Kimberly Eubank ADT podcast cover
Episode: 131

Kimberly Eubank - Ready for Change

Posted on: 18 Apr 2024
Kimberly Eubank ADT podcast cover

Kimberly Eubank is a keynote speaker, advisor, coach and leading expert on digital transformation, as well as the Chief Digital Information Officer at Big Ass Fans.

In this episode, we talk about the importance of embracing and planning for change, focusing on Kimberly’s Ready for Change framework and how it can help companies and organizations succeed in the highly competitive digital world.


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"If you're investing the money in transformation, you really have to invest in changing the culture to be more of a problem solving culture or an innovative culture or a growth culture as opposed to a maintenance culture. And that may mean that the people that got you here are not the people that are going to get you there."

Welcome to the Agile Digital Transformation Podcast, where we explore different aspects of digital transformation and digital experience with your host, Tim Butara, content and community manager at Agiledrop. 

Tim Butara: Hello everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Our guest today is Kimberly Eubank, keynote speaker, advisor, coach, and leading expert on digital transformation.

As well as the chief digital information officer at big ass fans. In today's episode, we'll be talking about the importance of embracing change and planning for change. And we'll focus a little bit on Kimberly's ready for change framework and how this framework can help companies and organizations succeed in the highly competitive digital world that we're all kind of operating in.

Kimberly, welcome to the show. We're very happy to have you here. It's great having you here. Want to add anything before we dive into the questions? 

Kimberly Eubank: No, I think you gave a great intro. I'm excited to be here and to speak with you today. 

Tim Butara: Awesome. Awesome. So kind of to, to, to set the stage for the conversation that will follow, why is it so important for companies and organizations to embrace and prepare for change in the current era?

Kimberly Eubank: Yeah, so I think there's some, there's some research that says that 80 percent of companies say that they're going to undertake a change or a digital transformation or they need to. But when you go back a few years later and you ask them, did your digital transformation accomplish what you wanted to accomplish?

What we find is 70 percent report that they didn't accomplish it. So. 30 percent succeed. And so I've actually made a career out of managing kind of large scale change, starting with AT& T and the AT& T wireless singular merger. And I moved into different companies in different industries. And so when I saw that statistic, I really.

Was fascinated with why do only 30 percent succeed and I really started to unravel what I had experienced at a lot of different transformations that I had been involved in and that's really when I started to put together the ready for change framework. Because I saw what went well in the ones that went well and I saw what went wrong in the ones that went wrong and so it's a very costly investment that you're making so you want to make sure that you're in that 30 percent that succeed.

Tim Butara: Yes, because if you so if you don't adequately prepare for change and just dive dive headfirst into some kind of change chances are high that that you won't succeed and that you'll end up just wasting both finances as well as time, which is even more crucial in a super fast moving landscape. So yeah, that makes perfect sense.

Kimberly Eubank: Yes. Yeah. That's what, that's what I find is that folks, you know, they want, they want to get to action so quickly that they don't really line up the chess pieces as thoroughly upfront as they should before they start spending money. 

Tim Butara: That was very well said. Yeah. Kimberly. Awesome. And now maybe this is the best place to just ask you about you're ready for change framework.

And can you tell us more about that and how it can help companies optimize these transformation efforts? Absolutely. Thanks. 

Kimberly Eubank: Yeah, so as I mentioned, I started thinking about why do you succeed and why do you fail? And it really came down to being able to condense it into three pillars, being clear, being ready, and then being aligned.

And so, and then under each of those, there's 13 total competencies that fall into one of those three pillars. And so in clear, It's really around, do you, do you really understand what your current status or do you think you understand what your current status? So really knowing what's happening on the ground and then having that vision of what your future state is going to be and knowing what you're aiming for at the end of the day, then is it feasible with the resources you have, with the people and the know how that you have?

And where you're at in your business, is it feasible to accomplish that change? And if it is feasible, then what are your vulnerabilities? It's like, where are your weak points and what is your motivation? So those are kind of the five competencies under the clear pillar. And, you know, I've seen a company move headlong into transformation.

And they really couldn't define what transformation meant for their business. And they didn't do a great job at communicating that to their people. And so when you don't have a clear target, you can almost rest assured that you're not going to hit the target. Because everybody has their own, you know, perception of what the end state should be.

The second pillar is ready. And that's really so if clear is more kind of the strategic questions you need to ask, then ready is more the tactical questions that you need to ask. And so that is around mindset, right? Is your business ready for change? And what do you have to do to get them ready for change?

Skill set. Do you have the The right skills in house to do this. So often I see companies that have been maintenance companies for the last 10 years, right? They haven't invested. They haven't, they haven't kept up with the customer experience evolution in their industry. And when you do that for a while, you end up with a bunch of folks on your team who know how to maintain status quo, but who don't know how to innovate.

And so do you have that talent or are you going to have to buy it? Or teach it budget. Can you afford a transformation? Look, they're not cheap and everybody's circumstances different, but you really have to earmark special funds for transformation. And if you don't do that, then you will, you will run out of money very quickly.

You can't just think that your, your BAU budget is going to be enough patients. And commitment are the other two elements of the ready pillar and patients. I find this as a problem for senior leaders and organizations, right? They say they want to do transformation and they advertise to their customers and they advertise to their employees that they want to do transformation.

But they don't really realize how long it takes to get there. And I always start with my clients talking about plumbing and electrical. You're, you're rebuilding your house. And so you've got to make sure your integration layer is connected. You've got to make sure your data is clean and that can take a while.

Because if you're going to expose data to customers or to even a different side of the business, it needs to be accurate. And so you have to take the time to fix your electrical and plumbing, and that's not exciting work, it's not sexy work, and it's not really something that you can see and point to and say, Ooh, look, that's exciting.

And so I find that some senior leaders find lack of patience. For the outcome of it. And so they want the results in six months or 12 months when really you're, they're probably not going to see palpitable results that they can talk about for a couple of years. And then the last one in that ready pillar is commitment.

And that is it, it is a marathon. It's not a sprint. It is going to take multiple years to do this. And so are you committed as a leadership team and as a company to To keep going, right? That it's not going to be, oh, well, next year, you're going to get displaced by the next sexy new project, right? That you have the commitment to go the distance.

And then the aligned pillar is really kind of the political pillar, and that is making sure that your leadership team. And your key stakeholders are aligned on the mission and I've seen this play out in lots of different companies where everybody's aligned at the 50, 000 foot view. Sure. We're going to do transformation.

That's wonderful. That's great. But when it starts to get to the details. That's where the misalignment crops up. You'll have conflict, which is one of the competencies. What are the conflicts that I have a goal that says this, and you have a goal that says that, and those are conflicting goals by in one bought in at the 50, 000 foot level, but I thought that meant everyone else had to change, except me.

And so now when I have to change. You know, maybe I'm not quite as bought in and then advocacy really going out to the business consistently as a joint leadership team and talking about the importance of the transformation and why you have to do it. It's not an optional transformation. It's a mandatory transformation.

So those are the 13 competencies underneath the three pillars. So I know I just said a ton. 

Tim Butara: No, it was very concise, actually. And there was like a common theme across at least two of these pillars that I was able to identify. And it ties back to like why so so many transformation initiatives fail. And what you just highlighted is that one of the biggest reasons for this failure Is when people or companies or, you know, people in leadership roles want to do transformation without actually doing transformation, right?

Like one option was, yeah, like not knowing how long it'll take and how much time and effort we'll have to invest. And the other one was under alignment that you just mentioned was, Oh yeah. I mean, everybody else should change, but I shouldn't. Right. So, so it's like, Expecting something from nothing is bound to, to, to give you nothing, basically.

Kimberly Eubank: Right, right. Exactly. Exactly. 

Tim Butara: And so this is actually the perfect place to, to ask you about the top challenges that companies and individuals need to account for if they want to successfully implement this ready for change framework and actually start driving change and transformation. 

Kimberly Eubank: So in my framework, I actually have something on my website, which I'm sure we'll talk about later that'll take you through those 13 competencies.

And it'll ask you specific questions so that you can kind of give your own company a scorecard, red, yellow, or green. And if you're yellow or you're red in certain areas, that doesn't mean you can't transform. That just means that you need to go in with eyes wide open and you need to close those gaps. I think that some of the things that I see.

That seemed to be consistent issues for folks are the misalignment at that, at that leadership level, right? Having the conflicting goals only being bought in at the 50, 000 foot view. I worked with a client where, you know, everybody nodded their head that, Oh yeah, yeah, we need a transformation. Absolutely.

We can't scale if we don't have a transformation. But then as the transformation was underway, He started hearing things about how, you know, one leader in one part of the business was actually saying, Oh, well, you know, nothing's really going to change. Right. And that's completely counterproductive and that really lacks the advocacy, but also the alignment.

So that's an area that, that some businesses can struggle with. I think lack of the vision of what does transformation mean? I mentioned earlier that I'd worked with a company where. They said they needed to do a transformation because that was the talk in their industry. But I would say that that company was just, it was an average company, right?

Things weren't horribly broken, but they weren't really innovative either. And they had just kind of kept on keeping on. And so while leadership was saying, we're going to do a transformation, they really had no idea what that meant. And so if you can't convey to your workforce Why it's imperative that you undertake the change in the transformation, then they're not going to be bought in and the workforce is going to is going to fight it at every turn.

So really being able to paint that clear, crisp picture of we have to do this. To continue to be a viable business. And if we don't, these are the repercussions for us as a business and you as an employee. And Oh, by the way, this is how this is going to make you as an employee, your job better or easier, right?

The what's in it for me. So being able to be really crisp about that, I think is something companies struggle with. And then the two other things that I would say stand out over and over one is lack of budget, wanting to do it. The workforce knows you need it. But you just don't have enough money to do it.

And so then that's very much a balancing act of setting appropriate expectations versus how long it's going to take versus how much money you have in the coffers to spend. And that's a delicate balance, right? So you can't over promise and under deliver because then people won't believe you the next time you start a big initiative.

And then the last one is culture shift. And that's the hardest, right? And that is really leadership knows you need it. You have the right funding, maybe pockets of your business know that they need it, but there's going to be pockets could be the old guard that's been there forever and done it a certain way.

But you if you're investing the money in transformation, you really have to invest in changing the culture to be more of a problem solving culture or an innovative culture or a growth culture, as opposed to a maintenance culture, and that may mean. That the people that got you here are not the people that are going to get you there.

Right. And so you may have to exit people from your business. And I think that that if they're in key positions, right. That are, that are, are not really bought into it. And I think that's hard for leaders to come to terms with. So I think those are the four things, misalignment, lack of vision, lack of budget and culture shift, or lack of factoring in the culture shift.

Tim Butara: It was interesting that you said that the culture was the most difficult one or the hardest one. I think it's also one of the key ones because it's not just about an instance of driving change, but it's about a shift to the company culture where it, it's about embracing further change and further disruption.

It's not just, okay, we're going to get through this one transformation initiative and that's going to be it. If that were the case, then you might be able to get away without it. to the culture. But if it's, you know, prepping your whole company and your whole team and your employees to be more resilient to change going forward, then that does require inevitably a culture change.

Kimberly Eubank: Yeah. And I really focus when I, when I lead teams, I really focus them on whose problem did you solve today? If you didn't walk in to your job and help somebody solve a problem, Then I don't know what you did all day, right? Because that's really what you're here for. You're here to solve a business problem or a customer problem or an employee problem.

You're here to facilitate, you know, solutions. 

Tim Butara: Could you share some interesting stories from your work of the, of this framework in action, maybe? 

Kimberly Eubank: Yeah, I mean, I think I kind of mentioned a few, but the, I would, I would say one of the things that one of the ones that went right. Right. Is so I worked at singular wireless in the United States, which at the time was the number two wireless carrier in the, in the U S and we actually undertook a merger, a 41 billion all credit cash transaction to merge with AT& T wireless.

That joint company is now known as AT& T in the U S and we. We're put together to bring the two companies together within 30 days of our merger closing. Now, I don't know how much you know about mergers in the US and how similar they are globally, but you don't know if your merger is going to get approved until it's passed the Department of Justice and the, and the FCC.

And so you're planning, assuming something is going to happen, but you don't actually know if it's going to get approved. The other thing is you have to be very careful if you're merging with a competitor that you don't do any gun jumping. And so that means that you can't share competitive information in the event it doesn't get approved.

You still have to behave and perform as competitors. So it's, you're very limited as to what you can talk about with the other company. So I was leading the day one readiness. For that merger, which was essentially, Hey, 30 days after the merger gets approved and closes, we want to go out to our joint customer base.

I have 40, I think it was 46 million customers as, as one brand. We don't want to be two brands anymore. We want to have one brand facing. And so that was a project that was. A very short timeline. We only had about six months. We were planning in the dark. We had two of everything and we had to transform the customer experience for our customers in a way that made them think that we were an integrated company way before we were really an integrated company, right?

We, behind the curtain, it was still very messy. And that was one of the The times when I would say transformation was done, right. And when I go through my ready for change scorecard on that program, like the money was there, the advocacy was there, the buy in was there. We all understood the mission. We all understood the implications.

If the mission did not go right, we had clear alignment. We knew what the end game looked like, and we really just as a cross functional team, because all transformations are cross functional. Right? No one department can do a transformation without impacting other areas of the business. And so that was just one really great example of when cross functionally the company fired on all cylinders.

They did launch, and actually they launched in under 30 days, because the approval was actually late in coming from the, from the governmental agencies. And so, That was like my, my poster child of transformation done correctly. And we actually, I also will say when you're doing a transformation and you do it right, and you've set the right vision and the right tone for your organization, transformations are the poster child for full employee engagement.

You're not going to have any quiet quitting when people are, you know, trying to climb Mount Everest together and everybody knows what they have to do to get to the top. And so, you know, it, that was 20 years ago. And when we still get together, we still talk about how awesome that project was. Right. So that's an example of kind of transformation done right.

I have many transformation done wrong projects. And I think that a lot of them really, they start strong, but because they didn't necessarily go through the full checklist. They, they end up like getting halfway through and then either the budget gets cut or the patience isn't there and they start to redirect resources or attention.

There can be conflict at senior levels. I think one company that I worked with, the plan was in place, the structure was in place, the budget was in place, but one of the organizations did not have the skill set. To actually get that kind of work done. And again, it was a, to be fair, it had been a maintenance organization for 10 years, right?

And now they wanted it to be an innovation and growth organization. And that doesn't happen overnight. And so big surprise when you start doing readouts that say the project's behind schedule and you start looking for reasons why the project is behind schedule. Then that's where, you know, certain departments can get defensive if, you know, they're kind of more in the red than other departments.

And so that's where that misalignment and that culture shifting can really kind of bite you because again, it was, well, yeah, we're doing a transformation, but I didn't actually think we had to change how we did our jobs. I thought we just keep doing our jobs the same and the transformation would just boom happen around us.

So, I mean, that would be an example of a transformation that kind of had a hiccup in the middle. And as a result, that transformation, the scope ended up getting decreased significantly and they did not get finished with everything they wanted to get finished in the three years and the, in the 30 million that they had planned.

Tim Butara: Some really great examples. I love how kind of both ends of the spectrum and they both just showcase to listeners what they should be doing if they want to get this right. And this is actually perfectly in line with the final question that I have for you for this conversation today, Kimberly. And it's like based on your work on your experience and on everything that we discussed today.

What would be your top tip or top tips for those listening right now, of course, maybe struggling with driving change and transformation at their companies and their organizations? 

Kimberly Eubank: I think if you haven't already done so, taking a step back and really looking at the landscape of where you're at in a very open way.

So not rose colored glasses, but really just unemotionally, where are you at along those 13 competencies? Again, it's not bad if you're red or yellow. It just means eyes wide open. I know I have a gap that I have to close. I think the other thing I would say is. There is no textbook on how to do a transformation that is plug and play it.

What is right for one company is not going to be right for the next company. And that's why I really focus on going in. And I mean, my last client, I did 58 hours of interviews. With all different stakeholders from around the business to really understand that business and how that business gets things done.

And so while I have common things that I do when I'm leading a transformation of how I manage, you know, the projects and things like that. What the structure of it looks like is different every single time because every single company is different. So I would say, figure out what works for your organization because what works for A won't work for B.

And just take, take the best pieces and use what works for you and be open to being flexible in that model. And then I think also along with that, Strategies and tactics, right? You have to understand what your strategy is and what you're trying to achieve. And then you have to break that down into the component parts of the, of the tactics.

If you just focus on the big picture, that's really quickly you can get overwhelmed, right? And so one organization that I worked with, the backlog was 850 projects. Thanks. And that may sound astronomical, but when you break it out into, yeah, but they had, you know, seven scrum teams and they had three years to do that.

Like when you actually divide it up, it was very doable. But that was, that was a result of pent up demand for the prior decade where things had not been fixed. Right. And so I think just making sure that you, you can take that big, Ooh, we're going to do a transformation and decompose it into consumable chunks, both for the people doing the work, but also from a messaging perspective to the employees so that you can paint the vision of, well, this is going to happen.

And then we're going to layer this on, and then we're going to layer this on, and then we're going to layer this on. And then before you know it, we're going to be at the end. Right. So making sure that they have kind of milestones to be like, ah, okay. They told me this was going to happen. It happened instead of just saying, Hey, we're going to do transformation.

And then three years later, oh, it's done. You did it or it's done. And we didn't do it because a lot of times if you didn't do it, they just never hear about it ever again. And we've all been in companies. We've all been in companies where, Hey, we're launching this new initiative. And then you hear crickets, you don't hear anything else about it.

And you're like, whatever happened to that initiative? Well, it died on the vine. 

Tim Butara: Kimberly, those were some awesome tips and a really great conversation. I really enjoyed it myself. And I'm sure that everybody listening is also really enjoying it. For those listening who would like to contact you, connect with you, learn more about you, or of course, check out the framework more in depth and get the checklist.

Where can they do all that? 

Kimberly Eubank: You can do it all at KimberlyEubank. com and that is E U B A N K. And so you can go there and the, the resources, there's a resources tab and you can go and download the framework and then you can also reach out to me through the contact form should you need to. 

Tim Butara: Awesome.

Thanks so much again for the awesome conversation, Kimberly. We were very happy to have you here. 

Kimberly Eubank: Thank you. I'm so glad that I was able to have this conversation with you, Tim. 

Tim Butara: And well, to our listeners, that's all for this episode. Have a great day, everyone, and stay safe. 

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