Change management adds or destroys value: Monna Monnakgotla, KPMG

Change management is not something fluffy, but a pivotal process that impacts the bottom line. That is the firm belief of Monna Monnakgotla, Partner in KPMG’s People & Change service line with 18 years of experience in HR and change management. Monnakgotla was one of the experts during our last exclusive CFO Dinner. Afterwards we were able to chat to him, resulting in these 5 questions and answers.

1. What is the biggest misunderstanding about change management?
„A lot of time executives see change management as something fluffy that doesn't add value to their business. They don't have a full understanding of how it supports business transformation, particularly during large-scale restructure. But in order for those processes to succeed, change management plays a crucial role, especially when there are people involved."

"The bottom line is that change management can add or destroy value."

„I have been in this business long enough - and research points to the same - that I can say it will have significant consequences if you don't take change management seriously. If there is a R100 million IT implementation happening, you need change management to realise the benefits that the IT solution promises. As change managers we need to talk to executives in their language, to make sure we bridge the gap. The bottom line is that change management can add or destroy value."

2. Can you give an example of successful change management?
„We were involved in the merger of three organisations. It was in the public sector, which probably made it extra complex because of the politics involved. We were able to support the amalgamation into one entity by outlining the business case for change. We involved various stakeholders, including organised labour and we identified people that would influence change within the organisation. What we also did was work with the fact that the organisations had people from different cultures. We started to build the framework for one single new culture, involving as many people as possible."

"CFOs can be agents of change themselves as they play an important part around spending money on projects."

„It was successful because we also mobilised the leadership. They believed in it, talked the same story and were able to lead from the front. We also needed to deal with the harmonisation of the terms and conditions of employment. That can be a sticky area, but we managed, making sure we consulted with management, the unions and the people on the ground. We were also able to keep the people in the organisation informed of the progress at a regular basis."

„It was not about one-way communication, but we also listened to anxiety and we involved people in shaping the direction of the change. We also started building internal change management capability, because when we leave as consultants the work is not over. We also wrote a change plan, because not everything can be done here and now. Measuring the results of the change initiatives is also important: Are people embracing the changes? If not, why not? There were no major hiccups during that process."

3. What role should CFOs play?
„CFOs are part of the senior leadership. They need to understand change and they need to be able to lead from the front as part of a cohesive executive team. CFOs can be agents of change themselves as they play an important part around spending money on projects. Change management should be top of mind when signing off on IT projects or other changes with big financial implications. They need to be able to calculate the risk of not having change management."

4. Where does you own strength lie?
„I have many, many years of experience in this area, almost 20 years. My particular skill is mobilising leadership and helping them develop and formulate a strong business case for change. I have been involved in many scenarios and have worked with diverse groups, from unskilled labourers to Board members. What I have noticed is that what works in one organisation, does not necessarily work elsewhere - even within the same sector."

„I want to be able to demonstrate to leaders that they have spent their money wisely, when they have used our change management solutions. I still enjoy that, because it is never the same. The field changes so much, with technology and an uncertain world playing a much bigger role now than ten years ago."

5. What are you most proud of in your career?
„The difference that I have made to transformation, real meaningful change. I value the fact that I have been able to make a difference to people's life. When I sit back and reflect, I am proud when a project has started off with an apparently insurmountable problem, but through careful management of change we have ended up with people happily working in a rejuvenated work environment."

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