Managing change is the key to Virginia’s continuing success with eVA by Jon Hansen

Posted on June 19, 2015


Change is inevitable. Our ability to not only recognize this immutable truth, but adapt to it, is the key to whether change will be a good thing or not.

In my post yesterday, I talked with IACCM’s CEO and founder Tim Cummins about the importance of leadership succession planning. His reference to Warren Buffett’s “progression of the three I’s” was just one of several interesting and thought-provoking observations.

This being said, I think that the greatest risk posed by any change – especially involving key personnel, is the desire on the part of the new people to do something. When I say something, what I am talking about is the desire to leave their mark or fix that which quite frankly isn’t broken.

The point was recently driven home to me in an article I read by a young executive who had, within the past year, assumed the leadership mantle for her family’s business.

In her article titled “Moving Beyond The Shadow Of An Existing Legacy,” Julie Lyons-Wolfe wrote that one of the most important lessons she had learned since becoming CEO, is that “change for the sake of change is never good.”

In reflecting on her first year of leadership, Lyons-Wolfe talked about the temptation to do something – anything, that comes about as a result of neither “being the visionary and charismatic leader who founded the company, or the executive who took the original vision and built it into a ubiquitous brand.”

In circumstances such as this, it is easy to see yourself as little more than a custodian of someone else’s accomplishment. This of course is usually the driving impetus for making changes, even if said changes are unwarranted.

Conversely, there is another side to this two-edged change sword . . . a paralysis associated with the fear of doing something that will ruin a good thing. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place.

So what do you do?

I think the answer can be found in the following excerpt from the Lyons-Wolfe article:

“What this told me is that change or doing something different so that you step out from behind the shadow of someone else’s legacy is never a good idea. However, and if you have done your research and truly believe that you can make things better, then you should go for it.”

The above lesson that was learned by the young CEO makes a great deal of sense. It is also the reason why Virginia’s eVA program has continued to grow and deliver results.

While there have been many changes since I began covering Virginia back in 2007, including at the CPO level with Robert Gleason replacing eVA’s original architect Ron Bell, and the election of new Governors, the core or foundational values of the program have remained unchanged. Specifically, deliver maximum value to the Commonwealth’s taxpayers through a platform that fully engages the business community (suppliers), which in turn drives the overall economy.

This doesn’t mean that there have not been attempts to change direction. Let’s face it, challenges are a necessary part of maintaining a program’s vitality and ongoing effectiveness. However, and as I wrote in my April 4th, 2014 post titled Revised Forrester Wave Report confirms what I have been saying since 2007 . . . eVA is tops in public procurement, even said challenges have ultimately resulted in eVA’s detractors reaching the conclusion that the best course was the present course.

In the end, the 2014 challenge is not likely to be the last time that someone, somewhere within the Virginia hierarchy, will test eVA’s metal by suggesting that a change is in order. Once again, I do not think that in and of itself this is a bad thing.

That being said, the real question in terms of whether or not a review so soon after the Forrester Wave Report confirmed eVA’s effectiveness yet again, is understanding the motive behind it.