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5 mins w/ Ashley Spowart

Interviewed on 09 February 2018

Share the wealth...

Ashley Spowart is the Managing Director at Vanguard Learning.

Tell us a bit about your change management experience.

I mainly provide consulting services, currently I am supporting NAB on a major platform implementation, overseeing the learning and knowledge management requirements for the staff and customers. I’m also launching a membership service for L&OD professionals that aims to raise the professionalism of the entire community internationally (Shameless plug - check out the business through LinkedIn or www.vanguardlearn.com). Another key part of this has been to partner with many of our industries providers and run collaborative workshops using design thinking techniques to explore key challenges facing our professions. The Allegra Think Tank in July 2017 was an example of one of these.

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

I’ve been in the field now for almost 20 years. I have had my focus over that time predominantly on Learning and Leadership Development, however early on change as an independent discipline was unheard of and simply part of the learning function. So whilst I specialise mainly in learning now I’ve always been close to the change management discipline and provided related services. Interestingly what first attracted me to this was the ability to help others to learn and change behavior. I have always and still do receive great satisfaction from seeing people grow and I love knowing that I have played a part in that.

Why is good change management so critical to the way businesses perform today?

There is the obvious answer here of the fact that change is one of the only constants that we face in this world and any organisation that isn’t equipped to deal with that well is doomed to failure. (Yes very black hat response there!) I think more specifically though when you consider the pace of change that we are now faced with, the VUCA world has all but consumed our ability to focus. Great change management helps people make sense of the chaos, it can turn what looks initially like a bowl of spaghetti (all tangled and random) into a waffle, (Crisp, clean, structured pathways making the mess look not as daunting).

What makes a great change management practitioner?

Ha, good question! I think that the most important thing now is that they display excellent skills in agility, HCD, research and analysis and the ability to follow intent as opposed to rule. Finally I’d add that there is a stronger need now for practitioners to have insights based decision making abilities as opposed to instinct based. Instinct in derived from assumptions, insight is derived from analysis. Now what do I mean by this last example? Too many change practices fail because they approach the problem with “this feels like/looks/like/smells like” an issue I’ve seen before so I will do what worked at the last place to fix it here too. This approach is successful only a % of the time and through luck rather than skill.

What is your idea of a great change management challenge?

Evolving organisation’s to a point that change is part of the fabric as opposed to a ‘thing that is done to support a new initiative.’ The great challenge is making sure that the change disciplines are embedded into an organisation with enough rigor and applicability that it simple becomes part of the way we work and in essence removes then need for a ‘change function’. I’ve not seen this yet and I’d love to have the chance to work with an organisation that wants to embark on that challenge.