Marie-Sophie Morel is the Procure to Pay Process Lead at ABB in Zurich. She has been with the organization for over six years, having previously spent more than 16 years at Xerox, in business transformation roles.
You have achieved Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification. How do you feel this has impacted your day-to-day work and career?
It had a significant impact, and allowed me to increase my productivity and implement sustainable changes.
Lean Six Sigma is one of many methodologies helping to understand if a given task provides value to the company. It was an eye-opener for me to say there are some tasks I am requested to do that don't bring any value and that is it my responsibility to raise it. This was a radical productivity increase.
When we come across something broken, instead of spending a little time understanding the trigger, we often put in a fix. This was my second eye-opener; by looking at the root cause, we can understand what is triggering the problem, solve it and it becomes a sustainable change.
Was it your choice to originally do the training? Was it something you identified that you wanted to do for yourself or was it the organization you were with at the time?
I had a clever boss at that time who realized that it could be something good for me.
I had just come back from maternity leave. My daughter was six-months-old. For six months, I spent one week in the US, three weeks in Switzerland. It wasn’t easy to manage, but one of the best decisions in my career.
Your roles over recent years have had a strong focus on change management. What are the key factors to allow you to be successful in these roles?
You cannot implement a change against the organization.
The whole challenge and magic rely on bringing people with you. It requires a lot of respect for colleagues impacted by the change. When people are pushing back, they have a good reason. It’s my responsibility to understand and manage what is triggering their reaction.
Designing the solution with the people impacted by change is equally important. It provides them an opportunity to share their challenges upfront and influence the end-solution.
I could imagine, the larger the organization, the harder it is to manage those relationships?
At the end, you're always interacting with small teams and human beings. I wouldn't say the size of the organization matters, but rather its culture. Every organization has its own culture. As a change agent, it's fundamental to align to it, because the culture triggers the ways of working.
I once received the same transformation mandate from two compagnies with very different cultures – one very top down, and the other bottom up. The scope was similar. However, the end solutions were completely different. Both were assessed as a success. It's all about listening to the organization, to the culture, to the people impacted and designing a solution for them. Then, the change implemented will be sustainable.
Do you feel, as a woman, that you have encountered additional barriers in your career development? What advice would you give to other women aspiring to be where you are?
I have had the chance to work for global companies. Before ABB, I worked for a company which was quite advanced on this topic, and had a woman CEO that was putting in a lot of effort and was an early adopter. ABB is also committed to equality, diversity and inclusion, including gender diversity. I think it’s fair to say that, in general, there is still a way to go to achieve full and genuine equality in the workplace.
My advice is to work on yourself, because that's also some of the bias. Say to ourselves, “Can I do it?”, “Is it really for me to do it?”. These questions are very valuable questions around work-life balance.
When my kids were two, four and six, I got a promotion for a global position located in London. The job needed me to be in the UK from Monday to Friday, coming back at weekends. I asked myself, “Can I manage being away now?” My answer was, “No”.
But that shouldn't be a woman’s decision only; any human being with kids should ask: Does it really make sense for me to be away from Monday to Friday when I have three kids of this age? I can’t answer for everyone, but for me the answer was clear.
Stakeholder management is an important aspect of your role. What do you feel are the key aspects for building trust and relationships?
There are no magic rules.
It's important to understand what is important for your stakeholders. Expect them to come with new ideas and listen to them. Try to understand their personality and build your communication accordingly. Keep in mind that it takes time, and it is well-invested time.
Finally, it’s important to agree on a common definition of success.
How would you describe your people management style and what do you do to get the best out of your team?
Diversity drives success. During recruitment, I always try to get people as diverse as possible, from a skillset, background, personality, country, gender, etc. point of view, which requires a good understanding of my own strengths. The worst would be a team of clones.
Let me give you an example: I am fundamentally positive, but I know that it’s important to have some more negative people in the team. They will be the ones looking at risk.
Collaboration drives results. I expect everybody in the team to have an open way of working and develop an end-to-end approach. In a Procure to Pay environment, it means that Finance may work on Procurement-related topics and Procurement may actively contribute to Finance optimization.
What do you feel is the most rewarding part of your role?
Large transformations have a significant impact on employees. It is when employees collaborate and build a better future together. It becomes even more rewarding when the organization proactively embraces the change.
That's what gives me the energy to push for this solution; when people come back with positive feedback saying, yes, we want to be part of the game.
What have been the major highlights of your career to date?
There are a lot of small moments where you feel connected to people, you see somebody struggling, reluctant to embrace change and then suddenly that changes! The most important thing is the people I'm working with and how I bring them together.
When I see signs that it works, it's much more rewarding.
We’ve already touched on how important role models have been a little bit earlier. Are there any particular people that you would highlight as being your key role models?
If I need to highlight one person in terms of a normal role model, it's Anne Mulcahy, CEO of Xerox when I was working there. She came once to Switzerland and I was really impressed with her ability to listen and take care.
At that time, I was doing Marketing and Communications, and I was managing her schedule for the two days she was in Switzerland. I always had the feeling I was the most important person to her. She had this ability to make people feel important and to listen. An exceptional woman!
It sounds like she's had a huge impact on your approach, as well?
That's the power of a great leader. I was one of thousands of employees in that organization, but through communication and the way she interacted with us, she helped me become a better contributor to the organization. That's something I always keep in mind, that she was really a great woman.
Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.