Change Management under the sign of Covid-19: Mastering crisis and preserving sustainabilityReading time: 5 minutes
Change often announces itself and can be planned over long periods. It gives us security and confidence that we can master any challenge. But sometimes some events force us to adapt quasi overnight. Whether in our private lives, as citizens of a state or as decision-makers in a company: Covid-19 has shown us how quickly the entire system can be shaken if there is a lack of consistent and targeted change management.
Recognising and communicating the need for change
The art is to recognize the right time for changes and to plan the processes accordingly. It is easier said than done when it comes to something like the corona crisis. Since the findings change and expand almost daily, the change cannot be planned from A to Z but must be continuously adapted to current circumstances. Not only entrepreneurs and the self-employed have experienced how complicated and difficult this is, but also those in government. It is not enough to order change from above if all levels of the hierarchy down to the customer or citizen are not involved. It has been shown that acceptance of necessary changes is a critical element of being able to carry out the transformation. The majority of the population always accepts the measures best if they are communicated and explained accordingly. Why is it important to wear a mask? Why are specific measures suddenly useful, and others suddenly outdated? The information and competence advantage of managers and decision-makers must be communicated to stakeholders – which in the case of government decisions includes above all the citizens. The so-called productivity gap can certainly be applied to this situation, although the factors naturally vary according to requirements. However, the example illustrates the problem of unrecognized or unused potential.
Companies now often have to accelerate change projects
What applies to the state and its citizens in an overall picture is also essential for the relationship between entrepreneurs, customers and employees. Many change projects that were perhaps intended to be long-term are now suddenly to be implemented overnight. For example, the conversion to home office has caused problems in many sectors because the necessary internal and structural digital infrastructure was not available and, due to the high demand, a lack of experts and equipment has made the conversion more difficult. Besides, hardly anyone had ready-made concepts in change management for digitalization. In other areas, completely new concepts had to be implemented that had never been considered before.
In many cases, it was not even about the usual requirements for increasing efficiency, but about the mere survival of companies whose markets had suddenly collapsed. But the opposite has also happened: While some industries (e.g. automotive suppliers) were suddenly faced with nothing, other services and products were in demand overnight like never before. Stemming such a project is a challenge which, without planning and professional advice, almost inevitably leads to serious mistakes and problems. A viable process structure for change management, for example, results from the proven 4-phase model, which takes all important factors into account.
The fundamental change management success factors for successful transformations include stakeholder analysis and risk analysis to set the framework. However, professional change management consulting is always highly recommended to maintain and possibly increase employee motivation. Especially with the Covid problem, fear and motivation go hand in hand, because the uncertainty does not only extend to considerations about the ROI Return of Investment or the punctual completion of any change management process. It is often a matter of the bare survival of the company.
Recognising the opportunities of the crisis
In addition to the enormous challenges, every crisis also brings opportunities. Some industries have even emerged stronger from the Covid crisis. Thus, a suddenly necessary evolution always offers the opportunity to streamline corporate structures, remove superfluous elements and introduce innovations. This is not only accompanied by an increase in efficiency, but also a more modern corporate image, more agility and the willingness to master the challenges together.
Seek help from the transformation manager early on
While employees and customers as stakeholders are essential factors, the current crisis has also shown that managers are just as overwhelmed by the situation, because in many cases they have had to leave the comfort zone of their expertise. Coaching managers to be able to cope with such a sudden change is a task for the change agent. Within the framework of change management consulting, a transformation manager can promote the success of the change project even under challenging conditions. Changes create fears and require trust in the decision-makers. Generating this trust can be implemented in workshops (in times of Corona, of course, mainly digital) and other measures for active change management. The following applies: The earlier companies call on professional help from a coach, the greater the chances of timely and successful transformation measures. This applies all the more in difficult situations such as those created by Covid-19.
Essential tips for managers to implement change
The fish stinks from the head – successful changes start at the top
Although the willingness to change must be present throughout the company and communicated when necessary, nothing works without the right conditions in top management. It is precisely here that stumbling blocks that stand in the way of successful change management repeatedly emerge. Many managers show considerable deficits, especially in communication and the willingness to listen to others.
Including the corporate culture at all levels
No company consists only of the management level. Procedures and processes often become independent in a way that is inefficient due to a lack of communication and corporate culture, thus standing in the way of real change. Mutual understanding of different positions and requirements within the hierarchies of a company is a central factor for successful transformation processes.
Harmonising emotions and rational arguments
Change processes always generate concerns and fears among those who are suddenly expected to change their usual routines. Even if these emotions cannot always be rationally justified, they should be taken seriously.
Don’t just order changes, but exemplify them
The management can order everything, but if the implementation is to succeed throughout the company, those responsible must be aware of their role model function and not only support the changes but also set an example.
Constant questioning makes change valuable
Change is not automatically good just because everything is suddenly done differently. Change is only justified if the benefits of changes can be illustrated. What seemed sensible yesterday is not always still valid tomorrow. That is why all transformations should always be questioned and reviewed at every stage of planning and implementation – even after successful completion. After all, standing still is a step backward, and this also and especially applies to transformation processes.