Tim Creasey Chief Information Officer at Prosci defines change management as the way “how we mobilize our people to deliver expected results and outcomes in times of change. It’s enabling our people to be successful on the change journeys that put them on”. There are some key elements on this definition: the how, and the expected results and outcomes. Covid19 has disrupted the world in countless ways, not only the health and well-being of entire nations, as well the world economy.
Organizations are scrambling to adapt to a new way of doing things. With this adaptation, the challenges of change are amplified and now is more important than ever for organizations to be able to respond and adapt to that change. Change is difficult under normal circumstances, if we add to that change the uncertainty that a world pandemic can bring, you have a recipe for a monumental challenge. But not everything is negative about what is going on, if you and your organization are able to adapt, change and deliver a great product or service that people need, then this is a great opportunity to thrive in a new economy.
In order to be successful we need to manage change. Change does not happen automatically, and it is usually met with resistance. I am going to present to you five ways in which change management can help you and your organization thrive in the post Covid19 economy.
- People change, organizations change after people change.
This is a critical point, because change within an organization happens at two levels: the technical level and the people level. At the technical level we need to concentrate our efforts in improving the tools, processes and products to meet the new conditions and demands of the new economy. At the people level it is important to understand that change happens one person at a time. Change management as it relates to people requires the application of a structured process and set of tools for leading the people side of change to achieve a desired business outcome. At all times during the change process is necessary to have resources readily available for team members or employees to ease the transition.
- Clearly identify expected results and outcomes
it is necessary to formulate a clear and sensible transformation vision and have as part of that vision, clearly defined results and outcomes that support the people and the organization in the new economy or way of doing things. Change will not be successful without a well-developed strategic vision, because in conditions like we are living today, there is no roadmap for the change process, we are all learning as we go. The members of the organization must clearly understand why the change is needed in order to support it. Part of formulating the vision is to create a sense of urgency around the need for change. Manage individual change and understand what each single individual is experiencing and provide the support and tools to help them succeed.
- Apply the comfort, stretch and don’t panic model.
Karl Rhonke’s theory of three zones is the perfect description of the way you and your organization want to approach change. Life before Covid19 can be defined as the comfort zone, now we are in the stretch zone, things are different and we need to leap beyond comfort into the stretch zone, the zone where growth and learning happen. The stretch zone is where people gain knowledge and understanding of a new environment or way of doing things, it is also the zone where people look for creative ways of working and adapting. But you want to be sensible , because if you push too hard, you go into the panic zone. In this zone, learning and growth are no longer possible because the change experience becomes too overwhelming and most of your energy is spent on survival mode with very little of it dedicated to growth and learning. This is the reason why we see so many people and organizations today working hard on just trying to survive, exerting energy and depleting resources under high levels of stress.
- Decide why change and what to change.
Change must be tailored to your organization. Not all organizations are ready for change at the same level, at the same time. Change for the sake of change or because external factors dictate we need to change is not enough. You must determine what exactly needs to be changed and why. If your business model was successful prior to current events, then a lot of the things that you did correctly before probably still work today, you don’t want to change everything if it is not necessary. If what you need to change are some elements of your business model or the way you do things today, then make sure you communicate that clearly and concentrate your limited resources on changing those elements that you have identified. The why is important because it is the reason the people may want to embrace or reject the change.
- Be honest, vulnerable and open
I am going to be bold and direct here, this is not the time for games or half truths, people want and deserve honesty. Anything that you or your organization do in these difficult times needs to be based honesty, this in turn earns trust. Charles Feltman defines trust this way: “trust is choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions”. People’s livelihood, health, well-being are at stake, the more open, honest and vulnerable you are, the more you communicate to your people that we are all in this together and that we are going to make it through this by relying on each other. You can create an environment where people are willing to sacrifice and to go the extra mile for the common good. Change can be difficult, but if people feel that what they are doing today contributes to a better tomorrow, then change is not only possible, it is welcomed.
These are difficult times, but if we look back in history many of the most positive advances in human history have occurred after a time of enormous challenge and difficulty. We have a unique opportunity today to evaluate and change the way we operate and the way we as people work together. Change management can give you the tools to help you and your organization, out on the other side successful.