Merck IT Transformation Ambassador Judith Chuisano shares lessons from her year in a pioneering role established to change the pharmaceutical company's culture.
By Judith Chuisano
Change is difficult for all of us.
The new "office hoteling" situation at Merck, for example, has been painful. I admit it. I silently whine. Our reservation-based, unassigned seating environment means that sometimes I am working out of a suitcase at a table by the company coffee bar. Or on a bad day I am working, with my earphones, in a—dare I say it—"cube."
Someday, I may get my wall art back from my lucky colleague to whom I "lent" it. Or, more likely, I will start to enjoy the benefits that go along with the hoteling model, which is still very new to me.
As a pioneer in the volunteer role of an IT transformation ambassador at Merck, I share this simple confession about our hoteling model to show that I understand the pain that often accompanies new ways of doing business.
In the last few years, I have witnessed significant upheaval and change in the pharmaceutical industry, so when I saw an announcement calling for IT transformation ambassadors posted on Merck’s internal Website, I was intrigued. Writing and submitting the required short essay explaining why I would be a good ambassador was far easier to do than I originally thought.
Energizing people to see the future, and convincing them that they want to be a part of it, is what I love to do. I have been involved with many large programs during my nearly two decades in IT, having to do with changing the way people perform their jobs, increasing customer value, and learning to better work together in global teams.
As my one-year appointment as a transformation ambassador winds down, I say to corporate IT leaders everywhere, "Trust me, you do need transformation ambassadors."
Here is why: In IT, we are always looking to innovate and improve. Every program I’ve ever worked for has had a significant transformation element to it. And, I've learned, we cannot underestimate the need for change management in IT programs.
The Need for Change
Change is the first step to get us on the path to greatness. It is how we find new and better ways not just to work, but to live our lives. Take, for example, Elizabeth Holmes who is shaking up the blood testing industry with her discovery of a new and vastly improved way to quickly analyze a few drops of blood at a fraction of the current cost.
IT leaders see the numbers, reports, spreadsheets, and bottom lines that demonstrate and drive the need for change. They craft elaborate strategic plans aimed to prepare for the increasingly technological future. Sometimes these plans are intelligently infused with business concepts, such as Agile, Lean Sigma and ITIL, that may be new to many of the IT employees in their organization.
This is where the IT transformation ambassador comes into the picture. You can have an award-winning plan, but your people need to be onboard for the journey.
People are, by far, the most important component of any organizational change. You need them to be involved so they can execute the vision. As one of about a dozen IT professionals at Merck who were the first wave of transformation ambassadors, I observed that a good transformation ambassador is an insightful individual who has an innate awareness of an organization’s undercurrents and can build trust with employees.
As an IT leader, you cannot be everywhere at once. The transformation ambassadors serve as your additional eyes and ears, and our feedback enabled leaders to continuously improve and fine-tune their transformation initiatives.
For the last year at Merck, the transformation ambassadors focused on these undercurrents. Amongst other actions, we performed the following:
- Paid up-close attention and spent a significant amount of time soliciting and listening to our IT colleagues’ opinions and thoughts on our IT transformation goals.
- Shared our gathered feedback with the corporate IT decision-makers.
- And, when possible, we shared and discussed our knowledge of key IT transformation strategies and processes in impromptu learning moments.