Peter Babiak is a senior instructional designer who has been working with Harbinger for just over three years. While Peter’s work is currently focused on instructional design activities, he also has extensive change management consulting experience. Prior to working with Harbinger as a contractor, Peter was an independent consultant for about 18 years.
What is your favourite part about being a consultant?
My favourite part is the people. For example, Harbinger has done a really good job at building teams that work well together, support each other effectively, and also have extensive and broad-ranging industry experience. In the current case, many of the consultants on the team have known and worked with each other in some capacity over the years so there’s an automatic advantage in place before the work even begins. It’s great to be able to work with such a well-rounded team where everyone shares the same values when it comes to serving the clients best interests.
What aspects of change management or instructional design do you find most fascinating?
I like the challenge of figuring out what the actual change is—it’s like a puzzle. From the instructional design side, it’s looking at what the system is, how it works, how it’s been customized, how the end-to-end processes works, and how those factors in combination impact the end users.
Then you have the change management side. Once you’ve figured out what the changes are, how do you best prepare the end users for the coming changes in order to mitigate fear, resistance, and all the other things that come with any large change? Solving those puzzles, coming up with an effective, strategic solution and effectively implementing it is what I find most fascinating.
Were you working in another fields before you got into change management and instructional design? Do you see any connections between your past and current fields?
I kind of have a varied path with a bunch of different jobs. With a lot of them, if you had asked me at the time how they would prepare me for my future career, I would have said they wouldn’t. But as time went on, I realized that a lot of my past jobs and experiences did in fact provide me with a broader understanding of how different types of businesses operated. This has enabled me to better understand the people I work with and train.
For example, when I worked as an inside sales rep, we underwent an implementation of changing from one system to another. I went through the training as an end-user, so I have a better understanding of the challenges people go through when they’re learning a new system, going from something they’re comfortable with, to something new and (seemingly) more complicated.
I’ve also had many summer jobs working in warehouses and factories, which has served me will in a couple of ways. For example, my understanding of warehousing, logistics and plant maintenance has directly helped me when developing training materials for those functional areas, which in turn made them more relevant and relatable to the end users. In addition, some of the people I’ve trained work in these environments, have limited to no computer experience and are required to then learn a complex system like SAP. Having had similar experiences help me to better see the implementation from their perspective and to modify my training delivery approach accordingly.
What would you say are the main values you hope to bring to your consulting approach?
The biggest values for me are empathy and honesty. Change is scary for people, especially when they are comfortable doing the same thing for years, and then suddenly their work world is getting flipped upside down. So it’s valuable if I’m able to put myself in their shoes. With these big implementations, end users are expected to dedicate a lot of time to the project while still managing their day job. Knowing how taxed these people are, respecting their time, and being empathetic to their situation is important to me. Also, I’ve found people really appreciate honesty, whether about the time commitment, the complexity of the system, the progress being made, etc. For example, sometimes what was a 2-step task in the legacy system is now a 5-step task in the new system. It’s worth taking the time to listen to peoples’ concerns and if possible, explain the reasons behind the change, e.g., giving the client better data mining and reporting capabilities. It’s also worth having the difficult conversations with project leadership when things aren’t going well, helping them navigate through and mitigate the inevitable challenges that arise on any implementation or re-org.
Do you have any advice for consultants starting out?
Be a sponge; take in as much information from as many different people as you can, both from a business/industry knowledge perspective and from a working/managing perspective. The knowledge you gain from working in different industries not only builds your overall business acumen, but can often be used across industries. When it comes to figuring out your own working style, you’ll find that while you use some of what you learn, don’t be afraid to discard things that don’t work for you.
For example, when I first became a project lead, I initially tried to emulate the behaviors and leadership styles of previous project leads. However, I found that while some aspects of how they managed worked for me, some didn’t and so I had to discard those and modify how I managed, to the betterment of both me and my team. I think for most consultants, while figuring out your particular working style, it’ll end up being a blend of what you’ve learned from others and what you bring to the table yourself organically.
Is there anything that surprised you about what it’s like to be a consultant?
I kind of knew I wanted to be a consultant when I got out of school so that’s the avenue I pursued. I liked the idea of seeing a project through from start to finish and the definable sense of accomplishment it provides. As a consultant I think it took a few projects for me to realize that while you might be working on the same software, the challenges are different from client to client and that even within particular project, you’re constantly running into new challenges and opportunities for growth.
On a personal front, what surprised me most was the friendships you make and how you can bond with the people who are going through the same experiences as you. The hours you put in can be kind of crazy, especially during crunch times. But, when you have those shared experiences, they sometimes strengthen existing friendships, forge new ones, and make for an even better project team.
Rachelle Su Marketing & Communications Coordinator / Associate Consultant Toronto