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Transformation calendar    Nov 28, 2023

The people perspective in transformations: Q&A with Leda Glyptis

Leda Glyptis shares her insights on why people within organizations are often catalysts for transformation.

We recently had the opportunity to connect with Leda Glyptis, a seasoned professional in the finance and technology sectors. As the author of 'Bankers Like Us,' the LedaWrites Fintech Futures column, and her consistent contributions to industry events and publications, she brings valuable advice to change and transformation.

Having navigated through roles in innovation, IT, and Operations within incumbent banks across diverse geographies, Leda shares insightful perspectives on why individuals often drive transformation projects within organizations. Skip ahead to:

How do individuals within an organization become catalysts for transformation, and what specific influence do they have in shaping this cause? 

We often hear about culture, structure, and hierarchy when discussing the necessity for organizational transformation. However, the real crux of the matter is people. Individuals play a pivotal role in creating obstacles at every level - individual, team, and throughout the organization. Take Enterprise organizations, for example; senior management often engages in back-to-back meetings all day. The need to capture their attention or time requires people to model their behavior in a certain way. This dynamic ultimately dictates how much time people have to think independently, and these patterns flow down through the business structure. 

It's not simply about the organizational setup; it's about the collective behaviors of the individuals. Inadvertently, they become catalysts for the need for transformation by creating a culture that impedes progress rather than fostering it.

How did we end up in a situation where stability hinders radical change?

There are a few reasons; take finance as an example, an industry that has evolved over centuries but has been relatively stable in the last 100 years in terms of business model and directional growth. This prolonged stability has led to the development of ingrained habits over time. The challenge here is that it becomes difficult to envision and embrace change when things have been steady. People naturally adapt to cues from rewarded and modeled behaviors in this environment. Over time, these cues shape inevitable patterns of behavior. 

Humans are creatures of habit, and despite the best intentions, attending a conference or listening to a podcast to inspire change might not lead to the action needed for sustained transformation. Realistically, people often find themselves reverting to familiar patterns shortly after expressing the intention to change - and end up back where they were in the first place. 

There's a common misconception associated with transformation: when people engage in digital transformation and focus on systems, they feel that because they are doing something to solve this, it is under control. This provides a false sense of security because they aren’t addressing the most complex part of change, which is people. Simply altering structures and workflows isn't enough; genuine transformation requires addressing the underlying behaviors and habits that drive organizational culture.

Where do you believe we currently stand in implementing change within organizations?

Acknowledging our current situation is one thing, but the real challenge lies in implementing change. It's still easier to defer the process, a classic case of kicking the can down the road. Quite simply, often, there’s a perception that it’s easier to let it be the next person's problem - making it become their responsibility through inadequate action. There is also the viewpoint that tomorrow will magically offer more time and less stress to address these challenges - a notion that rarely holds true.

Additionally, there tends to be a lot of avoidance around behavioral change. Even though we recognize the necessity for significant change, let's face it: it can be scary. It’s the same reason people avoid going to the dentist; it's necessary but can be intimidating.

What steps can we take to initiate effective change within organizations?

To kickstart meaningful change, it's essential to set realistic targets. Instead of thinking you will make a huge change overnight, change one habit and make sure you stick to it. While this approach may not be groundbreaking, it works. It could be as simple as setting time aside in your day for independent thinking or avoiding meetings without a clear agenda. 

Despite the common misconception that time is a limiting factor, the reality is that we all have the time. The key lies in prioritizing it effectively. People and organizations can lay the foundation for a more significant and sustainable transformation by adopting small, achievable changes and prioritizing time management.

What do we need to be conscious of during the process of change and transformation?

Breaking the process down into practical steps may seem simple, but there's no escaping the fact that transformation and change are mentally exhausting. Engaging in transformation involves taking on a huge amount of information and learning new skills, but at the end of the day, you are preparing for the unknown. It’s like packing for an expedition without being told any information about the conditions you need to prepare for.

How can we address the impact of inefficiency during the decision-making process? 

Some studies have shown that the mental load of decision-making remains consistent, irrespective of the decision's scale - be it deciding if you will hire someone or whether you will grant a contract to a vendor. Whether choosing a sandwich or making a hiring decision, despite the vastly different implications, the mental load is the same. For example, years ago, I was working on a presentation for the bank's President to guide them in selecting a specific technology, covering every detail needed for the decision. At the same time, I needed a new headset, which cost just over $100. To obtain approval for this relatively small expense, I had to submit a request to my boss's boss. This raises an interesting question - why was I trusted to provide all the information for a significant technology decision, but not to decide whether this headset was a necessary purchase?

Empowering teams to make decisions is imperative to enhance efficiency and eliminate bottlenecks. This involves delegating decisions to the appropriate levels, removing unnecessary burdens on individuals, and streamlining the decision-making process within organizations.

What key action can people take to foster an environment for change?

The key takeaway for those reading is to be honest about where you are currently at and articulate your strategy clearly to allow people to execute. This transparency can, in turn, change entire companies' individual and nuclear habits. To use an analogy - vague instructions like "Guard this bridge" fall short. In contrast, a clear strategy, such as "We need you to guard this bridge as there is an important statue at the end that we want to protect," provides a purposeful framework for informed decision-making.

Looking towards the future, is there hope for meaningful, long-term transformation?

I believe so, yes. A generational shift is underway, one that has only ever known a digital world, so they have less to transition towards and protect. Combined with the presence of a managerial generation that has experienced and driven change, this provides a solid foundation for optimism. This mix of factors gives us hope for a future filled with adaptive, forward-thinking transformations.

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Wherever you are in your journey, Stott and May Consulting provide a range of services through subject matter experts to support you through business change and transformation. Find out more and get in touch to see how we can collaborate and plan for success.

Author of ‘Bankers Like Us’ Leda Glyptis is a seasoned fintech executive and former banker with a career spanning two decades in technology and transformation. Specializing in leadership transitions and transformations, she works as an advisor to executive teams and boards at businesses of all sizes, from startups to global financial institutions.


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