Change Manager Kate Buckman has travelled to 40 countries, but helping Naval Group Australia through Covid-19 might be her biggest adventure yet

Kate Buckman is well travelled. The stunning landscape photos that modestly compose her low-key social media presence could rival any destinations of a lifetime or 100 places to tick off your bucket list coffee table book. It’s Kate’s love and curiosity of not only other cultures but people more broadly, which led her to a career in Change Management – a little known business unit thrust into the spotlight during Covid-19, and we sat down with Kate to find out what is Change Management, and why is it suddenly more important than ever.

Tell us a bit about your role as Change Manager at Naval Group Australia.

As a Change Manager I work on a wide range of projects and initiatives across the business to assess how change is being implemented, and how it will impact the workforce. Based on the level of impact and complexity of the change I will put plans and strategies in place to ensure our people are supported through the change and can successfully transition to the new ways of working, so that business outcomes are achieved.

What is Change Management, and why is it important to a business?

Change Management is about ensuring that any change (whether it is delivered through a formal project or a business initiative) is carefully implemented, particularly from a people perspective. Change Managers ensure individuals and teams are supported in transitioning from the current state to the future state when a change is being introduced that impacts them. The change could be anything from implementing a new system or changing a business process, to introducing a new policy.


Kate in front of the Dead Sea in Jordan. She stayed a night in the desert in Wadi Rum and it was an incredible experience she will never forget


Why has Change Management been especially important to focus on during Covid-19?

Well it goes without saying that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and has forced us make some significant changes to our day-to-day lives.

The Change Management team has worked closely with other business stakeholders to carefully plan how Naval Group Australia can continue to operate during this time. We ensured staff were provided with timely communication and given the tools they needed to work remotely.

We were also very aware of the impact Covid-19 would have on the mental health and wellbeing of our people. We promoted the services of our Mental Health First Aiders and introduced a Buddy Program, where staff were encouraged to ‘buddy up’ with another staff member to check in regularly and chat about anything from what we’re watching on Netflix to how we’re keeping active and settling in to working from home. My Buddy is an absolute hoot!


Kate in front of striking Limestone Mountains on the Nam Song River in Laos


Speaking of Covid-19, how are you going working from home, and what has been the biggest challenge to overcome?

On the whole I’m quite enjoying working from home and have tried to stick to my regular daily routine as much as possible (sans makeup). The biggest challenge for me is being away from my workmates, but luckily we’ve been able to keep in regular contact via video conference and phone chats.

How did you get into a career in Change Management?

My background has largely been in Learning and Development and Project Management. I’ve always enjoyed working with people and seeing them grow in their roles. When I look back at my positions over the years there was always an element of change and this was something I really enjoyed, so it only made sense to move into a Change Management role.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Definitely the variety, as a Change Manager no two days are ever the same! We take part in everything from IT projects to Organisational Development initiatives and often we need to get involved in unexpected changes that come about quite quickly (hello Covid!) I also really like the fact that as a Change Manager you get to know people across all departments and at all levels, so I continually learn a lot about how the business operates.


Kate in Iceland where she sailed in a glacial lagoon called Jokulsarlon and swam in geothermal spas


What is your advice for businesses trying to adapt during Covid-19, and are there any tips you can offer in terms of Change Management?

Working remotely can be difficult and can also be isolating for some. It’s important to keep lines of communication open so that your people are supported during this time of substantial change. Trust is paramount during times of uncertainty so ensure you are engaging with your people regularly and maintaining transparency. While it is important to keep team cohesion intact also focus on the individual needs of your team. 

What would your advice be people considering a career in Change Management, and do you have any career pathway advice?

Change Management is a discipline that is gaining a lot of interest of late. I’d highly recommend anyone who is passionate about supporting others and seeing people grow to consider it. Change Managers come from diverse backgrounds like Project Management, Learning and Development, Human Resources, etc. My advice is to look at your current role and see how you can focus on the people impacts to start developing your Change Management skills. There is a lot of information online to help you learn more. The Prosci ADKAR (awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, reinforcement) model, a Change Management methodology, is a great place to start.

Tell us a bit about you.

I grew up in Adelaide and soon after finishing a Bachelor of International Studies I moved to Sydney where I lived for nine years. During that time I was working in the Banking industry and was offered a secondment at the Brussels office of a large international bank.

After a year in Belgium I decided it was time to move home to be closer to family and take advantage of the great lifestyle that Adelaide has to offer.

Naval Group Australia is my first role within the Defence industry. Previously I have worked in the Banking and Utilities sectors, and this has been a great opportunity for me to transfer my skills to a new industry (and learn all about submarines!).

One thing that a lot of people might not know about me is that I studied French at high school and university and can speak the language fluently, albeit with a strong Australian accent! I never imagined that I would be able to work for a company with such strong ties with France, only five minutes from my home in little old Adelaide.


Kate in Belgium where she lived and learned fluent French (and it’s come in handy!)


What are your interests and hobbies away from work (usually, when you can actually get out and about)?

Travel and experiencing other cultures is something I am very passionate about. I’ve travelled extensively through South-East Asia, Europe and North America in the past and while I had planned to go back to Europe this year, hopefully I will make it at some stage in 2021. Once Covid-19 restrictions relax locally I’m looking forward to getting back to my favourite restaurants and wine bars around Adelaide!

What is your advice for people in terms of handling change, and building resilience?

The key thing to remember is that everyone is different and we all handle change differently. I would recommend you to take time to really understand the change and why it is happening, then look at what it is about the change that you can’t control and what you can. Seek support from those around you and remember that while change can sometimes be uncomfortable, it will always give you opportunities to learn and grow.


If you are feeling overwhelmed by changes in your life or need support as a result of Covid-19 we encourage you to reach out to Lifeline on 13 11 14.