Change management in a time of crisis

The sun also rises!

Change should not be random, but the idea of a crisis is central to any change management process. If we stop and think how many things have changed in our lives in recent months, very few of those changes could have happened without the re framing of priorities generated by Covid 19. The restrictions imposed by the fear of the virus spreading in our society allowed us to process the need for social distancing, working from home and limitations on travel. And if this crisis is temporary in nature, the first thing people will do is go back to doing things exactly as before. It is the other major facet of change management. Without some method of consolidation, everything will revert to what was the norm at the earliest possible convenience.

So when we talk about our current circumstances, we tend to see them in light of “how things were”. Everyone sees it as a passing phase and will only be happy when things go back to normal. The danger with this norm is that it discounts the learnings of the experience. We have now seen what crystal clear water looks like around Venice. Traffic has become a non-issue and people can see the benefits of having the option of working at home. The air has never been clearer and the decibel level of the birds seems to be off the charts. Spring is certainly in the air….but we are stuck inside, mostly.

Getting back to change management, the current climate displays the many facets of change. In business terms, Beckhard and Harris wrote about change management in the 80’s. Their optimized change model specifies that organizations and individuals change when….

  • There is DISSATISFACTION (D) with the current state (whatever the focus of change might be)
  • There is a clear and shared VISION (V) of a preferred future
  • There is an acceptable FIRST STEPS (F) Roadmap to achieving the Vision, and
  • The product of D x V x F is greater than the existing RESISTANCE to change among those whose support is required for successful implementation.

These conditions give rise to a change formula: D x V x F > R

Desire, Vision, and First Steps must be present for change to occur. If any element is missing, the product of multiplication is zero, which will always be less than the Resistance to change, which is always present to some degree.

Before the enforced limitations that most countries have now adopted, many political leaders referenced the concept of “fatigue”. It was advanced as a reason why such limitations might only be effective briefly in a democracy. So in this case, R (or Fatigue) is the reluctance to restrict people’s movement. D in this case could be the perceived mortality of parents/grandparents, V could be the survival of said generation and F would be what we now call “flattening the curve”. As the dangers became clear to people, “fatigue” became less an issue and restrictions became a necessity. The desire to save the older generation was stronger than the concerns of limiting society. But such limits are actually going to suffer fatigue over time and with the experience of a flatter curve. The boomerang effect will be needed to rescue the economy.

As the momentum switches to the other side of the equation, it’s important we don’t forget some of the positives experienced in the restricted phase we currently occupy. More family time together may be preferable to kids having multiple sports team experiences that soak up all of their energy and time. As the world reverts to equilibrium, wherever that resides now, it’s important to remember that without some positive actions one will lose the learnings of this very unprecedented period of change. It’s a time for reflection and action.

As an old boss used to say, there are three types of people – people who make things happen, people who watch things happen and finally those who look around and wonder what happened!

Contact us

Fill in the form below or give us a call and we'll contact you. We endeavour to answer all enquiries within 24 hours on business days.