Phenomenal Woman: Owner of Change Agility – Tlale Mosimane

I met Tlale many years ago while we were both working at Unilever. She was in the IT department. Tlale eventually left Unilever to start her own business. At that time, she was one of the very few people I knew that chose the entrepreneurial path. She was also one of the very few women in IT and I still applaud her for her role in opening this career path to other women.

I’ve also been extremely curious about her business venture and her decision to move from IT to Change Management. She is now a Chief Transformer and I can definitely attest to this being the perfect title for her.

  1. Who is Tlale Mosimane?

I’m an only child who never had the perks of being an only child! I was raised by my awesome late grandmother – Magauta Julia Mosimane – who had 12 children, and insisted that most of the grandkids live under her roof. I was blessed to have all my siblings around me because I never experienced being an only child. I was a bit of strange child; quite a loner and a bit of a nerd so having so many kids around allowed me to live in my own little world – and the dreamer in me was born.

My mother was extremely supportive. She has truly been the best mother for a child like me, supporting every insane dream I had; and there were many. She was ophthalmic nurse and an avid reader. If you had a book, she would buy it and I would drown myself in it. Through my love for reading, I was selected to be part of the gifted child program that was run out of Soweto in the 80s. This  exposed me to a world of theatre, different written material, hiking and camping with kids I would never have met ordinarily in my day-to-day existence (as I never went to a multiracial or private school) and the experience expanded my view of the world.

At the age of 15, I started working at a SPAR in Melville on the weekends. This was another experience that changed my life. The store was owned by a Portuguese family and through their overall shocking treatment of their staff, I knew that people mattered. I did not know what my future looked like, but I knew that R30 was a step towards a future I was committed to working for!

I graduated at Rhodes in IT and Economics and started a rather elaborate journey at Unilever which opened so many new and exciting opportunities. After leaving Unilever, I completed my Honours degree and worked for various other companies as a SAP consultant. I soon realised that I was constantly looking for a “perfect employer” or “more” as I called it then. Fast forward to a few years later, I decided just to stop, go back home to my mama’s house and re-think my life. I knew I was bored with IT and I knew that there was no joy for me in being employed. I knew that I wanted “more”.

  1. How did you get into the change management profession?

I studied IT at my mother’s suggestion and worked as an SAP consultant for a number of years. It was solid foundation for me and I learned a lot, completed many projects and met amazing people – and the money was fantastic!  After a few years, I became completely unfulfilled and fell into the trap of job hopping. That did not change how I felt so I started a string of businesses, from trying my hand at selling computers, to attempting an internet café, to exporting of mining equipment to Zambia and eventually being ballroom dance teacher (with the aim of opening a studio). At some point, I even had a coffin manufacturing business! I had so much fun trying to figure it all out and I had nothing to lose at that stage. I was not bothered by failure, which worked well in my favour. 

My mother decided to stop entertaining my whims; so even though I had a roof over my head, I had to get back into contracting. This was when I met my new mentor, someone I had met on previous projects – Ray Suttner. He worked in Change Management and seemed to be having more fun than me so naturally I was hooked! I practically forced him to hire me and did not care that I had to take a pay cut. I learned all I could from him and practically lived at his home (lucky for me his wife Carol was lovely). I had an opportunity to finally do something that was challenging and enjoyable and it was the start of my next venture – Mosimane Consulting (Avowal). This was an IT/SAP and Change Management consulting firm with a partner, and it prepared me for Change Agility.

I was always reminded of my experience at age 15 when I worked at that SPAR – and I knew immediately that Change Management was my “more”. It was not easy; my first Change Management consulting job, under Ray’s leadership, was so horrid I almost quit. I actually did walk out of the client’s premises. I was so used to being a seasoned SAP Consultant, I did not know how to deal with the people element. I wanted to change people using logic, a skill gained from my IT education. It was a disaster but Ray was a patient teacher. I decided to up-skill myself through education and it was during this time, I did my MBA as well and grew the Change Management offering and knowledge centre of my previous business.

Change Management gave me a front seat view to the emotional journey that those recipients went through towards accepting the technology. With Change Management, I saw workplaces transform into empowering spaces where people could become the best version of themselves. I realised that it’s not really about technology or solutions. It’s really about addressing an individual’s WHY, in the recipient’s frame of reference, within the context of the organisational goal. People mattered and I saw this come alive on my new journey. I was able to get so close to people that the experience of being able to walk in someone else’s shoes gave me an amazing view of how people viewed their workplace, and why it was important for organisations to care about that.

Next Step? I did what came natural to me which is try and expand on this experience and all the lessons learned – I opened my next business, Change Agility. 

  1. Is this service required?

The service is required across all organisations that are looking to remain competitive. You know when want to grow your organisation, so you spend money developing the best strategies and plans but then your people don’t buy into it. They believe that there is nothing wrong with the present – if it’s not broken don’t fix it! The harder you push, the more they panic and the more push back you get, and the less likely you are you achieve your goals. It can be frustrating for leaders, but it can be more frustrating for your people. Most of us spend at least 8 hours of our day at work (after a 2-4 hour commute per day) and another 8 sleeping, leaving about 4-6 hours with our families. Work has become where we spend most of our lives!

I personally believe that it can be a fulfilling experience but this depends on how organisations support their workforce as they transition from one state to the next.

Change is inevitable, and we all experience it in different facets of our lives. It is just at a bigger scale in an organisation and with digitisation, the future state has become a moving target, so change fatigue, stress and anxiety has come a reality for majority of workers globally.

The world is not going to wait for anyone to catch up, and Change Management is a set of principles we use to minimise personal and organisational disruption and impact as the world continues (and will continue) to change.

  1. Are your clients only big corporates. If so, why?

Yes, Our clients are mostly big corporates. I believe that our services are required by all companies – public and private – however, big corporates have an understanding of what they can do to ease transitions for their workforce, and the role of Change Management. They also have the large projects that have made Change Management a necessity as well as the budget to get it done. In the past, the discipline was more of a tick box exercise for many companies. However, with the various developments across the industry, we have become more intentional, very practical and less “airy fairy”. I think that with more education around what we can do (and cannot do), there will be a growth in demand from companies of all sizes.

Most Change Managers are also Industrial Psychologists (that is the basis for all our recruitment) with various other exposures, so the services are not cheap. It’s easy for companies to focus on what we call “installation” which is your standard measure of success based on price, budget and time. What we bring to the table is the real measure of success which is installation plus achieving business and human (behavioural) objectives. This is becoming more and more important as the world of work is changing.

Interestingly enough, it was an SOE that pushed me to move from my dream to open a dance studio to registering the company so that I could continue working with them. My life has been filled with angels that have crafted the journey I find myself on today, so I have a special place in my heart for government contracts. 

  1. You said that you believe that Change Agility brings a fresh perspective to organisations undergoing any transformation and is set to be a leader in the industry. Can you elaborate further?

With so many players in the industry, it’s difficult to identify the front runner and most of us talk to each other more often than not – as competitors. The fact that the discipline is not regulated, most of what we do is really defined by the individual performing the work. Many Change Managers will have a Change Management certificate of some sort, but unfortunately this is not a measure of success.

If you look at our work, we know that it is not possible to predict exact human behaviours, but we can make certain assumptions based on research that assists us in planning ahead. This is a challenge for clients because not only do they not know what to expect, they also don’t know what it will look like when it’s done. It becomes difficult to assign a budget to something you cannot measure so this is where we have focused and attempted to changing as a differentiator.

What our team at Change Agility have done is create consistency in what we provide to the client. As consultants, there will be elements around executing that are knowledge and experience dependent. However, our ability to provide a clear roadmap of what we will be doing in your organisation and what the expected results will be has really set us apart. Our roadmap is not standard; it is client and requirement specific. In simple terms, we have built a toolbox with all the tools in it. Then we built a method to selecting the tools required for the work.

Let me take you on a journey to assure you that all that investment was not in vain. We did a presentation a few weeks ago and from it, we had minimal questions, which concerned me. All questions focused on basic information like how long have we been in business and who were our previous clients. It was strange not to be asked a technical question. I left with one of our Account Managers feeling like a failure and I remember saying to her – that was a bad one.

We decided to turn around at reception and go back into the room with one question – why don’t you have any questions?

We got a simple response : “Well, you told us what you are going to do based on our requirements, how you are going to do it, how you suggest we measure success, what we are responsible for to make this work, how you plan to support us as well as what typical outputs will look like. That’s all we need to know.”

I have never been that pleased. After years of trying to clearly articulate our process and what we actually do, this potential corporate made us feel like we are finally heading in the right direction.

We are now working on digitising what we can in our processes, as we cannot actually digitise most of it. The purpose of this is to position ourselves as an industry leader. This is exciting as it’s being done by various people so I feel like the best brains are on it and I can’t wait to see what its going to look like when it’s complete.

  1. You are both a Director and Change Management Specialist. How do you manage your time between the two roles?

I actually don’t consult anymore except for small short-term projects. I do get involved in each solution development, but I suspect the team does this just so that I can leave them alone and they can get on with it.

One of the challenges I had, as I started growing the company, was how to stop being a Change Manager (technician)! I really loved the work and thought the business will just work out if I was good at the technical side. I soon realised that the more people I added, the less ability I have to influence the work – so I moved to a QA role. This was critical because as a team we needed to define our own approach and how we would be able to measure value, as well as standardise our approach (as much as possible). This has been a labour of love, and its constantly changing which I enjoy – but we have stuck to how we define success and I think in 2018, we have the right team on board to really embed this across all projects.

You can’t be both but you need to be able to tell very quickly when it’s going wrong and assist your team to get on the right track so that background and understanding helps. The people in Change Agility are truly the gems of the outfit. Today I can confidently say that this team is one that will transform the Change Management discipline. They are super smart (most are smarter than me), energetic, love what we stand for as a company, buy into what our vision,  and want to do their best and add value.  They are really passionate about what we do and even in those unfortunate times when we may get it wrong, they are brave enough to admit and take corrective action. I love their bravery. You have to be brave to do this job.

  1. As a mother, how do you juggle this role with your professional one?

I was super lucky. I became an instant mom so I did not have to give up much to become a mother. My daughter Mpumi is now 9 and I met her when she was a little under 2 years which was really scary for me. Luckily, I had a partner who was present and determined to support me and my business through this transition. Being a full-time stepmother required me to tap into strengths I did not know I had. My life completely changed especially after we got married and suddenly there were 3 of us – instead of just me!  That was a real shift, and I relied on so many strong women (who are now my friends) for advice, support and laughs! I always say I stand on the shoulders of giants and while being a stepmother is a daunting task, I’m blessed to have such a cool daughter.

I also have a lot of support from my husband and my mom and yes, I do have full-time help. I have never tried to be superwoman. I knew that having a strong support structure was important to Mpumi’s development and mine. I got married at 37 at which point, I really valued my independence, and I did not know anything about being a mother or wife so obviously I did a whole project plan which fell flat. After some great advice from good friends, I let everything work itself out. I let God take over and that was exactly what happened. Everything worked out.

If you ask Mpumi, she will say I love my work! Which is true but I regard Mpumi as my beautiful surprise and a mini me – very independent and brave. She so much like me that it’s scary. She helped me paint the walls of our current offices and write happy messages for the team. She has also decided that when she takes over, Change Agility will be selling houses – so that’s that!

I take her to school in the morning and we have our “quality us” time. It was important to make this a priority for me. I used to be at work by 6am after my run but now I’m at work at 8 and it works for me.

  1. What advice would you give young black women looking to get their foot in the door in change management?

Firstly, you need a solid foundation. We made a decision to have our qualifying criteria an Honours degree in Industrial Psychology. You will also need to read as much as possible on organisational behaviours and human behaviour. There are fantastic developments in the industry, some even coming from Neuropsychology, and we always interview widely, so read read read.  Join a reputable organisational that has a change management team to learn from and invest in the discipline. I believe that to be a Change Manager you have to enjoy working with people at all levels.

Finally, JUST DO IT!

I once read this quote by Woodrow Wilson: “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.’

Change Management allows you to really enable to world, one organisation at a time. I realised very quickly in my life that THIS LIFE is worth living for ME.

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