Leading With—and Through—Change

Mary Holler details how the IT office can offer influential insight in times of organizational transformation

Mary Holler, Integer Holdings Corporation

A lot of people say they love change until they’re asked to change themselves. But Mary Holler, vice president and CIO of Integer Holdings Corporation, loves change. In the five years that Holler has been with the organization, she’s led two major transformations and driven countless important changes. Whether looking to improve the gender gap in corporate boards or install a new data center, Holler considers herself a tried-and-true change agent.

The word change can make some businesspeople uneasy—and for good reason. Change for change’s sake frequently causes chaos and shows a lack of vision. Holler takes care to reframe her work as “continuous improvement and optimization,” a strategic process that she can explain clearly and demonstrate the intended goals. That’s where establishing a change management plan comes in. “It’s very easy to get people excited about achieving improvement when you can communicate that vision clearly,” she says.

Holler’s leadership style focuses on empowering others and collaborating to attain the benefits of the organization’s investment in IT. A large portion of that comes from developing new processes and programs, but ensuring buy-in and proper use is perhaps even more important. “There needs to be clear roles and responsibilities, as well as a comprehensive plan addressing any potential concerns,” Holler says. “My role is to establish that and then ensure that all of those pieces are coming together in the adoption phase.”

To do so, the leadership team executing the plan needs expertise that Holler herself may not have in her expansive tool kit. With a diverse team in place, Holler deploys one of her most important skills: ensuring that the empowered team members are making the required progress. “I need to make sure they really are informed and making good decisions. I ask a lot of questions, and apply a principle where I trust but verify their ability,” Holler says.

Holler has worked on that model throughout her career, starting with her first experiences in software development project management and implementing a help desk. Next, she spent a number of years building B2B systems and rolling out an e-commerce program across Europe.

International data center operations provided her next challenge, a field for which she didn’t have in-depth technical experience, but in which Holler quickly found that her change management process could make an impact. “I’ve worked on both the operations and the applications side, and that helps me be objective and find the opportunities and challenges,” she says.

In a sense, all of those experiences combined to prepare her properly for her first CIO role with Greatbatch Limited. “As CIO, I can affect change in all those different areas, which is really exciting,” Holler explains. That assessment was strengthened when she moved into her position at Integer and was  given the directive to transform the organization into an enterprise organization. “I was able to assess the technology, the processes and the people, and then establish the plan of what needed to happen,” she says. “We brought in a lot of new processes, such as project management, change management, and incident management. The key to those was not just standardizing the processes, but also putting in the governance to hold people accountable.”

A major part of the enterprise move involved gaining buy-in on automation, which many workers fear will put them out of work. But through business engagement, Holler has taken every opportunity to learn from the people working in manufacturing teams, helping to standardize work across the thirty facilities, and identifying places where automation could alleviate some of that work to help take on other challenges.

The process helps Holler combine her two biggest passions in the office. “I love working with people and helping them build new skills, but I’m also a process person who loves designing, building, and implementing new processes,” she explains. Holler views her role as working on business projects with potential technology solutions, and sometimes—as in the case with a new business process excellence program she’s co-leading—they may not relate to technology at all.

That perspective has prepared her for a major challenge in the business world: making a step into the boardroom. Less than 18 percent of board seats are held by women, according to the 2020 Women On Boards Gender Diversity Index, released in 2016. Additionally, the technology office is often unfairly seen as a support structure, rather than an essential partner. However, Holler is striving to beat those odds and further showcase the diversity of experience and strong leadership perspective she can provide to organizations in need of change agents.

“CIOs like myself can offer a lot of knowledge and experience even beyond the IT function that could benefit companies,” she says. “I know how to manage transformational change, manage growth, and ensure processes can scale. I’ve done acquisitions and brought an organization together. I’m incredibly proud of all of that, humbled to have been successful, and now I want to share that knowledge. Any business in any industry could benefit from that.”

Photo: Lifetouch Studios

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