Updated: May 29
My phone and e-mail have been very busy over the last few weeks with clients and the media asking how change management can help the post-coronavirus environment. For me, change management is an urgent and near perfect fit. A couple of months ago, I was speaking at the annual ASQ Conference in Phoenix, Arizona about ‘Embracing Change during the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)’. I spoke about how 4IR was changing our working and home lives like never before. I used the example of 4IR impacting car ownership, moving us to electric cars, and the hydrogen engine in the pipeline promising further change disruption.
A few weeks later, I was in Germany leading a Change Management Gamification Workshop with an automotive client, preparing them to lead their change. I just about left the country before they started lockdown. Within a few days of returning to the UK, the US announced that anyone who had been in mainland Europe within the last two weeks would not be allowed entry to the US. That meant I would not be able to speak at two conferences I had lined up, both scheduled within that two-week period. Both events took months in preparation and the logistics costs may never be refunded. In the end, it didn’t matter about my travel restriction because, within days, both conferences were cancelled. Ultimately, what really matters is the impact of the coronavirus, as you know, many people have died and many more will suffer long-term health effects.
For now, 4IR is on hold while we change to suit our new circumstances and the coronavirus environment, but the need for change management has never been greater. When implementing change, there are usually three key elements to consider. Firstly, we must deliver the change in a structured way, just like any project. Secondly, we need to get the employees to adopt the change, to understand what they need to do and ensure they do what is required. Finally, most change requires some sort of behavioural change, a new way of acting and behaving.
"Nothing remains the same and at some point in time, everything changes"
Three Key Change Management Elements:
1. Organisation Change Delivery: Nearly every organisation is facing major disruption in how they will do business in the future. For some, it will provide fantastic opportunities and for others dire challenges, along with a significant financial impact. The organisation will have to redefine how this change will impact their strategy. They should use a change management framework that supports programme change delivery. Start with a2CMF® Step One, ‘Change Definition’ and move through the remaining steps of the a2B Change Management Framework® to Step Ten, ‘Sustain’.
"Unless the change programme is continually aligned to the organisation’s strategy, vision and capacity it will not deliver speedy benefits or value to the organisation"
2. Employee Change Adoption: The way employees will approach and manage their work will change like never before, impacting not just how and where we work but also our home, family and social lives. For any change to be successful, it needs employees to take on the new way of working. Engaging and communicating with the employee has to start earlier and needs to be continuous through the change. Employees will need Awareness, Understanding, Involvement, Learning and Motivation (AUILM®) to adopt new working practices. Organisations are being forced to visit their digital transformations faster and we will all have to learn new methods of long-distance communication (virtual/remote). Again, there will be opportunities and challenges.
“For change adoption to be successful, leadership needs to ensure employees are supported to develop the new skills, behaviours and motivation that delivers improved future organisation performance”
3. Behaviour Change: One of the most challenging aspects of any change programme, especially situations like the coronavirus, is the way in which we address employee behaviour. We have seen it impact the way we behave and live our lives. We know that social distancing is here to stay. For the change to be successful, new behaviours will be required. We need to Recognise that our old behaviours will have to change. We will need to Redesign new behaviours and make a Resolution to make these the new way we act. Replicate these new behaviours in day-to-day life, and support from everyone to achieve this will help to Reinforce (a2B5R®) and sustain the behaviour change. This is one of the most challenging aspects of any change.
"If you do not change employee behaviour, you will not get organisational change or performance improvement"
Of course, the key elements above cannot be successful on their own, effective sponsorship, leadership and change capability are both required. The leadership teams need to define their change and vision, and be aligned on their strategic objectives. They need to be a high performing team. They will need change leadership skills and knowledge to successfully lead the change their organisation is facing. Finally, they need change capability (whether internal or external) to support them in delivering the change that enables their organisation to at least survive the coronavirus.
"Change waits for no leader and the skills required for leading day-to-day operations are very different to change leadership"
Peter F Gallagher is a Change Management Global Thought Leader, Expert, International Speaker, Author and Leadership Alignment Coach.
Ranked #1 Change Management Global Thought Leader: Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Change Management (May 2020) by Thinkers360.
Business Book Ranking: Change Management Pocket Guide - Leadership of Change® Volume 2, ranked within the top 50 Business and Technology Books (Jan 2020) from Thinkers360 Thought Leaders.