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Joanne Sujansky Featured

5:39am EDT February 18, 2002
Joanne Genova Sujansky tells people they need to change. And they're willing to pay her for that.

Actually, it's Dr. Sujansky, a much sought-after author, speaker, lecturer and consultant. She's all about organizational change, and she preaches innovative, optimal ways to harness it in business and industry. Sujansky, Ph.D., CSP, is CEO of KEYGroup, the new name of her recently expanded Training Connection, the Pittsburgh-based consulting and training services company she founded in 1980.

The title CEO is something of a misnomer, because 21 years later, Sujansky still is out there doing hands-on work in an immense variety of styles and settings for organizations that want her help with finding a better way. The difference now is that she has an international organization at her back, with additional resources in Cleveland and Amsterdam.

KEYGroup consults nationally and internationally to industry, government, health care, business and education organizations. The group's claimed areas of expertise include change management, leadership and motivation. Its client list includes a startling number of major business and institutional entities, as well as dozens of smaller concerns.

A self-confessed overachiever, Sujansky has written several books, including the just-released "The Keys to Conquering Change: 100 Tales of Success," co-authored with John Van Sprang, a senior member of her Amsterdam organization. Some of her earlier titles include "The Power of Partnering: Vision, Commitment and Action;" "Putting Change In Your Pocket;" and "Training Games for Managing Change."

Every case is special

"The whole idea of change often has a negative connotation -- as in: 'We missed our third-quarter projections. Something's wrong. Quick, call the consultants!'" Sujansky says. "In fact, change can arise through any number of causes other than disaster and failure -- such as unexpected growth and prosperity, sudden opportunity, modifications of law or government regulations, the launch of new initiatives or changes of ownership.

"No matter what the trigger for change, the key to managing change -- that is, using change to the client's advantage -- lies in working with the people who are most directly affected. We sit down with them and listen to their concerns and ideas. We address those considerations and we work to build consensus and motivation, so these people can move forward with enthusiasm and skill."

According to Sujansky, the ideal situation involves KEYGroup partnering with the client upstream and being involved with ownership or senior management in designing the change before it is promulgated. Then, the roll-out of the organizational change is more effective, because the people factors -- such as motivation and morale -- already are integral to the plan.

Still, she admits, the more likely scenario is a call for help when change already is underway within an organization and obstacles and problems are emerging.

Proven methods

"Our solutions are as varied as our clients' needs," Sujansky says. "Some clients come to us looking to strengthen their people skills. Some want development programs to aid in employee retention and attraction. Others are reinventing themselves to meet market demands and ask our help to fix problems or create opportunities.

" Our approach is personalized to each client. In all cases, homework comes first. We listen to the individuals' concerns and goals and analyze the organization and its needs before suggesting any course of action."

Sujansky says her company's focus always is to provide "practical solutions with measurable results," whether she or her staff tailors one of her proven programs or creates a custom program, coaches an executive one-on-one or trains the client's entire staff.

"Our principal tool and strongest expertise is assessment," she says. "We help companies by helping their people gain insight into their individual strengths and opportunities for improvement through a rigorous assessment of who does what and what they wish to accomplish."

To capitalize on that business approach, Sujansky's company name is cleverly exploited in the firm's marketing material. It explains that KEY stands for:

* Knowledge -- Referring to the firm's repository of proven methodology and best practices in adult active learning and human behavior.

* Experience -- Indicating its track record of work with business, industry and government, as well as the experiential learning provided by the firm.

* Yield -- The strengths built by the client's employees as a result of the consulting, and the results gained by the client, as well as the goals that it meets and often exceeds.

Changes of her own

For somebody in the business of change management, Sujansky's personal and professional lives are an intricate blend of continual, unrelenting change and slow, steady progress.

On the change side, the Beaver County native pushed herself to a Ph.D. degree in education. She never intended to be a teacher in the traditional sense, but wanted expertise in theory and methodology concerning human and organizational behavior.

She also pushed herself into public visibility by way of her speaking and writing. She says a major turning point in her career occurred in 1985 when she became national president -- at age 35 -- of the prestigious American Society for Training and Development, and later received that organization's highest honor, the Gordon M. Bliss Award.

She is a major player in the Pennsylvania Speakers Association and the National Speakers Association, where she has earned its highest credential -- Certified Speaking Professional (CSP).

The calm, steady, conservative side of Joanne Sujansky features a marriage of 25 years and three children, ages 21, 20 and 9. She also enjoys a rock-solid, mutually beneficial 17-year professional association with her closest business colleague, Jan Ferri-Reed, Ph.D. As president of KEYGroup, Ferri-Reed consults, trains and manages the firm's operations and oversees delivery of service.

That's highly appropriate mix for a woman who has developed herself as a doctor of change. If your professional life is dedicated to thriving in the midst of flux, you'd better have some very strong and dependable supports of your own. How to reach: Joanne G. Sujansky, Ph.D., (724) 942-7900 or at www.KEYGRP.com

William McCloskey is a Pittsburgh-based free-lance writer.