Accept, Embrace, Manage and Lead Change
Inside the head of Steve Jaeger, VP of IT & Infrastructure, Quad/ Graphics.
One of the industries with a rate of change rivaling that of I.T. is commercial printing, although the rise of electronic media suggests a very different trajectory. Challenge, however, produces opportunity, and one company that has proven particularly adept at recognizing and seizing opportunity is Sussex, Wisconsin-based Quad/Graphics.
Steve Jaeger, who joined Quad in 1994 and today, is Vice President of information Technology & Infrastructure and President of Quad subsidiary QuadDirect, has been instrumental in managing the technological demands of an organization continually on the move. Perhaps most notable was the 2010 purchase of Canadian printer Worldcolor that more than doubled the worldwide Quad workforce to approximately 28,000 and spurred the company to go public. LEAD IT™ asked Jaeger what change has meant to him and his organization.
LEAD IT: What advice do you have for other CIOs or IT executives in regard to cultural risks when going through a large transformation, such as Quad/Graphics did with Worldcolor?
JAEGER: Strong communication has to be front and center. At the outset, put a heavy focus on establishing strong lines of communication that are integrated into your company’s standard communication protocols: e-mail, intranet, Internet, blogs, and so on. Also, stay in front of your new partner’s as much as feasible, outline the full integration plans – not just IT – and, more importantly, explain why you’re doing things. The more everyone understands the bigger picture, the better it is for everyone. You can’t over-communicate.
Project planning and prioritization – ruthless prioritization – are crucial. Surround yourself with sharp, talented project managers who bring an open mind and strong interpersonal and communication skills to the project. People like this are a precious commodity.
IT is a major enabler to a successful integration, so be sure to assign and dedicate some of your most talented IT personnel. It’s critical to factor limited availability into future projects and business plans that fall outside of the integration efforts.
Creative thinking is important for finding ways to achieve the desired results without always having to ramrod the acquiring company’s methods, technology, and processes down the throats of the acquired company. I would also suggest conducting some cultural assimilation classes to help your new partners understand more about your company. Finally, move fast! You can’t go fast enough.
LEAD IT: How would you describe the culture within the Quad/Graphics IT organization today compared to 5-10 years ago?
JAEGER: Our processes are better defined and more structured and standardized, which has helped enable greater project management focus and skills. At the same time, I think our people are more innovative and focused on enterprise solutions, and less siloed. We’ve built a stronger sense of customer service and understanding of who our real customers are across the Quad IT organization as we attempt to create “raving fans” in each area we serve.
More broadly, we have a stronger focus on ensuring our technology platform and road maps are aligned to the company’s direction and vision, and a higher degree of attention to overall business uptime and change management. We’re more intent on delivering quality IT business solutions in a timely and cost-effective manner that has a true impact on our company’s top and/or bottom line.
LEAD IT: Besides the time constraints, what’s the hardest thing about all the different roles or hats you wear?
JAEGER: Fortunately, I have an extremely strong and deep management team in the areas of IT and Facilities that enables me to focus on emerging and growth data business areas such as QuadDirect. Maintaining effective communication with my team, however, has become more challenging as my responsibilities have expanded. I’ve also had to work on becoming more patient and accepting of different business area personalities, as well as different management styles.
LEAD IT: What job prior to Quad/Graphics has best prepared you for your leadership role as it is today? And are there any direct mentors or leaders you would like to recognize?
JAEGER: The time I spent with Andersen Consulting, now Accenture, has been most important. Participation in sports also taught me a great deal: to compete, to be a team player, to accept feedback from peers and coaches, to learn from mistakes, and to be humble because no matter how good you are there’s always someone better. In terms of mentors, former Andersen Consulting Partners Jim Drayer and Dennis Terry have been key figures, and I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize Harry V. Quadracci as being the most inspirational and visionary leader I’ve ever had the privilege of being around and working for.
LEAD IT: What advice do you have for young, ambitious IT gurus just getting into the technology industry?
JAEGER: Accept, embrace, manage, and lead change. Harry Quadracci had a very prophetic quote: “Quad eats change for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” Any successful business has to be adept at change. People, including most IT personnel, don’t like change when it impacts them, but in IT it’s all about speed of change.
This touches on the need for continuous improvement. You have to find ways to get results fast. Business changes too fast to wait for IT solutions that are a year or more out. Have a long-term vision, but find ways to deliver incremental value in months or even weeks. Developing strong project management skills will help.
Do like the book says: Get Out of I.T. and learn the actual business you’re in. Understand who your true customers are and what you can do to help improve their business. To do that, you must develop close relationships with your customers/business partners.
Finally, rely on your analytical skills to solve business problems. Listen with an open mind and confidently identify technology solutions you can implement in a timely and cost-effective manner that will have a positive impact on the overall business. Ideas themselves are cheap and everyone has them; turning them into business results will separate you from the rest.
Steve Jaeger at a Glance
- Family: Married to Denise; three children (21, 18, and 11)
- Passion: Family, sports, outdoors “I’m an avid hunter … trying to get back into golf someday.”
Began working at Quad/Graphics throughout summers in college via a temp agency; hired full time as a business analyst, 1994; named VP of Corporate IS, 1998; named President of QuadDirect, 2008. Previously held positions at Arthur Andersen – Consulting Division.
- Employees: 25,000
- Facilities: 60
- Annual Revenue: $4.764 billion
- Website: www.QG.com