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8 questions and 8 pillars - interview with Leon Labovitch

Ahead of our networking event on “The Power of Creativity in Delivering Change”, Joel Kirkland talks with our speaker Leon Labovitch about his approach to change management and business transformation. Leon is a science graduate from Newcastle University and Imperial College London. His main career has been with a bio-science company, Monsanto, in the USA, followed by Shell International.  After working for a ‘Big 4’, Leon established The Labovitch Consultancy some 13 years ago.

Leon, talk to us about change…

Firstly, it’s important to think of every programme as a change programme. You can’t adopt a piecemeal approach – everything is connected; if you change a part of the business, it will affect other parts. For example, if you introduce a new information system, it can’t be done in isolation, for it will undoubtedly cause operations and ways of working to change. But change can be a bit complicated and I always want to help clients by explaining ‘what do you do in a change programme?’ so that they can plan, and importantly understand, the delivery of change.  I call it the 8 Pillars of Change. 


That makes sense - at Interim Partners we see increasing drivers across industry and government to embrace change as a constant. Therefore, an easy to understand and effective method would be really useful. Tell us about your approach.

I want to point out that firstly you must have a business case in order to embark on a change programme. It can be driven by M&A activity, business in distress, hyper growth targets and new connectivity, but whatever it is the business case must be signed off at the Exec Level.


I completely agree. Prior to executing a transformation piece for a client, we often engage one of our associates to carry out a 2-4 week diagnostic in order to put together a business case. How do you ensure you have buy-in at the exec level?

I’m sure you’ll agree that business overall and especially change is all about relationships, and clients engage highly experienced, competent interims whom they trust to deliver. Buy-in, trust and value are only achieved when the assignment is approached as a partnership at the exec level and throughout the organisation.


So.. don’t leave us hanging. What are your 8 pillars of change?

Well I will share with you a preview… The 8 Pillars cover planning and execution with supporting toolkits, all important engagement, managing resistance and developing culture. Highlighted in red are those pillars where creativity has a real role to play.



What are the key challenges?

Delivery is the most challenging aspect of any change programme as the full range of business and human factors come together.  Using the 8 Pillars of Change is both rational and creative and it’s essential to emotionally engage with key stakeholders. It’s also important to bring a sense of reality into the project and equilibrate the client’s knowledge and experience of change with one’s own, and set reasonable expectations. For example, I’ve had clients ask ‘why hasn’t culture changed?’ six weeks into a major transformation. These are the real, practical challenges which can be encountered.


And what are the advantages?

This is essentially a practical guide and should be helpful to all clients. Sometimes other change methodologies can be rather theoretical and academic. We’ve had great traction with 8 Pillars across a wide range of sectors from life sciences to banking, through to retail. The 8 Pillars give the much needed touch points and a road map for us to follow. Most important is the focus on delivery and consequently realising benefits. Next week I’ll describe in detail how the Pirbright Institute went from a failed organisation to one at the top of its game, attracting large funding flows from across the globe and establishing world leadership in its field.


Can you give me some examples of how you have introduced lasting change?

You’re right to focus on lasting change, because change which doesn’t ‘stick’ is unlikely to transform an organisation. In all cases a creative approach has emotionally engaged everyone. During the Business Breakfast I’ll show how we ‘reinvented’ the UK’s bio-science Pirbright Institute through reforming all parts of the organisation, but particularly Risk and Assurance. Many successful projects have been in engineering, defence, telecoms, financial services and government. We relaunched the subsea company Acergy with new deep sea engineering capabilities, engaging staff in upcoming technologies and delighting the oil major clients (Shell, Total etc.).  The CEO’s annual report stated that ‘Labovitch had effectively reinvented the company’ moving from a failing organisation to multiple fold increases in earnings and profitability.


At Interim Partners we use our ROI methodology to help clients achieve great outcomes. How do you ensure you leave an organisation in a much better place than when you arrived?

Successful change is both rational and creative and change must address real business needs of the client. I ensure we are clear on tasks, actions and outcomes for the business for at least a year after I have officially handed over. True change happens when people are engaged and work in new ways, answering the question ‘what does this mean for me?’.  New identity, strong motivation and engagement form part of the creative approach.


Joel Kirkland is the Senior Consultant at Interim Partners specialising in Pharmaceuticals and Technology

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