A Practitioner's Journey to Building Enterprise Change Capability
Written by Laura Powers
Updated: December 13, 2022
Published: October 28, 2020
David Martinez is a Prosci Senior Change Advisor and the former Senior Business Strategy and Analysis Manager for the Founder Department at Vulcan. His diverse role at Vulcan centered on leading the effort to build a change management program, among other responsibilities. After completing the 18-month Advanced Deployment Leader Program with Prosci, the experience paid off in many ways for Vulcan. Today, David works with Prosci clients to help them build their own change capabilities. Here's his story.
Building Change Capability at Vulcan Inc.
Started in 1986 by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen and his sister Jody Allen, Seattle-based Vulcan Inc. strives to make the world a better place by solving some of the world’s most difficult problems. They specifically focus on the issues facing oceans, climate, conservation and communities. As catalysts for change, it’s no surprise that success with the people side of change is important to the organization.
David, can you describe your role in building change capability at Vulcan?
My role was to help build and execute a change management program that meets the needs of Vulcan. Another task was to help support development of a project management office. I'd say these two areas had been my primary focus for a full year. Occasionally we added a task, such as to inventory everything in the company, and my role was to determine how to go about it.
In some cases, I handed things off to someone else. In the case of change management, I held onto it to manage, support and expand it as we grew to the maturity level we wanted. In my mind, the goal was to grow it until we developed the right skills within the company, a way to continue to reinforce behaviors naturally, and when change becomes business as usual. That is, Vulcan is working to build change management capability.
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What made you pursue Advanced Deployment Leader Certification?
I had done change management at the project level with very large projects, but never at an enterprise level. I knew how to do projects. I knew how to educate. But because change management was such a new concept at Vulcan, I needed someone to bounce ideas off of. I needed a strategic partner.
How do I start to create that larger coalition? How do I evaluate that we've made progress? At the project level, you realize some benefits and have some metrics for adoption and usage. But when you’re talking about company-wide change in an organization that is almost 12 different companies combined into one, every department would be evaluated very differently.
When I came across Prosci’s Maturity Model Audit, it really helped shape my next steps and still does. It enables me to break down work streams into bite-sized chunks and find the appropriate strategic partners to help in each work stream, as well as the different sponsors necessary.
For example, HR is one of change management's strongest advocates at Vulcan, especially for coaching and mentoring all levels of leadership, building the coalition, and selling change management. They were integral to socialization of change management, which is one of the five capabilities you evaluate and build in change management maturity. Getting the focus and discipline from Prosci enabled me to break apart all the workstreams, organize my team, make meetings much more efficient, and make sure we were able to come out with a strategic initiative for all five capability areas.
Now that you have earned your Advanced Deployment Leader Certification, what would you tell someone who is considering the same commitment in their practitioner journey?
First, I would say Prosci’s Advanced Deployment Leader Certification was the only program I found to be robust enough to take me to the next level. When I looked at the program deliverables, I realized it was work I was already going to do at Vulcan. But it was really nice that every time I had one of those deliverables for work, I had someone to coach me through it and say, "Hey, have you thought about this? Or let's make this a little bit more robust before you present it to senior leaders." My Program Advisor was with me through the whole process from start to finish.
You know, I think change management can be filled with all kinds of politics because you're talking about people and their needs. You’re having candid conversations that can be very complex. Because my Program Advisor doesn't know the people, he's stripped of personal bias or the politics that might be associated with it. Just being able to say, “From what you've told me, this is what the person may be feeling” or “Any resistance you’re seeing, this might be why.” It’s good to be able to take yourself out of that.
And when we talk about why the project manager and change manager shouldn't be the same person on large projects, it’s because it's really hard to separate timelines and look at the situation from the perspectives of all the people involved. Building a change management capability across the organization is a project in itself, and I was the project manager. I needed that outside change manager to come in and say, "Don't forget about this. Don't forget about that." I can’t imagine succeeding without having that level of consultation.
As an organization, Vulcan has a far reach, but in terms of the staff members, it's on the smaller side. How does Vulcan staff and train others in change management?
While I was the only person 100% dedicated to change management, the rest of our change team members were selected by their executive team leader as someone who can influence people in their level of the organization. When we started, there were 55 people across the organization who began with a one-day Prosci training. From there, I continued to follow up with different ways to reinforce that education, including Prosci eLearning modules, and then build off it, knowing that no single training is enough to suddenly say, "All right, you're an expert practitioner." We needed to give people the opportunity to try this out and kind of warm up that change management muscle. Licensing the eLearning modules has been a great way to introduce change management to the company at the pace each individual and group needs. These modules have also been great for onboarding new employees.
Source: Prosci eLearning module
One of Vulcan's strongest programs has been the community of practice, where individuals talk about the projects they're working on. And as a group, they collectively work through issues. "Hey, have you thought of this? This could be a great idea. Let's dig a little deeper into some of your challenges to make sure the group understands." Sometimes it's also for the practitioner to say, "Do I really understand what I've been asked to do? What does success look like? What are the behavior goals of this project?" And that really helps to better shape the change management plan.
You know, like Prosci, Vulcan is a learning organization. People are always wanting to learn more. And the whole reason change management was built at Vulcan was because there was a clear need for it. As a rapid changing organization for a very long time, people were looking for the skillsets to be able to map out changes a little better and to say, "Yes, change happens. We're agile. We're flexible with it." But there has to be a better way to do it than to be reactive and say, "Okay, I don't have questions. I'm just going to do what I’m told."
Being able to ask questions up front has made Vulcan better able to prepare for success. And then when a pivot is necessary, people are able to be less reactive because it was planned for. As unpredictable as change can be, they can say, "We have a plan for change."