ET-074: A conversation with Ms. Pia Wendelbo
ET-074: A conversation with Ms. Pia Wendelbo
and your host Wayne Brown on November 21, 2023
and your host Wayne Brown on November 21, 2023
Episode notes: A conversation with Ms. Pia Wendelbo
Hello and welcome to the ET Project. I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and as usual, we’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET.
Today we’re heading to the wonderful Valencia, Spain, to chat with our guest, Ms. Pia Wendelbo. Pia is a change agent and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in strategy, innovation, product development, process optimization, and organizational change as business head of Finland’s largest bank, Nordea.
She’s passionate about helping companies and individuals navigate digital disruption with the aim of growing and transforming successfully. Pia believes that empathy is essential in supporting organizations through digital transformation and utilizes behavioral design and neuroscience to ensure that organizations are prepared to take on the necessary changes.
Here is an extract from our conversation as we start to get into it…
Usually, I start when I talk to business managers, some of the stuff that I usually start talking about is actually how they drive their change initiatives. And what I usually see there is that they haven’t really given the slack needed for this to be implemented. So that is one of the areas that I usually start looking into. So is there actually the needed slack or the space in the organization for actually driving this change in the right way? As we as people, we need time and space to actually adapt. We know how difficult it can be to adapt to a new habit. This is exactly the same in an organization, right? You need to work in a different way. You need to pick up a new way of working in the system. You need to understand new stuff. You might need to learn whole new capabilities as part of this as well. And it takes time, right? And many times we also fall back because it’s so easy to go back to old habits, the old way of doing things because that’s the easiest way of doing it, right? So not having a framework, not having a system in place to sort of support that for the organization, I often see that’s lacking.…
Today’s Guest: MS. PIA WENDELBO
Pia is the founder of Scandinavian Change Agents, a consulting firm specializing in helping businesses navigate the ever-evolving technological landscape and achieve digital transformation.
The firm emphasizes the importance of adapting to constant change and implementing strategy as an ongoing process. Pia’s approach involves creating a safe space for learning and growth while transforming and believes that successful change happens when each employee transforms successfully. Pia is also a mentor and coach specializing in behavioral factors and neuroscience.
She helps people who don’t know how best to work with themselves and their team and offers career coaching to those looking to build their future. Pia’s focus on curiosity and holistic thinking sets her apart from other consultants and she’s a go-to person for decision-makers and C-level managers looking to navigate change. Pia’s expertise in innovation, transformation, and business management makes her an engaging and informative speaker for conferences and events.
Final words from Pia:
And I think that the takeaways from it should definitely be that you as a leader should make sure that both yourself, but also your team figure out, are there is stuff that we can take off the plate. How can we actually navigate putting more space and time into our transformations? That would definitely be one thing that I think is curious. I don’t think that putting more topics in right now might blur the picture.
So, I think we’ve been quite good around the topic, I would say. So it’s more about encouraging maybe the leaders to reflect sort of on their decision-making process and if they’re actually creating space for different perspectives and if they’re also challenging their own assumptions when they go into a project…
0:00:03.0 Wayne Brown: Hello, I’m your host Wayne Brown and welcome to the ET Project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world, whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. Today we’re heading to the wonderful Valencia, Spain, to chat with our guest, Miss Pia Wendelbo. Pia is a change agent and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in strategy, innovation, product development, process optimization and organizational change as business head of Finland’s largest bank, Nordea. She’s passionate about helping companies and individuals navigate digital disruption with the aim of growing and transforming successfully. Pia believes that empathy is essential in supporting organizations through digital transformation and utilizes behavioral design and neuroscience to ensure that organizations are prepared to take on the necessary changes.
0:01:00.9 WB: Pia is the founder of Scandinavian Change Agents, a consulting firm specializing in helping businesses navigate the ever-evolving technological landscape and achieve digital transformation. The firm emphasizes the importance of adapting to constant change and implementing strategy as an ongoing process. Pia’s approach involves creating a safe space for learning and growth while transforming and believes that successful change happens when each employee transforms successfully. Pia is also a mentor and coach specializing in behavioral factors and neuroscience. She helps people who don’t know how best to work with themselves and their team and offers career coaching to those looking to build their future. Pia’s focus on curiosity and holistic thinking sets her apart from other consultants and she’s a go-to person for decision makers and C-level managers looking to navigate change. Pia’s expertise in innovation, transformation and business management makes her an engaging and informative speaker for conferences and events.
0:02:06.2 WB: So, Team ET, this week is all about change leadership, something that we as leaders should all be working hard to master. Therefore, if you’re ready, join me as our guest, Ms. Pia Wendelbo, shares her thoughts on the characteristics of successful change leaders in today’s workforce.
0:02:25.4 Speaker 2: Welcome to the ET Project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.
0:02:42.2 WB: All right, hello and welcome again, Team ET, to what promises to be another fantastic, informative and insightful leadership conversation. As you heard during the intro, this week’s guest is probably, I’m going to guess, basking somewhere in the sun in the wonderful countryside of Valencia, Spain. And if I can contain my envy, because Spain is one of my favorite locations, we’re going to be talking about people and the likely impact on that next change project that you may just be leading. It’s a great opportunity, I want to say for all leaders, to discover some key actions that you can take away, put in place and give yourself a chance of really being successful in the next change initiative that you get to look after. So, team, please join me as we welcome our guest, Miss Pia Wendelbo. Pia, welcome to the ET Project.
0:03:44.1 Pia Wendelbo: Hi, Wayne. Thank you so much for letting me on here. I’m very much looking forward to our dialogue today.
0:03:49.7 WB: Yeah, likewise. You’re currently living in Spain. However, your homeland is Denmark. And I wonder if you’d mind sharing a little bit about your career background and whatever it was that brought you to be living in Spain.
0:04:07.2 WB: [laughter] For sure, Wayne. You’re fully correct. I am originally from Denmark, but I have been living also in the US at some point, actually, in my life. But, yeah, now I live in Spain. But that’s only for recently. I only moved here a year ago. So before that, I actually lived 20 years in Copenhagen. And most of my career and most of my life, I’ve worked with different angles to change, to innovation, to creativity. That’s more or less where I came from. So when I was only 19, I actually started up my own company, working with content management solutions for websites back when this was just a business card. You probably also remember that, Wayne.
0:04:49.1 WB: I do. You can tell by my grey hair.
0:04:50.4 PW: So that was one of the first tasks. Yeah. [laughter] Yeah, so that was one of the first challengers that we took on. And then we worked with that for some years. But then I decided that I wanted to move into the corporate world. So I started working, actually, with chip technology. So that was another angle to innovation and product development there. And after that, I then decided, since I was in this chip technology industry, that it could be interesting to be on the other side of the table. So I joined a commercial… I joined a bank, working with the commercial part of it. So very much with the retail, banking, e-commerce, omni-channel, that kind of thing. And that I did for almost 16 years. And then last year, I decided that now it was time to go out of the corporate world again and into being an entrepreneur. So I decided to kick off my own company and then also moving to Spain. So it’s been quite an adventurous year, I would say.
0:05:58.6 WB: So I’m sure there’s been a lot of great experiences along that journey.
0:06:03.6 PW: Yes, for sure. And still is.
0:06:06.4 WB: Yeah. [laughter] And I think last time we spoke, you were talking about you’re in the process of, you now have two companies. You’re working on a third company or something. So I can imagine you’re very busy.
0:06:19.5 PW: Yeah, there’s quite much to look after, but in a good way. I absolutely love what I’m doing. So it feels perfect. I feel so much at home being back to being an entrepreneur. And, yeah, so it fits me very nicely. And I think even though you work many hours now and then, if it’s something you really love doing, it doesn’t feel too bad, right?
0:06:41.5 WB: Yeah. Yeah, very true. I want to jump as quickly as possible into this topic on change because it’s such a broad topic.
0:06:50.2 PW: I definitely believe that being capable of maneuvering change is a meta skill that you need to conquer to be part of the future, definitely.
0:07:04.5 WB: We know that technology is creating this accelerating spiral, and therefore the change is a consequence of that. Are there any other factors that you can think of that may also be at play that’s triggering the change that we’re experiencing?
0:07:21.6 PW: Of course, yeah. As you say, the technology is a huge thing. But then other things that happen, for instance, the COVID, I think, has also escalated in the way that we are reacting to things as well. So usually there’s things popping in now and then over time that also push things forward. And I think though that there were a lot of negative things around the COVID, of course, it has actually also brought along some positive things because we as humans were forced, kind of a burning platform, to think creatively around a lot of things. And that has actually also brought with it a lot of new innovation, new ways of thinking, working especially, and the whole sort of epidemic now of how to work remotely, how to have a lot of conversations. Even though the podcasting as well has boomed after this as well, right?
0:08:14.2 WB: Yeah, very true. So I guess it’s perfect timing for us to be looking at the topic for today, and it’s a very general topic. But I know you like talking about it, which is the characteristics of successful change leaders in today’s workforce. One of the things that you say is with the rise of digital disruption and the constant change that these characteristics of successful change leaders are also evolving with time and with everything that’s going on around us. So I think there’s a really important topic for all leaders, and as you know, most of our listener base are leaders. So I think for today this is an extremely important topic for all of us to try and understand. Big question to start with, Pia. Where do we start with this conversation? How do we start to unpack this whole dynamic and this shift, this evolution, if you like?
0:09:14.1 PW: Yeah, I think when you’re looking into managing change in general, I think that there is a tendency exactly as you were saying before, to focus a lot on the technological part of it, which of course is important and driving a lot of this. But what I would like to actually put into this sort of discussion is the human part of it. Because I, at least when I’m working with companies, I often see that this is overlooked. You don’t really realize how much this impacts us as humans. So that is usually where I start when I go in and support companies that want to do or are in the middle of doing digital transformations because I often see that this human part is left out or down prioritized. People don’t really realize that this is quite key in making a successful transformation to understand that part.
0:10:09.8 WB: Right. Yeah, I’m 100% on board with that approach. And I think you made a comment somewhere along the line that, in fact, most of the change initiatives that are not achieving their objectives are not because of technology, but rather it’s due to the people involved and the lack of maybe leaders taking this holistic view or perspective.
0:10:34.0 PW: No, that’s exactly what I see. There might be other perspectives of this as well, but that’s at least what I pick up when I work with companies. So that is definitely my approach to it.
0:10:45.5 WB: So what is it that is creating the issue for people in this change environment?
0:10:53.7 PW: Yeah, I often see… Usually I start when I talk to business managers, some of the stuff that I usually start talking about is actually how they drive their change initiatives. And what I usually see there is that they haven’t really given the slack needed for this to be implemented. So that is one of the areas that I usually start looking into. So is there actually the needed slack or the space in the organization for actually driving this change in the right way? As we as people, we need time and space to actually adapt. We know ourselves how difficult it can be to adapt to a new habit. This is exactly the same in an organization, right? You need to work in a different way. You need to pick up a new way of working in the system. You need to understand new stuff. You might need to learn whole new capabilities as part of this as well. And it takes time, right? And many times we also fall back because it’s so easy to go back to old habits, old way of doing things because that’s the easiest way of doing it, right? So not having a framework, not having a system in place to sort of support that for the organization, I often see that’s lacking.
0:12:05.4 PW: So that’s one of the places where I start with leaders. And another thing that I often also see is that there hasn’t been spent much time on actually looking into these frictions. So an interesting way for managers to kick off their transformation is actually to start looking at what do we want to achieve from this transformation? What is it exactly we want to achieve? And then when you really have gone quite high level and holistic towards this one, then starting looking for frictions. So you need to understand, okay, what could prevent us from making this happen actually from each individual in the organization? What would prevent them from actually going in that direction or doing this particular habit that we want them to change, whatever it is? And then starting finding solutions for those frictions. So that’s usually quite interesting to hit off like that, and that makes people reflect a lot, I would say.
0:13:02.5 WB: Yeah, absolutely. And I can immediately see why it’s useful to have somebody external who’s experienced in change leadership transformations because I can imagine for the majority of leaders, just listening to those first two comments you made, they’d be throwing their hands up saying, “I don’t have the skill set to be able to actually do that.” So I can see the value that people like yourself would bring. I know when we first spoke, you spoke about Daniel Kahneman and his theory on system 1, system 2 thinking, and I guess that’s what you’re alluding to here with the automated habitual thinking versus changing that and having the space to change. Is that right?
0:13:52.6 PW: Exactly. Exactly. So it’s the dual process theory that we are talking about here in the system 1 and the system 2. So basically what I see is that a lot of these strategic transformations, they are made with system 2, but people who are then in the organization, they are picking this up with their system 1. So people have sit there, spend a lot of time trying to create the strategy or the new way of working or implementing a new product or processes or sometimes even a combination of all of this, and they have to spend quite much time doing. So they have used the system 2 to reflect and really think about the future and everything. But what happens then is that when this is implemented in the organization, everybody in the organization, they have a lot of other stuff going on in their daily life. So they kind of need to put things aside to be able to take this in. So they will receive this with the system 1, which is just fast, intuitive, unconscious, and automatic.
0:14:57.4 PW: So it’s not necessarily easy for them to take something in that forces them to go to their system 2. And that’s the whole problem here, that many strategies are made for system 2, but should be made for system 1 instead, because management don’t know how to work around this behavioral design part of a transformation and how we as humans actually take on change.
0:15:23.1 WB: So I imagine just listening to that, the standard approach, and when you look at the theories and the models, et cetera, they talk about you need to have a good change story, and you tell the change story and then the world is good. Everyone understands and automatically adapts, right? But of course, we know that’s not the case, and that’s essentially what you’re saying. We need to give people time to make that adjustment. So, therefore, in your case, like when you’re working with companies, do you have a recommendation for companies about how frequently do they need to be making this communication about the change process, the vision? How long should they be allowing to get that upfront part of the process embedded across the business?
0:16:12.5 PW: I would say that it’s not even just a question of communication. It’s actually also bringing tools to each person in the organization and especially to the leaders around how to communicate with their teams and work with their teams around this because, as you were just saying, if this is a new strategy, we don’t necessarily anticipate or interpretate this the same way. So we have different filters that we take this in with, right? And then usually also when something new comes, a lot of people also get hit by maybe fear. It’s a new thing I need to learn. Would I be good at this? Will I still be able or capable of doing a good job here? Can I even lose my job? Might some think as well, depending on which kind of solutions we’re talking about here. So this is actually a lot about you also as the managers and learning how to navigate around this with your team and also bringing it to a place where people feel that they are still in control of this.
0:17:20.0 PW: So it’s a lot about teaching tools, both to the manager, but also to the team around how they can take control in this. And instead of feeling that they are just like getting dragged around with the change, that they are the ones in the controlling seat of this change and can actually work around it and evolve with it instead.
0:17:40.7 WB: Yeah, so important to get that engagement at the very beginning to help them feel just as you say, like they’re part of this process and it’s not happening to them, it’s happening as a result of them being involved.
0:17:55.9 PW: Exactly.
0:17:56.9 WB: Yeah, very…
0:17:57.1 PW: Yeah. So therefore, I don’t think it’s a communication, but it’s more a dialogue as well. So you need to see this as a constant dialogue more than just some communication that you throw out in your organization. So it’s a constant dialogue. And you also, I would definitely suggest also interacting with each person. So it’s about each person actually find their inner motivation of how this particular change is something that they can see as a positive thing. So you have to accept that as part of this as well. And that also means that you might have a specific idea as management team of how this change looks like. But it might look slightly different when you have implemented it because you need to give that slack to people on how they interpret it and take on things.
0:18:47.5 WB: Exactly. And one of the things that I’ve observed myself in my career is you have that trickle down effect. So let’s say it’s a big change initiative and the CEO of the global corporation gets up and announces this big change and they have their leadership get together and the leaders are then informed about how it’s going to happen. And they go back and they talk to their teams of leaders and it filters through. And of course you get this, I want to say loss of translation in that process quite often. I’m never surprised to see the disconnect by the time it reaches all the levels that it has to reach. And I often wonder how you sort of circumnavigate that to be able to make sure everyone has got the same storyline, everyone’s got the same message and is given the same opportunity to be involved.
0:19:47.4 PW: Definitely, definitely. It’s quite common that that particular thing happens. So what I suggest in those cases is that you listen in. So I think if you’re, for instance, in this case, in your example, it’s a C-level management team who’s pushed out now a new strategy. I would go around and then I will talk to people. So I would definitely be part of team discussions, going down, listening in to those people who’s affected about this. So you make sure that the picture you wanted to send out is also what has been received. And that is only achieved if you discuss it, right? Because as we said before, people take this in with different filters, with different perspectives. So even though you might think that people think a certain way of what you’re trying to present here, they might interpret it very differently.
0:20:34.2 PW: So the dialogue is so important here and it goes up and it goes down. And that’s why both the leaders in this, especially also the middle layer, if you’re talking about bigger organizations, it’s so important that they are on this as well and have the tools to actually openly discuss this with the teams. But at the same time, the C-level also needs to go down and experience this. So I always recommend like experimenting, being part of it, understanding what’s actually going on because it’s easy to sit down and make a strategy. But when you then go in and listen, watch what the teams are then doing, things might look differently. It might not be as good as an idea as you thought it would be, right? So generally also when you are doing strategy, I always recommend to listen in to people on all levels in your organization.
0:21:21.6 PW: So you actually get that from the beginning. So you’ll skip this problem here with not being aligned because I see that a lot. So it’s really about listening in and understanding and being one-on-one eyes, both on your customers, but definitely also on your employees. And I think people have been quite good now over the last years with the customer experience. That’s something that has really driven fast. But then the lack of understanding the employee part of bringing this experience, this really great customer experience, that’s the lacking part. So understanding and treating your organization exactly the same way as you would do when you are developing a new customer journey, you should do exactly the same internally in your organization, investigate the employee journeys when change is happening, right?
0:22:15.5 WB: That’s quite interesting. You’re the second person in two weeks now that has talked about the same thing. It may be surprising to you, but this was a light bulb moment for me when I started to think, wow, we could treat our internal employees just like our customers and look at the journey map and the touch points they’re experiencing and work on those frictions, as you talk about, to make sure the journey is much smoother.
0:22:43.5 PW: Exactly.
0:22:45.8 WB: I’m on board with it. I love it. You have three areas that you refer to as very important as part of the learning and the growth for successful change, empathy, curiosity, and creating a safe space. I wonder if we could just unpack each one a little bit, maybe start with empathy. So why is empathy so important?
0:23:10.6 PW: Empathy is so important because that is kind of how you understand how people would take this in. So that’s going a bit back to what we discussed before. So having empathy, having the curiosities, it’s a bit of a mix, but having the will to actually go in and try to understand this particular change from other perspectives, from the perspectives of those who will be hit or affected by this change is super important because that is what will give you the frictions. And if you know the frictions, then you can find specific solutions for those frictions. And then you will mitigate way better around the change. So actually going back to what we just discussed before, treat your employees journeys exactly the same way as you would do your customer journey.
0:23:53.9 PW: And I think a lot of that comes from the empathy of really trying wholeheartedly to understand what’s going on, how it is to be sitting in this particular chair, trying to implement this new process. How would that feel if I was sitting in that chair? That’s usually a big difference. And actually also, if you as a CEO, many of your frictions go down and sit in that chair and try out the new process, it shows also to the rest of the organization that you are really in on this and you are also willing to learn. And maybe you will get some feedback that maybe we need to do some adjustments. And if people feel in a change that it’s allowed to do things differently, or we can even roll back things, if this is not a smart way and we can try again, like the experimental part of it, then they’re much more willing also to go into the change and try to work around this and support the idea of doing things smarter because people don’t usually want to work smarter, right?
0:24:50.4 WB: For sure. And to your earlier point about being adaptable, and flexible, and agile, very critical. Yeah. And I guess…
0:25:00.2 PW: Exactly.
0:25:01.3 WB: The curiosity part then comes along by being willing to ask questions, to listen to the response, to get the feedback, to be transparent. So they sort of…
0:25:10.5 PW: Exactly.
0:25:11.4 WB: Yeah, very nicely. And then create that safe space. So we talk a lot today about psychological safety. And I guess that’s the area that you’re talking about.
0:25:25.8 PW: For sure. And it is exactly that. So one thing is that, for instance, like now if we go back and then play, okay, now as a manager, I’m sitting in the chair and I’m trying to observe what is actually going on here. I’m really empathically and curiously trying to understand, okay, how you in this particular case is working around this particular process here. And then coming back to this, is exactly how you would then navigate around it, right?
0:25:56.7 WB: Yeah, exactly. No, that’s excellent. And I think that’s very sound advice for everybody that’s listening is that we need to really be able to put ourselves in the shoes of everyone that’s impacted through this change initiative so that we can fully understand what they’re experiencing as well as listen to their input because they’re the ones that are going to have the insights.
0:26:21.8 PW: Exactly.
0:26:22.6 WB: Yeah, so very good.
0:26:25.4 PW: Exactly. And then usually in those situations, then that’s where the brilliant ideas pops up because then you might realize that, hey, there’s even a smarter way to do this than we first thought, or maybe what we’re doing is good enough, but it’s the willingness then to listen in that gives you those sort of brilliant ideas and can make you move forward. And in terms of the trust, as we were just discussing, people will then also follow you because it’s fine to move ahead because you know that it’s always safe also to move back again if things are not working, right? So it’s not as scary to take the first step out there because you can always go back. So that’s kind of also part of working with this psychological trust.
0:27:13.7 PW: And then of course, it’s really important that when people start sharing that you then treat this back to the empathy, that you really treat this with care and that you show people that it’s super cool that you come being honest, being transparent, put things on the table, because that helps the whole team navigate. So we don’t go in direction that is not smart. I’ve seen that quite many times as well that people are trying to implement something and then you don’t get the real truth out because it’s not popular to say no, right? Or this is not doable. It’s not really often, it is quite a pressure on a person to say, “Hey, I don’t think I believe in this project plan or I don’t believe that we can make this.”
0:28:00.2 PW: It can be quite a big pressure, right? In a team to raise the hand and say something like that. So building that trust in a team where it’s actually something you celebrate or something you actually promote, to be really honest, is super important because you will definitely navigate out or around a lot of trouble if that happens because then you can mitigate before it turns into a big elephant, right?
0:28:25.9 WB: Right. So it sounds almost like we should encourage innovation during the change process. So we should be asking people, this is the framework and the direction we’re heading, but it doesn’t mean that every step is set in stone and we’re looking for the best way forward at each step. So please be creative, please be innovative and contribute ideas so that we can move forward with maybe best practice or best ideas and we end up with the right solution. Would that be a fair assumption?
0:29:01.3 PW: Oh, I love where you’re going.
0:29:05.9 PW: I love where you’re going with this because that is exactly what I’m trying to preach actually that I don’t see innovation as a project. I see innovation as a constant thing exactly as you’re saying, something that should live in our daily way of working. So I absolutely love what you’re saying there and I fully believe in that. And I don’t think that change and innovation is just something that belongs in the development department, it’s for everybody, it’s all teams that should be curious to that. And if you have the right framework and tools in place, everybody can work with this because no matter which position you have in your organization, many people sit and then they can see, okay, I might have a better way of doing exactly this thing but maybe nobody has ever listened or you haven’t had time to actually work around this in a new setting. So giving the space and time to do that within the teams is quite prosper.
0:30:10.4 WB: I can imagine many listeners as leaders trying to run a change project, are shuddering with fear about this concept because they think we’re on a tight deadline, we have to have it in place, doesn’t have this freedom, this luxury, we’ve got to drive, drive, drive. But I think there is that balance, you can find that harmony to be able to do both, achieve the result that you need to achieve but also strengthen the team in the process and build the relationships. It’s an opportunity.
0:30:46.8 PW: And sometimes slow is fast.
0:30:48.5 WB: Yeah, maybe even faster, right? Yeah, a lot of fun. One thing that I’m curious about on your opinion is if we look at change models, change methods, now in the last 100 years alone, we’ve got so many individuals and groups that have come up with their own ideas about change methodologies. But I’m just wondering, how many of those do you feel, if any, may need to go back and rethink their model based on where we are today with the speed of everything that’s happening, with the new mindset of the new millennials, the Gen Zs, et cetera? Does that have an impact on those models?
0:31:38.8 PW: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think that the way that I usually work with models is that I tend to pick certain things out that fits to this particular situation. So I would never just go in and implement a full model. I think it’s always interesting to have different perspectives. And of course, these many different models can give you inspiration, but then you always have to anyway, go in and specifically look at this particular need that this organization is going through. So I would never just put one single thing down on our organization. I more see this as a plate of many different options. And then you try to pick out the right tools for this particular problem. That’s usually how I go forward with something like that. So, yeah.
0:32:32.6 WB: And again, for leaders who don’t have a background in understanding different change methodologies, this is where the external experts like yourself are invaluable in the whole process, because you have that broad toolbox or scope in mind, and you can pull from the different scenarios to suit that certain situation or scenario. As part of your own change history, did you actually use a particular model as you were learning the process yourself? Like, did you grow up with Lewin’s 3 stages or with Kotter’s 8-Steps, or McKinsey 7S?
0:33:18.2 PW: Yeah, I think I’ve been through a lot of those models that you just mentioned there, and then building on top of it, and building on top of it, and building on top of it. And as I said before, actually, I really try to drag out. So I always think it’s interesting to look at a specific model, but then put it into reality. So that is what I’ve always tried to do. So I’ve never been religious about a certain model, and then I believe that this particular model can solve all my problems or everything. So I’m more like shoveling around and then saying, “Okay, this is an interesting perspective from this particular thing. I can probably use that,” then something else from another model and so forth. So that is more or less how I’ve worked.
0:34:01.1 PW: So I don’t think I can say that there is one particular model that kind of really opened the eyes for me as such, but I would say, even though, I would say that the whole behavioral design, and when I started really understanding that part in the neuroscience, that was really sort of a breakthrough. And the models that we use there is to a certain extent quite simple, because that’s back to what are we actually trying to achieve here? What are the frictions and then solutions? It’s really basic, right? So that you can say is kind of a very basic model that I usually always use when I look at change initiatives.
0:34:41.7 WB: So when you’re talking about behavioral change, you’re talking about people like Skinner and those that really were influential in looking at the behavioral science and how it influences people. With the neuroscience and the last two decades in particular, we’ve learned so much new about the brain and how we think and how it works. How much do you place your focus on neuroscience when you’re working with people?
0:35:13.8 PW: I would say that the whole neuroscience and behavioral design is quite a big part of how I work, at least in the background, because that’s usually how I try to understand what’s going on in an organization. So trying to understand this from a people point of view, as we kick off sort of this discussion, right? With the human part of it. So I would say that this is quite important and usually also quite many aha moments when we then start discussing in details. Much of it is quite simple, right? It’s not rocket science, but it’s stuff that we know but don’t really take into consideration. Just as we were kicking off with talking about slack, it’s quite obvious that of course, if you wanna change some habits in your own life, you need the space and time to do so, right?
0:36:05.8 PW: But it seems like it’s really hard to transform this into something that we also do in organizations because there we are not too keen on taking things off the plate, right? It’s really painful if we have a certain strategic list of initiatives, right? It’s quite painful to maybe take two or three of them off the plate because we feel, we want all of this to happen, right? But in this case, I would say that fast is, like slow is fast. It’s way better to concentrate on one big thing and make that happen instead of having ten things going on at the same time because our brains cannot keep with it.
0:36:43.7 PW: A person can’t keep with that many changes at once and that’s evident. But we don’t really, it’s really funny because it’s quite simple, right? It’s sort of, if we put it into our normal daily life, but in an organization, it becomes very complex because there’s a lot of different angles. There’s a lot of many different priorities from different organization themes and that so forth, right? So we kind of push each other and then we end up not taking decisions and taking things off the plate.
0:37:17.8 WB: Yeah, yeah, it’s very true. Last company I was with, we tried doing just that many times over the space of maybe a decade and I’m not sure how successful we were at any occasion of taking things away. It never seemed to lighten the workload. The void was very quickly…
0:37:40.3 PW: Exactly, so this is just one example of how the brain actually plays a part. Another example could also be overconfidence. That is another common thing in organizations that is related to this as well. So we kind of always overestimate how much we can do within a certain time period, how much it will cost and also the timeline of it, right? So that is why a lot of projects also fail. So they are more costly than we expected. We don’t get the full value as we were expecting and it cost more than we were anticipating as well, right? And that has to do also, again, a lot with how we as humans actually take the decision and this overconfident bias and optimism that we as human beings have in us. So I think that there’s a lot of these things that you can relate back to how we as humans operate brain-wise.
0:38:42.7 WB: Very true. I love John Cotter’s statement, don’t declare victory too soon. It’s a nice reminder. We want to get to that finish line. We want to be able to say, “Yes, we’ve done it, we’ve achieved it,” but the reality is seldom that. It’s an ongoing process. Is there anything that we haven’t touched on you think is really important that we should be aware of and consider?
0:39:14.1 PW: Ooh, that was a really big one. Since it is such a broad thing, I think we have touched upon some interesting areas at least in this dialogue, right?
0:39:26.6 WB: Yeah.
0:39:27.0 PW: And I think that the takeaways from it should definitely be that you as a leader should make sure that both for yourself, but also your team figure out, are there stuff that we can take out off the plate? How can we actually navigate putting more space and time into our transformations? That would definitely be one thing that I think is curious. I don’t think that putting more topics in right now might blur the picture. So I think we’ve been quite good around the topic, I would say. So it’s more about encouraging maybe the leaders to reflect sort of on their decision-making process and if they’re actually creating space for different perspectives and if they’re also challenging their own assumptions when they go into a project.
0:40:29.9 WB: It is a different world that we’re trying to lead through now. And many leaders that we engage with are really, really struggling just on the day-to-day level. Adding major change initiatives into that mix can sometimes seem really overwhelming. One of the things that we talk about a lot with our clients is you’re no longer able as a leader to be a 28th century leader and have that solo mentality. You really need to work collectively and within your team. And I think that essentially is the direction that we’re both talking. Anything in the pipeline that you’re working on at the moment that we should know about so we can follow you?
0:41:13.4 PW: Yeah, soon there might be some exciting stuff. I’m working on a new project actually with to other business partners. I can’t reveal much right now, but it’s definitely about empowering leadership and in this particular case, also women actually. So that’s gonna be quite interesting.
0:41:33.0 WB: Very good. Where can people connect with you? How can they find you? Where should they go? How do they connect?
0:41:40.4 PW: Yeah, so they can either find me on LinkedIn. So it’s Pia Wendelbo. They can just look me up there or they can also go to my website, which is scandinavianchangeagents.com.
0:41:50.6 WB: Well, Pia, thank you so much for being on the ET Project. Thank you very much.
0:41:55.5 PW: It was a pleasure.
0:41:58.4 S2: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, eBooks, webinars and blogs at coaching4companies.com.