A conversation with Taina Carvalho. Change Management at Braskem

“Well, I do think the first step is for Managers to understand change management, because everybody’s talking about this and it may seem too difficult to apply, so they can be resistant about what is change management, but the first step would be educate them about the whole theme.  And we act as coaches, as partners of the leaders on those projects, because of course they will go through the situations and we’ll have to best support them. And often I offer myself just to be there with them, just to analyze what is going on, and then we can have a chat and some feedback and how can we improve together? I don’t think we have a recipe for that, but being close and make them to understand what change management really is, that will be the first things you’ll do with a leader in any kind of transformation.” – Taina Carvalho

In this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Taina Carvalho about her career as a Brand Manager turned Change Management thought leader.  She starts with reflections on the experience she gained early in her career that still serves her today.  Later, Taina discusses the importance of meeting her clients where they are when supporting Change Initiatives.  We also discuss how starting with a clear why, creating a culture of feedback, establishing metrics, and retrospectives are so important during change.  Listen in for insights into finding balance between cultures of experimentation and playing it safe.

Show Highlights

[1:50] How Taina Got Her Start As A Change Management Leader.

[11:50] Why Change Should Be Collaborative, Flexible, And Non-Linear.  

[24:24] Starting With Why.

[32:15] How To Blend A Culture Of Experimentation And Structure.

[37:20] Keeping People At The Center Of Change.

Taina on LinkedIn

About the Guest

Tainã Carvalho is a Change Management Specialist at Braskem, a global chemical company. She received her BA in communications and a postgraduate degree in marketing administration from Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie (Mackenzie Presbyterian University) in São Paulo, Brazil. She co-created Braskem’s Agile-inspired SPEAR change management approach to support the company’s digital transformation. She is also a founder of the Changers Club, a network of changemakers in business.

About Voltage Control

Voltage Control is a change agency that helps enterprises sustain innovation and teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual. Our master facilitators offer trusted guidance and custom coaching to companies who want to transform ineffective meetings, reignite stalled projects, and cut through assumptions. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads public and private workshops that range from small meetings to large conference-style gatherings.

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Full Transcript

Douglas: Welcome to the Control The Room Podcast, a series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture and uncovering cures to the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control and others are loose. To control the room means achieving outcomes while striking a balance between imposing and removing structure, asserting and distributing power, leaning in and leaning out, all in the service of having a truly magical meeting. Thanks for listening.

If you’d like to join us live for a session sometime, you can join our weekly Control The Room Facilitation Lab. It’s a free event to meet fellow facilitators and explore new techniques, so you can apply the things you learn in the podcast in real time with other facilitators. Sign up today at voltagecontrol.com/facilitation-lab. If you’d like to learn more about my book, Magical Meetings, you can download the Magical Meetings Quick Start Guide, a free PDF reference with some of the most important pieces of advice from the book. Download a copy today at magicalmeetings.com.

Today, I’m with Taina de Paula Carvalho. She is a Change Management Specialist at Braskem in Sao Paulo Brazil, where she supports the company’s digital transformation. She is also the co-creator of SPEAR, Braskem’s agile inspired change management approach and founder of the Changers Club, a community of change makers in business. Welcome to the show, Taina.

Taina: Thank you for having me, Douglas.

Douglas: It’s so great to have you and I’m really excited about this conversation, because it is focused on a topic I love, which is change, so let’s get started by hearing a little bit about how you got your start in change.

Taina: Well, I wanted to be a theater major originally in college, but as most of us, I had to pay the bills, so I ended up going for my degree in marketing. And after school, I went to work in branding and product development. I worked as a brand manager for retail and dietary supplement brands, and I love it.

It got me to satisfy this passion for interacting with people a little bit, because you see, part of the job was studying human behavior, for example why people choose to make the purchases they do, their buying habits, et cetera. But as I worked my way up the ladder and I had to focus more on digital marketing, my days became consumed by numbers, not people. So, numbers like click through rates, conversion rates, and it felt like I was missing something, to get this interaction with people when I’m fascinated by people, their frustrations, their expectations.

And so, I did feel a pull back to those roots, but I also had this 12 years of career experience that I didn’t want to throw away. So, while I was in the middle of this, trying to understand the future, a good friend of mine told me about change management and this got me really excited, the possibility to help people, to support them in their working life.

And, of course, I started studying everything I could about the term and one thing led to another. This opportunity at Braskem came along and here I am working at Braskem for two years now. I’m part of digital centers at Braskem and we work supporting our company’s digital transformation.

And thankfully, in my role as a change manager, I get plenty of chances to use my experience I gained early as a brand manager. So for example, when I’m interviewing some end users to talk about a new tool that we are implementing, a new process, what they want to improve, I think back to all service that I did as a marketing manager. And also, back then I used to train the sales team to market a brand and now I’m training the end user, so can they adopt the tool and understand it better.

So, there is a great overlap here. I don’t feel that I lost my background. I’m always using it and this is great. And in a way I feel like I changed my focus from selling a specific product like vitamins or a television, to selling change, and that’s great.

Douglas: So, I want to come back to your point around the early work you were doing in brand management and marketing and how that was so influenced by behavioral dynamics and behavioral economics. I’m curious how much of that experience surfaces for you now in your work in change?

Taina: We are always going back to this background, so we need to understand how behavioral science is growing, how we can use this kind of approach to change management and it’s all connected to the marketing perspective that I used to have when developing a product.

Douglas: So, when you think about your change work and when your background in behavioral science has been the most beneficial, what was that like? Or what was the moment when you were like, “Oh, it really came in handy here.”

Taina: Okay, so I do think we can relate both things when we are talking about empathy, to be empathetic with people, because when you study human behavior or how do you want them to react to your brand or to your product, it kind of comes naturally, this empathetic side, so you won’t just assume they will react or have a pushback to your product.

And this is handy when you’re talking about change management. You are not going to talk with any end users with your assumptions, you’re going just to discover with your curiosity about their behavior.

Douglas: Yeah, it’s so important just to put our assumptions aside and just really listen. And I think a lot of leaders struggle with that, because even the idea of engaging with employees or understanding how this vision of change might need to change or adapt, it’s almost like they hear the tactic of like, “Oh, we got to talk and listen to people,” but they don’t get down to that fundamental paradigm shift of really listening and really being willing to let go of what they had in mind.

Taina: Yeah, and that’s why I think it’s so important that change management is becoming more popular, because it is hard to put in practice, to act on all those steps and to truly understand people.

So, when you talk to someone, to a leader, as you said, that they need to pay attention, they do understand that, but it’s so hard for them to put in practice. Then when you have someone taking care of the human side of change, they will naturally help you and support this journey in a better way, so yeah.

Douglas: What have you found in these leaders that are challenged? What have you personally found to be some really nice ways to support them in those moments, as they’re starting to build up capacity around approaching change in this way?

Taina: Well, I do think the first step is for them to understand change management, because everybody’s talking about this and it may seem too difficult to apply, so they can be resistant about what is change management, but the first step would be educate them about the whole theme.

And we act as coaches, as partners of the leaders on those projects, because of course they will go through the situations and we’ll have to best support them. And often I offer myself just to be there with them, just to analyze what is going on, and then we can have a chat and some feedback and how can we improve together? I don’t think we have a recipe for that, but being close and make them to understand what change management really is, that will be the first things you’ll do with a leader in any kind of transformation.

Douglas: The coaching is so critical, to your point. And it’s interesting to me, because we found the same thing. If we can observe, we can be there in the moment, the coaching is so much richer, because we’ve got really concrete examples. We can say, “Really impressed by how you leaned in, in this moment, and how can we take that and apply it over here in this other area?” Or it’s like where they’re noticing where they’re doing well and how they can double stitch on that and areas they can work on.

Whereas, I have an executive coach and I think to myself, when I sit down and meet with her, I have to think about the things I want to bring to her and she doesn’t get to see me in my leadership meetings, she doesn’t get to see me in these moments. And yet, when we’re doing coaching, when we’re working with people, we’re kind of in there in the moment and it’s so much more powerful, because we can point to those situations and use those stories. And so, it sounds like you all are seeing the same kind of stuff.

Taina: It is, yeah. We can have examples fresh in our head to explain to them what is going on, how they can improve. And the relationship itself grows better when you are there. You’re together, you can see what is going on, you can see at their faces, “I’m lost here, I don’t know what to do.” And maybe you can lead a situation for them and then you just let them go with the parts that they feel comfortable with. It is a good exchange between the coach and the coachee. It is great to be there for them.

Douglas: Well, I know you’re referred to your SPEAR approach, we’ll get to it in a moment, is agile inspired and reminds me of the agile player coach kind of approach where people are embedded, but they definitely step away at times, so they’re kind of moving between that player identity and that coach identity.

So, it sounds like you do a little bit of that too, maybe, where you’re doing some stuff but then also kind of giving them latitude to do and model the work that you’ve demonstrated to them.

Taina: Exactly, that’s one of the reasons we say the SPEAR is rooted in agile. We can borrow this agile coach habits and approaches and that’s working great from our side here.

Douglas: So, since we kind of landed on SPEAR, maybe walk our listeners through what SPEAR is?

Taina: Okay, so SPEAR, it’s a change management approach based and rooted in an agile mindset. So, the main thing we want with SPEAR is that it’s a methodology that can offer some flexibility and collaboration. So, of course, we use the best practices from the market, but keep in mind that we needed this flexibility and collaboration, we needed to adapt this, we needed to adapt this methodology to best support our employees and our digital transformation journey.

So, we knew we want to foster this collaboration among team members. We don’t want them just to tick boxes on a checklist, so we encourage them to assess what SPEAR parts they think is useful for the moment. And it’s not just because the acronym neatly spells out the word SPEAR that you need to use in this exact order, so you have a lot of flexibility again here. And this way you’re not serving any one change management plan, you can iterate it as the product is evolving and pivot fast when needed.

Douglas: I see that so often, various models or approaches have to be spelled out linearly and people see that and they think, “Oh, I got to go through in these steps.” So, it’s important for folks to understand that they don’t have to be done in this order. And I would go a step further and say that change is non-linear, and so, trying to apply a linear process to change is somewhat a futile effort to begin with.

Taina: It is. And that’s what we felt when we were developing SPEAR. We didn’t want to feel like we need to go through every step on the way, because it’s not a recipe. We don’t know if something that I’m doing for this kind of product or project will work for the other one.

So, it helps you also to create this critical view, what you really need for the moment, what’s really necessary to this kind of change that you are working with. And you won’t have those huge checklists, those complex and long methods with SPEAR.

Douglas: It’s interesting, this idea of this critical view and I agree it’s important and I think there’s a paradox there too around supporting the flexibility and freedom for folks to go places that may be risky or may sit outside this critical view or this critical flow or what’s most important.

And I’m curious, how do you balance in your work this need to support both the very pragmatic and practical and this critical view around what’s most important for this change versus giving people freedom to explore and think about and play and experiment. I’m curious how you all create space for both of those to coexist?

Taina: Well, I’d say that we have this balance, or at least we are trying to find this balance beginning with education about SPEAR and about our methodology. So, in every project we start and even for those who are just interested in learning about change management, we have trainings, workshops, and even we are working a learning path to spread SPEAR throughout the company.

So first step, we need to educate people about SPEAR, how simple it can be. And we also have some practical exercises so they won’t feel lost, how to apply this, because we offer to all Braskem employees a toolkit based on SPEAR and this toolkit you can choose whatever tool is more useful for the product you are working on, but you only will know how to use this if you first have the integration with the team, these workshops or the learning path that I mentioned.

Later, we also have a community inside Braskem that we can support those who are dealing with change and that they don’t have our directly support, so we can chat about what is going on. We have some mentorships also to try to explain with real cases what’s useful, what is not. And of course, we are trying to find this balance. It’s not easy, but we are trying to first use it at the education base to build this trust between those who are using SPEAR for the first time.

But for those who work with the digital transformation at Braskem, we are all seniors in change management, so we have this capacity of the critical view. We have worked with this for a long time so it’s easier for us. And of course, we are trying to teach this ability to everyone who is interested on change management at the company.

Douglas: It’s interesting that you talk about the training and it being so critical and I think it’s an important lens for folks to have when they’re approaching change, because it’s quite often that companies are lacking or they don’t have the ability to see the change and even how it might unfold from a process standpoint or even just some of the things they might run into.

So, educating people and getting to this point of shared understanding around, “Hey, here’s how we’re going to approach it and here’s some things we might run into.” We like to say change the way you change. Actually take a step back and just look at change itself through a lens of, “Hey, this is something that we might want to have some intention about.”

Taina: That’s a great way of approaching the change management. And I think that most of the companies don’t understand the importance of applying or working with change management since from the beginning of a project or any kind of transformation that depends on human behavior to be successful.

And when they realize they need to change something, it’s launching day and it’s already happening, so they want people to adopt this new solution but they weren’t part of the process? It’s kind of impossible to make a miracle here so yeah, let’s sell this new change.

So, when you change the way you change, probably you’ll start since from the beginning getting some users’ perspective, getting them to review the work that you’re doing, having these agile mindsets and iterating the product that you have, based on your users’ feedback. And that will be gold, because you won’t need to work as hard as you would if you’re just launching a product and expect them to adopt it at the end of the day.

Douglas: So, I want to shift back to SPEAR for a second and I believe that you told me it was stakeholders, purpose, engagement, achievement and retrospective, is that right? I’d love to hear a little bit more about why you chose those, why they’re important?

Taina: Yeah, we do have these five pillars based on great methodologies we have at the market, but also we were iterating it as we were implementing SPEAR. Mapping our stakeholders, so the first letter of SPEAR, is the most important thing when you’re talking about any kind of project, right? So, we had to have this on our methodology.

P is for purpose, but often people don’t pay attention on it, but as Simon Sinek says, start with the why. Everyone deserves to understand why this transformation, this change, is happening. And this will help in your engagement, because if people understand the why, probably it will be easier to communicate to train people and even to engage the team that is working with this, because they truly understand if they are part of it.

The achievement part is of course we are dealing with humans but we need to have some metrics to measure our success, so you choose whatever metrics fits on your project, so behavior human, how we are going to track this. And then you can have the retrospective, that it’s more to those who already know the agile mindset, learn as you go, iterate, get better. So we are talking here about iterate the way you are working with your project and for us working even SPEAR itself, so we are always looking for new ways of approaching and new tools to offer. So SPEAR, it’s always the easiest approach from change management that we know.

Douglas: I love the retrospective piece that was in there and it’s not surprising, you’re talking about the agile influence, so that’s yet another example where it shows up, but it’s so key to things like continuous improvement and if we’re going to iterate even on the change itself, coming back to that non-linearity, if we’re leaning into all five pillars at different points in the change journey and we’re doing retrospectives, then we can change and adapt the course of the project, the transformation, the change, as we go. And I think that really is important and you don’t see that in a lot of change management, especially the change management programs of old, right?

Taina: Yeah, and retrospective also helps us to foster the feedback culture, because once we are always criticizing our own work and gathering the team to understand how can we improve, it’s easier and it gets easier while we are developing this product, so retrospective, it’s a key element with SPEAR, to have this possibility to improve and to understand where we can learn and where we can improve. It’s amazing.

Douglas: The other thing, you mentioned Simon Sinek on the purpose, the why piece, and that speaks to me in a big way, because quite often change is led because of some vision that a leader has or because of market dynamics and someone’s like, “Hey, we got to do this,” it’s like a me too kind of thing where it’s like, “Oh, I want to do this just like them.” And if we don’t get to that why, we can be misguided on even what or where we’re going to.

So not to mention it’s really hard to engage people but we might do the wrong change if we’re hung up on what and where without getting to that bedrock purpose what’s driving us to do it and really kind of sitting with that for a moment. Because also in retrospectives or when things are emerging and coming at us that we didn’t anticipate, if we don’t have that why to anchor us, how do we know how to change our course? How do we know how to re-steer that boat when the storm blows us off course, because the destination may have changed, that island may have gotten moved somewhere else by the hurricane.

Taina: Right, and we can also change the why during the course, there is no problem, but everyone needs to be board on this. So since from the beginning of the project, you need to understand why this is happening. It’s something that should help you to connect their personal or collective pain points to the initiative, because that will lead them to support the change in the end.

And if you change the course, there’s no problem, you can always go back and that’s the beauty of having this possibility of going back to all the steps. You can go back and change what you need on the why, so everyone is on board again and everyone agrees with this direction that you’re taking.

Douglas: Yeah, we always like to say, never start without a clear purpose and part of clarifying your purpose is making sure people know about it, because if only you know the purpose then you haven’t really clarified it, because it’s very muddy to everyone else, because no one ever told them.

Taina: Yeah, that will be the first part on engagement. Let your stakeholders know what’s your purpose, so they will be on board too. And on engagement part, you’ll need to make people feel included, so what will be the actions that will work? And if we are talking about an agile mindset here, and I told you that I don’t have a recipe for it, I don’t have a list of actions that we could do on engagement part.

I often will ask the team to understand what fits better, for they understand what’s going to work for the team. For example, instead of sending a classical email to communicate, maybe they have a meeting every month that if they have 10 minutes there, would be way more useful than sending communications to people who will not read them. So, we foster this team collaboration when we are talking about engagement.

Douglas: Yeah, 100%, and that’s a good point. Engagement can happen on so many different levels. We don’t have to call a meeting to create engagement, there can be asynchronous engagement, you can create videos to disseminate information. Even communicating our why, to your point, can create engagement. If we send out communication that gets everyone really motivated, then they’re going to be engaged in their own pursuits. Engagement doesn’t have to be this moment that we create to get everyone excited to put stickies on a wall, right?

Taina: Yeah, some actions will help for some people and other for others and that’s okay. And that’s why you need to think about different kinds of engagement. We often use this engagement technique within the team that is called gratitude jar, where we can acknowledge team’s work and like a kudos wall and it’s such a simple tool but it helps the teamwork to be engaged and it starts from there. If your teamwork is engaged, it’s more likely that your engagement actions will work better, because they believe in it, they are on board.

Douglas: Absolutely. I think creating opportunities for the team to recognize each other is powerful and in so many ways it creates a heartbeat for the work that’s happening. Everyone can get excited about what everyone’s doing. It’s a great way of cross pollinating information, because people can realize like, “Oh, that’s working over here, let me try that over here.” And, “Oh you’re struggling with this? I found that this worked.” So many benefits from that. Just kind of positive appreciation of what’s working. Awesome to hear that you all are doing that.

I want to hear a little bit more about some of the success stories of SPEAR. I know you probably have so many change projects going on. Are there any specific that jump out that you’re like “Wow, this is where it really served us well and helped us either navigate a tricky change or change much faster than we would have otherwise.” What have you noticed on some of the specific things you guys have worked on?

Taina: Well, I do have a recent example that we were working on a project from our logistics teams. We were trying to find the ideal network to make transportation so we could be more efficient on this. And we were working for one year developing this product, this solution, and it was a change management action that made the PO, we work with product owners here leading the project, to question the whole project.

And long story short, we kind of decided kill this initiative because of this. I know that it’s not a great successful story about how change management was important or how we could engage more people, but also, you can see the other side of change management, because when you are near to people and we are asking them the right questions, they can understand if it makes sense.

We went back to the P, to purpose, and I was pushing that it didn’t make sense for me, that we should work this purpose better. We could refine the sentence that we had to this purpose, to this initiative. And all of a sudden we realized that the purpose wasn’t the problem, we were questioning the purpose, but it wasn’t it. The purpose wasn’t the problem. We were questioning the statement, but we were looking to the pain point.

It wasn’t going to be solved with the solution that we were offering, so we decided to pivot the whole initiative, because of this talk we had, so that’s the beauty of change management and the possibility of going back again to the step that we already covered, because if we were thinking about a linear change management approach, we wouldn’t go back there. It’s ready, it’s done, let’s just have it. And once you can check if it’s still making sense for those team members, you have the possibility of understanding what makes sense or not.

Douglas: That’s a great story and I love that you told it, because so often people want to gravitate to the stories where like, “Oh, we did this and it created all this thing and it’s this new project and did it…” But I love the stories where we avoided making costly mistakes, because costly mistakes are frustrating. They have all these hidden costs that we don’t always see and morale and having a system of change where we realize early let’s not do this thing. We don’t spend months and months pushing a project through that’s just going to cause headache and strife and problems that ripple across the organization, so I love that.

Taina: Yeah, and when we are talking about Braskem, let me just give you some context here. Braskem is a global chemical company, so we have plants in Brazil, Mexico, the US and Europe, and we make raw material that eventually ends up in your house, in your life, in products that you would recognize like a plastic meal container or in healthcare like medical devices.

So, we have very high standards and regulations for quality and safety and health for our production. And you can imagine how hard it is to implement the mindset, fail fast, fail cheap, when you talk about fail can mean injury or any kind of thing that we don’t want in a plant. So, we need to educate people to make them understand that this is the saving that we can make. There are some project that we can find this fail fast and fail cheap, and this will help the company at the end. It is a challenge to implement it with such high standards of safety. It is tricky to mix both concepts for people.

Douglas: Yeah, the thing I always tell people is, we want to limit our blast radius. If we’re failing when the explosion has a centimeter diameter to it, then it’s like I might singe my knuckle hair, but it’s not going to really hurt myself, right? But if the blast is going to be a three block radius, then we’re talking about a much different scale of failure.

And so, we always tell people small, risky bets, so we don’t have to be afraid of risk as long as we shrink it, so that it’s small enough to where the risk tolerance can be there, because you’re right, we don’t want to go climb up a tower where some reaction is happening and change the chemical mix just to see what happens. There’s some levels of experimentation that need to happen. And I think scientists get this, right? Scientists are always in the lab trying things and evolving. And just, I think, to your point, the management or exploitation of the ways that we’ve found that we can profit off of discoveries, have led us to put protections in place that sometimes we need to unravel or at least figure out how to experiment on those things so that we can adapt and grow.

Taina: Yeah, and if that means we will scale this to a safe environment and run the project in this scale, that’s fine. We just need to learn with this small scale and then apply and then try and test it and then we can grow and spread to the company.

Douglas: It’s so cool. It’s such a fun playground to be in. I want to just be aware that we are running low on time and there’s a couple things I wanted to hit on, one of them being the community that you’re building. I think you said you were up to 100 members across 40 companies, it’s called the Changers Club. Tell me a little bit about what led you to want to create that and how it works and what people should know about it?

Taina: Okay, this is a professional network of people working with change management. We started in part, because we wanted to share SPEAR and to test in other environments and see if it works. And it became more than that. We meet each other twice in a month. We use WhatsApp and Teams to communicate each other, and learn from what is going on in other companies and our war stories to inspire them or anything like this.

We have created a community based on agile as well, where we created a product backlog building, so we could have all the things people would like to learn about and we have some guests to talk about these things or we have some case presentations also to explore what they are missing in other groups or other places that they can meet change management people. So, now we have 100 members representing 40 companies in Brazil and we aim to become a global community, so anyone who is interested in change management, please reach out to me and we can talk about this.

Douglas: Yeah, excellent. We’ll make sure to get info in the show notes where they can connect with you and learn more about the Changers Club. With that, I wanted to end here with an opportunity for you to leave our listeners with a final thought.

Taina: Okay. We were talking about change management and change management is about people, so always keep in mind that people are the most important part in the process. Organizations don’t change, people change organizations.

Douglas: I think that’s so important and I just want to say thank you, Taina, for taking the time out of your day to chat with me and looking forward to talking more again in the future.

Taina: Thank you so much for the opportunity, Douglas.

Douglas: Thanks for joining me for another episode of Control The Room. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates when new episodes are released. If you want to know more, head over to our blog where I post weekly articles and resources about radical inclusion, team health and working better, voltagecontrol.com.