Get Employees ‘Gung-Ho’ About Change—Expert Tips from a former Bank of America Operations Change Consultant

Effective change management is a constant challenge.

Regardless of the size of your company, successfully implementing company-wide change is always going to be an uphill battle.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to catch up with Andrew Watson, who previously served as an Operations Change Consultant at Bank of America for 4 years. More recently, Andrew was  a  Process Design Consultant for Bank of America for 3 years. He offered insight into his approach to change management.

Change Interview with Andrew Watson, former Process Design Consultant at Bank of America

Change: Who is your role model?
Andrew Watson: I can’t say I’ve ever had a peer or manager I’ve looked to as a role model, but someone I’ve always admired is Bill Gates. He went to Harvard for a couple of years and dropped out, and we all know the rest of the story.

Change: You worked at a major enterprise- how does the approach to large-scale change initiatives within enterprise differ from change in smaller corporations?
AW: As I’m sure you know, large-scale change initiatives in large corporations have many moving parts: getting people to change behaviors, introducing new or updated processes, learning new products, technology changes, internal and external communications, training, system testing, etc.

 I would imagine that, in a smaller company, any size change implementation has a shorter life cycle since there are most likely fewer people involved in the project, fewer people affected by the change and in general fewer “hoops to jump through.”

In small companies, I think there’s more “just do it.”

Change: How can you create a positive culture where employees pull together and take charge- without being micro-directed?
AW: I think training and communication are critical here. Employees need to be fully trained before an initiative deploys so that they will be equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to adapt to the change, will have a great comfort level with the change and can confidently speak to customers about the new process, product, etc.

The communication piece needs to have a positive spin on it so that employees will buy into the change taking place. With effective training and communication, employees will embrace the change and feel “gung-ho” about adapting to it and “running with it” to make it happen.

They will, therefore, own and take charge of it in such a way that they’re saying to management in so many words “We’ve got this; we like it and don’t need you looking over our shoulders.”

Change: How can you encourage an appropriate level of risk taking, to those above and below on the company hierarchy?
AW: This is tough and tricky. It’s important to make a business case for a way of doing something that meets the Risk partners’ requirements. At times, you can be asked by Risk partners “Why do we do it that way?” and you have to be able to justify it.   

Change: What are you most proud of professionally from your work at Bank of America or elsewhere?
AW: Three projects at Bank of America stand out as what I’m most proud of:

Developing and publishing over 450 procedures and communications for the integration of two sales and service platform systems that streamlined customer service delivery (2009).

Handling all contact center procedure and communication needs for Bank of America’s acquisition of LaSalle Bank in 2008.

Contributing to Associate Readiness needs for the test launch of new checking accounts in three states and rollout of the Platinum Privileges rewards program in 2011.

Change: Describe how you would improve (or have improved) the overall performance or productivity of a team.
AW: While I’ve never lead a project team since I’m not a project manager, I did lead teams going back further in my career. I supervised a team of Documentation Analysts who wrote procedures and communications for projects such as I’ve been describing. As needed, I would take a look at each one’s workload and move assignments around if necessary (take something off of one analyst’s plate and put it on another’s who had capacity) all in the interest of making the best use of the team’s total  capacity that resulted in more output.

A few years prior to that, I managed teams of customer service reps taking inbound calls. That involved constant coaching on ways to shorten calls and increase call availability (being in “available” status to receive calls rather than being in “after call work” status). This ultimately lead to associates being able to take more calls and provide higher quality service, which was reflected in each rep’s stats and the call center’s overall stats.

Change: Have you ever made any changes to procedure that was met with resistance from a team or team member? How did you handle it?
Yes, I’ve had encountered resistance to changes I’ve made or proposed. I just had to make a strong business case for why my change was the best process to go with and why the alternative proposals (and the original procedure before any changes are made) were falling short, not meeting requirements, violating policy, etc. 

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Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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