," Well, you know what? There is a different scenario here in public sector or federal government sales. You can't apply." You can't? You've got to be ready for those challenges. Aren't we still selling to people? Aren't we still focused on identifying pain? Aren't we still trying to provide value? But you have to really generate very specific answers around how you're going to do things in federal government that are specific to that space, right? And then there's the outliers, a situation that says," Well, these customers, for example, we've been engaged with them for so long, there's so much loyalty there. We just know they're going to do X or Y." Okay?" So we don't have to validate it, maybe." Again, it may be true. Outliers are very real, but to have the ability to quickly adapt and provide the how, be very explicit about how are we going to deal with that, versus letting us stop us or creating more exceptions is key.
Devin Reed: That's really interesting to me, because I got a flashback of a couple of sales roles ago, there were four sales teams, and we were all in different verticals. So already, they're very different from each other, and I'm holding up air quotes here. And there was a new change management going out, and admittedly, I'm someone who I wouldn't say I like change. I don't love it, I don't thrive for it, but I do like to be someone who adopts it and shows other people," Hey, it's doable," and kind of help push that forward. That said, of the four teams, one team got a get out of jail free card. They just didn't have to do it. Didn't have to go to the training, didn't have to worry about adopting this new technology, and the outcome, even for me was," Well, then why the hell should I do it? If they don't even have to get considered, they don't even have to show up." And so, I think kind of adding to your point, not only not letting the outliers get out of even considering it, but also understanding when you do let them get out of it, you're setting a bad example for the other people who might be, you know what I mean, more opt to buy into it.
Barb McAteer: Yeah. The most successful change management efforts are those that are consistent, and that doesn't mean that there's consistency that says," It's one- size- fits- all." It might be different, like we said, for a vertical public sector, or for healthcare, or name any one of them. But the reality is that the end game, the application of the change, and moving to that future state has to be the single focus, and the corporation and the executives at the top level need to be committed to it. When they're not, what you'll see, what will manifest in itself is a constant change. Companies, you'll see them every year, there's a whole new sales methodology, a whole new sales force, the go- to- market is different. Expect change, but you don't typically drop what you brought forward that year, because change takes a little bit longer, and generally, the outcomes will come the following year.
Devin Reed: Barb mentioned an interesting stat about managing employees through change. Let's dive deeper. The Forbes article titled, The Big Reason Why Some People Are Terrified Of Change, states that 62% of people either don't like to leave their comfort zone, or only do so occasionally. It's natural to be afraid of change, but when a company invests so heavily in a new go- to market strategy, like a new product, or selling into a new vertical, all hands have to be on deck. Employees need to be aligned on the change and understand the why. Even if the change varies across different levels of the business, the end goal must be the same. This is definitely a huge challenge, but that's why it's so important to listen to Barb's advice. In order to promote change management, the business needs to align, and sales leaders must be on board to get all levels of the business ready to make the change. All in all, change management doesn't have to be two steps forward, and one step back, it just requires alignment and grit to get the job done. Now, you said something a few minutes ago that caught my ear. Now you said, I'm going to just cut it to," 60% of people don't want to change in the organization." We love data, that's a quick, great stat, but I want to put it into context. You said a thousand people at Akamai, that means there are 600 individuals who do not want to do what Barb has presented that we should do. And I know you have a lot of examples, so can you share a real world example of your experience of how you were to successfully carry out a change management project?
Barb McAteer: That's a good way to kind of think about what are the tenets that will exist every time you take on change management, and then how do you address them? Not to an end run, but actually address them? I think if I would give you the example from Oracle, that was a company that was always maniacally focused on results, okay? So what we needed to do as I joined the mergers and acquisitions team, back before Oracle acquired the big one, which was PeopleSoft, right? And that was more takeover than merger, right? Most in the industry won't ever forget that one. But what we needed to do was be clear about what was going to happen, right? And so, Oracle was very clear we were going to look at people, we were going to look at the partners, we were going to look at the process, business practices, pricing, and we were going to make a decision based on a sales playbook we put together in each of those categories that said," Well, here's what we want to happen with the people. Here's what we want to happen with the partners," and sometimes the acquisition was such that you really wanted to retain all of the people, because they had the expertise. We might not have wanted to keep the partners, because we had a different partner strategy. So again, being very clear about the outcome, what is the vision of that future state? It takes some of the pressure and the stress off the people part. People know coming in like, look, with PeopleSoft, oracle was not an HR subject matter expert at the time. We weren't a lead. We needed those people. We made it clear that we wanted them to be retained, okay? Did we want all the partners? No. So we were clear about that too. Clarity and communication, honesty, authenticity, right? Being very clear about the vision of what that future state looks like, helps take away what people are feeling while they're resisting the change. They may not like it, that's not the point, okay? But at least you know. So in my mind, we were successful at building a playbook and rolling through, I think we did 50 some odd acquisitions in two and a half years when I was in that role in mergers and acquisitions.
Sheena Badani: Wow.
Barb McAteer: It was like just a factory, right? But it was because of that. We didn't discuss things in gray or ambiguous terms. We were very clear about what was going to happen.
Devin Reed: Sheena and I's face looked like the wide- eyed emoji when you said two mergers in two years. But I looked at Sheena, both was like, wow, that's-
Barb McAteer: That's crazy.
Devin Reed: ...astonishing.
Barb McAteer: But we got it, right? We got it to the point where it was just business as usual.
Sheena Badani: So talk a little bit more about the implications of any one of those acquisitions or the merger, quote, unquote, merger with PeopleSoft, and how did that impact the sales orgs? On one hand, I can see the folks at the parent company on the sales team, there may be some concern like," Hey, we have these new folks coming in, there's increased competition. We may have to change our ways. They may have to sell new products," so there may be some hesitancy or concern. And then especially for the company being acquired and the sales were coming from there, they have to completely change, they don't even know this new company anymore. So talk a little bit more about the change management required for sales on both sides of that.
Barb McAteer: Yeah. There's a very short answer to your question, which is, it is very disruptive, right? So never kid yourself, when something that large is happening, everything you said is very real, especially for the incoming employees, right? It's just completely disruptive, everything they know has been lost. I find there were two things though that I think allowed for us to be more successful than most, let's say, and that was the sense of urgency. The timelines that we kept for ourselves were very, very clear. In the first 90 days, in the first 120 days, very specific things had to be done, regardless of how big the company was, right? So we'd have large organizations like PeopleSoft, we had medium like BEA. It wasn't all one- size- fits- all there either, but the process and the communication was the same. The second thing was, I would like to tell you that I always had a very clear methodology. There's a lot of change management models out there. There's five or six that are pretty popular, and I didn't actually ever use just one of them, right? It just didn't seem like it fit any situation, whether it was this example at Oracle, or the change I drove at companies like Adobe, or most recently at Akamai. But at Oracle, when I was really engaged in this focus on all the acquisitions, I would look at these models. There's a company called Prosci. It's Professional science, right? And that's what they do, they really specialize in change management. So McKinsey, and ADKAR, you've got all these different models to look at. But what I found was similar in all of them was one, a sense of urgency not only has to be created, but maintained around the mission of this change, okay? The outcomes that are expected. Two was communicating, over- communicating, constantly communicating, being available to answer questions, coming up with new FAQ's, right? And third, which is really probably the most important, is the focus on the people, that making sure that as soon as you could get people comfortable with wherever they were going, even if it wasn't staying inside the company, that you would be more successful. So it was speed of movement that mattered most.
Devin Reed: Barb, I'd love to know about the urgency, the maintaining it, specifically. My first thought, I'm going to throw out my guesstimate, was milestones. You're talking about clear communication. To me, urgency is like, if it's not told to be done by Friday, I do it whenever I kind of feel like it, right?
Barb McAteer: Right.
Devin Reed: So my thought is milestones, but is that true, and is there anything else that you use to ensure urgency over time?
Barb McAteer: But it's a really good point when you say, if you've got until Friday, you'll put it off until then. I think there's, what was that called? I think it's Parkinson's Law, right? That says that inaudible-
Devin Reed: I call it procrastination, but I'll take the scientific approach as well.
Barb McAteer: Yeah, that too, and it's just a reality about human beings. So the way in which you kind of keep the urgency going is definitely through milestones, but the communication is key as well. So I will tell you that the culture at Oracle was very easy when it came to this topic, right? Because from Larry Ellison throughout the organization, it was clear you were going to have this company, and the people determined to be butts in seats, if you will, by day X. You were going to have the solutions, services, and products on the price list by day 100, whatever it was. There wasn't any gray. We all understood that these deadlines were real, and if you didn't make them, there was going to be consequences. That wasn't always the case in my experience, right? In my experience after Oracle, I would find as we were driving change, we were allowed a little bit more ambiguity, right? A little bit of change, or a lot of deadline movement and shifting, and to be frank, I prefer the prior. The sense of urgency can only be kept up regardless of the amount of milestones or what they are, if you're intentional and you're serious about it. And a lot of companies find that hard, right? They find it really hard to be that strong and disciplined.
Sheena Badani: I mean, I think it helps once you've done it before. Like when you were at Oracle, for example, you went through multiple change management opportunities, I don't know what the right term is there.
Barb McAteer: Yeah, they are opportunities.
Sheena Badani: There were a lot of necessary times where you had to implement change management, so you were able to create a playbook of sorts. How do you measure whether change management has been successful or not, and is there a way to effectively measure that, so that next time, you can be even better?
Barb McAteer: Yeah. That is an ongoing learning process, I find. Right? So let's go back to the mergers and acquisitions, for example, and then I'll compare and contrast that to another one that's coming to my mind, at Akamai. With the mergers and acquisitions, we had those categories, people, partners, business practices/ pricing, and there were dates, right? But there were different metrics that were set based on whatever the strategy was. Like I said, with PeopleSoft, we really wanted the core expertise, the subject matter experts to be on board, and we had it clear who's going to do what, right? The subject matter experts in HR were going to be our solution experts, okay? And the overriding account management would be done by somebody else, very distinct roles. But we also put numbers on that and said, so to be successful, we agreed, and originally we were guessing a lot of the time, but it was a percentage of those people that would be in those seats and maintaining their employment with Oracle, 18 months from now. Right? So we'd be measuring that, we'd say," 85% of these people, we want to be on board." Okay? Or if it was lower, that also was a different kind of exercise we had to go through, but it was still very clear what the outcome was supposed to be. I think that if I compare and contrast that, let's say with Adobe, I actually came in to do a job there that I was told they wanted me to work myself out of it. Right? So they said," Barb, we'd like you to come and lead this global license and compliance, later called license management team, but we'd like you to be out of that job completely and transform the team within three years." Well, we didn't get it done in three years, we got it done in five. But let's face it, I went in knowing that I didn't know what the next job was going to be, or if there would be one, and you have to be okay with that. The similarities were the clarity in where we were going, right? So as we started to move licensed management people into what would become customer success management roles, we had to be clear. The people issue or challenge is these are very different skillsets. Some of you may want to, and be able to go into this, some of you may not, so let's start talking about your professional development. Let's start talking about where you best fit. Is it inside of Adobe, is it outside? So you see the similarities with the mergers and acquisitions, as far as having a commitment to the people and communicating clearly with them, but there was also this difficulty in the messaging, because it wasn't black and white, and it wasn't always the news that people wanted to hear. So I think you evolve your metrics and how you measure success, based on what's happening.
Sheena Badani: Yeah. It's kind of interesting, part of what you were saying is that things might not always work out. Things will be so different in the new norm that it may not work for everybody involved, and that may be okay, because the change is bigger than any one individual.
Barb McAteer: inaudible
Sheena Badani: So, what worked when you were at PeopleSoft may not be what you want when you're now at Oracle, but I think it ends up kind of working out for the organization and for the individual, that there is this change, it's kind of bigger than the one person, and maybe the new norm is good, or it's best to depart ways.
Barb McAteer: To that point, Sheena, you're making me think about something I should've said in both of these examples. With Oracle, we were very clear about why we were doing things, and it was about the customer, right? The customer was looking for Oracle to provide a bigger umbrella, to be the expert in healthcare, in retail, and consumer product goods, a specific area of retail, financial services, banking different from insurance, but we didn't have neither the expertise nor the solutions, until we went on this merger and acquisition tear, right? And that was going to build out our actual go- to- market and the solution. So once you kept reminding people," Why are we doing this? Because we want to be more for those healthcare providers, more for the retailer than the database or apps company. We want to provide them with their go- to- market solution," you've got people's heads around where they even fit in that, or don't. And likewise at Adobe, right? It was customer- centric as well. The fact of the matter was we were moving people from on- premise software, to software as a service. It's a very different model. So in both cases with Oracle and with Akamai, there was a customer- centric focus. With Oracle, it was all about making sure that the customers were getting a service and a higher value from Oracle, in their particular industry, broader offerings from us, solving bigger challenges for them. On the Adobe side, it was also customer- centric in that we wanted to be sure that the value confirmation that they would continue to receive from us, was actually able to be achieved, and that people were focused on that with the customer, because when you move from the on- premise software model we had with our license management team, to customer success management really being heavily hands- on after the sale, that's a very different skillset and a different model, but again, it's what the customers wanted. So it was hard for anybody, even if you resist change, to argue with the outcome that we were trying to get to.
Sheena Badani: That is so great, and I'm glad you gave that context. I think in my question, I was asking like, putting kind of the organization first, but it's really about the customer, it's putting the customer first, and I think that will come back to the point of communication and the why, why is this happening? And weaving the customer story into that is super vital.
Barb McAteer: It allows people to be really introspective, and if during the change management process, if you're really focused on professional development, professional development, especially these days, it's not just a ladder, it's a lattice. You can go left and right, you can leave and come back, you can leave and move on. It's all okay, and if you can just get people feeling comfortable with that type of change and say," This could actually be a lot better for you," but allow them to be part of making those decisions, the change will be so much easier.
Sheena Badani: To wrap things up, we ask all of our guests one question, so we can't wait to hear what your response will be. How would you describe sales in one word?
Barb McAteer: In one word, I would say that sales is value. Thinking about it from all perspectives, me as a seller, a sales leader, the customer's viewpoint, the support team, and unless there's value in whatever I buy, be it a car, a house, a TV, I'm not going to be happy and satisfied, and come back, right? So, but if there's value, no matter what I bought, the emotional side of it will keep me connected and loyal.
Devin Reed: That's fantastic.
Sheena Badani: Cool. I love it. Value, you heard it from Barb. Barb, thanks again so much for joining us on Reveal. We had such a blast chatting with you here today. Thank you again.
Barb McAteer: Same here. This was a lot of fun, more fun than I thought it was going to be. Thank you both.
Devin Reed: I don't know if the bar was low or if we just really over- delivered, but I will take that. Big thank you, Barb. We appreciate it.
Barb McAteer: Have a great afternoon.
Devin Reed: Every week, we bring you a micro action, which is something you can think about or put into play immediately. Think about any potential gray spaces that might exist in your company strategy, and how they could be differently communicated to all levels of the business. How can you get everyone aligned with the ultimate goal, and be clear how to drive business outcomes forward? At the end of the day, it's going to take getting everyone onboard marching in the same direction to create successful outcomes. That's it for this week, I'll catch you next week on Reveal. Did you like today's episode? Subscribe now, so next week's episode will be waiting for you on Monday.
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