Interview with Jeanie Duck, Boston Consulting Group

Jeanie Duck, Senior Vice President at the Boston Consulting Group, knows a thing or two about change. She lost her job in the early ’80s when the company she worked for went bankrupt, and saw at first-hand the emotional havoc wreaked on all those caught up in the maelstrom. Undeterred, she bounced back, and was soon running her own consultancy, specializing in helping companies understand the emotional impact of change on performance.

In 1988 BCG’s research into aligning the work force to improve competitiveness led them to Ms. Duck, and she joined the firm as a Vice President. This Summer she published The Change Monster, and it soared to #2 on Amazon. It received enthusiastic reviews, and its treatment of the emotional, rather than the just the operational, aspects of change have stuck a chord.

The book is unconventional in that it is written with a soul-Ms. Duck introduces personal elements in an engaging and refreshing way. It identifies and analyses the likely emotional impacts that large scale change has on those inside a company, including their families and friends. She introduces the ‘Change Curve’ which depicts the 5 stages of change, which is designed to help managers better spot and react to obstacles.

H: Asian and European firms have traditionally used more of a consensus approach to management than Americans. Does this validate that approach?

JD: I think this book is universally applicable-to the extent that getting employees engaged emotionally, as well as operationally, is important. As a leader you have to understand the motivations of employees. The book has already been translated into Korean and will shortly be translated into Japanese and Chinese-this seems to suggest that it does resonate with the Asian values.

H: Is this not rather ‘wishy-washy’ -where are the numbers to crunch and the actionable recommendations?

JD: This is not a ‘cookbook’ but a guide to help managers think about the sorts of things they should be doing to address the emotional impacts of change – e.g. preparation, communication and execution – and in general brings more rigor to the people process.

H: You have degrees in sculpture and art – how has your artistic training influenced your approach to business?

JD: My artistic background trains me to want to know how something works – what’s the gestalt, if you like. Take this example-I was struggling with a sculpture in school that had a good part and a bad part. My art teacher came along and erased the good part-I was so mad! He said, don’t spend all your time focusing on the good bit-go back and improve the bad bit. It has taught me a lot.

H: What job-search advice do you have for the graduating class of 2002?

JD: Two things. First, find what you’re good at. Sometimes it’s the thing you find easiest, and you therefore overlook it. I found working with people easy, and running numbers hard, so I thought that running the numbers was the most important thing-it’s not. Secondly, ask yourself why you would you be good for the company. So many candidates were forgetting that you need both sides of the equation.
Jeanie Duck will be speaking at HBS on December 6th.