The key to successful leadership: change

On Mar. 20 J. Greg Renfo taught students about effecting change in a large multinational environment as the most recent guest speaker in the Weidman Center for Global Leadership Lecture Series.

Renfro, vice president of global manufacturing strategy in Rig Solutions at National Oilwell Varco (NOV), received his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of New Mexico.

Working for a company that incorporated over 250 acquisitions in the last 15 years and increased from 15 manufacturing facilities to 41, Renfro has learned effective ways to work with people from all backgrounds, cultures and management situations. This incredibly fast growing organization has taught Renfro how important change is in order for an organization to be successful.

Renfro said NOV’s diversity has allowed it to succeed despite extreme industry fluctuations. The ability to be adaptive and responsive in all situations is key to survival for leaders and organizations.

“You are either going to be a participant in change, a leader or a victim,” said Renfro.

Organizational change is difficult to accomplish. Renfro said when you are trying to create change within the organization, you need to choose something that is common to everyone. This is why Renfro and his colleagues have chosen to focus on time as the medium for tasks to be changed in.

“If we look at time based management, in particular quick response manufacturing, we are focusing less about the QRM and more about managing down the lead times, improving and optimizing throughputs and achieving better quality and lower costs. Very few people can argue with that as a driver for change.”

Renfro encourages managers everywhere to get to know the workers in their stewardship and to better understand what they do. Renfro said leaders often overlook the opinion of those doing the manual labor and miss out on great advice for how things can change to be more efficient. “Very rarely do those in charge know what the job is, the people who are physically doing the work know.”

In speaking about his first factory management job Renfro said, “The only way I survived… is I quickly aligned myself with the chief financial officer. I brought in people who knew more than I did about the process.”

Throughout the lecture, Renfro offered the following advice to future, and current, leaders:

  • Never lose your core values and your strategies.
  • Don’t assume you know all the answers when you don’t know the problems: curb your pre-conceived notions when trying to solve a problem.
  • Make yourself visible, participate and be a part of change. Be a part of what you’re trying to implement.
  • Circumstances will change and the more you’re able to adapt to those changes the more readily you’ll grow and expand your career and understanding.
  • People who don’t want to change won’t. Some organizations are willing to change they just don’t know how, this is why it is so important to participate in the process.
  • Listen to people at all levels and “make sure they know their opinion counts.” Never talk down to people.
  • Be willing to change.
  • Be willing to change your objectives. Know where your goals are but be willing to adjust how you reach your goal. 
  • Love to learn.
  • Never stop communicating: when you find solutions, bring them to the table.

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