Focusing on the Bigger Picture
Written by Laura Stone
It’s time to re-conceive and rename the change management industry, to bring it to a higher level of maturity that will help make large, complex deals work better. The term “change management” misses an integral and much-needed strategic component: who keeps score on the satellite level so that all stakeholders understand their place in the bigger picture.
This big-picture understanding often gets lost quickly, especially as you go down in the organization, causing pain and misspent time. The outsourcing industry desperately needs mavericks to pave the way for moving from a transaction-based process to one that is more integrated, holistically and strategically focused on linking tasks to the larger corporate strategy.
These mavericks must start with a new way of contracting an engagement, emphasizing three key aspects.
1) Place the outcome of the work itself in a strategic context. What is the bigger picture’s impact on others? Because outsourcing is no longer about technology, but about relationships, the mavericks must engage in the relationships in a new way.
2) Understand how all the people involved experience the changes at issue. Mavericks must integrate the role of “stakeholder needs-keeper.” Every key player is concerned about a different issue or need, so the mavericks must squarely address who manages all these relationships and needs.
3) Address service level agreements (SLAs), during the contracting phase and after, to incentivize optimal behavior. Even when SLAs are “green” (meeting goals), people feel “red” (performance objectives and expectation not being met). Mavericks must make sure someone is responsible for quantifying the missing “red” factor so everyone understands.
These three aspects add up to a role that resembles a client account executive and a project management office, but neither term covers all the complexities. There is no name yet for these key relationship and engagement streams of work, but let’s sum up the new role for outsourcing mavericks this way: “always-keeping sight of the bigger picture’s impact on others, stakeholder-needs-keeper, identify-the-missing-SLA-so everyone-is-happy.” What’s your idea for a catchy new name for a role so central to the success of outsourcing projects?
Laura Stone is CEO of Stone + Company which helps leaders and their teams problem-solve the most socially complex issues and opportunities to deliver results they can be proud of. Her firm achieves this by transforming fragmented groups and/or strategies into a cohesive system with a crisp, focused plan for achieving superior performance and true team alignment FAST. To learn more, please visit: www.stoneandcompany.com or call 781.383.8383.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.