Lockdown and Leading Change

Looking beyond Lockdown

As mentioned in the first part of this article on Monday, the Awareness that the ADKAR model requires was generated mainly by government messaging and the media. Then there was a lag in direction coming from the top of most organisations. The government messaging was ambiguous and only served to create uncertainty at a time where the population and your employees and managers needed certainty. Business management and the informal leadership network made things happen without (generally) compromising the quality of service significantly.

We are now looking ahead at what is just over the horizon, but first we are still managing the here and now.

Managing and Reinforcing the Change

The Desire to change, the motivation to cooperate, was significantly taken care of by messaging from government and medical professionals and the media. People realised that not only was their situation about to change dramatically but so was job security in the immediate and the medium term. No matter how much somebody did not like their job, there is nothing quite as motivating as the prospect of losing it with little hope for another one.

Providing Knowledge required was training that was not in anybody's development budget. Many employees had not in their wildest dreams anticipated performing their job from home. Teams that were already using collaboration software and shared filing spaces were more prepared than those who were not. It was more a case of supplementing the current Knowledge rather than starting from scratch. Teams that had a more robust base were able to apply the Knowledge rapidly and remain productive.

Because the changes to their work were logistical, and not process, the productivity was maintained at a reasonable level. Although a lot of the motivation was created by external messaging, it still fell to the line manager to rally the troops. You had to settle peoples' concerns by demonstrating empathy and a higher touch management approach than usual.

This is where a mature management system is key. In my IBM management days I recall the pain of having to maintain a 'Manager's Control Book' which spelled out each manager's system, and could be audited. But there is more than a little wisdom in your own version of that.

Management System

Reinforcing the change has been much easier for managers who already had a management system that went beyond informal communication within the office. Little could be effectively dealt with as an open door 'just call me if you need me' approach. Experts on motivating your remote team have written much on this. A management system that provides stability and continuity is critical. Some of the group might feel micro-managed, whereas most have shown appreciation. It may have kept them motivated and able to explain to those in the household what the boundaries were in their day. They could still maintain the necessary outputs and outcomes in trying circumstances.

Leading the Change

As can be seen, however one could align most of your activities with the ADKAR model and stages, they have been primarily reactive. As we move into the second phase of lockdown, you are going to require proactive change management and change leadership. Although the initial transition has been effective, it is not sustainable. The business case has not been made yet for which parts of the way of working can continue and which elements will gradually move back into the office.

As mentioned before, many people would welcome a return to the office. Indeed, in the short term, at least while you revise your operating model.

There are significant benefits to the climate, organisations, and employees, if they have a sustainable remote operating model for those employees who desire it. There are many for whom it is undesirable or impossible to maintain working from home. For those who are feeling the pain the most, lockdown fatigue is setting in. They require your leadership more than they did in the state of crisis and chaos. The current transitional way of remote working has to be sustained for as long as the lockdown continues. We do not know quite how long that is, and we do not see how the personal pressures and trauma are going to increase in your employees' households.

Now is a time for you to maintain the present while looking to the future. Don't wait for everyone or anyone else to tell you what to do or think. Remember, most peoples' ideas of normal are rooted in the past, in the box that works for them. Start reading, a lot. Most consultancies and publications are making a lot of their 'future-thinking' available in the public domain. Read from a variety of them, not just one bias. Feed your brain as you play your proactive part in the 'next normal'.

I'll expand on that next time.

To be continued….


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