Céline Schillinger: Change has to be meaningful – otherwise it’s just a burden!

In the following interview we are pleased about the answers from Céline Schillinger, Founder and CEO at We Need Social and a recognized expert in Engagement Leadership, who is giving one of the keynotes at day 1 of IOM SUMMIT. Céline is a global influencer on a new style of leadership and helps organizations succeed and grow by engaging their clients, partners and employees.

In her talk at IOM SUMMIT on 17. September she speaks about „transformational leadership“ and „how to make change happen“. In our interview we asked her about her thoughts, issues & recommendations on how to apply this to the context of the digital workplace. She recommends to resist the temptation to change others; to be respectful of the past; to create together and as much as possible to avoid breaking trust.

(1) Celine – you will be giving a talk on our keynote session on how to make change happen. Can you provide us three hashtags that mark your talk?

#Business because when change is connected to tangible business benefits, it gets so much more traction. Higher urgency means higher impact and more sustainable change.

#Action because it’s about doing things. You can talk about change forever yet nothing happens because real change takes place in real work.

#Together because change takes joining forces – ideally with people who have different expectations, worldviews, life experiences. How do we create change together, rather than for (or against) each other?

(2) What are your thoughts and issues about change in the context of the digital workplace?

Like many, I am concerned when I see digital workplace reduced to tools adoption; or when the “culture” topic gets addressed in isolation, as a silo. Neither the digital workplace nor the work culture is an end in itself. But the digital workplace, when embraced in a clever way, can be such a great enabler for change. I can’t advocate enough for leaders and IT to team up with users – transversal communities literally crave for good, enabling collaboration solutions – and, of course, to walk the talk of transparency, agility and networked engagement. In many organizations, we are still very far for there.

(3) What are your key recommendations on how to make change happen?

Come to IOM Summit and you will see 😉 Seriously, I wrote a post a while ago with my top ten lessons for change (“One Human at a Time”). Some of them might feel obvious, some are less so and I had to learn them. Like, resist the temptation to change others. It’s a big one. Change agents need to beware their ego as it may lead them to reproduce the very system they’re trying to change, with the same old power dynamics, exclusion mechanisms and so on. I wrote about it in this other post (“Culture and the Real Impact of Change Agents”). Over the last decade, as an employee first and now as a consultant, I have been involved in wonderful people-powered, tech-enabled changes. I think this is really the way to go.

(4) Which stakeholder do we need to get involved and what are the best approaches?

All of them…! Or at least a representative enough subset, that includes front-line workers. These are often forgotten – or not involved – in projects that affect the way they work. We can’t complain about the lack of engagement if we haven’t made the effort to engage them, from the very start. It always strikes me when I hear “the project is confidential for now and we will engage people when we have clarity around it”. It’s precisely when you don’t have clarity yet that you must engage more people, because then you work with them (not for them), you make sense together, you benefit from their perspectives, you create ownership and you facilitate subsequent adoption.

(5) Is there any difference between facilitating change for the digital way of working and any other transformation processes within the organisation?

I don’t think there is any difference. Learning about new tools may be a barrier for some, but there is learning involved in any change.

(6) So as a summary – we need a purpose driven change approach – then we are able to support any change?

Exactly. Change has to be meaningful for many people, otherwise it’s just perceived as a burden, as additional work, as a constraint. We need to be respectful of the past, create together the conditions for a better future for many, and as much as possible avoid breaking trust – or people, as many organizations do – for the sake of a KPI or a shining new tool. It takes everyone’s responsibility, not just positional leaders or HR.

(7) How is technology helping to enhance the change process?

Technology can be a super powerful booster for empowerment, connection and co-creation at the service of a meaningful objective. Again, tech is not an end in itself. At the IOM Summit, I will share stories which I hope can provide some useful guidance. You will hear more about the people-powered, tech-enabled approach.

(8) For your participation at IOM SUMMIT – what are your expectations?

I am really looking forward to meet people, some old friends and hopefully many new faces! I can’t wait to share my learning and learn from others.


Thank you for your answers!


Read also the interview with Lena Hildeberg and find out more about the Digital Workplace as an agile process: Digital Workplace Initiatives need to be seen as an ongoing agile process, not as a project!




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Marta Medvedec

Marta Medvedec

Marta Medvedec ist für das Content Marketing Management bei Kongress Media zuständig und unterstützt diese bei der inhaltlichen Ausgestaltung der verschiedenen Fachblogs rund um die Themen & Events zur Digitalisierung & digitalen Transformation.

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