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Business Owner Terrence Seamon Uncovers What It Takes to Turn An Organization Around (Interview)

Q. What inspired you to start your own company?

The idea of having my own company has been in my heart and on my mind for most of my 30+ year career. I’ve always wanted to be my own boss. Call my own shots. Have a broad portfolio of clients. Variety. Diversity.

And one more thing: I’ve always wanted to make the world a better place. You can “make a dent” internally, but it’s just one company. As an external consultant, you can touch a wide range of organizations. Steve Jobs said, “Make a dent in the universe.” That’s what I want to do.

So the mission of my company is to facilitate learning so that individuals, teams, and organizations can improve, grow, and achieve success.

*Q. Tell us about a training experience that was particularly memorable. *

I was the Training Manager supporting a R&D unit in NJ of a global pharma-chemicals company based out of Germany. The business unit head flew to NJ for a management meeting and, to my great surprise, asked to see me. He said, “Please help them to change.”

He was talking about my client group, a community of research scientists and technicians. The change he was referring to was the need to become more customer focused. The customers were the business units in North Carolina and Texas, both of which were fed up with the lack of commercially viable new product ideas from the NJ R&D unit.

Over a number of years, the perception had formed that the R&D unit in NJ was an ivory tower, disconnected from the real needs of the revenue generating business units. What did I do?

Working in concert with local management, HR, and Quality, I developed several initiatives, including an intra-preneuring course that showed the scientists how to frame their new ideas as business proposals. As well received as this was, the real breakthrough was a series of new idea brainstorming sessions, comprised of max-mix groups where researchers met with reps from the business units.

A young researcher, during these brainstorming meetings produced many innovative ideas that excited the business units, and helped shift their perception of the NJ R&D unit. It was an experience where I learned some important lessons about changing deeply entrenched perceptions and what it takes to turn around an organization that was headed for the chopping block.

Q. If you could make a list with the top 5 things that it takes to turn an organization around, what would they be?

_1. A sense of urgency

2. A vision for the change (i.e. the desired end state)

3. A roadmap to get there, with clear roles, resources, and metrics

4. Lots of opportunities for involvement so that those affected by the change have a voice into the process

5. Unrelenting drum-beat and high visibility_

Q. What is the most challenging thing about creating cultural change in an organization?

Making it real and lasting.

By real, I mean more than just a fad, a slogan, or a new set of motivational posters. Real cultural change is behavioral. At the end of the day, the question is: Are we doing things differently?

By lasting, I mean institutionalizing the change, anchoring it (as John Kotter says) so that you can “hold the gains” and not slip back to the way we used to do things.

Q. What is the first question you ask the leaders of the business that requested your help?

Often the first question is “How can I help you?” which brings out their thinking on what the need(s) may be in their organization.

At some point, I will ask about the problems they are trying to solve; the skills they are trying to build in their people; the changes they are trying to drive in their business; and the results they hope to achieve with my help.

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