Zoe Collins

Management Consultant

  • Capability Development
  • Change Management
  • Communications
  • People Management

– 21 Apr, 2020

Change Management In A Changing World

In the space of a month we have had to make changes to the way we live, socialise, educate, provide care and the biggest change of all, how we work.

Nothing could have prepared us for the impact that the global pandemic known as Covid-19 would have. In the space of three weeks we have seen the way we live dramatically change, our everyday is no longer the same. We’ve had to make changes to the way we live, socialise, educate, provide care and the biggest change of all, how we work.

Companies all over the world had to take major steps in changing the way they operate. For some companies, employees working remotely or flexibly is nothing new, so transitioning their work force was not as challenging as it was for others. Some companies have never even thought about working remotely and so these new ways of working were received with dread.

The question if we all can work from home has a clear answer: Yes. But the open point remains how we as Change Practitioners can add value from afar and whilst at the same time going through a huge phase of change ourselves.

What Covid- 19 means for the future of change

In the past we have often heard our clients push back on change resource, because they saw it as superfluous and just the “fluffy stuff”. So often we are the first ones to be left behind when budget cuts came as we are nice to have and not a necessity. Interestingly that perception seems to have changed, now that we’re in a middle of a global pandemic and people recognise that the role of the change manager is now more important than ever.

Organisations and people have been thrust head-first into a new way of living and working. This is the scenario we as Change Practitioners try to avoid, but we know it can happen. And even if you plan for the change, we know that humans go through a change curve. The change journey depicted by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross consists of four stages which come together to make the change curve.

Image credits: Exeter University

Although developed for grief, it has found its way into business and is more relevant today than ever before. Covid-19 has put us all on our own change journey – personally and from an organisation wide perspective. It is now upon us to move beyond the Stage 2 – the Valley of Despair – and overcome the challenges.

And that is why now more than ever Change Practitioners are needed. We are equipped with the tools to lead organisations through global transformations and guide, support people who might not be accustomed to the new ways of working. Our expertise can help highlight where companies can maintain, improve and create a healthy culture in a world where physical interaction has stalled.

So what does the future look like for us?

Once we apply our knowledge about change to ourselves and help ourselves overcome the Valley of Despair, we can help others:

Gone are the days of rigid change plans – We already started to experience this with very agile organisations, but it now applies to most of our clients: we don’t always have the time to plan fully for the change and understand what it will look like. This means we may not be able to use our full toolkit (e.g. carry out a change impact assessment) as decisions need to be made immediately. In these cases, it is our responsibility to help the decision makers to understand the impact of their decisions as much as possible by creatively adapting our toolkit. That way those impacted by the change have a better chance to buy into it.

Live support – Covid-19 has taught us and our clients that anything can happen, at any time and on top of existing changes. As change practitioners we can sometimes forget about changes we’ve implemented as our expertise is needed elsewhere. Changes need life support and management, not only to ensure that change is sustained but also to account for unexpected situations. As practitioners we make sure we have factored in sudden change and support for business as usual.

Speak up – One thing for sure is as change practitioners moving into the future, we need to be even more proactive to ensure changes are well managed. Especially during this time, we need to help our clients understand that this change in ways of working is affecting people continuously and any additional change can cause them to slip into another Valley of Despair. Understanding that change fatigue will be reached earlier can be the critical success factor. This stands true for change happening now as well as after the situation improves. Our society will need time to recover and stabilise before the next big change hits. So speaking up and maybe slowing upcoming change down a bit can enable a healthier change for everyone.

Empathy – Every change practitioner needs to be powered by empathy anyway, but especially now that we are all on our change journey. Reach out even more to listen to people will give them more confidence. Without our water-cooler conversations, we need to pro-actively reach out to get temperature checks with our clients and their teams. If we go the extra mile to understand how people are doing, they are more likely to follow us up the change curve. Now more than ever it might be that the resistance to a transformation project arises as a result of change fatigue due to covid and has nothing to do with the change itself. At times we are fixed on creating solutions that will overcome resistance, but if we adopt a design thinking mindset and let empathy lead, not only will the client feel like their fear of change is being taken seriously but it will allow us to create a long lasting solution.

The world as we know it has changed at an unexpected pace, giving a shock to our system. We are all on different stages of our change journey, without quite knowing yet what the other side will look like, but we are equipped to deal with it. And if in the future we can keep our own change experience in mind, we will be even better at doing what we do best: help our clients being successful in their transformation endeavours.

Zoe Collins

Management Consultant

Zoe is a passionate change manager, transforming work environments into places where people love to be. She is a quality focused Prosci qualified practitioner, specialising in Business and Culture Change. She also specialises in Communications and Internal Marketing.

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