Change management is how we respond to changes going on both inside and outside of the organization. These changes cause impacts. In some cases, we understand what’s at stake and may even hire a change management team to lead the change.
Other times we don’t notice and don’t respond; in those cases, not responding is a form of response. Whether we know it or not, change management is always happening!
There are some changes that you really want to pay attention to. These are the ones where the benefits of change management so far outweigh the cost that the decision is a no brainer. On the flip side, those same changes, if unmanaged, will create serious financial problems, chaos, and risks. You’d think such a change would be hard to miss. But the reality is that we’ve become so desensitized to change that sometimes we just don’t notice.
Hiding in plain sight
Remote work is a great example. When the pandemic came along, there was a change in the external environment. The government decided that it was no longer safe to go to work. Remote work was suddenly foisted upon office workers, usually with little to no management or change management. In some cases, that created “new problems” such as negative impacts on culture, quality of life for employees, and corporate performance. Now some companies are trying to force people to return to the office, again with little to no change management.
So, what’s happening? Some leaders have failed to recognize that just because you have a laptop doesn’t mean you have an ideal setup to work from anywhere. They also failed to recognize that the old expectations no longer applied. For instance, pre-pandemic, most East Coast meetings with Europe began at 8 AM when people got to the office. Now many people take those calls from home starting at 6 or 7 AM. This has led to a restructuring of the workday. For example, many people have changed their workouts to be at lunch so they now take a long lunch, and then end the workday at 5 o’clock. Working from 8 to 5 isn’t just outdated. It’s counterproductive.
Other organizations have done an excellent job making the transition to remote work. Prior to the pandemic, we worked with organizations that were deliberately managing the change towards more remote or hybrid work. When the pandemic hit, they managed deliberately (not out of necessity) and were able to learn and practice new behaviors, update policies and procedures to support the new ways of working, adjust the mindset, and pilot and learn new tools to support the new ways of working. Other organizations realized after the fact that the shift didn’t go well, and gave themselves a second chance to get things right through change management.
Change management is typically used to respond to change or when implementing a new strategy. As shown in the image above, change management creates alignments and provides a feedback mechanism so that leaders know how the change is going. The goal is to make doing business as easy as possible. Continuing with our example, you can see how some alignments that worked well for onsite work might not work well in the remote context.
Recognizing the need for change management
The good news is that there’s nothing mysterious about change management. Once you know what you’re looking at, it’s easy to see if deliberate change management effort is necessary. Here are some of the things we consider when helping our to prioritize their initiatives:
- Is the change mission critical?
- Which stakeholders will be impacted? Depending on the culture, internal resources may manage up if there are problems, but external stakeholders (such as customers or partners) are less likely to provide input unless asked.
- How disruptive and time consuming is the change? Business continuity is essential.
- How many people will be impacted? Your people are your biggest asset. They need a set up to succeed.
- What are the risks if it doesn’t go well? What’s the worst thing that could happen?
- What if it goes well? What’s the best thing that could happen?
When you use these questions, you understand the value of doing change management, and you know the cost of not doing it. If your change affects 100 people and has low importance and low likelihood of disruption, you may be able to address it organically. However, if the change is mission critical, affects 1000 people, and carries significant risks if it goes badly, a relatively small investment in change will pay big dividends.
If you keep your eyes open, you may start to notice a lot of missed opportunities. If that’s the case, it’s not too late. Change management will still help you to bridge the gap between the present state and the ideal future state.
Let’s talk. What other changes go unnoticed and unmanaged?
BONUS: Looking to improve the productivity of your remote and hybrid teams? Here’s an oldy-but-goody free resource for you to get you heading in the right direction.
EVOLVE is a cutting-edge change management company that helps clients create and implement actionable solutions that address strategic challenges while building organizational capacity. We work with client teams to collaboratively chart the course for the future — in a way that drives sustainable change and demonstrates clear results — all without the typical pitfalls of using large consulting firms. Give us a call if you’d like to discuss your change challenges!