By now you have had more than a few laughs seeing people be people in their home “work” environments. You know what they wear, or forget to wear, what they drink and how they behave when not putting on their office face. Maybe the show The Office actually got it right!
These are sad, difficult and stressful times for everyone. Yet, through all the heartache and suffering we fully expect to get through this and to learn from this horrible experience. Rather than debate if we will return to “normal” or not, from a business standpoint what must change based on what you have learned?
A one-liner I used to open an awareness session designed to accelerate change at a large healthcare provider was “Change is good. You go first!”. In our case COVID-19 forced the change upon us with little warning and at light speed. Even the Change Acceleration Process I learned while at GE prepares us to go through the phases of change* at a hyper-accelerated pace.
Whether you believe change is “good”, or inevitable, knowing how to effectively deal with change, and use it to your advantage whenever possible is good for you, and good for business. So what does this mean, and how can you use it to your advantage? Here are some examples of effective (versus ineffective) guidelines we hope help your business during and after this COVID-19 crisis.
*Kübler-Ross model – Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, Acceptance
* Transtheoretical Model – Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, Termination
Change Acceleration under normal circumstances
|Don’t tell anyone what’s coming. Let it be a surprise.||Make executive commitment for positive change crystal clear.|
|Dictate or force change throughout the organization – top down.||Develop a shared need for change so everyone knows the status quo must change and what it will mean.|
|“Trust Me”, “Shut up eat your peas!” attitude.||Help all levels of the organization envision the future, and how it will feel better than the now.|
|Fire the naysayers and only reward the “yes men”.||Support the early champions, nurture the “wannabes”, and make compassionate people-based decisions.|
|Stay the course, no matter what. Calls for Patten not Montgomery.||Listen and learn and adapt based on what works and what does not.|
|Reward your “soldiers” and ignore the rest.||Transparently monitor progress and celebrate the successes openly.|
|Instead of investing push people to behave in news ways in an unchanged environment.||Invest effort and money to re-align the work environment to new behaviors that have evolved with the change.|
Change Acceleration in crisis circumstances
|Guard yourself from the rising tide of issues. Use top-down management to hush the negatives and fear mongrels.||Show visible support and commitment to get through the crisis. Increase the time you spend at all levels on personal 1-1 level, group updates and listening.|
|Huddle with your trusted advisors and lay down new policies and guidelines for everyone to follow.||Establish a pulse of learn-change-plan with your internal and external trusted advisors and outside experts as needed. Use group sessions, surveys or and other effective methods to learn. Change whatever you can now, and plan for change that requires more time and resources. Work to develop a shared need for change across the organization and transparently communicate what will be done now, what will be done as resources are available and the work-arounds to improve situations in the meantime.|
|Use one-way communications to tell everyone to “hang in there”. Keep things close to the vest on “need to know” basis to keep people from knowing what may make them more fearful or insecure.||Be visible at all levels, acknowledge suffering and concerns, and explain the plan to work through the crisis and what the future will bring in terms of positive change. Engage your staff as well to listen and work with their organizations to improve circumstances.|
|Take immediate and drastic measures to protect cash flow ASAP.||Get directly engaged and assign your best people to take advantage of support (e.g. PPP, etc.). Keep your customers informed. Make compassionate decisions and explain what your longer-term plans are wherever you need to make cuts. Manage cash flow very carefully while leveraging all appropriate financial vehicles.|
|Wait and survive till “it’s over”.||Use this time to not only react to the crisis but to anticipate and proactively prepare so you reduce the need to react and increase your ability to serve in the crisis. Spend 20% of your time, everyday, on your business vision that goes far beyond the end of the crisis; and work backwards to define a strategy and plans of action to drive that strategy forward toward that vision. Revise your business model based on the realities today and what you see the realities of the future. If shutdown, have a specific plan of action to “restart” your business aligned with the elements of your vision so your business can serve your customers what they will need and how they will need it delivered.|
|Follow what seems to be working for others and consult with an expert on how to operate post crisis or “restart” your business if you were shutdown.||Increase the amount of rigor you put into getting your business off life-support and growing. Make changes to systems and structures that support new ways of doing business, new products or services aligned with your vision and strategy, and according to new required behaviors and best practices that have evolved.|
|Get back to business as usual as fast as possible, rebuild your organization and reconnect with your customers to let them know you are back in business.||Resist the temptation to return to business as usual or to limit your focus on a “go forward” plan. Continue to devote time daily to your long-term vision, your revised business strategy and revised business model. Sure up your team where you may now have gaps and align your organization around your business vision and strategy using the same change fundamentals you would use in a non-crisis circumstances.|
Additional thoughts to help “restarting” your business
- Define or follow an established process to get your employees back to work safely and keeping your customers and visitors safe as well. Speak with an expert or visit https://timitsolutions.com/covid-19-crisis-help-for-your-business/ for help.
- Take action based on what you have learned yourself and from your organization, customers and external sources. Set up structured work sessions with your staff and their organizations to capture lessons learned and best practices while they are still fresh and top of mind. Define plans of action to drive change that is aligned to your vision and strategy following the same change acceleration best practices mentioned herein.
- Make changes to systems and structures to ensure you will be more productive and keep your business sound in the event of a future crisis.
- Re-evaluate your new business model you defined based on what you learned during the crisis and based on your vision for 5-10 years out. Invest in it and put your best people on it and resist the need to force fit it into your old business model or the old business as usual way your business operated before the crisis.
- Balance your obvious need for revenue and preservation of cash with your need to pivot or radically change the “business you are in” and the “way you do business”.
- Plan and be ready to handle boom in certain customer demands and a slow return to growth in other areas.
- Leverage technology that will accelerate and make your businesses on average 37% more efficient:
- Streamline marketing, sales and service (integrate, automate, apply AI/ML)
- Rip cost out of inefficient business processes
- Increase the customer experience
- Expanding your market reach and strengthen your brand
- Rationalize your application environment (remove redundancy and simply)
In summary, these times are tough for everyone. Yet your business will do best and come out best if you manage change effectively, now and in the years to come. Leverage the strength of your organization now, apply what is learned, and redefine your business vision, strategy and model. Your business will be stronger if you do.