Published On: Tue, Jul 13th, 2021

Continuing Organisational Change Post-Pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic has seen pretty much every business face changes. Some of these happened overnight, and others which may have helped shape the way they operate going forward. But, without a doubt, the most significant will have impacted how staff view the business and manage on a day to day basis.  

Organisations quickly sought buy-in to changes at the outset of the pandemic to keep the business on track. The feeling of ‘We are all in this together’ helped many companies enforce newly adopted ways. As a result, many changed ways almost overnight to shop for or deliver their services or bring in new technology to provide an agile workforce to connect remotely with each other and customers. Others faced supply chain issues or vastly increased demands for their services and had to make changes at a more incredible speed than at any other time previously.

Business adapted how they dealt with staff and customers and the resulting changing customer expectations as the entire way the nation shopped changed.  Those who handled employee and public communications successfully during this time of crisis will have gained valuable knowledge for managing change in the future. However, post-pandemic change reasons are less likely due to an emergency or with such definable reasons. Perhaps a less motivated workforce or willingness to accept any such changes can make them more challenging to push onboard.

Leaders must therefore continue to question themselves. Is change necessary? Then, how do we get our stakeholders and employees on board, reduce resistance and build our story for the proposed change? 

Man writing something on whiteboard

photo/ rawpixel

Recognise the human aspect of change

Change management experts are well-versed in the human side of change. Therefore, the change management process follows a well-organised framework to anticipate resistance, facilitate the business change, and move the company from its present state to the desired. Post-pandemic changes will see less pressure on the timeframe for many change projects; however, it is essential to sustain efforts throughout and after integration. 

Where do we go from here?

Businesses now face choices as to how to develop their business in the future. Many companies were forced to change suppliers when supply chains became difficult, perhaps sourcing more from their home country or equipping their workforce for more agile working. Returning to previous methods is not something they wish to do; however, other changes must now follow to create cohesion. 

What needs to change

You are clear there needs to be a change, but you may not yet have the solution. For example, identifying a need to improve operational efficiency, increase productivity, improve technology or customer service may not be critical as things are okay as they are. Still, you have identified they could be better. However, the resistance to these such changes may be higher. The work involved may be more significant to ensure the initiative’s success, as you may well face opposition from those who see it as unnecessary or not want to learn new skills or routines. 

Establishing what you want to change, who will be affected and who the stakeholders are, with particular attention to those affected negatively, is necessary to identify hurdles you may face.  Following the DICE equation framework and scoring your project can help you determine how likely your methods are to succeed. Over 70% of change management initiatives end in failure, abandonment or losing momentum throughout the process. Evaluation via the DICE method will give an early insight into the likelihood of success and can provide opportunities for early changes that positively affect outcomes.

How should it happen

Change leaders should consider various viewpoints at this stage, establishing effective lines of communication with business leaders, high-level executives and stakeholders. It is wise to consider the opinions of others and evaluate them in terms of how best to proceed. When others feel involved, they are more likely to buy into the change program and become advocates. Periods of change are inherently unnerving, even when they are positive, particularly when there are negative aspects for some members. Therefore, management of the change story and an honest acknowledgement to those involved, whether good or bad, is essential at the earliest possible time. Rumours and speculation can cause greater resistance and obstruction if people feel kept in the dark when they do not have the whole story. 

Ensuring leaders can understand and communicate the value of change to the business and lead stakeholders and management effectively through the process is critical. Your change leaders may benefit from formal training such as change management courses to equip them with practical skills and techniques and increase the chances of success. 

Identifying how much extra work individuals will be required to take on is also essential. When already stretched or busy employees feel the pressure of extra work, the impact can be catastrophic. Research has shown that when employees face less than 10% change in the effort required, a project has a greater chance of successful implementation. More, and you are highly likely to face negativity, a backwards step in productivity and higher resistance levels.

Implement and maintain

There must be clear and concise plans that identify who is responsible for carrying out which aspects of the change plan. Whoever has responsibility for monitoring and reporting on the progress of tasks must ensure that key stakeholders and employees are kept up to date through regular formal project assessments. Chosen leaders must be strong enough to identify and handle conflict, resistance and obstruction and take difficult decisions promptly.

Time and resources must ensure that employees feel valued and able to contribute where necessary. Training should be given, and time allowed for employees to adjust to new expectations. Change programs that do not allow sufficient time or resources to rebalance workloads where needed while staff are learning and keeping up with already demanding schedules or facing possible job losses are also high on the list of failed change projects. 

Businesses can suffer in the short term while changes integrate, so it is critical to set out on a path shown to a high chance of success at the outset (do your DICE equation calculation), monitor frequently, and promptly make changes throughout and after a project’s completion as needed.

Whilst the actual logistics of change may differ for every organisation, the standardised procedures and risk factors remain similar, so thoughtful process application and the right teams on the job will reduce and manage resistance and improve overall success.

Author: Anne Preston

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