The requirement is to analyze the uploaded case according to “Comparison of adopted change process against Kotter 8 steps” . the analysis provide which steps had been adopted or skipped.
use the below source to understand kotter theory:
410-111-1 fl- The Business School for the World® Accereratmg Chang 9 A CORPORATE . ‘ If“ -11 x x a C v BID-A R D Il’l’l “1 I n. a TH J. he hoots of Change Run Deep 11/2010-5743 This case was written by Belen del Amo, INSEAD MBA, under the supervision of Elizabeth Florent-Treacy, Associate Director of Research at the INSEAD Global Leadership Centre, and Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, Raoul de Vitry d’Avaucourt Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Director of the Global Leadership Centre. It is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. Copyright © 2010 INSEAD To ORDER COPIES OF INSEAD CASES, SEE DETAILS ON THE BACK COVER. COPIES MAY NOT BE MADE WITHOUT PERMISSION. Distributed by The Case Centre North America Rest of the world www.thecasecentre.org t +1 781 239 5884 t +44 (0)1234 750903 All rights reserved f +1 781 239 5885 f +44 (0)1234 751125 e [email protected] e [email protected]
Management at CEB:
The Roots of Change Run Deep
This case was written by Belen del Amo, INSEAD MBA, under the supervision of Elizabeth Florent-Treacy, Associate
Director of Research at the INSEAD Global Leadership Centre, and Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, Raoul de Vitry
d’Avaucourt Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Director of the Global Leadership Centre. It is
intended to be used as a basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of
an administrative situation.
Copyright © 2010 INSEAD
TO ORDER COPIES OF INSEAD CASES, SEE DETAILS ON THE BACK COVER. COPIES MAY NOT BE MADE WITHOUT PERMISSION.
Distributed by The Case Centre
All rights reserved
t +1 781 239 5884
f +1 781 239 5885
e [email protected]
Rest of the world
t +44 (0)1234 750903
f +44 (0)1234 751125
e [email protected]
Change is the Only Constant in Life
One day late in the month of May, Fatima walked into the office of a professor from her
business school with a request. “I am almost finished with my MBA programme here,” she
explained, “and I want to continue to develop a career oriented toward change management.
Before starting my MBA course, I was involved in a number of change initiatives in a fastpaced, high-growth company. According to those around me, I did a good job. Now I want to
be able to convince potential future clients that I am the leader they need for challenging
change management projects. I think I am good at it but the problem is I don’t know why and
I’m not sure how to market my skills. I’m slowly figuring out what I’m good at, but can you
also help me understand why – and validate or disprove my hypothesis?”
“Let’s begin with the chronology of your change project,” the professor suggested, “and, like
organizational detectives, perhaps we can identify some themes that reflect what we know
about change management best practices. From there we can begin to evaluate your
Change Management at CEB
Fatima explained that her objective in any change management context was to instil a clear,
identifiable process into the shifting environment to give people a sense of what to hold on to
in the midst of upheaval, and also to arm them for any changes that might come their way.
Her process management framework allowed teams to focus on what mattered and must
remain constant, while at the same time encouraging them to be adaptable. She wanted people
to hone their instincts so that they could learn to be good judges of what was valuable about
the “old” and necessary about the “new”. (See Exhibit 1 for Fatima´s Process Management
The change management situation she wanted to explore in greater depth had occurred at
Corporate Executive Board, the company where she worked before beginning her MBA. CEB
was a mid-sized US-listed firm (Nasdaq: EXBD) that served c-suite1 executives in Fortune
500 companies by providing best practice research-based advice on functional issues. It did so
through more than 45 executive programmes that targeted heads of function such as CFOs,
CMOs, CIOs, and other CXOs. CEB leveraged the experience of its clients (it worked with
85% of the Fortune 500) to surface best practices and proven solutions that were then shared
with the rest of the membership (client) base for a flat yearly fee. Essentially, the model had a
fixed cost base with an unlimited revenue base, so it was no surprise that the company was
The company’s IPO in 1999 was one of the most successful of that year for a company of
CEB’s size, with the share price increasing by around 20% every year thereafter until 2006.
EXBD stock was known as “the belle of the Nasdaq”. The firm had revolutionized the way
consultants delivered insights to clients by offering an accessible price point and an
immediately available set of best practices, as opposed to the expensive, time-consuming
engagement provided by more traditional consulting firms. CEB was among Fortune’s top
100 growth companies in 2002, and the Washington office was voted amongst the top 100
The term c-suite refers to officers of a business organization who have the word “chief” in their titles.
best places to work by The Washington Post in 2005. In sum, it was young, innovative, high
growth, entrepreneurial, and constantly changing. Indeed, outsiders were sometimes confused
about what the firm did. Its purpose and strategy evolved across time, generally wanting to be
all things to all people. This worked as the firm behaved in a chameleon-like manner thanks
to the adaptable and smart people it attracted. CEB had not yet addressed the fundamental
question of how long this strategy could be sustained.
A highly matrixed structure added to the complexity of CEB’s operations. With 45 executive
programmes, offices in Washington, London, Delhi, Sydney, and four distinct functions,
challenges arose from the natural downside of a functional, matrixed model with regional
headquarters. The four functions were Sales (which drove membership new sales), Client
Relationship Management (which identified client problems, mapped solutions, and drove
membership renewals) Content Delivery (responsible for delivering research insights to
clients in the form of webinars, workshops, networking meetings, etc.), and Research (which
conducted best practices research). Each of these functions (with support staff) worked across
the 45 product lines that were grouped across eight different franchises (also known as
practices): Human Resources, Sales & Marketing, Operations, Strategy & Innovation,
Corporate Finance, Financial Services, Technology, and Legal.
The London office was mostly a Sales and Client Relationship Management operation across
all the franchises until a decision was made to make a product investment on the ground by
bringing content deliverers and researchers to the London office inside the Finance practice.
Thereafter, the Finance practice experienced tremendous growth, engaging in new product
launches every three to four months, culminating in the launch of its seventh executive
programme (See Exhibit 2 for CEB’s franchise structure and a detailed view of the Finance
practice prior to the fusion). These product launches were not often given additional staff;
instead they involved reshuffling local staff responsibilities and thus provided multiple
opportunities for high achievers to get ahead – quickly.
As Fatima said,
“At that time, I was an energetic, ambitious, 26-year-old senior director (SD) in
CEB’s Finance practice, reaching senior leadership ranks in three years rather
than the more typical 6-10 year trajectory. I would describe my strengths as being
an achievement orientation, ability to win over people by empathizing and
individualizing my approach to each person, my focus and hard work, and my
ability to energize those around me to give the best of themselves.
I have a preference for action, which means I can launch into things following my
instinct. I am known for getting things done. However, this does come with a
downside: I am somewhat impatient, easily bored and constantly looking to create
change. I fundamentally believe change is good, although it can ruffle some
feathers. This is why I left my previous employers (JP Morgan and Accenture) for
the more entrepreneurially-oriented CEB.”
Listening to her introduction, the professor felt that what Fatima was saying made sense, as
she was obviously energetic even while presenting her story, barely pausing for breath. The
professor was curious to see how the themes of energy, empathy and impatience would play
out as Fatima’s story unfolded. And he was interested to hear more about her desire to
constantly create change – not a typical ambition, in his experience.
“I had been Senior Director of the EMEA Finance Practice in London for nine
months. Through the many product launches, changing team composition and
further senior leadership transitions I had created a cohesive team environment
with a clear identity and sense of purpose. The group identified itself as “the
FINsters” (for Finance practice) and had various team leaders for individual
project streams that meant everyone contributed something greater than simply
meeting their objectives.”
The team had a tradition of getting together for “Weekly Warrior” meetings, a 15 minute
gathering every Friday, during which one team member would be nominated by the others in
recognition of something they had done that went “above and beyond”. The person with the
most votes got a FIN Weekly Warrior statuette to display on their desk in the coming week.
When the FIN manager who had established “Weekly Warrior” left the UK office, Fatima
thought it would be good to continue the tradition:
“I wanted to ensure there was both some continuity as well as a chance to
publicly recognize my people in a way that would make them feel good, and
ultimately help their performance. It was a way to unify the team and also served
as a great morale tool. In addition to this weekly recognition forum, I asked all
team members to take a short and fun psychometric test2 to help us understand
our individual learning and leadership styles. It was great celebrating the team’s
brilliance at the end of the week, and it gave me some nice anecdotes for my
Monday morning team email to further motivate folks to start the week on a high.
I think this system of ending and starting the week with praise gives team
members a reason to look forward to Monday, and to strive to get noticed for
doing something well. Everyone knew if they went above and beyond they would
get recognition for it.”
“Our team was known for process excellence, good corporate citizenship (going
above and beyond their roles to help, mentor, and develop others outside their
immediate remit), high potential talent, and hard work. It had also developed a
reputation for being a highly unified team – we often met up at the local pub after
work, or hung out at the park on weekends.”
“Given external changes in the marketplace showing signs that client companies
were restructuring their operations to include the strategy, finance and business
services functions under one roof, the Finance practice decided to mirror its
clients to provide better service by integrating the Finance, Strategy-R&D and
Operations-Procurement practices in the London office. I knew my team would
See Exhibit 4, end of document
now grow from a manageable and tightly-knit group of 15 to a larger team of 26
people. (See Exhibit 3 for details).
This posed a number of issues: how to maintain a team identity with such a large
number of folks; how to best integrate the new members into such a strong team
culture; how to integrate some underperformers into a highly ambitious,
motivated and fast-paced team when it was clear the new additions to the team
came from a vastly different cultural team environment; and finally, how to fold in
a large variance in levels of seniority (including someone as senior as me who
would now report to me)?”
“No one really asked me if I wanted to take the additional team members. It was
assumed that I did.”
Fatima had frequent and open dialogues with several key people: her direct manager Kerry,
the head of the London office, and the head of the Finance and Strategy division in
Washington DC. She quickly turned to them for insights on the amplitude of the coming
change. Both Kerry and Fatima had seen similar changes taking place in the US, and from
experience they knew that changes were usually made in the US office prior to being rolled
out in the UK, given the larger scale and amount of resources in DC. This trend gave the UK
a heads-up about the challenges associated with rolling out new changes, as well as the
benefits. Fatima was on the alert.
Thus, before even being officially informed that she would get an extended team, Fatima
decided to call her counterpart in the US office, Sandra, for more background. Sandra told
Fatima that integrating the Strategy and Procurement practices might be really challenging,
given how poorly the product lines had been doing for the firm. The best thing to do was to
speak to the people whose jobs had been directly impacted.
So began a series of phone conversations between Fatima and the DC office to help her figure
out what was being done and what could be improved upon. Fatima did all of this subtly, as
she hadn’t yet been announced as head of the new, entirely merged entity. She always
preferred to be prepared, rather than not, so that she could spring into action when needed. In
London, rather than meet with the people who might be reporting to her in the future, Fatima
simply went for drinks with people that worked in the individual product lines inside the
franchise, who were already her friends at the firm. She also asked Rebecca and Anthony, two
of the key figures in her team selected for their connectivity to others, effectiveness in their
roles, and trustworthiness, to put some feelers out and see how the likely newcomers were
feeling and find out what was and was not working in their respective teams.
Fatima learned a lot about her potential new team members both from these conversations as
well as from the more formal Career Committees that took place at the senior leadership level.
Career Committee meetings brought together the three London-based franchise leaders (as
well as their manager Kerry and the UK head of HR. The purpose of the meetings was to
review every team member’s performance relative to each other, as well as to identify who
was ready for promotion or performance improvement plans. In the previous meeting, Fatima
had learned that her potential future team members included Dustin, another senior director;
Yvette, Sej and John, all account directors; two other directors, one of whom was about to go
on maternity leave; and five new analysts who had potential but needed some guidance in
terms of the next step in their careers.
“All in all, I was excited at the prospect of having a lot to work on; new people
whose trust I would have to gain; people who were hungry to get to the next level
in their career and would welcome my support for that; and people with potential
who could be encouraged to perform better. I was a little worried about Dustin,
the equally senior figure coming into the team, because there was a questionable
history there. In addition, I knew he was not pleased that I had been promoted to
senior director before him. However, since his sales skills were better than mine, I
felt we could really leverage his skill set to the benefit of the entire team. I would
just have to find a way to make him feel included, while earning and maintaining
I did a lot of thinking to figure out how, if I got the enlarged team, I would
approach the first conversations and what steps I would take in order to ensure
that the overall team dynamics these new team members were walking into would
be smooth. The FINsters had a lot of established processes, but the folks that were
joining were not used to our established way of going about things. In addition,
the FIN team had ‘grown up’ with me – I had hired most of those people and had
helped them get promoted through coaching, mentoring and at a later stage
In contrast, the possible additions to the new team were more senior, had
previous work experience outside of CEB, and had been working in environments
with little process and a lot less team cohesion. I would have to be sure that our
processes would not scare off the ‘newbies’ (as they were affectionately called)
whilst protecting the constancy and glue that our group of FINsters identified
with. I knew well that ‘in vs. out’ group dynamics could really set the entire
integration process back, so I wanted to think those first steps through very
carefully. At the same time, I was getting impatient. I just wanted to roll up my
sleeves, get the official announcement of the newly merged team out there and
The official announcement was finally confirmed a few months later. Kerry announced that
they would go ahead and integrate the three teams in two stages: the Operations practice
would migrate over first, and Dustin would migrate over from another franchise three weeks
later. Shortly after, the Strategy & R&D practices would be folded in. Fatima was invited to
start meeting informally with her new team members during the transition period.
The First Steps
At the next Friday afternoon FIN Weekly Warrior meeting, Fatima told the team that their
“family” would grow once again over the coming weeks. She explained that as new team
members joined them, there would be some reshuffling in order to seat the various teams
within the franchise together. The changes would also have some implications for reporting
lines, especially as Dustin was joining the team in a senior role, freeing Fatima to focus on
managing the broader team strategic issues.
“In the meeting, I appealed to FIN’s tradition of good corporate citizenship to
motivate the team to make the newcomers feel welcome. I hoped that by engaging
their sense of responsibility the process of integration could be expedited. I
explicitly said that I would judge the team’s success based on how quickly and
effectively this was done. The endgame was to have a unified, expanded FIN. The
FINsters were generally enthusiastic about the prospect of having the new team
members join them.
I positioned the change as being something that the existing team could tackle
whilst upholding their key competitive advantage. I also described the merits of
the incoming team members, and the possible roles they might play. Luckily, there
were already strong informal networks between the FIN team and the newbies, so
this would help facilitate the incorporation.”
One-to-one Interviews: a Personal Approach
Fatima’s next move was to schedule individual meetings with each of her future direct
reports, to probe each person’s concerns related to the change, reconfirm career trajectory
aspirations, and identify any new interests that could match the opportunities created by the
expanded team, such as coaching and mentoring of new team members, as well as to ensure
each person had a chance to voice suggestions or ask for clarification regarding the broader
strategic changes taking place at the firm.
“I like to share details of the overall big picture with my team in a way that makes
sense to them. They should have access to the same level of information as I do, as
this builds trust as well as credibility. So before each meeting with my new people,
I contacted the person to say how much I was looking forward to working with
him or her. I also asked them all to fill in the psychometric test the other FINsters
had done. I would use this information in preparation for my meetings with them,
as well as to introduce them to the rest of the team. (See Exhibit 4)
My objective for these individual meetings was to explore the psychological
profile of each person – what motivated them, what worried them – and to learn
more about their learning, communication and working styles. Equally important
for me, I wanted them get to know my leadership style so they would feel
comfortable following me through any necessary changes. In each one-on-one, I
made it a point to explain the type of manager I am, my expectations of them, and
what they could expect from me. I promised that I would stick my neck out for
anyone on my team so long as they put in the hard work, communicated with me,
and never lied to me – but if trust was broken, there would be no second chances
(this applied both ways).
I also wanted them to know that my success depended on the team’s success, and I
would do my best to be a partner that would help each of them advance in their
careers. I wanted people to believe that although I had the firm’s success as a key
objective, my team’s development was the centrepiece of that strategy.”
The team’s perspective
Much later, Fatima asked some of the team members to describe their first impressions as the
FINster team grew.
“I had heard that Fatima was a good manager who cared about her people’s
development. My first one-on-one with Fatima was very different than others I’d
had before. Instead of grilling me on my numbers and what deal I was going to
bring in next, she took time to get to know me as a person. Instead of saying ‘This
is how I work’, she asked me how I was used to working, what motivated me, and
what I wanted to do. I could sense that she cared and would be my ally through
the change. I really felt that my success would be her success, and that made all
“Most of my friends were in FIN, so I never felt like it was much of a
transformational shock. Having said that, previously I never felt like there had
been a home for my team, so I was pleased to hear we would finally have one with
FIN. I was also excited to work for Fatima. In our first one-on-one, I laid out my
concerns about losing one of the product lines I was working on – in a way it felt
like a demotion. However, Fatima presented the new product line as an
opportunity; I would get to know the FIN product lines better and could develop
networks that might pay off in terms of career trajectory. Fatima clarified CEB
strategy and explained the reasons behind all these changes, so I felt empowered
and more at ease.”
“I told Fatima I was concerned about reporting to Dustin. However, Fatima was
very good at explaining the rationale for this move, saying she had taught me her
bag of tricks, and now it was time for me to have a manager who would more
robustly be able to take my sales skills to another level. If there was one thing
Dustin was known for, it was his strong sales abilities, so I could see the
opportunity in that. Fatima also positioned the change as an opportunity for me to
inculcate my new manager with a sense of process, which meant it was an
additional challenge for me but also an opportunity to make a mark beyond my
I was calmer after I met with Fatima in our one-on-one to discuss this in detail.
Because I had worked with her for three years, and we had been through lots of
changes together, I also trusted that she would do the right thing. She always did,
and I always benefited in some way because of the opportunities she created.
Fatima communicated the overall vision to me with clarity.”
“I didn’t really get the message of change along with other people in the team
because I joined out of sequence. I was more concerned about myself than I was
with the rest of the changes going on. I knew nothing about FIN, and I would have
to prove myself. I was sceptical when Kerry said that the firm was excited that I
would have the opportunity to build a stronger profile and develop a higher level
of managerial complexity. I said to myself, am I getting the full story?
Fatima managed our first conversation exactly right. She said, ‘I am excited to
work with you. I won’t micromanage you; it is your business to run.’ I understood
from this that I now needed to prove myself but I was sure it would all fall into
place because I felt I had the level of maturity necessary to appropriately manage
the dialogue with CFOs in the programme I was now going to run.”
“At the first Weekly Warrior with the new team members, I opened by saying how
I was looking forward to seeing their individual contributions to the team come to
fruition. I highlighted the synergies I saw in the marriage of both teams and
mentioned their responsibility to make it work. Our first action as a team was to
nominate the Weekly Warrior – with this we brought the new people into our
tradition, which, I believed, would be the basis of what would continue to foster
‘FIN Pride.’ In fact, I already felt a sense of pride in what we had all achieved
together in a few short weeks. There would be challenges ahead, but we were well
on our way to meeting them as a unified group.”
From their recollections a year later, it appears that Fatima’s new team members had got the
“That first meeting covered strategy and team processes, but we also celebrated
the team’s successes. Fatima introduced the new members to the community we
were joining and the additional roles we could play. She described our own
learning and working styles so we could get to know each team member better.
The meeting also set clear expectations: we were not there just to deliver a
number but also to contribute to something greater. It was great to hear that
message in a time of economic downturn where other teams were mostly tracking
I didn’t feel that Fatima imposed any new processes on us because they all felt
more efficient than what we had done in the past. In fact, we still use these
processes today, even now that Fatima is gone. They are efficient and they help
get the work done, so I had almost forgotten that these were a huge change in the
way we worked.
What gave this change process some real credibility was that the following
Monday we immediately saw evidence of the changes we were promised. We all
received the ‘Monday email’ with visibility on what our goals were for the week
and what people had achieved the week prior, which Fatima had mentioned
would go out every Monday morning during our previous meeting. These details
were the ones that helped us trust that Fatima would deliver on her commitments,
big and small.”
“In the first big team meeting, Fatima showed an org chart with all the people
that were joining the team for the first time. It was symbolic to see the whole team
on one diagram. We could finally visualize how we were part of a greater whole,
and we saw the strength in numbers. We could see ourselves associated with one
of the strongest talent benches in the firm and we immediately knew we would
have to up our game.”
“What Fatima did well throughout this change was that she brought two teams
together as one. Her legacy, a close-knit team spirit, which was coined by the
term ‘FIN pride’, still existed a year after she left. The team, known for its process
excellence and tight team cohesion, still held a common sense of identity.”
Dustin summed up:
“I remember going to the first Weekly Warrior which I felt was 25% good and
75% bad, but I knew this was important for the more junior staff and that it
wasn’t targeted at more senior people like me. But I was impressed with the
amount of accurate metrics that Fatima sent out every Monday morning in her
email. I came from a world where we often talked about what we did, but we did
not do it. I soon discovered I had joined a world where data was clear,
information flowed smoothly, and visibility as well as action were palpable. All in
all, this was a positive change; I would do it again if I had to. I really thought I’d
get my ass handed to me, but Fatima did a bang-up job and I was impressed by
her and felt a difference when she left.”
The Detective Work (Part Two)
After listening to Fatima’s report on her change leadership process at CEB, the professor was
quite impressed. Although it was a fairly small-scale change, Fatima had certainly gone about
it the right way. It was easy to see the link between Fatima’s strategy and actions at CEB and
the successful transition outcome. But he was puzzled about why Fatima seemed to be
instinctively good at leading people through a change process and yet was not quite sure why
It was time to ask Fatima to tell a different story – her own. He asked her to reflect on how
she had experienced change throughout her life. She had already mentioned that she had
moved many times, living in several different countries and switching schools frequently. He
suggested Fatima should focus on her experiences and memories surrounding the many
changes in her life, and the feelings they evoked.
Fatima agreed, and a few days later, the professor received the following written narrative.
Fatima’s Story: Where Next?
I am a global cosmopolitan. I was born in Scotland to a Spanish father and mother. My father
worked in the oil industry. We lived in 17 different cities on four continents before I went to
college in the United States, got my Masters in the UK, and embarked upon my career in
London for six years, followed by my MBA studies in France.
I have few recollections from my childhood. I do not have roots in one place or childhood
friends “back home”. There are few objects, locations, smells or sounds that can activate my
brain synapses and help me recall childhood memories. I do, however, have a feeling of what
my childhood was like pieced together through stories from my parents, and some from
encounters and visits to old friends, homes and schools.
I am an only child. My father was very hardworking and ambitious. He came from a modest
family in Spain and as soon as he married my mother, who also came from a modest family
from a different part of Spain, they decided to leave the country and try their luck building
their net worth outside of what they considered to be a retrograde country. My father and my
mother were the centre of my existence and the only constant in my life. My mother was a
stay-at-home mom, as she could not keep reapplying to get her teaching license in every
country we moved to, given the frequency, speed and unpredictable nature of our relocations.
Although my dad was a bit of a workaholic (at least from my perception as a child), I still
very much felt his presence in my upbringing, but I was closer to my mother.
Comodoro Rivadavia to Mendoza, Argentina
After Scotland, my parents were transferred to Great Yarmouth and then Litchfield, England.
A little later we relocated to a tiny town in the Patagonian desert. We soon moved again, to
Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina, where I started kindergarten. I made friends there very
easily. Shortly thereafter, we were relocated to Mendoza, Argentina, where I attended first
grade. I had friends over to the house all the time, but I was always “the Spanish girl”. I was
very studious and I do remember my father sitting down with me late at night helping with
math from that very young age.
Although I was good in academics, I seemed to be erratic in my physical education classes.
One day I was the most physically agile kid in the class and the next day I could barely
coordinate my limbs to kick a ball around a football field. This marked me as a kid, and
reinforced my view that most everything was out of my control. I must have made
connections between this and the fact that with a moment’s notice I could be told that we
were moving somewhere new and I could do nothing to stop that.
In fact, well before my last month of second grade, we were told we would move back to
Comodoro Rivadavia, as my father had been promoted. This was the first “moving incident” I
can remember in terms of how these sudden changes made me feel. I always cried when I
found out, as I knew I would miss the many friends I had made. It was only later that I began
to see the benefits of moving. I remember enjoying my last months more than ever as I made
new friends, tried new things and opened up even more, as if there were no consequences to
Comodoro Rivadavia, Take Two
Back in Comodoro Rivadavia, on my first day of third grade in a new school, I was internally
shy but immediately befriended a number of people. I had a very elaborate bandage on my
hand for a while (from a badly cut finger) and this attracted much welcome attention. I
quickly established myself as the star pupil, in close competition with the local Argentinean
star third-grader whom I always tried to surpass in exam grades, accolades and popularity.
At the end of fourth grade we were to move again. This time my mother told me with a huge
smile on her face that we were being sent to Paris. She was thrilled to go to the city she had
always dreamt of and never been to. I was miserable. This move was particularly hard on me,
as the Argentinean school system ran from March to November but the American/French
school system ran from September to May. My parents found me a tutor to help me learn the
remaining four months of fourth grade in less than two, and we then moved straight to Paris
where I enrolled in fifth grade without a summer holiday.
This was by far the hardest of my transitions in elementary school. I spoke a couple of words
of English but no French. I could not communicate with anyone in school and could not
understand my teachers. In addition, the girls in my grade were two to three years older than I
was, as I had started school younger than normal and had just, in essence, skipped a grade.
This meant the other girls were already going to parties and wearing makeup, and I was still
playing with Barbie dolls on the weekends. I was very lonely. I had always excelled in school
but in Paris I would often have to stay up late to understand what my homework assignments
were asking of me, and even later to actually be able to do them.
I don’t have many memories of Paris other than spending weekends at home with my mom
and dad trying to understand my school work. When my parents told me we were moving that
summer, I was overcome with joy. The very thought of going back to school in Paris had
made my stomach twirl, so I could not wait to see what was waiting for me in Mexico City.
I was very shy on my first day at the American school in Mexico. We were Spanish, and there
was still some awkwardness towards Spain in Mexico. Kids started calling me “the Spanish
girl”. It was others that associated me to Spain and created any sense of nationality for me as I
simply had not met any Spanish people other than my extended family in Spain, so I based
my idea of my country on what others projected on me. Because my parents had never spoken
very highly of Spain themselves, I assumed the “Spanish” dub was a negative one, and I
immediately developed a Mexican accent to better blend in. I leveraged it while at school but
left it behind when I got home to ensure I could please my parents, for whom a Castilian
accent was the norm.
To make matters worse, I felt self-conscious about my red hair. That made me different, and I
hated it. Even though I had gotten rid of my Spanish accent, my classmates found a new
nickname for me: “Colorada” (not a derogatory term for a redhead, but not a nice one). I was
very sensitive about this as during my years in Argentina people called me “Fosforito” (which
means match, for the red on the end of the matchstick). Although it is an endearing term, I
always took offence as I was the only redheaded child in school. So, needless to say, I didn’t
feel like I fitted in. It also didn’t help that I got top marks, always knew the answers in class,
and was the teacher’s pet.
Each school year for the three years we were there I preferred to have one good friend rather
than a collection of many. This meant that when my friend was absent from school I felt sick
to my stomach as I didn’t know who I’d have lunch with. There was nothing that petrified me
more than the feeling of being alone, yet at the same time I was too shy to go sit with other
kids for fear of breaking social norms. I was very self-analytical at this stage. I realized that
clothes, hair, accent and the way you acted had to mimic the crowd you wanted to fit into.
While I had done some of this subconsciously in the past, I had not fully understood the
power of symbols as tools.
From then on I perfected my “formula” for moving to new places and getting settled. I got
this down to an art and at one point was able to organize my life with friends, my
extracurricular activities, and proving myself to teachers and academics within less than three
days after arriving at a new location. It was then that I would look at those in school who were
not properly integrated and remember what it was like to be them. My mom would do the
same, getting our household settled by finding everything from the right furniture to the right
doctors in less than a couple of weeks from arrival day, in contrast to some of the other
diplomat or oil wives who oftentimes had their families live in a world of disarray.
The US – Houston, Dallas – Then Back to Argentina
This formula sometimes failed me, as it did when we moved to Texas, first to Houston and
then to Dallas. I have strong memories of missing my Houston friends in Dallas. I was angry
with my parents for making me leave Houston, and I think this was the first time I truly
blamed them for moving around. Thinking we would be there for some time, my parents
bought a house rather than renting. My mom was excited about owning a house, as my father
had always refused to buy because he felt that would give us less flexibility and we could not
afford to not be flexible. He was right. Less than 10 months later we were told that we were
moving to Argentina again, this time to beautiful Buenos Aires. The entire family beamed
Argentina, Take Two
Once again I felt that the move would be additive: I would stay in touch with the friends I
liked, make new ones, and access new opportunities. New life, clean slate, time to reinvent
myself and figure out how to make an impact. Senior year of high school proved to be a great
success. Academics, hobbies, friends, and family life – everything was balanced. The future
was also bright as I found out I had gotten into an Ivy League university in the US.
Back to the USA
The day my mother dropped me off at university was one of the most traumatic of my life as I
had never been away from her, and I knew that this time there was no turning back. We
managed to talk on the phone every day for at least 45 minutes, which kept our relationship
strong and as close as ever.
I wanted to graduate summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, so I organized everything for
this to be achievable. I conveniently had a boyfriend who lived across the ocean in Italy.
Responding to his tendency to be jealous, I shut out all local distractions and focused entirely
on my schoolwork while at school. I travelled to Milan every three weeks and thus balanced
my work with life in that way. I worked in Europe every summer to acquire the necessary
skills for a future career, but also to be close to my boyfriend and family. I spent my junior
year abroad to perfect my languages in Italy and France.
These were proactive self-imposed changes. For the first time in my life, I had a say in where
I would go and it was no surprise that I opted to change location in order to break the
otherwise four-year stint in the same place. I also chose three majors, because one would have
been too boring and I needed to maintain the variety of activities, interests and acquaintances
that I had experienced growing up. There was nothing that scared me more than not having
flexibility and thus I chose a study path that would open as many doors as possible.
On to London
Upon graduation, I chose to go to the London School of Economics to get my Master of
Science, both to be close to my family, since my mother was already sick, but also to make
the job hunt a little easier, as I wanted to be close to my mom. I had barely lived in Europe
since I had left it when I was less than three years old and had only gone back for eight
months in elementary school and a year in college. Nonetheless, I felt a strong sense of
European identity, although I had no idea what this meant. I craved leaving the American
continent behind to reconnect with what I expected to be my “roots”. This change was
welcome as I’d had enough of being in the US for what to me was a very long time and was
ready for different things. Luckily, my best friends moved to Europe so there was no major
loss in moving – instead all gain. I was curious to see what I would obtain from my European
It is odd to think back now and realize that this was the beginning of my more “stable period”.
I lived in London on and off until today (2010). After my MSc I took a job at JP Morgan in a
rotational programme to ensure I didn’t have to commit to any one area of the bank.
Down to Spain
I took a detour when my mother´s illness took a turn for the worse and I decided to resign
from the firm to take care of her. I moved to Spain for the first time in my life. This time, the
thought of moving was scary because of the impact it would have on my career, as I had little
certainty of how long I would need to remain in Spain. I immediately reacted in the same way
I usually did, by building a routine and lots of commitments into my schedule.
After my mother passed away, my life perspective changed. I realized how short life is and
that when you die the only thing that matters are the people around you, the people that love
you, and the impact you leave behind on those people. Work, prestige of firm or profession,
intellect of friends, or adjusting to society’s pressures or needs, are all irrelevant. You don’t
lie on your deathbed and think about whether you went to an Ivy League or worked for a blue
chip company. Instead you think of whether you were a good person or not and impacted
others for the better.
As a result of losing the core of my identity (my mother was the only person that knew me in
every country and every phase that I went through in life, so she was the only one that could
put the pieces together, besides myself), I now needed to think about what I truly wanted to
do with my life. I took time to think about that, staying at home with my father for months. I
did a lot of introspection within the self-imposed routine to manage this change. Only this
time it was not so easy. Meeting my (now) husband at the time, however, made me start to
believe that things do happen for a reason, and that with every change, no matter how bad,
comes an opportunity and something good.
After getting married, my husband and I returned to London. Every six months or so I would
tell him that I wanted to quit my job and that I wanted to move. The nomad in me was antsy.
We had been in London for two years … three years … then four years, and I was ready for a
change. But my husband helped me see the value in constancy and sticking things through,
and I started seeing the benefits of his philosophy.
After four years in London at the Corporate Executive Board, I thought it was time to go to
back to school. Since I had no business experience but was working in the private sector, I
knew I’d need the MBA to acquire the building blocks I missed in college. However, since
things had been going very well at work, I had put it off every year. Until 2009, when I
realized it was ‘now or never’ and decided to go to INSEAD´s MBA programme in France
and Singapore to embark on a new adventure.
A time for sense-making
At their next meeting, the professor began by saying, “After hearing both sides of your story,
personal and professional, I can see how your background has contributed to your developing
tremendous and unique strengths as a change leader. I can also see areas in which you can
continue to grow and develop, so that the experience at CEB becomes additive, like many of
the other experiences in your life. Let me expand on some of my insights.”
Fatima took a deep breath and leaned back to listen.
Fatima´s Vision of Process Management as an Agility Builder for Change
Fatima tried to teach her team that by standardizing as many processes as possible they would free up
time to devote to innovation. As soon as those innovations were tested and learned from, they too
could be standardized, freeing up time for new innovations. This process of continuous improvement
would allow people to feel a sense of control over their own destiny, particularly in a sales-like
environment where multiple exogenous factors could affect the result. This was the same approach
Fatima had applied to her life as she thought about moving around. Some things, such as finding the
right school, right home, even the right friends, could be standardized, and the rest needed to be fluid,
depending on what the circumstances allowed.
CEB Franchises / Practices
Finance Practice Pre Fusion
Finance Practice Post Fusion
Fatima´s FIN Pre Fusion
Fatima´s FIN Post Fusion
Psychometric Test: Based on Prof Anthony F. Gregorc’s Mind Styles
DOMINANT LEARNING STYLES
Describe what you prefer most of the time. Place a check mark beside every phrase under each section
that describes your preferences. Check as many as you feel strongly describe you. The category you
score the highest in is your dominant learning style.
I almost always:
____ prefer doing things the same way
____ work best with people who won’t hesitate to take immediate action
____ am more interested in obvious facts than in finding hidden meanings
____ prefer a neat and orderly environment
____ ask first “How do I do it?”
I almost always:
____ want as much information as possible before making a decision
____ need enough time to do a thorough job
____ prefer to get directions in writing
____ am interested in where a person got the facts
____ ask “Where do I find more information?”
I almost always:
____ prefer to check with others before making a final decision
____ try to be sensitive to other people’s feelings
____ work well with others
____ am not bothered by a cluttered environment
____ ask the advice of others when in doubt
I almost always:
____ solve problems creatively
____ act on the spur of the moment
____ work best with those who can keep up
____ like frequent changes in the environment
____ prefer to learn only what’s necessary
The results of the above test are designed to indicate individual learning styles which can be helpful as
guidelines when creating teams and when targeting one’s communication style to connect with various
forms of learners. The four learning styles are described here—each test-taker will typically fall within
one of these categories.
To know which category you fall into, tally the number of statements you placed a tick next to in each
“section” of the test.
If you ticked more statements in the 1st section, you are a Concrete Sequential.
If you ticked more statements in the 2nd section, you are an Abstract Sequential.
If you ticked more statements in the 3rd section, you are an Abstract Random.
If you ticked more statements in the 4th section, you are a Concrete Random.
Description of Types
They like. . .
Structure & pattern
Directions & Details
Data gathering Construct
How-to projects Classify
Reason & logic
Ideas & information
Theory & concepts
Analysis & evaluation
Fatima´s team was comprised of mostly Abstract Random profiles. Amongst the most recent
additions, however, there was a good mix between Concrete Sequentials, Abstract Sequentials and a
few Concrete Randoms.
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