How to Manage Critical Change with Little Notice

The pandemic of Covid-19 has thrown the saying “it’s business, not personal” out of the window. Let’s face it – our working and home lives are intertwined at the best of times but no occurrence in recent history has been as collectively hard hitting as the current Coronavirus health crisis. With countries all over the world in lockdown; all businesses have been thrown into disarray from the smallest one-man band right through to the global giants.

Game changing crisis

Those most affected, however, are the smaller businesses that are not large enough to meet the criteria for government help, but not small enough to simply close their doors and hunker down as best they can until the crisis is over. The majority of businesses, therefore, will need to adapt quickly in order to stay afloat, and never has any kind of change management process been so pertinent or timely in these unforeseen times.

By their very definition; change management companies are used to dealing with change and can be a guiding light to others in unchartered waters. Bombarded, sometimes daily with a constant influx of new information (as well as changing rules and regulations), it is more important than ever that small businesses do not get lost in the mire but use their existing skillset in house to help themselves as well as their clients to weather the COVID-19 storm.

Roll with the punches

It can be tempting at times like this to throw existing plans and structures aside but there is no need to panic and presume that the usual company processes and ways of doing things are no longer viable. The old adage if it works don’t change it still stands so existing plans, structures, and processes simply need to be adapted even if they need to be adapted on a daily basis.

It may feel as though you cannot move forward when yesterday’s plan needs to be changed today and time is short, but you can still move forward in times of crisis – the most important thing is that your team feels listened to and supported through what are unprecedented times. The answer is to work smarter not harder and with empathy in order to strike a balance between both the drive of your business, the feelings of your team members, and the constraints imposed by the outside world.

The ADKAR solution

Change management courses teach that ADKAR is an acronym based on 5 building blocks of Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement that can be used to bring about successful change when applied to any problem or situation. It focuses on pinpointing any current barriers to change and can be most definitely used for the challenges both current and future of COVID-19.

Back to the drawing board (kind of)

The ADKAR model is still considered to be the most effective tool in the change management field. A basic exercise shared by Tim Creasey in a recent Prosci webinar takes only 30 minutes of your precious time and provides a creative canvas for everyone to work from that can be updated and amended where necessary; even if this needs to happen on a daily basis.

It is this model of responsiveness; combining its logical step by step process and critical yet intuitive, and creative thinking skills that will enable a business to more fluidly through even the most difficult of circumstances rather than risk getting stuck and perhaps unable to recover even the world outside the office door returns back to (a new) normal.

Adaptive action

Adaptive action is the concept of Glenda Eoyang, author of Adaptive Action: Leveraging Uncertainty in Your Organization and this simple, repeatable process is one that everyone can quickly jump on board by asking and answering 3 short questions:-

  1. What?
  2. So what?
  3. Now what?

What helps you narrow the focus down to exactly what is happening in any moment because after all – the past is gone, and the future is yet to happen so the only time we can actually take positive action is in the here and now.

So what helps a team to draw meaning from the what and decide on the opportunities and the options that are available.

And Now What helps you to take action.

Practice not perfect

An important point to make is that you do not need to worry about finding the perfect solution. You simply need to take the best course of action using the information you have at that time which enables you to try new ideas and refine them and this process is one that can be repeated again, again and again; until before you know it………the crisis is over.

A powerful combination

With a hard-hitting crisis, you need a hard-hitting solution, and ADKAR combined with adaptive action provides a powerful problem-solving solution that any sized business can follow.

What can begin with a simple ADKAR assessment and locating a barrier point, the So What gathers all salient observations and allows you to take note of options/opportunities and the Now What presents a call to supportive action.

In more detail…..

It can help to look a little more in-depth at the adaptive action questions to help you and your team brainstorm for solutions to get past any barriers raised in the ADKAR process and organisational change management specialists can help you with this two-pronged approach.


What is happening?

What are you noticing?

What are the facts/observations that are standing out?

What new information do you have (e.g. daily Covid updates)?

So What

What are the conclusions emerging? What do they mean?

What are the opportunities/options that exist?

Will anything need to be amended?

Now What…

What is the best action to take?

How may we need to adapt this in terms of preparing and supporting people including supplying them with what they need?

Once a decision is made = take action and repeat as necessary!

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