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May 3, 2022

E011 Ema Roloff: Automation & Change Management Expert

The Unexpected Effect of Soft Skills, Leadership & The People Element in Your Change Management Efforts.

Ema Roloff is a widely recognized Intelligent Automation & Change Management expert working with the team at Naviant.

She is the Host of the YouTube series Digital Transformation Talks and the Co-Host of the LinkedIn Live series The Third Thursday, where she has conducted over 100 expert interviews in the space of Digital Transformation and Innovation.

LinkedIn: @emaroloff


Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 0:07
Once upon a time, there were millions of businesses struggling. Every day they wasted time, effort and money on repetitive tasks. That added no value. One day, the better automation podcast by process CEO came to help them find a way. Because of this, these businesses save time, reduce costs, innovate and make better decisions. And because of that, these businesses grow, scale, and use human creativity to change this world. Hello, my name is Aziz, and I'm your host that better automation podcast by process CO, where I interview the world's top experts and share their very best ideas on how to improve automation in your business, processes, and life. My guest today is Ema Roloff. Ema is a widely recognized Intelligent Automation and Change Management Expert working with the team at Naviant. She helps insurers navigate digital transformation with consulting and technology solutions. She has a vast experience in helping enterprise organizations address their top it priorities and developing solutions for process automation. She is the host of the YouTube series Digital Transformation Talks, and the Co-Host of the LinkedIn Live series The Third Thursday, where she has conducted over 100 expert interviews in the space of Digital Transformation and Innovation. Ema, How are you today?

Ema Roloff 1:59
I'm doing great, thank you so much for having me.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 2:03
It's my honor. It's my privilege. And I'm really excited about our time together. So to begin, I would like to know what kind of mistakes or problems do you seem to notice observe or encounter when you notice companies trying to do digital transformation, change management or go through any projects that will help improve their automation.

Ema Roloff 2:30
So you kind of set me up perfectly for where I see a lot of the challenges come into play. When we look at digital transformation as a whole, it's a super, super wide topic. And I think the definition is a little different for everybody. But ultimately, what we're talking about is bringing in technology to enable your people and your processes to be more efficient with the tools that we have at our disposal today. But I think the biggest challenge that companies have is that their mindset when we say the word digital transformation goes directly to that technology that's doing that enabling, as opposed to looking at the people and the processes that we're looking to enable with technology. And so that leads me to kind of that idea of change management and the diet idea of people driven change. Now, I would be very naive to say that technology in the right solutions is not a part of this equation, I just don't think it is the main driver in the same way that we've given it the ability to be. And to be successful with transformation, I think there's really two key areas that people have to focus on from the people side of things. And that's a shared vision across the organization. And that shared vision typically starts with your executive team. And I think were a big challenge with transformation has come especially in larger companies, is not necessarily having a shared vision across all the departments and all the leaders that helps them accomplish this really big goal of digital transformation. So when you can start with that shared vision, and it doesn't have to be minute to like, we're going to automate every process with XY and Z tools. But rather, this is the end goal of where we want to get our organization. And this is what we see our role and our mission to be and we want to enable that with technology, then that starts to trickle down to what I would say is the second most important thing and the piece that sometimes I see missing, and that's that ability to turn that vision into a y and that y into individual What's In It For Me statements. And so again, starting at your executive level understanding where you want to take the company you need that need to take that vision into a driving statement to help everybody understand why you're changing. Help them get behind the idea by understanding what's going to be to their advantage. edge from these changes. So whether that's helping them understand, you don't have to do this manual work anymore, or we're going to offset a certain percentage of what you do every day, so that your workload is more manageable. Or we really want you to bring forward the value that's uniquely you, and uniquely human. So we're going to bring in this automation that allows you to do a better job of that. And helping people understand why they should support a change so that when you eventually do bring in that technology, it's supported and adopted.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 5:31
Thank you. So if I understood you correctly, actually, there are three things and two of them relate to one thing, which is the people. The first is that the C suite should have what is called the army, the Commander's Intent where they don't really go into the minut details of how things should be executed, but have one vision where everybody is on one boss is going in the same direction as well, as I remember there is that saying that you cannot convince somebody to do something, or to understand something, if their salary depends on them not understanding it. So you make it sure that that relates to their work to their what's in it for me, or as they say, the best or the people's favorite radio station is wi I fm, which, which is what's in it for me. Therefore, you have to link the commander's intent with the Wi IFM, as well as processes, which reminds me of Peter Drucker quote, that there is nothing as useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all, which is making sure that you have processes that do add value that contribute to that vision, or Commander's Intent, that actually are executed in a way that either makes the workload as you said, easier makes their job better, more creative, more fulfilling, or whatever it is that I understand correctly.

Ema Roloff 7:03
Yeah. And I would add you, you kind of led me directly into another big part of again, having a process focus. So you mentioned that idea of, you know, why would we do something that doesn't make sense for us to do and I think anybody that lives and breathes in the space of automation, or transformation, has heard somebody say, well, that's just like always the way we've done it. And that that idea is kind of the bane of innovation and transformation, because you when you're doing something strictly because that's why you've always done it, and you don't understand the why behind it, there's likely an opportunity for you to improve the way that you're managing that process as well.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 7:42
I love what you're saying, Yes, I remember, even to me, I was speaking to someone who was speaking, telling me about how when they join a company, they're finding it difficult to get their hands on processes. And I told them, Look, I noticed that if I don't create the process, I don't understand the why have it enough. And therefore, it's not really that depth of level to be able to work with it at the when you understand the whys, as you mentioned, well, you spoke about change management, there are people that argue that actually, systems are there, and you know, human systems organizations to survive and perpetuate themselves. And therefore, change is the most difficult thing ever, because there is a status quo bias and homeostasis, where any system you try to change will really powerfully try to return to the old habits, even if they were useless or did not serve, do you find this to be true? Or do you find that there is a lot of flexibility and openness and change when you have that vision and when you have that personnel benefit?

Ema Roloff 8:56
So I think you're spot on at our like, at a biological level, that homeostasis is something that like we are trying to keep afloat. And it's from the protection standpoint. And you know, we could we could get into all like what change meant at a biological level when we were, you know, not to the point where we are today. But it's important to recognize that that's a part that's innate to humans. And I think that's why the What's In It For Me component is so important and helping people really understand that specific driver for for the change on their side. The other side of kind of the, the biological component of change is that so a couple of months ago, I did a interview with a clinical psychologist named David Luiz B. And he does a lot of taking that clinical psychology and applying it to change within digital transformation. And one of the things that he said that's kind of like burned into my brain now is that there's also a certain amount of change that our brains can take in a certain amount of change that we can internalize individually. And so that makes it sound really big and intimidating when you're looking at changing a process for a big company. But that's, again, that uniquely human part of it that comes. So if somebody has, you know, a child going off to college, and they've got a new car, and they are downsizing their house, that's a lot of change that that person individually is taking. So it's going to be harder for them to then accept changes that are coming to work or coming to them from work, and harder for them to like, do the things that they need to do to adapt to that change. But if you can recognize that that's the case and help them understand the purpose behind the change, it might be easier for them to take that on. And when you're, again, like going back to that example, they understand that their child needs to grow up and come out of the nest and move forward. It's not an easy change, but they understand the why behind it. Maybe the downsize is because they don't want to have to clean the house. And there's a motivating factor for them to do that. And the new cars because they like shiny, new fancy things. All of those changes are impacting them and impacting the way that they interact with the world and take on other changes. But there's individual drivers behind each one of them, that make those a priority for their brain to manage, you need to help them get that prioritization and the why behind the change individually, to be able to get them on board with it. And that's again, going to be a job of the individual to kind of help get to that point, because you made the the argument earlier that their wage, and their job likely is tied to accepting those changes. But then also each individual manager along the way, working with their team to understand that. And so I think the other side is, you know, we're always so focused on requirements and building out the solution and testing that the technology does its job, but are we making sure that all of the managers that are leading these changes, understand how to support their team through that, I think is something that maybe we aren't always paying as much attention to the soft skills that come with transformation as we need to.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 12:06
That to me sounds 100%, like the definition of leadership, as well as it reminds me of kaizen or the Japanese constant improvement idea that if you improve 1% a day, which is not the big change, that will be somewhat very scary to the organism or to the human being within a year, you will be 37 times, you know better, which is incredible, but it was so incremental, that's almost imperceptible, and well to ask you then, and let's bring it to people listening. Let's say there is a company they want to change, they need to change their survival depends on this change project or automation project or anything new, how would you recommend they go about creating that change in a more practical way, where they ensure that the people component is well taken care of that the processes component is well taken care of. So that the technology part becomes the easiest part? I mean, the vision some people or some CEOs or C suite, executives will think I don't have the time for that. Let me delegate it all. Or they will say, well, those people are in mid management for a reason. I'm sure they'll figure it out, or I don't know exactly how well they will do. So why is that time spending clarifying the vision work that is like million dollar per hour work? You know, it's not like minimum wage work? Why is it not enough to say, oh, people will figure it out. And all that and how to approach it systematically, were you sure to cover all the bases whenever it's the first time the first experience or a new change management project.

Ema Roloff 14:03
So I might be a little biased in this statement. But there's a reason that I do what I do for a living, and I'm passionate about it. And it's because of this viewpoint. So I believe that there is a lot of value of bringing in a third party to help you manage those conversations. As you mentioned, starting with people in process, and having somebody from outside your organization who understands and does this day in and day out. So every organization is unique, every company is unique. But when it comes down to the basics of process and those components, having process experts that can help ask the right questions will drive you to that ultimate goal of having at least streamlined processes and having had the appropriate conversations to recognize what changes have to happen Even if you have people that live and breathe within your organization understand your process, they're likely going to hit their heads up against just like natural people dynamics or organizational dynamics. And even again, they're not going to have the vast experience that comes from an external party coming in and viewing something from the outside. So I think that that is going to be the first suggestion that I have for people, even if it's just working with a consultant to help you get started in the right direction, it can open up your thought process on how you're solving a problem. So you mentioned during the introduction, I do a lot of work in the insurance industry and a lot of our consultants started in the insurance industry. But Navigant as a whole works with government and disease, we work with insurance, we work with commercial accounts, we work with higher education, like universities and stuff like that. The fact that our team does, that means we collaborate and share ideas across industries. So then when we go in to solve a problem with somebody in an industry, our thought process isn't completely locked in that one industry. And we're able to offer new ideas and new ways of thinking through things. And so I think that that's going to be whether it's us or someone else that you bring in having a new infusion of thought and a different perspective on things is so valuable when you're moving through this process of redesigning the way that you work, then, once you get to that point where you've put work and effort towards streamlining your processes, I have an in one of them is the y which we've already talked about. But I have three things that are really simple that you can do to help bring people along with you on the journey. And then there's you know, people that spend all of their time in change management and helping organizations manage change that could dive much deeper. But after you've helped build that vision, and that why, and you've shared that and communicated that, then you need to make sure that people that are going to be impacted by the change feel like they're a part of building what the new future looks like. Now, it doesn't have to be that you're asking everybody for every opinion along the way, because you're never going to get something done from that standpoint. But you do need to communicate extensively throughout your entire process, so that people feel like they're connected to the progress that's being made. And genuinely that you're open for feedback through that process. And so that that communication loop needs to be constantly going throughout your implementation so that people feel like they're a part of what this ultimate solution is going to look like and that their voice has been heard, once you've communicated through, transformation doesn't happen overnight. And it doesn't happen by one project, there are ultimately going to be lots of projects that are moving through and especially depending on how big your organization is, maybe over the course of years. So it's also really important that once you've hit a milestone that you're spending the time to recognize the value that that milestone has brought forward to the organization and celebrating your small wins along the way. So that people can start to build that narrative or build on that narrative of why and back it up with proof from what you've been able to accomplish so far. Even if the and I mentioned communication and celebrating wins. Even if something goes wrong. And you learn a lesson from it. If you communicate that to your team, and you help them understand what you've learned from that lesson and how your course correcting, they're then going to be invested, they're going to understand that innovation isn't perfect every time. It's okay for something to go sideways as long as we learn from it and figure out how to pivot and change our approach. And so when you can do that, again, starting with the vision, communicating throughout, and then celebrating those wins, you're going to bring your team along with you. And they're going to want to be invested in that change and help make it a success, rather than throwing up roadblocks because they don't feel like they get to be a part of a process.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 18:55
Thank you. That's absolutely wonderful. So if I understood you correctly, three things, it get help from experts or outside perspective that know what they're doing. The second is the IKEA effect, which is that when people are involved in building something, they feel a sense of ownership, and therefore they will not resist it, but they will support it, as well as it's about building dopamine pathways, which is what then the brain to keep motivating people. Because if there are problems well, those are lessons we learned that will make us stronger and better. And if there are successes, we celebrate them, because that keeps us motivated in order to believe more in the why to build on the narrative that you spoke about and to keep going so that things don't fall apart. Correct.

Ema Roloff 19:49
Yeah, that's exactly it. And I haven't heard the IKEA effect before, but I like that.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 19:55
Yes, it's a wonderful thing, and it's a big Part of all that we're doing? Well, you spoke about people, you spoke about processes, technology is always evolving. What do you see is are the new trends or the next big things when it comes to technology, enabling change projects, or enabling people or enabling processes that you think, Wow, this could change everything, or at least transform the whole scene of how work is being done right now.

Ema Roloff 20:29
So there's a couple of trends that I would say I am watching and anxiously awaiting to see how it impacts the way that that we work and how we move forward. The most obvious is going to be just the large category of AI and intelligence becoming a more and more of a part of what we do everyday at work. really simplistic examples of that are going to be things like Microsoft and their Viva emails that you get every day, where they're using intelligence to pull out action items that you need to do to make you more effective, so that you're not forgetting what's on your to do list. Or we're seeing small infusions of that come along the way. But we interact with those type of technology, we interact with AI at a level on a daily basis in our personal lives that I think a lot of people aren't necessarily internalizing when they talk to Alexa, that that is voice technology that's being used in the background, as well as natural language processing, and all the things that are needed for that to come back to me, it just works. And they they just are used to interacting with it at that level. We haven't reached that point. And many companies and our day to day working environment, you might have an Alexa sitting next to you while you're working. And sorry, if it's going to start talking to you in the background, I don't have one in my office right now. But you're used to interacting with technology at that level in your personal life, it's going to start to impact the way that we do business businesses are slower to adopt emerging technology. But that doesn't mean that it's not coming. So maybe that looks like being able to accurately send an email with your voice, instead of having to go back through and double check that everything was spelled right. And it heard you once that technology gets to a certain point, maybe that'll be the way that we interact with people, and, or, you know, your emails being read back to you while you're in the car driving so that you have more efficiency from that perspective. So there's all sorts of different areas that that can start to kind of pull into our business world. But then even just making all of our existing tools more intelligent. So we see it in the world of document capture and being able to take unstructured data and make it into meaningful data points that can drive decisions or having workflow processes or robotic processes execute at a higher more human like level, so that humans are now focused on doing exception work or high value work or innovative thinking, so that the type of work we're doing is going to shift. So that's that's kind of the I would say, the AI side of things. And then I also do think that we're going to start to see more of that voice component coming in more and more over time. But I think the uniquely human part of this that I like to kind of think through is what happens to our skill sets and the work that we're doing, when we are able to automate more tasks and automate things that traditionally would have had to rely on a human brain. And what kinds of skills do we need to have to be very valuable to companies moving forward with that, and I mentioned the idea before, but that's more soft skills. That's things like leadership, that's things like creative problem solving. And so we've had this period of time where we've all been really focused on technical skills, and things that would help us use these technology platforms or drive this innovation in our organizations. But soon, we're going to hit this next plateau where we need to be uniquely human. And it's not going to be technical skills, but it's going to be soft skills that set us apart.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 24:21
Very, very true. I believe that learning how to learn, learning how to communicate, learning how to lead learning how to think are the skills and how to innovate and creatively come up with new solutions, new ideas, it's really the thing the difference that will make all the difference in the world and well, Mr. If people want to get your help for their next change management or Intelligent Automation project, or they want just to know more about you, to follow you somehow what are the best links for them to do so? I'll make sure to write a few in the description.

Ema Roloff 25:03
Yeah, the easiest way to get a hold of me will probably be my LinkedIn. And so that's going to be, you know, my little custom URL is ama Rohloff, after the LinkedIn part of it, but again, searching for my name, you'll find me pretty quickly. I'm very active there. And I'm always open to I think we even connected over direct message on on LinkedIn. So that's going to be a great way to get a hold of me. Otherwise, navigating to NaVi ins website, you can certainly fill out a form there and just let them know you want to have a chat with me. And I'm happy to communicate that way. And then I also, you know, if you're looking for more lighthearted content, some of it makes its way over to my LinkedIn. But I also am starting to get more and more involved in the world of tick tock and short, valuable pieces of content there. So people can always find me there. My my tick tock candle is transformation, princess, people can make their way there to kind of hopefully get a kick out of some of that content and reach me there as well.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 26:02
That's wonderful. And to everybody listening until that time, or humans cannot do any work except the uniquely highly valuable human work learning how to automate. Doing automation is something that is already very valuable. And I recommend to everybody to check out process your all the listeners as well as to check you out. All your work process your is the modern low code, no code platform for advanced automation and creating an enterprise grade back end for your software. You can request any listener can get a free access to an account at process yo dot app where they can use it for one execution time hour, which is equivalent to 100 Human hours, a lot of work. And for those who are willing to go ahead and upgrade and they find it so useful. You can get this exclusive discount code better 50 off one word capital letters to give you 50% off on all upgrades, more information in the description. Thank you, Emma. It was my pleasure, my honor and such an enriching conversation. And I wish you to keep going and I wish you a great day.

Ema Roloff 27:23
Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.