The Change response required for a Pandemic

Earlier this year I wrote about managing change in times of crisis in reference to the Australian bushfires. I certainly did not think that just a couple of months later that I would be writing about a global pandemic and the level of change that leaders would need to manage in times such as these. 

These are times that very few in the world have lived through before. Ironically the elderly who are most at risk are the one's who could have lived through similar illness that spread throughout the world in the early 1900's. However in this connected world which has the internet and international travel at the drop of a hat, the circumstances and challenges are VERY different.

So how has your organisation and leadership team responded to these times of continual change? How long did it take for your leaders to be clear on their messaging and make decisions about which path to take - business first or safety first?

How some organisations have responded...

With creativity: there...

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Don't demand a seat at the table - wait to be invited

Waiting to be invited is a sign of Respect

I was once told a story about the what a 'Welcome to Country' means to the traditional owners of Australia, our First Nations people. That when travelling the lands of Australia they would wait on the border of the other tribes lands and light a fire so that the smoke would raise into the air and signal their presence. They would then wait until someone from the neighbouring tribe would arrive and welcome them onto their country. What a profound sign of respect. 

This story had many layers of lessons for me. One lesson, is that it is far more powerful to respectfully wait and be invited, rather than barge in or 'force' any change. Now that's not to say that in my career in the early days I didn't drive a lot of change. I certainly like progress and have a knack for driving action. However as the years of lessons have built up, I have certainly changed my approach and have learned patience. 

Pace in line with business...

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A crisis can be a catalyst for Change

Happy new year and welcome to 2020. It certainly has been challenging in Australia with the worst bush fires across the country in living memory. It certainly has been a time of crisis. I hope going forward the impact of climate change, which has been incredulously denied by certain political parties will now be discussed with solution brokers coming to the table.

Crisis as a catalyst

Unfortunately sometimes it takes a crisis for change to be embraced. When the pain gets so much that something has to shift. This is very relatable when it comes to introducing change management into an organisation. Financial results (or lack thereof) become untenable for the leadership team. Projects don't deliver well, funding is cut or staff engagement results are at their lowest. All reasons for Change leadership and management to be embraced.

Leadership in times like these 

During this bush fire crisis, there have been some observations about leadership, where certain expectations on some...

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Know the seasons and rhythms of your organisation to be effective

 

When planning change interventions it is key to understand the boarder seasonal and community context in which you are delivering the change. Whenever planning activities on your change calendar there are a range of key dates to block out:

  • Seasonal holidays (Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Bank holidays)
  • Key holidays periods for carers: school breaks (where staff may be taking leave)
  • In addition to this there may be holidays relevant to the communities that you serve. Community events and special holidays.
  • Peak times for organisation activities: Renewal times for policies, regular sales events where staff are otherwise pre-occupied.

Timing the change interventions when they are most effective is critical. During the times which aren't optimal activity should be kept to a minimum if they are unable to be actually rescheduled another time.  If you are unsure of the organisations activities to be able to identify these peak periods it is best to ask and map them...

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Why Benefits are critical to a Change Manager

I considered calling this article 'Why Benefits belong to the Change Manager' but I could hear the hiss from Change Manager's who would challenge the word 'belong'. Of course they would be right, as any Benefit outlined in a project brief should be assigned an owner from the business. However, benefits are most critical to a Change Manager's role in any project, as they help explain the reason why the project has been funded in the first place. They are a measure of the effectiveness of what is being delivered, and a Change Managers purpose is to create a plan that is focused on creating the right environment and behaviours to achieve that level of effectiveness.

Any Change Manager worth their salt, therefore, is focused on influencing solutions where possible, to make sure any deliverables are user friendly. Measuring success based on successful delivery only is a thing of the past for high performing organisations, the focus now is on realising the Benefits.

Theory vs Practice...

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In times of big change - do this one thing!

If your organisation has fast paced, frequent change or is undergoing transformational change, it is important to increase the level and frequency of communication. This is to directly mitigate the risk of decreased engagement and thus decreased productivity and performance in times of great change.

If critical business decisions have not been made, and there is no news to tell staff about the major changes, taking time to communicate that exact message will in fact place a sense of certainty in the minds of those who are feeling anxious.

'What is happening?'

'Oh they haven't made a decision yet but expect that they will know next week'

'OK let's see'.

The interesting thing is that many leaders will also be feeling anxious as well and potentially feeling the pressure. This then often results in leaders second guessing themselves about what to communicate.

When leaders are in the space of uncertainty about whether to communicate or not, I always advise them that consistency in times...

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Three stakeholder management strategies that work time and time again

Effective stakeholder management is critical for success of any initiative and smooth delivery of any project. The fact of the matter is, it doesn't matter what your end product is if you are 'burning' your stakeholders through lack of involvement or shutting them out. Every time you are delivering something new into your organisation or you are running a project, effective stakeholder management is a MUST!

Here are the three fail-safe strategies to put into place when working on projects or working with teams across an organisation to deliver an outcome:

1) Take the time to make sure you are involving the right people. This may sound silly but if you haven't taken the time to note down exactly who you consider your stakeholders to be, you need to put a pen to paper or finger to your keyboard right now and get to it.

Why? Often we forget who we need to involve or who need to know about your initiative. This results in complaints or 'white-anting' your initiative.  Listing out...

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How to communicate change effectively with cut through

The challenges that we face with communication in our day to day lives also applies within our organisations. We now carry our mobile phones around and sometimes laptops in a effort to be paperless. This means that people are often less 'present' to conversations and are continually distracted. The challenges just seem to mount up when looking to create communications that cut's through the noise.

Here are some of the reasons that the communications 'gets lost': 

* Staff don't have time to read all of the emails

* The communication channels aren't effective, being too cluttered and the communication isn't clear

* They don't have the time to 'connect the dots'.

So messages need to be consistently communicated, in a number of ways and in a clear and creative way. Here are some tips to creating communication with cut through:

Consistency: Stay on message. This is critical to any successful change. Consistently messaging and having your Sponsorship model correct is also...

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Change management principles

There are a number of principles that underly effective change management. The following principles are easy to outline but harder to put into place consistently depending on the leadership approach and the culture of the organisation in which you work. I said hard but not impossible so bear this in mind. Typically in most customer centric organisations which link strongly the Employees ---> Customer ---->Financial outcomes, these principles are easier to align to.

However as a Change facilitator it is important to state the principles that you are working to, and here are some I would recommend you could align your practices to, to enable the best outcomes for your change strategies:

1. Respect to be shown to all. This is critical. At times where emotions run high with large transformational change, this principle can be forgotten. If all are staff and customers are treated equally and with respect, better outcomes are achieved even if the change has negative impacts....

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Flashback about Fundamentals

flashback fundamentals Oct 16, 2019

One of my early posts was about getting back to the fundamentals. 

I really enjoyed reading it again, and I think its a good reminder that when things get hectic it is good to get back to basics.

Read the post here.

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