DnA - Executive Transformation Network

Many Organisations find Implementing Change Incredibly Difficult – Why?

Friska presenting at the MEX Mining, june 2020

Usually because the people side of change is an after thought. I’m usually brought in when it’s either gone pear-shaped or its moments till go live, and it turns into a race to the bottom.

Majority don’t invest appropriately in change management – they don’t truly understand what it is and what’s involved, isn’t it just fluffy comms and training? They underestimate the extent of the change – this leads to minimal effort in engaging the right people, ensuring any communication is effective and two-way (dialogue not monologue), recruiting influencers who actually sponsor the change (no seagull sponsors!), building the required capability to enact the change, and of course deciding on appropriate metrics which gauge whether the change is on track or not, ongoing measurement and continuous improvement.

Short term thinking leads to long term fixing. When it comes to changing mindsets, and thus behaviour, the seeds you plant today don’t translate into fruit tomorrow. How many times have organisations launched a culture change initiative, only to pull up stumps a few months later? Change takes time. And in the case of something as intangible and nebulous as culture, it takes a few years for it to truly stick.

What type of Leadership makes Transformation Real?

Leaders who are effective sponsors of change exude empathy, authenticity, curiosity, humility, vulnerability, and resilience. They have a high AQ – adaptability quotient and know how to evolve and regenerate their people. Transforming anything has a healthy risk of failure, leaders must truly believe failures = learning.

IQ used to be the be all and end all, the intelligence quotient (IQ) test supposedly predicted future success – it measures memory, analytical thinking and mathematical ability … Then renowned author Daniel Goleman popularised EQ – emotional intelligence, the ability to identify, monitor and manage emotions: yours and that of others… IQ and EQ are not worth much if you don’t do something different. IQ may be the minimum to get a job, but AQ determines how successful you’ll be over time.

Adapting to change keeps us relevant, valuable and maintains a competitive edge. It’s not a case of the big beating the small, but the adaptive beating the ignorant.

We’re required to learn faster than we’ve ever had to before, what we’re taught in university is irrelevant in 5 years time. The behaviours we’ve honed for decades will become obsolete in a few years, no more is the 45-year static career doing the same thing day in day out, now each job’s work is often dramatically different from the last. As a result, our “adaptability quotient” (AQ) is the primary predictor of success, with IQ and EQ taking a back seat.

How to level up your culture post-COVID19

 The currency of the 21 century is trust. Why should you care? Because it has the power to expedite or erode performance, profitability and productivity. A lack of trust results in sabotage, micromanagement and backstabbing.

Given the rapid shift to fully remote work, we must empower our people to take action, give them autonomy to work where and how they see fit.

Old school manager TITO = time in the office vs Next-gen leader TITO = trust in the outcomes

Trust related to consumer brands is not a new concept, but now your own trustworthiness is equally relevant. we need to trust individuals, not just institutions. The value from building a trustworthy reputation is being increasingly recognised. So how does yours stack up?

Article in last Saturday’s paper about the MSO. Trust was lost between leadership and the musicians and it’s resulted in the likely demise of the symphony. Trust cannot be underestimated, it’s the foundation of every healthy relationship, in and out of the office. So slow to build, incredibly easy to lose. Tech disrupters such as AirBNB, Uber, Ebay triggered a new way to do business, a business based not only on brand reputation, but personal reputation.

Did your company live up to their espoused values and mission during COVID? Is there trust in what we say our culture is, and the reality? If not, where are the gaps? Give people guardrails so they know what constitutes acceptable vs unacceptable behaviour. Many organisations took a beating during COVID and their culture was severely tested, some cracks may be showing. If trust has been lost, make amends and own up to it. Invest in repairing and strengthening it, as there will be another crisis in some shape or form where the culture will determine whether people unite and support each other, or tear each other apart.

3 Biggest Culture Builders

  1. Leaders walking the talk – employees notice disconnects between what leaders say and do. When words and actions align, this creates confidence the organisation is serious about culture change and that their values actually mean something, not just naff words on a wall.
  2. Culture-fit trumps capability – especially in rare technical areas, there is a tendency to hire solely based on capability. One toxic person can poison the well for a thousand others, avoid them, no matter how brilliantly technical they are. Hiring for character-fit and culture compatibility will save you in the long term.
  3. The desired culture washes through performance management and recognition programs – positive behaviours exhibiting desired culture traits are acknowledged, rewarded and reinforced, poor performance – or people who opt out – is addressed. Everyone has a part to play in building the culture.

Building a Culture that Embraces Transformation

Who’s done it well? IBM: Not only Culture embraces change, but the people (IBM MD shared his ‘development areas’ during the culture change in front of 400 external people at conference) and entire corporate strategy embrace change. They are a true chameleon, adapting to its surroundings. From 1880 to 1924, they sold tabulating machines; in 1933, electric typewriters; in the 60s, they were one of the first to sell mainframe computers. Since then, IBM has profited on everything from PCs to microscopes to software and management consulting. It’s now known as a design and innovation firm, who also dabble in bitcoin and digital currency.

As with any transformation, it starts at the top. Leaders need to verbalise it, create it, reinforce it. Define high performance, benchmarks, metrics, what does good look like?

1. Transformation is predicated on a culture of trust.

Start building it! Employees must trust it is okay to fail. Trust is built when what leaders say, do, and reinforce are aligned. Words are important, but it’s what’s reinforced that really counts. Reward, reinforce, retain people who behave in ways that demonstrate openness to change, innovation, transformation. Need to normalise failure.

2. Reward people for making the attempt at innovation, not just the accomplishment.

Positive reinforcement must outweigh negative consequences on a 4:1 ratio. So for every “bugger, that didn’t work”, dig deep and unearth four learnings that were only possible because you gave it a shot.

3. Be faithful with the small, and the big will follow

– start with one willing person, PoC, promote the heck out of it to generate momentum and willingness to try something new. People rely on social proof to make decisions, so just start with getting the first one…

4. Capital D for diversity

Create policies which support a dynamic workforce that constantly upskills, reskills, innovates and collaborates. Success is not just the right people with the right skills, but the right mix of people in both workforce and delivery teams. You can’t transform with group think.


If I asked you to describe the best colleague you’ve ever had, what would you say? Humble, listens well, positive, helps you when you’re stuck, owns up to their mistakes,you trustworthy, caring, honest, reliable, takes on extra work to help the greater team when needed….

I have found when I ask this question, very rarely does someone say “most technically capable in their field, the smartest person in the room, they had several letters after their name, an Ivy League education”. Capability is often not in the equation. Yet what determines most hiring decisions? Capability.

About the Author Friska

I’ve been driving sustainable change on a global scale for more than 10 years. After reinventing my own life multiple times, my passion lies in helping others do the same. A lifelong learner, my flair for delivering change on an individual, team and organisational level has proven to be a compelling cost mitigation strategy.

Connect with Friska?

Success Stories

Newcrest Mining

Friska partnered with a team of world-class technology experts at the largest gold miner on ASX on its digital transformation, covering 7,000 employees. She developed a bespoke change framework which drove interest in, and adoption of new and emerging technologies. Initiatives included an award-winning crowdsourcing platform, and numerous data science solutions across its mine sites.


As Global Change Lead for multi-million dollar projects spanning technology, structure, process and people, Friska managed changes to the work of 23,000 employees across seven continents at engineering company Worley. Initiatives included an offshoring program in India, a radically different performance management system, and the introduction of an AI-powered internal resourcing platform.

Partner with an expert who is guiding world-leading companies to achieve benefits dependent on changing individual mindsets and behaviours


Passion for communication in both word & images. No-nonsense, drive, creative & effective.