There’s a common misperception across many organizations that “change” is some sort of discrete event or initiative, or maybe a single project or checklist of items.
In fact, change “is the underlying theme of all the things we do in our business and professional lives,” according to our VP of Solutions Consulting, Chris Anderson. In the alternative investment/institutional investment marketplace, the ability to address change effectively “is the primary element that separates the wheat from the chaff,” Chris said recently during a PartnerConnect webinar titled, “Want to Drive Operational Efficiency? The C-Suite Needs to Lead Operational Change.”
“The key skill that we find in those that are successful in the space the speed with which they can find comfort and stability in those times of change,” Chris told the audience. In practice, top performers in financial markets thrive in times of chaos, uncertainty and volatility because they have systems for addressing change and confidence in those systems.
Those systems are part of the culture at organizations that embrace change, and shaping such a culture starts at the top.
Reflecting on solution implementations he’s seen, Chris stated that the greatest single determinant of success is the C-level leading the change as a role model for the organization. Leadership’s appetite for change and willingness to embrace it ultimately is manifested across the organization. “The C-suite that leads by example, by taking ownership of the change, they’ve been far more effective in implementations and as growing users.”
Turning to technology in times of change
Other panelists in the webinar discussed their organizations’ experiences adopting technology solutions that created massive change, as well as the underlying drivers of change.
Star Mountain Capital made a deliberate decision to embrace technology as a core element of the organization’s business. Brett Hickley, Star Mountain’s founder and CEO, told the audience, “That focus on technology really requires a top-down buy-in from leadership.” The firm’s technology investment is significant, not just in dollars but in time, he said, and to maximize the return on that investment leadership must be willing to understand technology, use it, and invest in it.
Growth drove the need for technology solutions at FF Venture Capital, according to partner John Frankel. “We found that as the firm was growing there really was a loss of a centralized record,” he said. Meeting participants often had different perceptions of how the firm was doing, “because everyone was relying on their memory,” he said. “And we really felt that wasn’t a good way to manage a firm.”
Alison Andrews Reyes, general partner at venture capital firm 1843 Capital, recalled that they needed a system to provide a repository for all the spreadsheets and years of contacts the partners brought to 1843 Capital’s formation. Although at first they decided to tailor a generalized CRM solution because of affordability, that decision was “ultimately what went wrong with this project.” The system’s automated contact integration led to corruption of information that required a data cleansing exercise. In the end, the firm shifted to a solution purpose-built for private equity.
The power of partners
Success isn’t a given in any venture, but a significant factor in many organizations’ success has been the quality of the partners helping them, according to Chris.
“A good partner is probably someone who can help you articulate why you’re undertaking the initiative and what success looks like,” he explained. “That’s a good partner. A great partner then asks you what success looks like a year or two out. But the best partner will be the one that tells you how other people got there quicker, or provides you a roadmap that has been tested through successful use cases to give you confidence that you can realize the outcomes you’re looking for.”
Change isn’t easy, that’s for sure. But organizations that have leaders who personally embrace and lead change have a much better shot at creating lasting change.