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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Author Interview : Lalit Jagtiani, author of ‘When Change Happens… A Story of Organisational Transformation’

Lalit Jagtiani
Read up, the Interview with Lalit Jagtiani, author of 'When Change Happens... A Story of Organisational Transformation'  This interview consists of how the book actually happened, what the core idea was, how he managed to blend the entire story with the real subject, which particular character the author feels most close to, how he relates the book and its characters  to day to day lives, the most challenging and fulfilling parts of the book were, the next book he has planned, today and much, much more, Folks...

How did ‘When Change Happens… A Story of Organisational Transformation’ happen?
In my current role at SAP, I travel across Asia Pacific for my customer engagements. As a matter of principle, I do not work on customer documents or email on the airports and flights since you do not know if the person seated beside you is a competitor or the competitor of your customer. Therefore, with much time on my hands and little to occupy my mind the book was born.

The long waits and the airport and the flights become much shorter in my mind. The play back of my experiences also helped me to structure the dormant insights that I had into a more tangible context. This has helped me personally sharpen my skills and in the process I have also created an interesting story that the readers can enjoy and connect with their experiences.

How did you bring out your personal story and blend it into the entire subject?

During the engagements with my customers, I would intuitively try out an intervention. Later, I would sit back and reflect, as to why it worked and what some insights were that I had gained. I did this primarily to better my capabilities.
While these notes were valuable to me, I realised that by themselves they would be very dry and not make for good reading. This is where I decided to make a creative leap and create a story with these insights embedded in the context that was real, but the organisation was fictional.

This way I could preserve the confidentiality of my customers, where these events took place and more importantly it would be easier for a reader to contextualise and consume.

Therefore, the entire story is in the backdrop of a fictional organisation and I have deliberately been very ambiguous of the industry that fictional company belongs to. These events can occur in any company. Each of the situations, the character encounters are real but they are all not from one specific organisation.

The creative input in the book was, in putting these different situations into one seamless story and balancing the content with the narrative in the story to keep it engaging and relevant at the same time.

What kind of research did you put into the writing of this book?

The conceptual inputs have been from the books, trainings and certifications that I have picked up over the 30 years of my professional career. The research has emerged from my practical experiences in driving successful Change Management projects at my customers across Asia Pacific.
The notes that I had made, post each of these engagements were the source material that I used in compiling my insights. Therefore, the research is not interview based or opinion based but a collection of my own experiences on achieving success across multiple industries and geographies.

What according to you is different about your book?

As a practitioner of Business Transformation, I have come across some excellent methods and tools on Change Management. The challenge for me has been in the application of the methods and tools.

The limitations of prescriptive tools are that Organizations do not follow the prescribed path of a planned transformation.  Every organization that I have engaged with, across Asia Pacific and across various industries, has a unique characteristic and culture. Therefore, I have found that there is no prescribed way that can be universally applied. This therefore, limits the usefulness of these tools and methods.

The draw back of case studies are that they are limited by the confidentiality of the inside workings of the organisation and they are prescriptive in terms of learnings. This works if the situations, in other organizations are similar, but that is rarely the case. The culture, political dynamics, power structures etc. are very different. Therefore their relevance is limited. That is why despite the rich amount of literature that is available on the subject of Change, success rate of Business Transformations in organisations is less than 40%.

It is in these lacunae in which, I discovered a need and decided to write the book that essentially is a collection of my 20 years of insights and tacit experiences in a story that takes the readers on an adventure of Change Management.

What I have attempted to do in the book is share the real story of how a change management initiative is delivered in an organisation bringing out the challenges in the form of an experiential narrative but kept the organisational context fictional to preserve the confidentiality of the multiple organisations the situations are derived from.
The narrative is based on experiences as seen through the lens of the protagonist. During his assignment as a Change Management coach, he encounters the politics of his peers, fights for building his credibility in a complex, matrix organisation, overcomes scepticism on the work he is doing and even falls in love with one of his colleagues!

I have deliberately kept it Industry agnostic because in my experience, the nature of the challenges that I have included in the book are the same no matter the industry.

How did you come up with the core idea and develop it?

Unfortunately, the practice of Change Management has been a much-abused science. Inexperienced practitioners have peddled a set of communication templates and made the practice into a checklist of activities, the completion of which signifies a successful change program!

Transformation is as much an art as it is a science. Experience, wisdom and tenacity are components that are often needed to execute these interventions.

Often a practitioner encounters challenges and situations that require him to delve deep into his repository of experiences and skills. These are never visible to those benefitting from these capabilities. And, there is very little literature that I have found that provides insights on this tacit knowledge.

The core ideas came from my notes and experience that I, then constructed into the story.

How would you relate the book and its characters to your day to day lives?

Each of the characters in the book is drawn from real characters that I have personally engaged with. I have deliberately used Hollywood actor and generic names for each of them to preserve their identity and to respect their privacy. 
Some of the characters have been deliberately been mixed up to ensure that the character and the person that I engaged with, in that situation are different. This is one more layer of masking that I have used since this is not intended to be a biographical novel.

Which particular character do you feel most close to? Why?

Matt probably has many shades of my character, so to that extent I guess in understand the motivations and intentions of the protagonist.
However, there is much dissimilarity as well; the love story is personal to the character and not to me. There are other nuances that personally do not reflect on the way, I react but based on how I have experienced others behave.

Could you tell the readers about your experiences and how it was related to what you wrote?

My experiences are reflected in all the situations that the protagonist encounters therefore they are all over the book.

What is the most fulfilling part of writing this book? And what is the most challenging?

R Gopalakrishnan (from SPJIMR
The most fulfilling for me has the wonderful feedback that I have been getting from the readers of the book. The best one of them from Mr R Gopalakrishnan, Director, TATA Sons Ltd, at the launch of 'When Change Happens…' in Mumbai, where he mentions that ‘to combine 4,000 years of story-telling and write a book that simplifies a complex topic and provokes questions rather than providing answers is the mark of a potentially good book’.  There are other reviews in the preamble of the book and each one of them provides me with immense satisfaction.

The biggest challenge is to reach all the relevant audiences that can relate and apply these insights to their current challenges in managing Change. It is in the application that I see the real value that this book can provide.

Do you have a next book planned? If so, what would it be?

Other than my own book on 'Digital Innovation', I have been in conversations with various professionals that have driven successful change management initiatives and I am looking to use a similar format to convert their experiences to a story.

Who was it that told you that you could become the author, you are today?

Story writing is not new to me. In addition to my MBA, I have a diploma in film making. In the early stages in life, I used to make ad films and corporate videos.

But the real inspiration and encouragement came to me from my wife and life-partner Minal, who encouraged me to express my ideas. She was my first reader and critic of the content. 

Her contribution to supporting the entire process till the publication and now marketing of the book has been invaluable.

Eliyahu M Goldratt
Who are your favourite authors and why?

Eliyahu M Goldratt, the management guru. He was the first author that I read, who wrote in the Business Novel format that I used in this book.
I remember my professor in Operations Research class mentioned that I would be one of the students that would never complete my MBA, since I would fail his class.
The book written by Goldratt helped me grasp the concept of ‘Theory of Constraints’ so well, that I went on to excel in this topic. It is then that I realised the power of management by story-telling and how this would be useful in not only simplifying complex topics, but enable better understanding through experiential learning.
Simon Sinek (from Wikipedia)

Which book are you currently reading?

I am reading a book ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek.

What else do you do on a daily basis?

I am currently working with SAP and am based in Singapore. In my current role, I am a Digital Thought Leader working with customers across Asia Pacific to enable them to succeed in their Digital Transformation. 

With my passion for making films, I have recently launched a video series titled 1 Minute on Change, where I have interviewed CXOs on their experiences in driving successful change.
I am also a Board Member of the Society of Organisation Learning in Singapore and we are working on building awareness on Sustainability, which is a cause that I deeply care about.

I am also a Mentor for Start-ups and one of them is moving into the pilot phase this year.

Weekends and evenings, I like to cycle and I also play a bit of Badminton and Tennis.

You can  Read the Review, too and Buy the Book, here as well.

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