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5 mins w/ Amber McDougall

Interviewed on 20 May 2019

Share the wealth...

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your Change and Transformation experience.

I am a Transformation, Design and Adoption Leader and Coach. My career has been in three parts. I am passionate about helping people and organisations improve, grow, transition and develop new products, services, business models and ways of working they didn't think was possible.

At university, I completed a double major in sociology and organisational psychology which shaped my thinking about broader cultural and environmental impacts on organisations and on really understanding why people behave the way they do.

The early stage of my career was in People & Culture roles in turnarounds, and strategic transformations within organisations undergoing structural change and reinvention. I tried to gain experience in all the different business lifecycles, and I took on additional project responsibilities in brand marketing, customer operations and technology at every opportunity to broaden my experience.

In the next stage of my career, I moved into operational roles and business leadership roles, again all in transformation or high-performance improvement cycles. Having responsibility for a P&L and experiencing what it takes to deliver double-digit growth in challenging markets has helped me understand and empathise with the challenges of leaders. Recently I have been able to combine these experiences and focus my efforts in the Transformation field.


How did you come to perform in a Transformation related role? What attracted you?

I have to admit to being a bit of a Transformation addict. I have always sought roles where business transformation was a central driver or where the business needed to innovate and improve. I have a deep belief in people, and I have a strong commercial business focus - the attraction has always been to give people the confidence and capability to lead the change.

I find organisations have become very complex and I love helping them build their compelling change narrative, simplify and translate the problems and challenges, and link everything back to strategy and metrics. Choreographing and operationalising the changes in a people-centric way is something I enjoy.

I have also recently studied Design Thinking at Stanford, and this has taken me back to my sociology roots. I am a lifelong learner, so I am on to the next opportunity with MIT now, learning about their approach to Strategic change and transformation. It's very energising.


Why is effective Change Management so critical to the way businesses perform today?

We've all been talking about VUCCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Chaos and Ambiguity) and the very disruptive nature of the world now for several years, and I can see some organisations are still deciding how they will adapt. Others have been proactive and are constantly adapting. Market structures are being completely changed and there are new roles being created. The art and science of change are very real.

The MIT Sloan school program has been very confirming for me. Supporting and transitioning people and customers through the change, whatever the impacts are the most critical and important thing.


What, in your opinion makes a great Change Management Practitioner?

For a start, every organisation's starting point and culture is different. Being able to tailor approaches based on that varying baseline requires great listening, cultural and environmental assessment skills. Sensemaking and relating to the business strategy, goals and what's in it for the people are really important to form a realistic narrative. Being able to influence and navigate strategic, political and cultural structures, articulate the reality and offer solutions requires courage and credibility. Organisational networks and cultural habits are better guides as to how work gets done. Constantly looking for new ways to frame and shape what we do, such as learning and utilising technology to identify social networks in organisations and where the power base is.


In your experience, what is the most challenging aspect of any Change Manager role?

The hardest challenge for me is keeping yourself neutral and at the same time immersive and able to understand the culture. The other is educating leaders who may have no experience or have a preconceived notion of what change is based on one experience or based on a very narrow project-based experience. I find the best solution to that for me is working with clients who are open minded, really care about their people and are open to learning different ways of approaching challenges.