Confessions of a Consultant with Emily McPherson

Our second consultant to spill their confessions is Emily McPherson, or Em as she is known within Engage Squared. Em also happens to be my mentor, so it was extra special to interview her because I know first hand just how inspiring and knowledgeable she is! Em is a key member of our dynamic change and adoption team and has recently moved into our new practice architect role.

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Emily McPherson and I am a Senior Change Consultant.

I joined Engage Squared 3 years ago. Prior to joining Engage Squared I worked in the banking and retail sectors. I started my career in the banking industry where I first got introduced to working on large enterprise projects. After working as a business analyst and business continuity analyst, I decided to move into change management as I found a passion to focus on the people side of change.

What do you enjoy about your role?

Being able to make someone’s work life easier by simplifying day to day tasks and streamlining their processes, and of course seeing that ‘ah-ha’ moment.

Something I love about working for a small consultancy like Engage Squared is that every client is different. We get insights into all different industries and organisations, meet their people, learn so much about what they do and walk away knowing we’ve made something easier for them.

What are some common pitfalls you see in your work?

In change and adoption, a big one is not being involved at the beginning of a project, or projects simply not including any form of change management. Too often, we are brought in after a change has already been implemented because that project did not have an effective change management approach in place.

Something else I often see is overlooking the end user impact, we may assess the change from an organisation standpoint but sometimes an individual user group level is overlooked, often due to budget availability. The problem here being that we may misdirect user impacts, ways we can reduce these impacts and reinforce key what’s in it for me messaging to these users, which can make them resistant.

How can you avoid these pitfalls?

Always incorporating some aspect of change management across any form of change that’s going across the organisation. If you don’t have the resources to do that, think about bringing in a specialist to do that for you – like us!

In terms of understanding end user impacts, that’s where it’s really important to complete a thorough change and business impact assessment.  Too often we see assumptions made about different areas of a business, instead I recommend spending a bit of extra time and interviewing those users themselves to hear directly from them, understand what’s working for them, what’s not working for them, and how they’ll be impacted.

What at the key things that make a project successful?

I’ll share my top three…

1. Defining your vision for success and understanding what outcomes you’re trying to achieve, what business problems you’re trying to solve and the key benefits your organisation and people will receive from the change being successful.

2. Active and visible sponsors and leaders. Those who are impacted by change want to hear about why it is happening, the importance and the benefits for them from a leader they trust.

3. When working with a vendor like Engage it’s key to work as a team together not as two separate project teams from either side. Learn from each other, work out loud and keep those communication lines open!

How do you define success?

1. Minimising business and end user impacts.

2. Recognising that some of your key benefits are being achieved and continuing to see growth in these benefits into BAU.

3. How quickly and proficiently end users adopt the change and keeping track qualitative and quantitative measures from a bench line post implementation through to BAU.

4. Hearing positive feedback from those directly impacted.

Have you seen any big updates within your industry?

The latest change that’s been taking up a lot of my time lately is  Microsoft Viva Insights. With the uptake in remote work over the past year and the back and forth between remote and hybrid ways of working with lockdown, the line between work and life has blurred. We’re always on. Not only is this taking a direct impact on employee wellbeing, but it can create a impact on an organisations productivity. Viva Insights provides organisations and individuals with insights and recommendations that can help everyone work smarter and achieve balance.

Something that has stood out with working with a lot of organisations with Viva insights, many leaders who may not be supportive of remote work assume that  productivity has dropped. However, more often than not once we look into their insights we have found quite the opposite, but it has showed individuals working in ways that suite them, whether that’s working around home schooling or looking after family.

What does an ideal project team look like for you?

I think there are two key building blocks for an ideal project team, a team that trusts each other and can communicate effectively:

Building trust with your team. Creating a positive team atmosphere from the beginning. Team members should feel comfortable to speak their mind, take risks and not be afraid of mistakes.

Open communication. Many problems I’ve seen often come back to lack of communication. It’s so important that your team members (no matter what their role is) feel free to express their thoughts and opinions at any time, whilst we as a team can listen, ask questions and take on feedback with an open mind.

Thanks for the interview, Em!

If you enjoyed our interview with Em and are interested in the types of projects she has managed, take a look at our RMIT case study.

Next month we chat to Practice Lead, Rachel Harnott, for our third and final instalment of ‘Confessions of a Consultant’. If you missed our first instalment with Gorica Mitrovic, you can read this here.

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