David Martinez is Senior Business Strategy and Analysis Manager for the Founder Department at Vulcan Inc. in Seattle, where he is leading the effort to build a change management program. He didn’t start out as a change practitioner. Instead, he worked in other areas that were a natural fit, and eventually headed down his own unique journey to change management. Here’s how he got started.
David, before we talk about how you started your journey, can you describe your role at Vulcan Inc. for our readers?
Sure. My current role is to help build and execute a change management program that meets the needs of Vulcan Inc. Another task has been to help support development of a project management office. I'd say these two areas have been my primary focus over the last year. Occasionally we add a task, such as to inventory everything in the company, and my role is to determine how to go about it.
Where you are on the practitioner path today seems advanced. How did you get started in change management?
Before I joined Vulcan, I was a consultant. What led me to change management was some of my first roles as a project manager, and really understanding what a true broad, complex project was. And when we're talking about adoption and usage, what that really means. Having clear scope, timelines, and a good project plan. And understanding who the people involved were. This particular large project I was working on was global, and we had a lot of partners from around the world, so understanding their needs was an early lesson.
Next, I worked in a technology group helping onboard the team to Agile methodology, gathering and managing requirements from a business level, a technical level, and a functional level. If I relate that to change management, that was the Awareness stage to me. When you're capturing requirements, you're sitting with stakeholders and they're telling you what they need out of this solution. You're not making promises, but you're building that early level of Awareness to say, "Hey, this is what we're trying to do, tell me what you need out of it." And at that same time, you're bringing people along to Desire. For this to be successful, this is what your stakeholders need.
Later, I was the training and development lead for our firm. That drove me to understand the learning needs of the people I was working with, which maps to that K level of understanding and assessing, “How are we building Knowledge?”
Consulting really helped build the experience I needed when the firm decided to add change management as one of our capacities. And I was in the first group to go through the Prosci Change Management Certification. That really connected all the dots for me.
When Vulcan’s founder, Paul Allen, passed away, your company went through a reorganization. How did your change management background help you?
You know, when people go through a significant change, if I go back into my Kübler-Ross of seven stages, that initial shock everyone feels is, “Why now?” It’s one of those times when people go from zero to me. And anytime you're doing any kind of reorganization, people get frustrated and say, "You don't understand what I do." We tried to be as transparent as possible, still caring for each impacted individual, taking our time, sharing the story—but knowing at the end of the day, people aren't going to be happy. Taking from Prosci best practices, we decided not to sugarcoat it. We had just lost our founder. Let’s not say this isn't a big thing. This is us trying to figure out what's next.
Coming to the realization that we weren't just painting the roses red and hiding things actually helped us build credibility for change management. While people were frustrated and upset, it allowed us to grow and change. Because we were kicking off change management at the same time, this helped us get high-level involvement from people across the company to say, "All right, well, we know more change is coming, and we want to be a part helping to shape it to make sure our employees are taken care of."
What backgrounds and skills do you think help make change practitioners successful?
Having a learning and development background is very helpful, especially in understanding learning preferences. Some people want learning that is very direct, quick training with bullet points, and want to learn largely on their own. Others need an in-person or Zoom conversation to ask questions and go back and forth.
I think anyone with a strategic background, such as an analyst or consultant could be a good fit. And someone who has a good background in facilitation. So much about change management is not having the answer to the question. It's how you ask the question to get the group to interact.
So, if you take something like the Project Change Triangle, the PCT, it’s not about the score. It's about everyone in the room having the dialogue and asking the questions, you know, “Why is this scored a one? What makes you feel like this? What can we do to improve these scores?”
That's true of every element of any documentation you create. It's not about the answer itself, it's that everyone's on the same page. The key part of being a good change leader is having that ability to facilitate that dialogue and get all the right stakeholders talking to one another. I find that when my role goes silent as I sit in some of the larger meetings, it's because I'm seeing that facilitation happening. And when I do get involved, it's to ask a question.
Where do you see yourself going next on your change practitioner journey?
The ADKAR Model is such as a great acronym for an individual's journey, to continue to assess where I am on this journey. Am I at the Awareness stage, or am I at Desire? That's been a big part of what we've been trying to do at Vulcan, to have everyone reflect and say, "My individual role is to know where I am in the change journey. Am I passively or actively resisting this change? What can I be doing to make things better?" So, what’s next for me is just to continue to grow, build change capability, and see where it takes me.
Want to explore more change practitioner journeys? Download our infographic.
Laura Powers is a marketing writer at Prosci. Formerly a freelance writer, she has helped many businesses engage readers with topics ranging from logistics and consumer products to higher education and professional services. Today Laura helps Prosci's readers better understand the people side of change and the many ways the Prosci Methodology can lead to greater success on must-win initiatives.
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