Leading strategic change in the utility C-suite.
Robert Spencer is principal of Change Consulting Associates, and previously was a partner at Accenture and manager of administration at Puget Sound Energy before that. Kellye Walker is chief administrative officer and general counsel at American Water, a publicly traded water and wastewater utility based in New Jersey.
A couple of years ago a major consulting firm reported in a survey of its clients that two thirds of their change programs failed. This is a disheartening number that suggests an uphill battle for those seeking to make change. But notwithstanding such challenge, when CEOs and their top teams are appropriately engaged—and they demonstrate a critical set of change leadership capabilities—they can greatly increase their chance of success.
The skills and strategic capabilities required of the top leaders in a successful change program are more demanding than those of leaders at lower levels, and they serve to distinguish effective executives from competent department heads. Specifically, seven commonly recognized strategic change capabilities differentiate those who succeed from those who fail. Though many companies have had varying levels of success by implementing some number of these capabilities, experience working with several dozen utilities on major change programs suggests that success depends on mastery of each of them.
Anecdotes from these real-world experiences help to describe each capability and also illustrate how each has influenced the outcomes of various utility change programs. While the names have been changed to respect confidentiality, each story reflects a real change program experience at a North American utility.
Executive Teamwork and Coherence