A lot of popular change management models are old models, many of which have been shown by research to have limited efficacy in the business world. Never the less, some of these models are still referred to as the core ‘pillars’ of change management.
What are newer change management models that have been shown by research to have better validity? Refer to our infographic on what’s ‘in’ and what’s ‘out’. To read up more on these new models refer to our articles below:
Change Outcome – Virtually all organisations are undergoing change. Especially right now, with the impacts of Covid, companies are now challenged with multiple layers of driving change simultaneously. What is applicable in this situation is not about a particular methodology of implementing a change program. It is all about implementing simultaneous changes, at the same time. There is no luxury of just focusing on one change at a time, the result of competitive, industry, and environmental challenges.
As change practitioners we work closely with our colleagues in Operations to get ready for, implement, and fully embed changes. So how do our colleagues in operations view and manage change initiatives?
Operations as a function is focused on managing performance and delivery to ensure that the business runs smoothly, with little disruptions and that performance measures are achieved. Operations is focused on resource management, efficiency, and achieving the various operational indicators whether it’s customer satisfaction, turn-around time, average handling time, or cost target.
When times are hectic and there is a lot going on with multiple change initiatives, the key focus for Operations is on managing people capacity. Key questions to consider would be “Do we have sufficient time to cater for the various changes?”, and “Will we exceed our change saturation level?”. This is a critical question to answer since the business still needs to run and deliver services without negative change disruptions.
From an Operations planning perspective ‘change capacity‘ is often reduced to the time element, especially those impacting frontline staff.
What are the times required to reschedule the call centre consultants off the phone to attend training?
How much time is required in the team meeting agenda to outline the changes that are being rolled out?
What is the time involvement of change champions?
Though these are all critical questions and clear answers will help Operations plan better to face into multiple changes. However this is not adequate. There is more to planning for multiple changes than just focusing on the time element.
Using the lego analogy to manage multiple changes
We all know LEGO as kids. To build a car we start one brick at a time and see how we go. We experiment with different colours, shapes and sizes. We make do with the bricks we have and use our imagination to come up with what a car would look like. Sometimes we get stuck and we may need to tweak our bricks a little, or sometimes start from scratch.
It is the same as implementing change initiatives. In order to take people along the journey, we implement a series of activities and interventions so that our impacted stakeholders are aware, ready, committed, and embed the change. The design on the change journey is the process of determining what LEGO bricks to choose. There is no short cut. It is not possible to build a building without each necessary brick to raise the building up. In implementing change, we also need to lay out each step in engaging our stakeholders.
McKinsey studies over decades have told us that one of the most critical factors to focus on in ensuring change outcome success is clear organisation-wide ownership and commitment to change across all levels. This means that when we design each change brick we need to ensure we target every level of impacted stakeholders.
Team Leaders: How often do we want Team Leaders to talk about the changes to their teams prior to the roll out? What content do we want them to use? Do they know how to translate the message in a way that resonates? Do we want them to tell compelling stories that talks to the what, why and how of the change?
Managers: How are managers made accountable? What metrics are they accountable for? What mediums do we want them to use to engage their teams? What are the consequences of not achieving the outcomes?
Senior Managers: Through what mediums do we expect senior managers to engage their teams about the changes? How do we ensure that they are personally accountable for the success of the change? How are they involved to ensure they own the change?
Looking at the above you can see that for complex change there may need to be a lot of bricks in place to ensure the change outcome is successful!
Going back to the issue of facing into multiple changes, how do we play around with the bricks to ensure that multiple changes are successful? The same way that we play with LEGO bricks!
Look at the colours of the bricks. Do certain colours belong together? When we look across different initiatives, are there similar or common behaviours that can be better linked together to tell a compelling story? Do they support the same strategy? Can there be a joint-campaign for these changes?
Is the overall LEGO structure going to be intact? What are the impacts of the various changes happening at the same time in terms of focus, performance and change outcome? Have we exceeded the likely ‘mental capacity’ for people to stay focused on a core set of changes at any one time? Will the pieced-together structure collapse due to having too many elements?
Look at the sizes of the LEGO structures. During implementation when we have both larger and smaller initiatives being executed at the same time, will the larger ones overshadow the smaller ones? If so what are the risks if any?
Re-jig or re-build parts of the LEGO structure as needed to see what it looks like. In a situation where we want to see what the changes look like before we action it, it makes sense to visualise what would happen if we move timelines or change implementation tactics
Example of data visualisation of ‘re-jigging’ change implementation timeline with The Change Compass using different scenarios.
Just like in building LEGO, for change initiatives we need to be agile and be flexible enough to play with and visualise what the change outcome could look like before pulling the trigger. We also need to be able to tweak as we go and adjust our change approaches as needed. In facing the multitude of changes that the organisation needs to be successful, we also need to be able to play with different implementation scenarios to picture how things will look like. Each brick needs to be carefully laid to reach the overall outcome.
Careful consideration also needs to be how all the bricks connect together – the analogy that the change outcomes across initiatives can be determined by how we’ve pieced together various pieces of LEGO for them to make sense, and result in the ownership and commitment of stakeholders.
Behaviour Realisation – As the world continues to struggle with Covid we are starting to see the financial fallout with businesses closing doors and others undergoing significant cuts to stay afloat. Around us, we see the effects. The front page of New York Times has been showing what life is like with Covid around the world. Those who are still in lockdown and those getting used to wearing face masks as a requirement. For the change practitioner, we need to braces ourselves for the myriad of financial implications in this challenging environment.
As companies start to tighten their belt expenditures is the first to come under fire. Project and initiative investments are naturally reviewed, consolidated, and cut to try and save money. Large companies typically invest millions to billions to execute on their strategy, maintain competitiveness, and improve the business effectiveness. Typical cuts in the project world translate to cutting project funding which means that change practitioners like other project professionals may be in the firing line.
As companies start to focus on the critical operations of the business the frequent question that gets asked is “what is the value of change management?”. “Can we save cost by cutting change management?”. Managers would already have a preconception of the value of change management when making this decision.
The challenge then becomes what is ultimately the ‘proof’ to the value of implementing effective change? Many will argue that it is that employees are more engaged, managers are communicating the right messages, that employees have the right skills, and that they feel that they are ready for the change. However, ultimately, a project has a set of benefits it is targeted to achieve and the question then becomes what ‘proof’ is that the benefits have been achieved.
For a lot of the work that change practitioners are involved in the ‘proof’ is the change in the behaviours from A to B. For example, undertaking different conversations with the customer, operating a different system, selling a new product, reporting on incidents, following the required steps in completing a form, etc. Ultimately the change in the behaviour results in the targeted benefits being achieved whether it is improved customer experience, cost savings, efficiency in operating a system, or generating greater insights through new data.
What are some of the ways to demonstrate that we are setting the course for ultimate behaviour realisation?
Clear identification of core behaviours
To be able to implement behaviour change we need to know what behaviours we are focused on changing. The trick is not to try and come up with an exhaustive list of all the various types of behaviours that need to take place in the end state. Instead, focus on the core behaviours that will make the most differences in achieving the ultimate benefit.
For example, what are the core 2-3 behaviours that leaders need to display in the end state to ensure those insights are captured and utilised to make better business decisions? It could be being confident in interpreting the data and using any system prompts as required, highlighting the insight generated in planning meetings, and using the insight to make better decisions that result in a better outcome for the organisation.
Behaviour realisation need to be measured and as we all know “what get’s measured get’s managed”. Behaviours may be measured based on a survey, observation, system reports, etc.
In order to successfully embed the new behaviour into business-as-usual ongoing tracking is required. Tracking ensures that the status of the behaviour change becomes visible and therefore becomes a goal to be focused on.
Tracking does not need to be cumbersome and overbearing. It could be as simple as incorporating the reporting into an existing weekly team meeting or a monthly planning meeting. It could also be a system-generated report that is sent to managers.
Our ultimate challenge as change practitioners in driving behaviour changes becomes even more crucial during these difficult financial times. We need to constantly demonstrate how our work directly links to benefit realisation. This may require stakeholder education. Are your stakeholders clear in terms of the importance of behaviours in reaching the benefits? Do they understand the design that has been in place to drive impacted groups toward the end state?
Most of us are still in lockdown or partial lockdown with Covid. At the same time, many countries are in the process of lifting restrictions and resuming normal business and social activities. In the US President Trump pushes to reopen the economy and phase out the coronavirus task force. In Italy the restriction have just been lifted. Here in Australia the government is planning a gradual return to business.
What is going to happen after we return to work? What would the new world look like post Covid or transitioning away from Covid?
As change practitioners we have a unique role to play in helping to support change and help the organization to adjust to the new norms. We are impacted like everyone else and yet we need to lead others to transition through the change. We are after all change leaders.
Here are some of the likely realities of the post-Covid world after we return to ‘the norm’ after the Covid lockdown:
1. Continued virtual working
It is likely that organizations will be cautious and phase the gradual ‘return to work’ process so as to avoid any potential of re-infection. Some are already in the 1 week in 1 week out arrangement to reduce the number of employee on the same floor. Others may selectively organise the return to work on a group by group or team by team manner, again to control the density level of employees per area.
Employees at Google and Facebook were told that they could continue to work from home until next year. For Amazon employees it is until October. There is also quite a number of large financial services firms that will continue virtual working.
As a result, the days of virtual working will not go away any time soon. As significant numbers of employees continue to work from home, so will the need to continually engage our stakeholders virtually. This includes engaging impacted stakeholders, designing effective leadership communication, sensing change readiness, and measuring change embedment. Do all of these virtually.
There is research to suggest that video conferencing over an extended period of time is cognitively very taxing for people. The attentiveness and focus required to go through a whole day of video conference meetings can add toll to the health and well-being of employees. Supporting employees to build effective virtual working habits is critical.
2. Employees who want to remain WFH
There are those who are stressed working from home and struggle with looking after kids and juggling meetings. They as a result cannot wait to return to the office when schools are closed.
However, there are also those who have enjoyed working virtually immensely.
Catherine lives in the mountains 2 hour away from the office. Every day that she works from home she is saving 4 hours per day in commuting time. She gets to spend more time with her husband and her cat and she can easily open the door onto her balcony, overlooking the forest during her virtual meetings. She gets to cook more and can move around the house as needed so that she is not disturbed by her husband, who is also working from home.
Mark is also quite reluctant to return back to the office. He is finding that he is significantly more productive as there is no one approaching him to chat about the weekend, and all the various chit chat that happens within an office environment. He gets to focus on his deliverables without the office noises. Between meetings Mark can fit in his workouts at the park or at home. He definitely feels that he has a much better work-life balance.
3. Cost cutting and Zero based budget
New articles abound that we are entering an unprecedented period of economic depression, the worst since the second world war for Europe and worse than the financial meltdown in 2008 for the US. What this means is that most business will be impacted in a major way. Many businesses have already closed shop whilst others are belt-tightening or planning to in order to manoeuvre the uncertain future that is post Covid.
There are those businesses that have had most of their revenue wiped out, including retail, entertainment and food & beverage industries. There are also ramifications for businesses that support other businesses that are impacted by Covid, such as manufacturing or aerospace.
Companies may resort to a zero-based budget approach of prioritising the basics of cost management in order to survive. According to Wikipedia zero-based budget (ZBB) “is a method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified and approved for each new period”. This is essentially a reset of cost to careful consider the most critical cost required to sustain the business. In this system, costs are grouped and measured against previous results and current expectations, enabling management to allocate funds by current need instead of by historical expenditures.
As change practitioners we need to prepare for rounds of cost containment or cutting of the initiatives that we are involved in. Expenditure will be tightly controlled. We need to consider ways in which we can continue to carry out change work with minimum additional expenditure.
4. Eventual reduction of commercial real estate utilisation
During Covid organizations have learnt that virtual working does work, even for those who have not experimented with this way of working. In order to save cost, companies will naturally plan to reduce any floor space requirement for those who are soon facing property rental lease renewal. Over time, we will start to see a reduction of commercial property requirement from businesses as organizations down size their office space footage and leverage more on virtual working.
So it looks like virtual working is likely here to stay. As change practitioners we need to continually develop and refine our change approaches in engaging our stakeholders virtually. There are various digital tools that can help fortunately. Some tools are designed to measure team engagement using machine learning. Others allow the expression of mood and responses without having to put this into verbal communication. Leverage these tools going forward (as cost permits) to engage effectively in a virtual world.
5. Disruption of initiatives/Re-planning
We need to be prepared for a series of disruptions whether it be ways of working, having to re-adjust change approaches, tightening expenditure, or having our change initiatives altered. Some initiatives will get pushed back, cancelled or moved forward. New initiatives or even restructuring exercises may emerge on top of existing initiatives. We may be asked to deliver more with less resources.
How do we manage our existing portfolio of change initiatives within this environment? We need to be agile and flexible to anticipate and work with various initiative changes. It could be that business capacity constantly shifts as a result of staff moving back to the office, or that teams become restructured therefore disrupting the initiative roll out.
Utilise visual management to analyse and foresee implications of shifting initiatives. The Change Compass has a scenario planning feature that allows you to visualise the picture of new scenarios when various initiative timelines are shifted. For more details please listen to our webinar on re-planning during Covid.
Key considerations when shifting initiatives include:
Subsequent implications on business capacity (will we create another peak change volume later in the year?)
Potential dependencies of projects in the sequence of the roll out
Overlap with any planned business black-out periods or periods of high work volumes (such as customer contact volumes)
Implications on benefit realisation in relation to business targets
Business readiness due to transition back to the office
Initiative resources and bandwidth available to carry out any shifts in implementation timeline
Communication implications of the shifted initiatives that will be delivered to the same stakeholder group
The world is now watching and experiencing an emerging
coronavirus pandemic. There is
widespread anticipation and fear in many parts of the world, especially those
with higher rates of infection. This poses an interesting scenario of testing
the capability of organisations in managing change during coronavirus. And in fact …. the virus itself is a change
that forces organisations to work and organise itself differently.
The change caused by coronavirus is vast. Travel bookings are cancelled and prohibited. Employees in highly infected areas are told
to work from home. Expatriates are sent
home and many face forced quarantine. In
Australia, Australian evacuees from Wuhan in China (where the virus was first
spread to humans) are placed in Christmas Island detention centres. In many parts of the world, cities have
become ghost towns. Soccer stadiums lay
empty. Some countries have even closed borders
to countries infected with high rates of the virus. In Hong Kong office staff are working from
home, along with their partners. And
often within close proximity of where their children are playing, which can be
No doubt about it – the coronavirus is one of the tests of
an organisation’s ability to undergo change.
Some are more prepared than others.
So how does an organisation manage the changes inflicted by
Most companies follow the usual approaches of sending out
notifications on company policies and any restrictions such as business travel
and working from home policies. However,
in this time of uncertainty leaders need to stand out and help navigate through
the various changes caused by the virus.
This means communicating early and frequently about what is
happening and relaying any useful information as needed such as travel and
technology needs. Leaders need to gage any
employee sentiments and concerns about what is happening around them. Promote discussions as needed to sense-check
any employee concerns and offer support.
Effective change leaders also need to proactive interpret what the changes mean to the team and assess the various impacts of the change. Does it make sense for all team members to work from home? Are there any connectivity issues? Does the team have the skills to work virtually? How are the team’s deliverables going to be impacted by the virus in terms of potential increases or decreases in workload? What other teams might benefit from the support of the team in the current environment?
Rules of engagement
With any significant changes in ways of working and
operating there needs to be clear rules of engagement set for employees.
To support virtual working what are the ground rules if any in terms of responsiveness and virtual engagement? Does there need to be regular individual checking throughout the meeting to ensure everyone has a chance to speak?
Are there meeting rules that are required to ensure the team remains cohesive and engaged? Does there need to be a separate minute taker, time keeper, etc.?
Do individual expectations need to be reset within a changed workplace? How does everyone show their work output within a virtual environment? And what is the expectation on virtual collaboration?
Are there rules of expectations for those who are sick or have a cold/flu in terms of not being in the workplace?
How is performance evaluated within a virtual working situation?
Agile organisations can easily bend and flex according to
changing industry pressures and customer requirements. If business volumes drop, what are the ways
in which the organisation can scale down as needed to stay afloat? This is more than just about business
continuity plans as it is about the flexibility of the operating model and ways
of working to undergo rapid change.
Using virtual tools for collaboration
When the previous epidemic SARS hit back in 2003 working
virtually was less prevalent. Now,
equipped with a range of technological tools, organizations can easily make
things work much more effectively in a virtual environment.
The trick is not to assume that one magical tool will meet
all of your needs. Instead, use
different tools for different purposes.
Here are some digital tools that may help:
Telecommunications: Google Hangout, Skype, Zoom
Project tracking: Basecamp, Trello, Jira
Online discussion boards: Microsoft Teams, Slack, Yammer
Virtual collaboration: Draw.io, Google Docs
Visual graphics: Canva
Working virtually can also mean that some of the body languages cannot be seen and therefore using visual aids is more critical in a virtual working environment more than in a face-to-face situation. Using visual aids helps to make communication even clearer and easier to follow for the audience.
Draw.io is worth mentioning as it is free and also super
easy to use. There is a range of
different templates that are ready to use.
A team can use this to start brainstorming ideas, work through a logic
tree, fill in a flow-chart, develop a project approach, define a timeline, etc.
Balancing planned initiatives
Most organisations are already balancing multiple changes at
any given time prior to the arrival of coronavirus. What this means to most organisations is that
the impact of coronavirus is one more change that piles on top of existing
Organisations need to carefully assess the planned set of
changes and ascertain to what extent existing changes may need to be tweaked as
a result of the virus. Do initiatives
need to be delayed or paused? Or will the
implementation approach need to be different as a result of the virtual nature
of work for more targeted employees?
Will communication mediums need to change as a result? What about learning mediums? What are the feasible learning platforms and
how effective are these for targeted employees?
Data visualisation tools for change such as The Change Compass can provide a visual way of understanding the volume and pace of change across the organisation. In particular, assessing the collective impacts of events such as the virus on the employees given other planned changes. This, in turn, can help with business decision making regarding the roll -out of the various changes to maximise business readiness and adoption.