The programme has given me huge insights and tools that I have applied to new initiatives. But it’s not just that. Taking this programme has given me a fresh understanding of previous initiatives and projects that we have delivered – how we might have achieved the same successes, but with less effort and without running quite as many risks.
Maria, what brought you to the Leading Change in an Age of Digital Transformation programme in 2021?
At my company we’re already digital natives, but when you’re looking to drive a complete, end-to-end digital transformation, you really need to go that extra mile to ensure that everyone in the organisation is aligned, and on board. It’s an ambitious goal and you have to be very sure about who your key stakeholders are and how to mobilise them. This is where we found ourselves in 2021, after the very stormy waters of 2020. As we began to gain momentum as an organisation this year and brace for transformation, I increasingly felt it was time for me to invest in my own skills and aptitudes to prepare myself for what was to come, and to bring in that outside expertise and perspective to ensure our success in what we wanted to achieve.
I already know several INSEAD alumni. These are contacts and colleagues whom I admire enormously, and whose talent, values and success as professionals are beyond doubt. So when it came to looking for a school, I already had a great reference in INSEAD, and I wasn’t prepared to go for second best in any way.
Beyond that, the programme itself really resonated with me. I was drawn to the focus on people and processes as the key success factor in these kinds of transformations – the understanding that it is the human dimension, rather than the technology, that determines how effectively you can enact change. That’s something that absolutely aligns with my experience in business and it’s what totally tipped the scales in favour of this programme.
Taking a programme in 2021 obviously meant you had to experience the learning virtually. Was that a concern for you?
Well, I think anyone who comes to a great business school like INSEAD will be looking for the networking opportunities that come with the experience. Personally, I wanted that too – I wanted an experience as close to person-to-person as possible – but, like everyone else, I didn’t want the risk or the huge disruption of being away from home. In the event, I was surprised by just how effective it was to learn in a virtual format. The programme was very well organised to promote group cohesiveness from the start, and the class atmosphere was excellent.
How would you describe the learning experience?
Incredibly efficient. You receive and prepare all materials ahead of the classroom interaction, so there is no room for error and plenty of opportunity to use the interactive time to explore ideas and exchange perspectives. It was just very well organised on the part of INSEAD. We were rotated around small groups of participants so everyone had a chance to interact together. I would say it was the closest to being on campus that you can get, without actually being onsite.
What were the highlights of the programme for you?
I found the case studies very illuminating and insightful. They give you a chance to see concepts and dynamics in action, as it were. I also really appreciated the small group exercises with different peers. Again, these experiences generated real insights. And finally, I’d add that our professor was happy to add his own thoughts and his experiences quite informally at the end of each lesson which helped bring the learning together.
What have you taken away from the programme specifically?
First off, I’d say that there’s the understanding that each phase of digital transformation is critical. There is no one phase that carries more weight than others. From Initial Ignition through to Escape Velocity, you need to apply the same commitment and momentum. Then I’d say that the critical learning is around people. And here it’s about using emotions to drive engagement and really bring people onboard when you are asking them to change. It’s also about focusing on behaviours just as much as it is about mindsets. These were really illuminating takeaways for me.
And have you implemented these takeaways back at the workplace?
Yes I have. The programme has given me huge insights and tools that I have applied to new initiatives. But it’s not just that. Taking this programme has given me a fresh understanding of previous initiatives and projects that we have delivered – how we might have achieved the same successes, but with less effort and without running quite as many risks.
So would you recommend Leading Change in an Age of Digital Transformation to a peer?
Absolutely. I’d recommend this programme to anybody in a senior role who has the opportunity to lead a digital transformation and wants to maximise their chances of success.