Jurij Giacomelli is one of the lecturers at the Ljubljana Executive Summer School course, “Change and Innovation: Leadership in Action”. With extensive experience in the media and publishing industry, he brings valuable key insights into how to successfully implement change across roles and industries. In his current role as Giacomelli Media’s Managing Director, he helps companies successfully implement change in their corporate, branding and communication strategies.

Jurij has spent most of his career in the media and publishing industry, serving as the President of the Management Board of Delo, and as the Managing Director of Finance, the publisher of Slovenia’s first business daily. Before joining Delo, he was the Managing Director of Gorenje Design Studio, the leading firm in product and service design in Slovenia. He was recognised by the Manager’s Association of Slovenia with the “Young Manager of the Year” award.

In this interview with Mediachange, Jurij shares with us the keys to successfully implementing change while still keeping people motivated and engaged during the process.

Tell us how you started your career in change management. What planted the seed and which have been your most challenging/rewarding projects around change management to date?

I became attracted to change over the course of my career. As it evolved, I realised that each role I undertook contained a significant degree of transformation, from my first managerial role as Financial Manager of a very dynamic Publishing Group that was being transformed into a group of companies, where I had to develop a new publishing company altogether. Managing these roles was actually managing constant transformation. It was a relatively fast-growing company considering that it was quite a traditional business. Setting up Gorenje Design Studio within a large industrial group was also a role that put me on the tip of change, and then becoming the CEO of Delo, which is my most comprehensive assignment in a leadership position, which was a very intense experience. I was able to consolidate my path towards change management with the re-structuring of NLB. I realized that every company has to have a current set of systemic and stable processes in order to think of change in a structured way.

You mentioned that change needs to be implemented in a systematic way, but most of us would think that change is chaotic. What is your attitude towards change and how has that influenced the way you make business decisions? 

My touchpoints regarding the process of change are associated with leadership, values, culture and engagement of all the stakeholders involved. I see change becoming more organic and less technical with time, but I also make space for surprises and unique solutions because each story is a new one and you simply can’t apply the same metrics to all cases. There are significantly different approaches when it comes to downsizing, specifically when we are dealing with the consequences of failure, as opposed to situations where we are dealing with transformation as a consequence of growth. You need a different kind of approach for each kind of situation.

Which models or leadership styles do you think are needed for the ever-evolving business landscape of today?

When you are working in situations of disruptive innovation, you see companies’ responses all across the spectrum. There are companies that significantly suffer from their businesses being disrupted, there are companies that are successfully being disruptive, and there are companies that are smart enough to disrupt their own companies. But regardless of all the technical assistance companies get, we should never forget that we are dealing with social organisms. We must be aware that we are addressing people as individuals and as members of organisations or social communities. Acknowledging these limitations helps to understand the complexity of the change we need to implement.

Which are the biggest challenges to take this individual change to a macro level?

It all comes down to motivation and knowledge; understanding of the context resolves the motivation. Sufficient knowledge and experience define whether we have the right competences to make the necessary changes. We normally say that people get tired of change, but we will always be faced with change anyway. We can overcome this tiredness by setting reasonable expectations. Very often we want to change several things at the same time, but not everything can be changed at the same time. We need to prioritise and evaluate our competences. We will never have the ideal team, but we can learn to work with what we’ve got. This approach keeps people motivated and defines the speed and depth of change. It is important to have a solid set-up; this means also accounting for external situations. Sometimes the time is not right, and even if we have the right internal capabilities, the way corporate governance is set up will slow the process. From my own experience, I wanted to achieve change as quickly as possible but I also learned to see that it is not about how fast you can get there, but about analysing the context you are moving in order to prioritise the right things to change.