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How to change an enterprise: Lessons from ASICS, REI, Icelandair and more

October 1, 2023 / 15:06 / E40

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In the second part of our anniversary celebration, we're revisiting one of our cornerstone themes - People Changing Enterprises. Join us as we recap the insightful conversations with guests who have mastered the art of driving change from within their organizations.

We'll give you three strategic lessons on making change happen, and three super tactical tips you can use today to make change stick. Whether you're a seasoned change-maker or just starting out, this episode is packed with actionable advice and wisdom you can use.


0:44 Danielle Diliberti - CTO of Sommsation on the power of peers
2:38 Bob Howland - Chief Digital Officer of Dawn Foods on the power of advocates
04:29 Jason Greely - Solutions Archtiect at REI on the power of persistence
06:18 Cultivating radical resiliency (Bob Howland)
08:36 Mindy Montgomery - Senior Technical Product Manager at ASICS on how to reduce the pressure of change
10:18 The 3-3-3 rule (Danielle Diliberti)
11:16 Keith Mazanec -  Director of Software Engineering at Brad's Deals on the value of documentation
12:28 Jon Richards - Head of Digital at Golfbreaks on how to build resonance, and 
13:24 Óskar Völundarson, Edvardas Paskevicius and Hallur Þór Halldórsson from Icelandair - on how to make your mark

Jasmin: [00:00:00] Welcome to our second one-year anniversary episode of People Changing Enterprises. Over the past year, we've spoken to changemakers and status quo busters, lots of them. And we asked them all, what does it take to change an enterprise? Today, we have a collection of the best lessons we learned from their responses.

Jasmin: From your point of view, what does it take to change an enterprise?

Danielle: A plan. I think it takes a plan to change an enterprise, but putting that plan together is really the hard part. Knowing what the goals of the organization are, is so critically important, but [00:01:00] also in order to do that, you really have to understand the landscape of the market by which your enterprise sits to make those changes.
There's so many organizations out there doing great things, you know, and if you're in a silo, you're not necessarily setting yourself up for success. Understanding the market, understanding the landscape and then knowing what other organizations are doing is really, really important as well. One of the things that I always like to say is;
you know, don't reinvent the wheel if you don't have to, even with Sommsation, while we're doing something completely different that we don't think has ever been done before, when I decouple or bifurcate some of the things that we're doing more often than not, a piece of that has been done really, really well, or there's a partner or other organization out there that's doing it really, really well. So thinking about all of those building blocks and how you're going to put the plan in place to change your enterprise means knowing what else is going on out there and knowing how [00:02:00] it can serve you versus where you want to focus on, on making that important change.

Jasmin: That was Danielle Deliberti, CEO of hypergrowth startup Sommsation, kicking off with a super important lesson. If you want to make change happen, you can't do it alone. And that means both leaning on your peers, partners, and other friendly faces. But it also means convincing those who might not yet be on your side.
That's called creating advocates and is our second lesson in how to change an enterprise. Here's Bob Howland, who took global ingredients manufacturer Dawn Foods to fully digital in less than 10 months. He describes a conversation he had with his Chief Financial Officer on his first week of the job.

Bob: Importantly, one of the other things I [00:03:00] did was ask him. Who his most trusted colleague was, who on his team did he trust the most? And then I asked him if that person could be my financial representative. So I got the person, the board, the CEO, the CFO respect most who couldn't have been more anti-e-commerce and digital.
Fast forward two months. Beyond me, he was the biggest evangelist and advocate for what we were doing. He saw all the industry data. He saw how we were being so fiscally responsible with the decisions we were making. He saw that this wasn't a money grab. He saw that we were looking to take cost and waste out of the business.
He saw all the things that, you know, it took others months, if not years, to see he saw up upfront because I gave him carte blanche access to everything and the combination of my CFO’s, [00:04:00] you know, number one lieutenant and me now became pretty compelling I really needed to have an advocate in the finance team. And so I found that person and we made him an absolute stellar e-commerce guru and evangelist.

Jasmin: Of course, it'll probably be the case that you can't get everyone on board all at the same time. So it's important to start small and build allies throughout the organization. Here's REI's Jason Greely on how to tackle the monolithic task of starting change in an organization that's perhaps a little bit hesitant, mistrustful or just not totally sure yet.

Jason: I think the biggest thing for me is just being persistent with it.
I come from a background in a SaaS startup world where everything moves so fast and coming to an enterprise like this, they move slowly, which is [00:05:00] understandable. And there's a lot at stake. There's a lot of opinions to get in your court before you can go do a thing. So I think being persistent with your idea and your vision.
No matter how long it takes is probably going to be the most important thing. And the more allies you build, both in your organization, other side of the house and with vendors, I think a lot of people resent sales calls or the sales pitch, but they're also looking for the same people. They're looking for champions across the board.
And when you do your diligence and you're comfortable with them, get them in there as well. So I think building a team around you that are just across the enterprise outside of your organization to help push your vision, I think is another huge thing to really be focused on and keep driving that forward, no matter how long it takes.
Or if you find that you're in the little valley of motivation and people are getting frustrated, just keep pushing through it.

Jasmin: Jason touched on our third lesson on how to change an enterprise. The importance of mindset. [00:06:00] Jason talked about your own mindset as a change agent, but you also can and should impact the mindset of others in the organization too.
Here is Bob Howland from Dawn Foods on a concept he calls Radical resiliency.

Bob: I think radical resiliency is something that everybody in e-commerce faces in every aspect of what they do, whether you're on the solution provider side or the brand side or within a business, you know, we're all doing something that's new.
And so it's different, it's different and it's difficult. So let's break the terms down. Radical: radical is change management. It's upsetting the status quo. It's basically telling people that the way we work today is not going to work for us tomorrow. And what human being wants to hear that, right?
So there's a whole, you know, soft skill. There's a whole EQ that goes into the way to deliver that message is really, really important because we all [00:07:00] need to be part of the journey to make this happen. Resiliency, every turn, every twist, every movement you make is met with resistance. And so having the ability to know that this is not linear, it's going to be windy.
Having the knowledge that people aren't attacking me. They could care less about me. What they're attacking is this idea of change, this idea of maybe the way they're working is not the right way. And so I, I needed to, and all the people with me working together, we needed to decompose the personal and really focus on business things, objectives, tangible, tangible things.
And at the end of the day, you know, radical resiliency works best when you create a language. Create common terms that the business can work together to go solve. Jasmin, if it's you against [00:08:00] me, that's not gonna be fun. But imagine if it's you and me against that, against that thing, that objective, that problem, that opportunity, if we can come together and fight something else, we can come together and work towards something else that's empowering. And so we started to use words like outcome, capability. We stopped using words like activity, task, and that really helped the organization think about and come on board with, you know, we can build toward these outcomes. We want to create these capabilities, show us how.

Jasmin: Mindy Montgomery from ASICS adds a gentle reminder to put a bit less pressure on yourself and your people while trying to nudge them toward change.

Mindy: I think we globally, not even ASICS, but I think we as people are starting to realize that outside of a very few [00:09:00] cases, our day-to-day decisions are not going to close down the company.
So, especially at a brand like ASICS, it's established and been around as opposed to a startup. If we take a week too long to do something or a week longer to do something than we have in the past, that's not going to make ASICS go out of business. And so I think there is being honest with ourselves and being intentional about the changes we do make and pointing to the, you know, having that vision to point to and speaking with data, I think are always really key to convincing people to try something new.

Jasmin: So those were three strategic lessons we've learned from changemakers over the past year. Ask for help, create advocates, and cultivate a mindset of resilience. But we also got some really practical advice. And I want to leave you with some things you can do today to make your change projects [00:10:00] more successful.
So here are three simple, tactical, rapid fire tips for making change happen and stick inside a business. First up, Sommsation’s Danielle Diliberti with a tool for transferring knowledge between team members.

Danielle: One of the things I have is what I call the 3-3-3 rule. And I've used that throughout my entire career for myself and also for training my team.
And so what that means is you do it yourself three times. So if you are the person training after you've done it at least three times, and if it's a role that you've been in for a while, then, you know, you've done it, you know, probably 3000 times, but for a hyper-growth company, you might've only done it three times, but once you have a little bit under your belt and you're trying to transition or train someone. Then you have someone shadow you for three times, and then you move to shadow them for three times, and then you transition it off. So that gives everyone an opportunity to continue to [00:11:00] grow and to learn, but you have that knowledge transfer, so that way people aren't getting stuck doing the same thing if they don't want to be doing it, but also you're ensuring that you're setting everyone up for success. And so I deploy that tool all around.

Jasmin: Second, Brad Deal's change agent, Keith Mazanec, on the importance of documentation.

Keith: We quickly realized, wow, there's a lot of stuff that's just in people's heads, and we need to write it down. We need to write it down. We need to train people on it. You know, we need to take this document that someone started and finish it and then publish it out so that people can see, all right, this is how this works. This is how this works. This is how this is going to transition and so on and so forth. And that's really sort of the next lesson I guess I got from this is you need to plan for the business and continuity, regardless of sort of how the team is going to grow and shift and change and shrink even overtime. Over the course of this journey, I would say our team has [00:12:00] changed out from under us in many ways. And so how do you keep momentum and how do you keep things going? It ceased to be a single race and it's become a relay race now where we're handing off from one person to another, one team to another, and it really comes down to, again, having a great culture of writing, a great culture of open communication, and ultimately building and rebuilding trust always.

Jasmin: And thirdly, Joh Richards from travel tourism company Golfbreaks, reminds us of how important it is to regularly share what you're working on with the rest of the company.

Jon: We introduced a monthly town hall and we tell the business what we've been working on in the last month and what we're working on in the next month.
So then when people are looking to overcome challenges in their own departments, they think about coming to us for help in terms of how we can use our digital properties to make their [00:13:00] lives easier.

Jasmin: Our guests from Icelandair will give us our parting words for this episode. But first, thank you so much for listening this year. We have many more amazing things in store and we cannot wait to share them with you. And here's Icelandair on how to change an enterprise.
Jasmin: What actually is the one piece of advice that you have for someone who wants to make their mark on their business?

Óskar: I think it is trying to see things from other people's point of view and make the case for what you want to change in terms that make sense to them from their position. I think it's easy to get stuck in your own point of view and not understand that you need to frame things in a certain way that's not jargon-filled to actually get the ideas implemented.

Edvardas: I would say always strive to measure your progress and results so you can separate facts from opinions. [00:14:00] Show that what you've done has had impact and that will open ways for further progress.

Hallur: There are so many. Biggest thing, small steps, take smaller steps, try to break things down into smaller initiatives that you can measure and then, and learn from them before you move on to the next. But don't always go for the fireworks show because sometimes that's going to fail and then there's no way back. But one rocket at a time.

Thanks for listening to People Changing Enterprises. This show is brought to you by Contentstack, the leading composable digital experience platform for enterprises. Got a question or suggestion? Email us at If you like the show, please leave us a rating or review on Apple podcasts.
We'll be back next week with a new episode, helping you make your mark.[00:15:00]

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