From Battlefield to Boardroom: 10 Steps to Successful Change Management: News From Best of Leap 2017

May 18, 2017 Shelbi Gomez

What lessons in managing people and adapting to change does a US Marine officer learn on counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan?

Today, at Workfront’s Best of Leap London user conference, former Marine Captain Deven Ravel set out the 10 key lessons he has taken from the battlefield to the boardroom and beyond of organizations around the world.

Deven, now Director of Commercial Transformation Services at LeapPoint in Washington DC, told the story of a tour of duty in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province with his squad of Marines.

Two colleagues who suffered life-changing injuries in a Taliban ambush were the best change agents he’d ever encountered—adapting to their changed circumstances and breaking new ground in their lives.

He set out 10 key lessons from his experience:

1. Know yourself

“It’s not just what you do. You have to think of yourself as the whole organisation. Look at the people and the tools you have. What are the expectations of those people? And what about the people you are going to need but haven’t hired yet? Are you thinking two steps ahead?” Deven asked.

2. Know your mission

“Solutions need to be aligned up and down and organisation,” Deven said. This means ensuring that strategic goals (business objectives) are aligned with operational goals (processes and procedures) and tactical goals (delivery).

3. Study history

“Know the culture of your organization and understand where it came from,” he said. Understanding the history of an organization—knowing where its core values come from—can help tailor change programs to the character of the business.

4. Set expectations

“Clear expectations prevent wriggle-room for mistakes,” Deven explained. “It means you can ask, ‘Do you not understand what was expected?’ or ‘Did I explain it wrong?”

5. Be brilliant in the basics

“What are the core standards you expect everyone to have? What are the basic skills that are needed? It’s not about job performance; this is about bare minimum expectations,” he said. For his squad of Marines, that meant basic first aid, understanding communication signals, and weapons training.

6. Standardize communications

“Define what different communication channels are used for,” Deven advised. Make it clear when a team should use instant messenger tools like Slack, email, or Workfront to share information.

7. Build trust

“This is hard to measure—it comes from the gut,” said Deven. The key step is to identify change agents within an organization who can help promote change. Those change agents have common attributes among their peers:

  • Influential
  • Respected
  • Impartial
  • Positive
  • Empathetic
  • Proactive.

8. Decentralize and empower

If you have established clear expectations, clear communication and aligned objectives, smaller teams will be empowered to act and innovate.

9. Execute with a plan

“We ask, 'What works for the tools you have and the type of work you do?'" said Deven. If the plan doesn’t fit the tools, the people, or the type of organization, it’s going to be tough to execute.

10. Reflect openly and often

“You can only reflect openly and often once you’ve built a culture of trust in your organization," said Deven. "As managers, we need to ask, ‘How can I help you do this better?’”

But what was the single biggest factor in managing change? one of the delegates asked him.

“Building a culture of resilience is the key thing,” Deven replied.

So, what would you add to Deven’s 10 key steps in successful change management? What lessons have you learned from live or past projects and experiences?


Get caught up on all of the stories coming out of Best of Leap 2017 with these posts:

"Get Ready For The 4 Challenges Shaping The Future Of Work" with Workfront CEO Alex Shootman

"8 Attitude Tools To Overcome Every Challenge, From The Woman Who Rowed Solo Across The Atlantic" with Debra Searle

"Send Spreadsheets Back To The 1980s And Unlock Right-First-Time Creativity" with Glenn Joyce at Boden

About the Author

Shelbi Gomez

Shelbi is an experienced public relations professional with experience in both agency and corporate marketing environments. She currently guides brand awareness, market research, analyst relations, and customer content. She has nearly a decade of BtoB and BtoC experience helping companies tell their stories in the changing media landscape — in traditional media outlets, social media, and now through content marketing.

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