Charting a crisis: Bolstering business continuity with organisational change management
How to adjust business continuity plans during the COVID-19 crisis .
October 20, 2020 | By: Paul Burton and Kelly O’Neill
Navigating the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. Our first and foremost priorities are ensuring we’re supporting our people, technical consultants, contractors and clients across the globe. As a full-stack technology and talent partner, we want to share our experience and offer support in how to alleviate the uncertainty around workplace services support as many businesses shift to a primarily remote workforce for an indefinite period of time.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has challenged companies to manage their enterprises in newfound ways. In the short term, they’re facing enormous scope changes to their business plans; in the long term, they must adapt and continue to make progress on their original goals.
Expected change can be hard enough in ordinary circumstances. Leading forced change management for an organisation, all while being virtual, can be even harder. Depending on the magnitude of your working environments, you may feel that you’re not equipped to manage this dynamic, uncertain change—but you’re further along than you think.
While many companies have an organisational change management (OCM) programme around technical aspects, focusing and evolving your contingency plans and business continuity best practices around your people will help you navigate this new working culture—and keep productivity up and running.
Build a framework for communication and business continuity
Most organisations will be expected to perform as they were prior to the pandemic but will have to do it differently through virtual and remote management. If you had a business continuity plan in place, you’ll need to make sure it covers all the needs of the business. This includes understanding how to make decisions with uncertainty—what is the best approach to maintain focus on execution, collaborate and communicate remotely and keep the business going?
To do this, organisations need to ensure their business strategy incorporates crisis management, disaster recovery and risk management in order to adapt and get back on track to true business efforts. And fueling that productivity may look differently than before—such as building new progress dashboards or utilising new collaboration tools. Keep in mind that change initiatives aren’t all the same, so the approach should be flexible and scalable to match the needs of the business. This means making sure you’re implementing OCM activities that provide the most value and desired outcomes. Using structured change management approaches will help build change awareness as your people become more comfortable with new ways of working, such as:
- Serving as extensions of, and connections between, project teams and impacted team members
- Implementing feedback channels to gauge communications effectiveness, adoption, areas of resistance and areas of acceptance
- Enabling and increasing the use of virtual/remote demonstrations, training, coaching and continuous improvement with the use of collaborative tools Providing sustained support at the peer level
Creating a structured communications approach for remote work that supports people will help them remain efficient in their roles without distractions. This includes best practice methods to ensure people and customers are aware of the current situation, how it impacts them, and the new processes and procedures required to do their jobs. Fear of the unknown and uncertainty is a big aspect of people unable to remain productive, and any ad hoc approaches to manage people that aren’t engaged or prepared won’t be effective. Organisations that can clearly and consistently communicate will be able to help calm fears and ultimately sustain business continuity.
Understand how your people will be impacted
Many project plans are often centered around technology—not people or process. Historically, crisis concerns have primarily revolved around protecting telecommunications, broadband networks, servers and data for companies to continue to operate securely. Now, there’s a need for organisations to focus on connecting their people to each other and leveraging facilitation skills to foster communications.
In an OCM framework, best practice methods and procedures are used to determine the impact change has on stakeholders, and how to manage that impact to ensure effectiveness. What’s sometimes missing is the ability to tap into how stakeholders ‘experience’ the change. For example, OCM helps manage people challenges and new methods to enable them to stay productive on the job. Targeted communications can help address challenges with social distancing, working in a remote environment or managing virtual meetings and conference calls. Therefore, it’s important to execute a communication strategy that quickly shifts people into a remote model that they’re previously not accustomed to, in a way that still supports them.
It’s also critical to increase ways for people to provide feedback and escalate issues or concerns in a virtual or remote environment. Not having a feedback loop can slow change adoption immensely, or even cause it to fail. Targeted training can be provided to ensure people are aware of the tools and techniques available to provide feedback in a remote environment and stay connected with team members and managers. In addition, prioritising communication lines will provide you a more holistic view across teams, as well as help to lift productivity dips that inevitably occur during transition states.
Setting guidelines and expectations for virtual work will help keep people focused and productive during times of uncertainty. Many people have never had to host or participate in virtual meetings before—they may not be sure how to act or may not be confident in using virtual technology or collaboration tools right away. Providing empowering training and development to your company, such as virtual team management coaching and collaboration management, can help people pivot, adopt new ways of working and operate productively.
Paul Burton serves as a practice architect for TEKsystems Global Services. He has more than 25 years of experience in organizational change and project management, focusing on end-user adoption to ensure users understand new solutions that can positively impact their jobs.
Kelly O’Neill is an enterprise services practice architect for TEKsystems Global Services. With over 20 years of experience, she is an expert in business transformation, architecture and solution services, and strategy and engagement management.