TITLE: Director of transformation
LOCATION: Quimper, France
Putting the customer first in the financial sector means building a better digital experience across the enterprise—a transformation that European insurance broker Génération began in 2018. Looking to forge a strategic vision for change, the family-run organization brought on Cécile Rayssiguier in February 2019. With more than 30 years’ experience as a project manager and director, primarily in IT and energy, Rayssiguier helps executive committee members clarify objectives and helps project leaders embrace new standards and practices.
Why did Génération launch the transformation program?
Génération faced three main pressures: competition, customers and employees. The competition has been changing a lot, with new and disruptive players in the market. A lot of our competitors have merged and are now more powerful, but we’re a family business that wants to stay independent. Customers today are more demanding. They don’t compare us to other insurance companies; they compare us to Amazon and Apple. They want us to be completely digital, and they want us to create more value without increasing our prices. The new generation of employees is also more demanding. As millennials, they’re digital natives who are disappointed if their company computer is 2 years old, and they don’t interact with people in the old command-and-control management style.
How has the pandemic altered that vision?
We had designed a four-year program, starting in 2019, to address five strategic objectives: be more innovative, offer new services, have more robust internal practices, have a more engaged workforce and accelerate our growth. The COVID crisis has put the brakes on this program, but overall, the company has faced up to it. As early as the summer, we started to rethink our medium-term strategy. The main strategic goals remain the same, but we know we must adapt the time scale and the approach to the future.
How did you collaborate with company leaders to develop those objectives?
Génération’s leaders knew the company had to change, but the vision was not yet clear enough, nor did anyone in the company know how to run a transformation. So during my first eight months, I advised the top management team in four areas: the transformation’s vision, roadmap, governance model and communication. As a member of the executive committee, I met with each of the other executive members on a monthly basis, and I also met with the managers just below the C-suite. I asked stakeholders precise questions about the strategic vision. I told them, “If I don’t understand, how can you expect your teams to understand?” I also put their ideas into drafts so they could determine if that was or wasn’t what they meant—and check one another’s understanding of the roadmap.
What do the program’s roadmap and governance model involve?
The roadmap involves about 50 transformation projects that address, for example, our management practices, our employee experience and the digital applications we use with our customers. The governance model involves a protocol for managing the projects. For instance, I set up a financial committee that reviews the project budgets on a monthly basis.
Two of those projects will help standardize our project management practices and establish a project management framework that applies to all our initiatives. We also leaned into becoming a more agile company with more design-thinking standards.
Why do you need to help mature Génération’s project management practices?
To lead the transformation, we have to transform ourselves. Project management standards were already well in place within our IT teams—but not throughout the company. Whether our transformation projects involve agile, waterfall or hybrid, whether they last a few months or a few years, they have to follow a project management framework. That wasn’t the case when I started. We have no choice but to succeed, and the only way to succeed on time, on budget and on quality is through project management.
What have been your biggest challenges?
Change management and education. Even though the company is only 20 years old, we have a lot of practices that are obsolete—but people are used to them, so it’s difficult for them to change. We have to communicate the transformation vision to employees. I have to invest a lot of time in educating our people on project management practices.
How do you communicate the need and vision for change?
I identified change champions within the company, and I talk with them regularly about conveying our message. I also told our communications team that if our transformation program talks about innovation, we have to be innovative in the way we communicate that.
Typically, a program launch would involve the general manager going onstage, taking the microphone and telling the organization it’s time to transform. After a very inspiring speech, everyone applauds, then they leave the room and go back to their standard ways of working. Instead, we created what looked like airplane embarkment cards showing employees how they would travel in groups of four to a certain room in the building. There, they interacted with digital devices that took them through a game-like tour of the transformation, its rationale and its objectives. PM
What one skill should every project manager have?
The ability to read team members’ emotions in complex, high-stakes situations. Humor helps.
What do you wish you had known at the start of your career?
Cognitive science. People who understand the science of the mind are a lot more efficient.
What’s your favorite travel destination?
The next one, wherever it is. I love to meet new people and discover new cultures, and I’ve moved a lot in my life—about 25 times.