- Programme: Leading Change
- Nationality: Danish
- Job Post-programme: Project Manager, Søren Jensen Rådgivende Ingeniørfirma
Professional experience: Niels is a seasoned project manager with extensive experience implementing large-scale and complex projects. He took up his current role with Søren Jensen after ten years managing multinational teams and projects for Vestas megawatt turbines. Niels holds a degree in Electronics from the Engineering College of Aarhus.
Tackling complex change projects
Before I started working at Søren Jensen I had spent several years as a project manager with one of the world’s biggest wind companies. When I took on my current role I moved to the building and construction sector – it was a totally different industry and a major professional challenge. I was hired to implement project management models and processes, an area in which I have plenty of experience, but Søren Jensen had developed extremely fast (from around 40 to more than 150 people) and reflected a number of difficulties associated with such exponential growth. The projects the company was taking on were becoming increasingly complex; after interviewing a number of employees it became clear that there was a lack of structure, and that roles and responsibilities were not clearly defined.
We have numerous skilled engineers on staff, but in order to achieve my initial task, I needed to implement a middle management layer. I also wanted to change the company culture to motivate people more and make them better team players. Although I have strong management skills, I knew early on that this was a major project - I never doubted my core abilities, but to boost my skills I needed an executive study programme that focused specifically on leading change.
My boss was very keen that we invest in a high-quality course, and London Business School’s reputation for global excellence was ultimately the deciding factor.
Many of my colleagues have more than 20 years experience in the construction industry, so I had to prove myself to them as well. The Leading Change programme reassured me that I was on the right path from the start. What blew me away was that every professor teaching on the course lived their subject area using real-life examples to reinforce key concepts. They work with major multinational companies and have a common ability to present content in a dynamic manner that is quite extraordinary. It was truly the best learning experience of my life and totally different to anything I’d done previously – because there were no exams, I felt I could just listen and absorb, picking out what was immediately applicable to me.
What I especially liked about the programme is that the faculty presented theories, and then backed them up with scientific models and examples. My professors also recommended a lot of reading material, so when I finished the course I went out, bought the books, and read them. Doing this has helped me connect the course content to my own experiences of leading and motivating people, enabling me to apply what I learnt in class to my own professional context. One very positive outcome of my own experience is that all 11 members of our core management team are currently attending the School’s Essentials of Leadership programme.
Implementing new change
My manager sent me to one of best business schools in the world, so it is really important that I validate his confidence in me and make a success of this project. It is still early days but thanks to Leading Change, I am slowly setting a whole new management structure in place that has the potential to make a profound difference to our business. One resource I’ve found very useful is the book Switch, which focuses on the concept ‘direct the rider, motivate the elephant, and shape the path’. I initially used this model to implement my new management team, and have followed up using ‘the first 90 days’ strategy to get everybody on board. I’m setting new habits in place, including regular management meetings, and I’m using different persuasive approaches to present ideas and influence the decision-making of those around me.
I’ve always felt that if you want people to do a great job you need to understand them. At Søren Jensen we have a lot of very technically proficient people, but we need to raise our management game. At London Business School, the focus is not just on strategy, but also on how people react and behave.
I mentor a lot of different people and every time I approach somebody now, I think about the path I want them to take. In short, Leading Change has turned me from a manager into a leader - I now have the knowledge to combine my personality, project skills and experience in the most effective way possible.