CEO Andre Colaiace on Access Services Innovation in Response to Covid-19

by | Feb 8, 2021 | Board Savvy Transit CEO Blog Archive, Board-CEO Involvement in Innovation/Change Management

In my experience, significant, well-planned, and capably executed organizational change is the exception to the rule, for a number of reasons, perhaps most importantly the normal human resistance to changing.  Well, I’m pleased to report that Access Services in Los Angeles County has beat the odds.

When you watch Andre Colaiace, Executive Director of Access Services,  describe the safety and service innovations Access has implemented in response to Covid-19 in the video interview I recorded with him recently, you’ll understand why Andre has been such a successful Innovator-in-Chief at the helm of Access Services.  Four keys to effective change leadership and management loom largest in the interview.

First, Andre didn’t, like many CEOs I’ve observed over the years, merely hand off management of the innovation and change process to one of his executive lieutenants.  Andre recognized that the stakes involved in responding to Covid-19 were much too high to sit at his desk reading and responding to progress reports from staff. Indeed, they were existential for Access’s contractors, So Andre immersed himself in the nuts and bolts details involved in fashioning strategies and building support for translating them into concrete action.  He was keenly aware not only that the circumstances called for intensive CEO involvement, but also that his hands-on engagement would inspire and motivate executive team members.

Second, Andre invited input from executive team members during the strategy formulation process.  He actively solicited ideas for responding to the Covid-19 challenge, he listened rather than criticizing and debating, and he actually incorporated  team members’ best thinking into the strategies that were ultimately adopted.  One reason this input process worked so well is that Andre had already created what you might call an “innovation-friendly” climate at Access Services.  Executive Team members had good reason to believe that their ideas really were welcome and that they wouldn’t be punished for occasional off-the-wall suggestions.

Third, Andre kept Access Board members in the loop as strategies were being fashioned, making sure they had an opportunity to participate in shaping Access’s responses to Covid-19, rather than treating them as an audience for finished staff work.

And fourth, Andre had since taking the helm at Access Services devoted countless hours – wearing his Diplomat-in-Chief hat – to building solid relationships, characterized by a high level of trust, with critical stakeholders in Los Angeles County.  So when Covid hit, Access could count on enthusiastic stakeholder support in launching its service and safety initiatives.

About the Author: Doug Eadie

President & CEO of Doug Eadie & Company, Inc., Doug Eadie assists CEOs in building rock-solid partnerships with their transit boards.

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