pandemic accentuates change management

Pandemic Accentuates Two Problems With Change Management: One Is Change, The Other Is Management

In Uncategorized by Roger Lewis

Learn what problems have occurred with change management during the Covid-19 Pandemic and how your organisation can tackle them going forward.

Full article with thanks to:

With the global pandemic forcing most institutions and individuals to change much of what they do, and how they do it, I’m reluctant to state the obvious: Things haven’t always gone well.

But the same can be said for most pre-Covid changes. As Martin Reeves, chairman of the BCG Henderson Institute, our internal think tank, points out, even in normal times, change is tough, with companies failing to meet expectations roughly 75% of the time.

Why is change, even when your back isn’t up against the wall, so difficult? There probably are as many reasons as there are companies. But three of the biggest reasons are the following: Because companies frequently start their change efforts too late; they’re too rigid in their approach, and they ignore—or don’t even look for—available evidence on what’s working and what isn’t. [The same lessons, some say, could be applied to Covid-19 responses, which have varied dramatically from country to country, and among various jurisdictions within countries.]

“We tend to assume that ‘change’ is a planned itinerary with a beginning, an end, and measurable steps in between,” Reeves says. That happens on occasion, he agrees, but most of the time it’s a fluid process that, if done right, requires retooling along the way.

“Some of the things we assume will be proven wrong.” Leaders need to understand that and make adjustments. The trouble is: Many don’t. They continue to plod along, sticking to the original game plan, wasting time, money and human capital on efforts that are doomed. When they finally realize that what they had hoped to accomplish isn’t happening it’s often too late.

At the other extreme, there’s also the risk of giving up too soon—not giving your efforts enough time (and support) to succeed. Leaders get impatient. Their efforts, in effect, become a dance. Good leadership requires both qualities: adaptability and tenacity.

One of the biggest mistakes many companies make, according to Reeves, is that senior leaders try to work out too many details in advance, including an overly detailed timetable. On the contrary, Reeves argues, change plans need to be malleable. While they need direction and dare I say a vision, they shouldn’t be set in concrete. Leaders should be ready, willing and able to change their change plans—and change them again and again if warranted. But base these changes on what you know—on information and data—not on a whim, or the fact that things are taking too long to click and you’re tired of waiting for results.

Another point he makes, related to the first, is that you can’t control every outcome. One of the great misconceptions of management is that everything can be managed. That’s naive, of course. Some things, through no fault of your own, are beyond your ability to control. Accidents, disasters, pandemics, deliveries that never take place. How about a sudden order to shut your business down?

You can (and should) have contingency plans that anticipate a wide range of possible scenarios, but you can’t plan for everything. You can’t anticipate catastrophes that “can’t happen” but do, projects that can’t go wrong but do or systems that can’t fail, but do.

The preferred term these days for the ability to adapt rapidly to changing circumstances is agile. Call it what you want, but be prepared to do it.

Your best friend should be information. And that’s another of Reeves’ points, and perhaps one of the most important. As he and several colleagues wrote in a recent Henderson Institute paper on The Science of Organisational Change, the most successful organisations in the 2020s will be those who “constantly learn and adapt to changing realities.” This typically will require the use of both human and artificial intelligence.

While data and analytics are being used effectively in other aspects of business, they’re rarely being applied to change management, Reeves told me. Yet, technologies are becoming available to measure and test in real-time whether new initiatives are having the desired effect.

This can replace the traditional post mortem. Rather than measuring results after the fact, companies can see what’s taking place as it’s happening and make necessary adjustments instantly, the way a successful coach might alter his or her game plan.

Which brings me back to the subject of leadership.

What many senior executives fail to recognize when they pull the trigger on change initiatives is that they also need to change—change how they lead, communicate goals, organise their teams, influence others, track progress and measure success.

They often don’t get things right because they try to do new things while leading the same old way.

Despite the Covid-19 experience and likely long-term increases in the number of team members working remotely, the “workplace” of tomorrow will require more teamwork than ever before. Leaders need to embrace—and facilitate—this reality.  

Effective change management is using such insights to help chart your organisation’s future.

Full article with thanks to:

Did you enjoy that? Why not share this article.

We specialise in supporting change across the insurance sector, helping insurance businesses (and other businesses) adapt seamlessly. Our services include Change & TransformationM&A IntegrationBusiness Process Management and Executive Coaching.

Got a question? Get in touch and leave a message.