Management of Change (MoC) in times of Corona

Ruud Koot
Ruud Koot
Behavioural change is and will remain a thing. Many Change managers know, what many executives find hard to accept: people essentially do not want to change.And for good reasons, because changing ingrained behaviour requires extra effort and we don't like that. And we don’t have to feel guilty about it too, because behavioural change conflicts with something that nature has been squeezing into the gene pool of every living creature on earth for billions of years: achieving your goal with minimal effort. Because energy is precious and food is scarce. Moreover, change is not always a guarantee for success.
 
Management may be convinced that an intended change is a tremendous improvement for the organisation, perceptions in the field can be quite different. And then resistance is just around the corner, especially if people in the field were not involved in the decision-making process. Which is often the case, let’s be honest about it.
 

Willingness to change

Only when one's own survival is threatened there is willingness to change. But even then it is not easy. How many animal species have become extinct in the last 100 million years because they were too slow to adapt to their rapid changing habitats? And back to now: how many projects have died in slowness due to the fact that management forgot to take their people by the hand during the change? A lot! Almost every report on fail-factors in IT-projects points at the same weakness over and over again: the human side of change: people. And the price that companies pay for underestimating this is high. Especially now. Because in these times of Corona the cards are reshuffled. Who is adapting successfully and who is bound to extinct? Corona not only tests our social responsibility and sense of unity, but also our ability to change. Organisations that pass the test are tomorrow's winners. And don't think multinationals are safe. Their change ability is much smaller than that of freelancers. It was the dinosaur that disappeared first after the great meteor impact in Yucatán million years ago, not the mice….
 
Especially now that many people are forced to work from home, as a manager you should scratch your head. How to realize adoption of the change and secure it? Agreed, the adoption of Zoom, Skype and TEAMS was no issue, because people simply had no choice. But introducing a new way of working with new tooling that supports your core business processes, while everyone is at home. How do managers intend to achieve this? A motivational speech in the companies restaurant, a pep-talk during a kick-off or just management by walking around, asking people how things are going…. It is all not going to happen for the time being. Well, not physically anyway. Everything has to be done digitaly now. And that is quite a difference. The distance is greater, communication is more difficult and the sense of togetherness is drifting away. And yet the focus is still where it has always been: on the tooling and the processes. Then everything will turn out right…... Forget it!
 
 

Change is a shared resposibility

What is often not well understood in boardrooms, is perfectly understood by my girlfriend. She is in charge of a primary school and due to Corona, last spring she had to radically digitize all lessons for the children of her school, who often live in a difficult or complex home-situation. But she managed nevertheless. How? Simply by involving her staff from the very beginning. Day after day she had conference calls with her board, her team and with the individual team members for whom it was a tremendous challenge. She listened carefully, did not force anything and took time to listen to concerns, resistance areas and suggestions. Yes, that takes time, but you win back even more time during the change process. Because doing so she made everyone co-owner of the solution. And as a co-owner you feel committed to make it a success. Looking back, she has only facilitated the change process, her team has actually realized it. With that approach, success is almost guaranteed. And off the record, after a few years of working in change management, I can’t deny that women understand that much better than men. Our social antennas are less well adjusted. Which by the way, is one of the reasons why I think women are badly needed in the boardroom. Not because they are better but because they will enrich the board with new insights, points of view and ideas.
 
 

What can you do today to make a change a succes

Back to the topic. What can YOU do today to make a change, that is already underway, a success? Or give it a new boost? Well for a start, call some stakeholders and ask for their opinion on the process so far. Do they understand the purpose of the change? The benefits you are aiming at? Are they (still) right behind you, supporting the change and do they know how to do that? Keep asking and make sure you get their real perception. If you feel resistance, you will have to do something with that, of course, but first make those calls. Then do the same with the people who are affected by the change and who must make it all happen. Just listen, ask questions, and don't be tempted to "sell" the project if you encounter resistance. Always summarize what you hear and make sure you invite them to be honest about their opinions and concerns. Also ask for advice: how would they proceed from here? After a few calls, you will already know where you stand with your project. Is it time for serious interventions? I think in 80% of the cases the answer is yes. But it’s your call. The basic question is: are you satisfied with a successful technical implementation OF the tool or do you also want adoption of the new way of working WITH the tool? In the latter case, there is probably work to be done. And take it from me, all that other work on your to-do list can wait. Otherwise, your project will be soon in jeopardy and will need extra budget due to (new) overruns. And your organisation simply cannot afford that in these hard times of Corona.
 
 

Our MoC approach

Meanwhile we have tailored our MoC approach to the new reality ourselves, making use of digital instruments. Because just like you, we will have to change our way of working constantly. Remember this: People make the change, tools and process don’t. I wish you successful projects and transformations. Don’t forget to enjoy them.
 
PS: Do you want to know more about how our Management of Change approach will contribute to adoption? Call us for a non-binding meeting!
 
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