It's all about solving problems...
I’ve worked in Change roles ever since I joined Aviva’s (then Norwich Union’s) graduate scheme. Having graduated from Lancaster University with a 2.1 in Politics, Philosophy and Economics I tried to follow the same career path as many of my peers – get on a blue-chip graduate scheme and worry about the next 40 years at a later date.
I eventually achieved that goal a year later after a hiatus which included working on a building site where I got the nickname Einstein simply because I had a degree. I got onto the Norwich Union grad scheme via the back door. While working in their finance department as a temp I saw an internal advert for the scheme. My initial application was accepted and after attending the assessment centre, I was the only candidate to be offered a role.
The scheme required me to undertake 4 different placements, the first of which was in the UAT test team. I wont lie, when I was at University and my life consisted of drinking snakebite and black and playing football, I never imagined I’d end up working as a UAT test manager for an Insurance company. Little did I realise that this would be the first stop on an enjoyable career path that exposed me to the vast range of roles that require a change management skill set.
During my time at Norwich Union / Aviva, followed by a couple of years at HSBC and then landing back at Aviva as a contractor, I’ve held various roles which have allowed me to develop skills in idea generation, business analysis, process improvement (Lean Six Sigma), testing, programme management, implementation planning and issue management – pretty much the full change lifecycle. In that time I’ve enjoyed a number of successes and received a lot of positive feedback. I’ve also learned a lot from the mistakes I’ve made. I also realised I was good at something that was a benefit in every role I’d held – the ability to solve problems.
At their basic level, each of the roles listed above are all to do with solving problems. Idea generation? Solving the problem of changing customer demands and needing new products to meet them. Business Analysis? Solving the problem that an IT system or process doesn’t meet the needs of the users or customers. Process Improvement? Solving the problems of poor process flow, too much variation or too much waste (usually all three).
Even when you break those roles down to the micro level, each minute, hour and day is filled with mini problems to solve. How do we ensure all stakeholders are kept informed? How do I know which requirements are the most important? Who knows the most about this process? How do I resolve this system defect? What outcome am I trying to achieve with this piece of code?
In my opinion, whatever your specialism is, being a good problem solver is key to being a successful Change practitioner. Supplementing your technical skills and knowledge with softer skills that support problem solving should be a priority and will help you to stand out among your peers. The ability to listen and assimilate information. Not being afraid of asking why, then why, then why again until you understand the real problem at hand. Being able to connect information sources to build a picture of what’s going on around you, as well as knowing who to go to if you can’t solve a problem yourself. Some of this will come naturally, others will require introspection and a development plan. Ultimately, these are key skills you should look to develop alongside your practical specialism.
Feel free to comment on the blog or contact me via LinkedIn, Twitter or email. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’ve read here. Please also get in touch if you would like to know how to maximise your own problem-solving capabilities. I’d be more than happy to help!