Insights

Change Management in Times of Crisis

Management Consulting

Author: Lauren Croucher

Everyone is familiar with change management; even if you don’t know you are.

The Valley of Despair

It’s likely you’ve heard of the change curve, or the five stages of grief developed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969. We’ve learned since then that people experience the change curve for lots of changes, both big and small. The bottom of this curve is often referred to as the “Valley of Despair”.

You may experience the curve with a small change, like when I had to update Spotify on my phone. There were minor changes to the user interface, and I couldn’t find my regular playlists. So I threw my phone on the couch in frustration and avoided it until I was ready to jump in and experiment with the change.

We also go through the change curve for bigger changes. Like suddenly working from home, while adjusting to new job duties, trying to help kids with online schooling, and facing fears about our personal health and safety. With those bigger changes, we are more likely to get stuck in the Valley. Because the change curve isn’t a linear process, we often start to crawl out of the Valley, only to sink back down into it – over and over again.

The Goal? Reduce the Disruption Time

The point of change management is not to eliminate those things, but rather to reduce disruption time and scope: the depth and amount of time spent in the Valley of Despair.

We can apply change management tactics at both personal and professional levels to help reduce the amount and depth of despair.

At Work: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

At work, the most important step is to communicate – even if you don’t have all the answers. If you don’t provide communications to your employees, they will create stories for themselves – this is what we do as humans.

Immediately after the COVID-19 pandemic caused RevGen to close the office and direct everyone to work at home, our senior leadership  instituted weekly video calls for our staff of 100 people. We submit anonymous questions in advance and leaders address each one, even if the answer is “we just don’t know yet”.

Other key communication tactics include:

  • Focusing on the ‘What’ and letting go of the ‘How‘
  • Creating hope
  • Making personal appeals

So, talk with your people regularly, they don’t expect you to have all the answers, they just want to hear from you regularly. Any communications are better than no communications.

 

At Home: Communicate with Yourself

On a personal level, you can communicate with yourself:

  • Create small goals you can achieve (I cleaned my bathrooms for 3 hours yesterday)
  • Journal about how you are feeling
  • Talk with your friends and family about your hopes and ideas for when this crisis ends.

Try new things and don’t expect perfection from yourself.

 

We fall into the Valley of Despair because that’s what change does to us – it disrupts our “normal” and we suddenly have to find a new way to behave. The point of the change curve is that all these reactions are normal. You can identify where you are on the curve and use tactics to try and move up and out of the curve – until the next change comes.

What change management tips and tricks will you use with yourself, your employees, your leaders, and your friends? For myself, I’ve been holding daily “staff meetings” with myself to explore where I am on the curve today and try new things to help me adapt and accept the changes that have occurred in the last month.

Change will keep happening, but we don’t have to get stuck in a valley because of it.

 

 

Lauren Croucher is a strategy and management consultant, specializing in strategy, process improvement, and change management. Lauren holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Strategic Management, a black belt certification in Lean, and a Prosci certification in Change Management.

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