Change = Persistence + Time

David Birmingham is a Change Management specialist. He has lead change programs across finance, insurance, banking, marketing, NFP and hospitality organisations both in Australia and internationally. David took some time out to answer some questions and shed some light on the dark arts of change management.

So David, what is Change Management?

My personal definition is that its purpose is to increase the likelihood of achieving the desired transformative goals of an organisation in the most effective and sustainable way through managing the needs of people. It was not that long ago that change management roles did not exist. As a relatively new and growing field, it has its champions, it also has its sceptics and those who just are not sure about its value. In my view, Change Managers must constantly challenge themselves to add real value to both people and the commercial outcomes.

What does your role involve?

Essentially, my role involves working with multiple stakeholders, sometimes across multiple organisations, to implement positive improvements and changes in an efficient and effective manner. The key is to continuously assess opportunities and risks for all stakeholders, understand the views and needs, and work actively to ensure the best outcomes are achieved.

Does the role vary depending upon the organisation you work with?

Completely. Culture and leadership are major factors in facilitating change and every organisation has its own nuances. The challenge for a good Change Manager is to quickly pick up cultural and leadership style signals and adapt their approach to suit. You can’t apply the same old routine – what works in one organisation won’t in another.

Describe your average day.

No two days are the same. A Change Manager needs to be constantly abreast of the current situation and anticipating the next steps. I spend a good deal of my time having detailed conversations with stakeholders at all levels. There is a good deal of planning, strategising, and communicating on any given day.

What excites you about your role or field?

I relish the variety that comes with different change programs in different organisations. Each program and organisation has its own opportunities and challenges, as people will have different views on what change management is and how it works. It is exciting to be part of the development of the field and applying new theories, methodologies and techniques. Additionally, I get a lot of satisfaction from coaching up and coming change professionals and seeing those people develop their performance and get results in their own change programs.

What does short and long-term success look like in your role?

Short term success is measured by the value placed on change strategy and activities by key stakeholders such as executives, sponsors, staff and end customers.

Long term success is measured by the sustainability of the change. Too many times organisations do not take adequate steps or an appropriate timeframe to ensure changes are properly and sustainably embedded.

Briefly outline your career path.

I think the breadth of my career led me to a change role. My path has been quite varied and I have held roles in many functions such as Human Resources, Operations Management, Customer Service, Risk Management, Training and Development and Sales. I have always enjoyed variety, and always been interested in what makes people tick in organisations. This became a natural lead into change management. I spent almost 5 years working overseas as a self-employed change management consultant and this experience was invaluable.

Mentoring or networking?  

Along with coaching, all three can be extremely valuable for development. However, it is about quality not quantity. This is a topic I could write a whole chapter on.[“Thanks, we will hold you to that David” …ed.]

What have you implemented that makes your work life more productive or easier?

Get off the email. Get on the phone.

Work/life balance?

My theory is that one of these is always out of balance, so it’s a case of constant correction.

Outside interests/what brings you joy outside work?

Given all the current restrictions in place I’m enjoying growing my creative side through drawing, music and cooking.

Biggest win/loss and what did you learn from them?

The biggest loss is the best teacher. I learned that it is important to seek the advice of others, even if, and perhaps especially if, they have an opposing view. Reach out for support. It’s OK to not know the answers.

Which 4 living people would you invite to a dinner party?

I am interested in, and concerned for our nation’s future. So, I would invite Scott Morrison, Anthony Albanese and Adam Bandt. I would also have Andrew Denton along to keep it real.

Thanks for your time David. We look forward to your chapter on mentoring and networking.

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