Chief Information Officer

VP of Network Services at Aon Talks About “Leading Transformation”

Munu Gandhi, Vice President of Network Services at Aon Corporation, walked the audience through the steps to overcome organizational inertia.

Gandhi began his keynote presentation at the 2016 Chief Information Officer Leadership Forum held on September 20 in Chicago by stating that leading organizational and cultural change isn’t easy. “This takes a lot of effort, energy, focus, and drive. We’ve all heard, ‘When culture meets strategy, culture wins every time.’ Our ability to drive change is becoming ever more important,” he observed.

“When a new leader comes on board, it’s generally an exciting time. A new person comes in to address an opportunity or challenge in the organization. There’s a fundamental change that needs to happen to support or serve the customers—employees, partners, supply chain—to create a more effective organization. If we’re that new person, we have the ability to change the way our organization thinks, speaks, and delivers into the marketplace,” said Gandhi.

“When a new leader comes on board, it’s generally an exciting time. If we’re that new person, we have the ability to change the way our organization thinks, speaks, and delivers into the marketplace.”

“Yet, many transformations fail, even with that focus and energy,” said Gandhi. “As I’ve watched this happen, I relearned the concept of inertia—‘objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force.’ In thinking about organizational change, you can replace ‘object’ with ‘organization’ or ‘culture.’ During my first efforts at creating transformational change, I did everything by the book, but we weren’t able to move as fast as I or the business thought we should. That was because of the inertia in the organization. One man or one woman can’t do this by themselves. We need the organization to help drive this change,” he stressed.

“During my first efforts at creating transformational change, I did everything by the book, but we weren’t able to move as fast as I or the business thought we should. That was because of the inertia in the organization.”

Gandhi continued, “Inertia is caused by people becoming immune to all the talking heads. Leadership talks about the wonderful things that are going to happen, but often what actually happens is restructuring and downsizing. So people stop listening and give up. They know they’ll outlast you, because they’ve done that with your predecessors. They’ve seen all us talking heads come and go.”

Gandhi outlined the steps a new leader must take to be successful in a transformational environment:

• Do what you ‘have’ to do. Create a 100-day plan and know what you want to accomplish in that time. Find out who the customers are and what they think about your company’s services and products. “This includes IT. We need to understand any messes that have affected our customers and address them, because the customers remember those things,” stated Gandhi.
• Do things from the heart and with good heart. “Before you even show up, employees in the company have given up on you, because they’ve been through these programs before and nothing changed,” said Gandhi. “If you think about serving your business and colleagues, you’ll start to move that inertia. If you speak from your heart, people know. And, this will make you feel good about yourself.”
• Work to serve your customers and your people. “As a leader, you’re a sales and marketing professional,” noted Gandhi. “We’re selling ourselves, our strategy, and our organization to whoever we’re working and interfacing with. We have to be a trusted advisor and we have to be a customer advocate. Speak to people in their language. Sell your vision to your teams. Tell them what’s in it for them and how you’ll support them.”
• Do things with passion. “As a leader, you’re always on stage,” observed Gandhi. “People listen to you and then talk to each other about you. Use this to your advantage.”
• Continually challenge today…and transform tomorrow. “Make small changes, get small wins, and this will build your trust, credibility, and respect within the organization to create a currency you can use to make the big-rock changes,” said Gandhi.
• Build relationships up, down, and across the organization. “To do this, you need to know how things work in your organization. Rarely do you find an organization that works exactly like the organizational hierarchy we typically see. What happens is that things are accomplished through informal networks.”

“Make small changes, get small wins, and this will build your trust, credibility, and respect within the organization to create a currency you can use to make the big-rock changes.”

Visit Argyle Executive Forum's 2019 CIO Leadership Forum: Embracing the Digital Revolution, from Information to Transformation in San Francisco, CA on Sep 10, 2019

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