Do you sometimes wish that you could stop time and keep things from changing? I certainly feel that way when I see how quickly my children are growing up! It seems like just a minute ago they were peanuts, swaddled in tiny blankets, and now they are walking, talking little people. Six months from now, they will have changed again—they’ll be taller and even more adorable! Change is inevitable, with your children, and almost everything else in life.
That includes business. In fact, I would argue that embracing change is a hugely important part of what makes a business successful. Change can lead to improvement, growth, and bigger profits. Managing change well is critical to success, and that’s why smart companies hire smart people like Julie Hurley, Senior Change Management at Duke Energy Corporation in Charlotte, North Carolina. Julie was my guest recently on Parent. Boss. Leader. She specializes in implementing large, complex computer systems, but she has an amazingly diverse background, having studied for her master’s degree in health administration. We had a great conversation, and Julie shared her perspective on what change management entails and how she approaches it. As I think you’ll see, change management isn’t just a fancy concept for the experts!
I asked Julie what may seem obvious, but I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking it: What is “change management?” Julie laughed and understood. “It does seem a little vague and mysterious, but it really is exactly what it sounds like. When you change a system or a part of your business process, you need to think carefully about how to introduce that change to the users and ensure success.” Our brains crave predictability, and we tend to see any change as a negative, ultimately resisting it. Implementing new systems or business processes are changes designed to improve efficiency and productivity—something you’d think would be a positive. On the other side of the change, things will be better, but the process of getting there requires a thoughtful approach. Hence, change management!
Julie shared that she tries to be people-centric throughout the process. “I try to approach things with a people first lens and always keep the end user in mind. If they don’t adopt and successfully use the new system, I’ve failed.” She also explained how important it is to listen to her coworkers, especially paying attention to the questions they ask and any concerns they raise. “When someone asks a question, that indicates that there is an area where something isn’t designed or explained as well as it needs to be. That’s an indication that there is room for improvement.” Julie stressed that she encourages people to ask questions and respectfully push back. “If you have a question, others probably do too! Use your voice. Asking questions is one way for all of us to affect change that truly leads to improvement.” What a great message.
Our conversation helped me understand the process better and see how we all engage in change management without necessarily realizing it. I’m constantly managing change with my children—new morning and evening routines when we go back to school, for example. I patiently explain the benefits and try to remain focused on making it easier for us all. From a business perspective, anyone in a management or leadership role is also in a change management role. Part of my role as sales leader is definitely helping my team adjust to a changing business environment, shifting goals, new clients, and expectations, and so on. If change is constant, then reacting to it, and ensuring that it is a source of improvement instead of stress and negativity, is important. I may not be an expert like Julie at implementing large organizational change, but I am responsible for helping my colleagues and direct reports navigate it effectively at ATR. Julie’s advice is going to be put to good use!
I hope you have a chance to listen to our full conversation. I think you’ll find it educational and applicable to your daily life as well. Julie also shares her passion for The Beauty Boost, an organization that empowers women to achieve their goals and live a happier, healthier life. Julie is the rep for Charlotte if you’d like to meet her at a local event!
Thanks again for joining me on PBL, Julie. I appreciate your time and wisdom!
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