By John Wieser
Management Consultant, MSS Business Transformation Advisory
COVID-19 has disrupted nearly every aspect of business-as-usual, with one notable exception: your people continue to be the most vital factor in the success of your business. As you continue to transition and support your organization to a more remote work environment, you need to keep in mind that this is a significant change for them and their work dynamic, even if their roles on paper don’t change. As a leader in your organization, you should address this change appropriately with a structured change management strategy and approach.
Have a Change Management Strategy
This does not have to be anything formal (though kudos if it is!), but you and your leadership team should at least have a conceptual understanding and go through the exercise of developing a light version of a Change Management Strategy for your workforce. This strategy should try to address the following questions:
- Who is being impacted? – Be sure to address both your internal team AND your external stakeholders (contractors, suppliers, customers, etc.)
- How are they being impacted? – Recognize that different stakeholder groups may be impacted in different ways and in varying degrees
- What specific changes are your teams and stakeholders being asked to do due to the changes?
- (And here’s the important one…) Why are these changes going into place? – This should include what benefits will come out of this. As an example, if you’re holding daily Skype video chats with the team, the “why” would include to ensure that camaraderie and momentum isn’t potentially lost through less personal modes of communication like emails and phone calls, exclusively
A lot of this may seem like common sense, but going through the exercise of establishing this Change Management Strategy is as critical now as it would be for any massive project or implementation. First, it helps to ensure that every stakeholder group is accounted for – no one is left without clear instructions on what they’re expected to do. Secondly, it forces you, as a leader, to take a moment to develop greater empathy for what is being asked of your team and partners. This is a critical moment for establishing your team dynamic and setting the tone for your organization – not only during a pandemic, but also for setting the stage for a successful return to “normalcy” (whatever that may look like).
Don’t Forget About External Partners!
Yes, this was already mentioned, but make sure that you do not forget about your partners that are external to the organization. You would be forgiven if your attention has been spent on keeping your internal team operational during this turbulence, but your external partners can be just as critical to the long-term success of your organization. Maintaining proactive communications and expectations with your contractors, suppliers, customers, and other external partners must be a big consideration for your continuity plan – remember, they are in the midst of drastic changes in their organizations, as well, so if you want to maintain your supply chain, sales pipeline, and other critical components of your operations, this is your opportunity to provide leadership to your partners.
Reinforce Change Management At All Levels
Communicating expectations, critical updates, and words of encouragement are all critical pieces of transitioning your workforce to the “new normal” for the foreseeable future. This, however, is just the beginning – as a leader in your organization, it is important to reinforce these communications with actions. Publicly recognize those that quickly and effectively jump into the remote workplace. Be sure that if your policy is to use video chat as much as possible that you’re not relying on phone calls and emails (and please do everyone a favor by remembering whether your video and microphone are on).
When the social distancing measures have subsided and the world returns closer to “normal”, your teams and external partners may not remember each of the emails that you wrote or the meetings that you held. They will, however, remember how you engaged with them during this time of uncertainty and disruption. Appropriately recognizing and addressing the impact this is having on your stakeholders by developing your Change Management strategy will go a long way in establishing yourself as a leader that stepped up to the plate when you were needed most.
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