- Posted by Jayne Bailey
COVID-19 has brought with it a raft of swift changes which has sent the economy spiraling and induced panic in many of those impacted. The system has been well and truly tested and disrupted. Whilst these changes have been necessary to curb the pandemic, it is a useful case study in how typically NOT to effect change for other reasons!
With COVID-19, we’ve seen the following responses to change:
· Mass panic and panic buying
· Confusion with directives
· Lack of adherence to new behaviours by some – “it doesn’t apply to me”
· Compliance in every sense by others
· Overall disruption on a mass scale
These reactions represent the typical responses and transitions people go through when undergoing change. I call it a transition wave – akin to a radio wave – and the more shock factor that is involved, the more noise it creates in the system.
When an organization is undergoing people, process or system change, the objective is to reduce the levels of noise in the system so that disruption can be reduced and the change can be completed more successfully.
The underlying factor which is often overlooked is how people deal with change. As can be seen above, with COVID-19, the responses are many but typically they’re all emotional.
Biologically, we are wired for certainty in our lives. The brain wires its own automated patterns or procedures that help us run our lives, we run on auto pilot and when these patterns are disrupted it switches on the flight or fight response. The bigger the disruption, the bigger the emotional response.
The trick with change is to reduce that emotional response. With COVID-19 there hasn’t been an option to do that but with organizational change there is every opportunity to do so.
Some ways to implement organisational change successfully with less noise include:
· Providing advanced notice of the change that is coming
· Breaking the change down into manageable chunks
· Piloting change in a small area so any misconceptions can be reduced
· Communicating transparently, consistently and clearly about what is coming and why
· Involving people from impacted teams in the change, engaging them to disseminate key messages and bring back questions to be answered/ideas that are raised
· Listening to those impacted and answering their concerns
· Spending time dealing with the emotions of the change first before getting on to the more mechanical aspects of the change
I’ve seen good and bad change in organisations and, hands down, see a better result where the change has been broken down into manageable chunks (akin to an agile type approach) and where notice periods are given for people to ready themselves for the change. Emotions HAVE to be managed first to calm the brain so its subject (ie. the team) is ready to act!
As we move beyond COVID-19 it will be even more important for organisations to recognise the heightened sensitivities that are already prevalent in the system. The flight/fight response of their teams is already on (!) so it will be even more important for organisations to think carefully about the notice they give their teams when it comes time to make more change.
Engagement and communication will be key requirements needed well in advance before people are asked, yet again, to leap into the unknown.
Change Leader 360 is an affordable online learning framework that provides leaders and practitioners of change with the skills to deliver more effective change to their teams. Help calm the system. Now is a great time to equip your leaders with these skills so they’re ready to effect important change for your organization. https://changeleader360.com/