Keith Hock, Senior Director ITOT, Digital Field Services & Innovation, Ameren
For more than two decades, I've driven the adoption of new technologies at St. Louis-based Ameren Corp., where I've worked for 34 years. In 2018, I was asked to lead the digital transformation to support the company's infrastructure upgrades across our service territory in Missouri and Illinois. Along the way, I've learned that success depends on a host of factors. But for this article, I'd like to focus on the invaluable role of our co-workers.
While accountability for successful change management begins and ends with leadership, no one can effect change alone. At Ameren, we are accountable to each other,to regulators and stakeholders but most of all to the more than 3 million customers who rely on us for their electric and gas service. Committed to our customer-centric values are more than 9,000 co-workers, from executive leadership to skilled craft professionals. In order for transformational change to succeed, we must engage and support each and every one of them.
Here are a few lessons I've learned along the way that might help others.
First, leaders must articulate a vision for the future that enables every front-line worker to understand what's in it for them and further ensure that they'll have the support and training they need to be successful.
Leaders also set the tone for the change management process, including for the leaders who report to them. That tone has far-reaching implications for success. That's why leaders must be consistently positive, supportive and committed. When leaders waiver in their commitment or begin pointing fingers, the process grinds to a halt. Disruption impedes success and demotivates even the most forward-thinking, change-receptive among us.
Leaders need help. They need to form a change team, consisting of front-line workers who are ambitious, collaborative and have a history of being early adopters to communicate frequently across the project teams and impacted user groups.
For our current transformation program, we formed project teams consisting of representatives from the digital organization, as well as the business lines. Leadership empowers these teams to make decisions. As the individual projects go into production,theseproject teams transition to standing agile product teams, where the product owner is a business user. Having a business user serve as the product owner, the person setting the priorities for continuous improvement, is best practice. So is transitioning project teams to standing teams, especially if this plan is communicated at the beginning of the project.
Team success is important, too. Team leaders must clearly define, communicate and reinforce roles and responsibilities for every team member and actively and consistently coach them. Doing so enables team members to most effectively execute their roles on the team.
And throughout the process, it's important to celebrate, recognize and reward. Transformation programs can take more than a year to fully implement. The road to transformation is almost never smooth. As a program expands, so too must efforts to keep team members motivated and focused on program goals and team success.
The ever-changing world of technology means that transformational change is here to stay, and it's not always easy to navigate. During major transformations, there will be rough spots in the road. The more people affected by change, the greater our responsibility to do it right. The more people involved, the more collaborative the process must be. Transformational change must take into account the sometimes competing values, goals, objectives, cultures and practices of everyone touched by the changes we make. The common denominator to success is the way in which we engage and support each other and every co-worker.
Jaša Žižek Fuis, Product Manager, Wastewater Treatment & Andreja Peternelj, Wastewater Treatment Development Manager, Treatment Plant & Tomaž Ružič, Product Manager, DISNet WS - Water systems, Petrol d.d., Ljubljana, Petrol Group