- Allegra '5 Minutes With' Series -

You are here

5 mins w/ Karen Curnow

Interviewed on 07 March 2017

Share the wealth...

Tell us a bit about your change management, project management or business transformation experience.

I've been working as a consultant, change and project manager, trainer and facilitator for some 20 years and in a variety of industries in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Japan, Singapore and the UK.

Over the years I've been fortunate to work on business changes and transformations of all kinds including process changes, new systems, systems upgrades, career development frameworks, re-locations, re- structures and change management capability developments.

These days, I like to use my experience to help people and organisations build their change capability and fitness and to problem solve, both strategically and operationally. Sometimes this involves partnering with my herd of horses to teach advanced leadership, communication, emotional agility and change skills to groups and individuals.

How did you come to perform in this role? What attracted you?

My first experiences in change management came when I worked as a consultant for PwC in the late 90's. At the time I was working as a supply chain consultant in manufacturing arena but was offered the opportunity re-focus my skills on a large SAP implementation for a telecommunications client.

I remember loving the focus on understanding the true impact of change and helping others to understand and navigate their way through. It was during this project where I understood the importance of being practical and pragmatic, and getting hands on when people get stuck.

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

The pace of change seems to accelerate constantly and so the ability of an organisation and its people to handle that change effectively has become a core capability.

But however structured the methodologies and well thought through the approach may be, change management can only ever do so much to explain and plan for change.

Because change managers have limited time and resources, good change management needs to expand its focus to helping people to take responsibility for and manage their own change and emotional fitness.

With a focus on improved change fitness as a core organisational capability, people will be better able to lead change (whenever it arises) and to handle the rapid, ambiguous and often unexpected changes that now seem to be a continuous part of todays world.

What makes a great change management practitioner?

I've been able to work alongside some great change practitioners over the years and they have almost always been open to feedback, flexible in their approach and willing to learn from each new experience. Resilience and the courage to speak up for those affected by the change are also important qualities, especially when working as a sole practitioner or to really tight deadlines.

Of course, as we build our experience, we become more confident and comfortable to trust our judgement, and so we are more able to move into the role of trusted adviser to the sponsor, able to influence both the direction and approach to change.

What is your idea of a great change management challenge?

I think change challenges come in all shapes and sizes and something which seems quite straightforward on the surface can becoming seriously challenging the deeper you dig!

I do enjoy transformative changes - things that ask people to consider new ways of working or behaving and new roles. Although these may require more effort and greater risk, they are also more interesting and engaging.

Tell us a bit about how Emotional Agility, Change Fitness and horses comes together?

Horses are masters of non-verbal communication. They are sensitive not only to subtle shifts in their environment but can also accurately read the energy, body language and intention of people around them – abilities that have been vital for their survival over the years.

Their ability to act as an honest mirror for our thoughts, emotions and behaviours provides us with a unique opportunity for learning in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way. Without words, horses show us that our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and actions powerfully affect what we experience from moment to moment - something that is incredibly important to understand when leading, managing or experiencing change.

When you share space with a horse, the impact of who you are being - how you communicate, manage your emotions, build trust and lead - is reflected back to you in the response of the horse. It's much easier to understand what's working well for you and what needs a different approach when the feedback is so direct and timely.

The beauty of this approach is that it's available to anyone - you don't need to be able to ride or to have any horse experience since all the activities are on the ground and supervised.