Change Management for Tough Times

How can organizations thrive during change, when individuals must navigate with urgency, unpredictability, complexity, and overall tough times? I have pondered these questions since the start of the pandemic, when we all began to experience change at home, school, work, restaurants, gyms, and pretty much everywhere. In addition to this volume of change, we feel pressure to change quickly and effectively.

To help, I recently picked up a newly-published book called Change: How Organizations Achieve Hard-to-Imagine Results in Uncertain and Volatile Times by John Kotter, Vanessa Akhtar, and Gaurav Gupta. Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Recognize we are not supposed to be good at this type of change. The authors share new research on how our biology as humans and our culture as organizations are hard-wired NOT to change under such difficult circumstances.
  2. Follow some guiding change management principles. If we want to handle a ton of change with speed and efficiency, there are some best practices in change management to help us avoid common pitfalls.
  3. Ditch the “change in response to a burning platformmessaging. To inspire people to change during tough times, we need to show more opportunities instead of threats, and implement what people “want to” do instead of just what they “have to” do.
  4. Encourage more leadership from more people. We need leadership from all levels of the organization empowered to act and help implement change.

As a change consultant, I found this advice reassuring, timely, and helpful. Several of the book’s ideas are happening with our government clients and I can attest that they work! Whether applied to strategic planning, digital transformation, or culture change, I think these change concepts will help us long after these tough times pass.