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Crisis planning using Kotter’s change management process

As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, our organizations are being forced to change and adapt. Some organizations are more directly impacted than others. For example, the restaurant industry has been forced to adapt and only provide curbside pick up and deliveries. I have heard stories of restaurants making quick changes to keep the business running and others than have had to close temporarily or permanently.

We might be tempted to wait this situation out, but I think it would be more valuable to develop a focus for the upcoming weeks and months. This focus can help us survive this downturn and come out with a competitive advantage.

John Kotter’s book Leading Change is considered a classic book on organizational change management. For this blog, I have utilized his eight-step process for creating change to demonstrate how organizations can navigate change during these challenging times.

1. “Establishing a sense of urgency”

We begin by identifying the crisis that we are experiencing. Change is hard, and urgency can help people understand the need for change. Many of us are experiencing this urgency right now. We need to ask, “How is COVID-19 really affecting our organization?” Many organizations are adjusting to a remote workforce. Others are seeing a demand for sales decrease or sometimes increase. We also need to ask, “What opportunities does this crisis present for our organization?” This time is a great opportunity to innovate, increase productivity, better document processes, and train employees.

2. “Creating the guiding coalition”

An influential team is important to lead the change management process. We want to include those people who have the necessary skills and power to lead change throughout the entire organization. Are there certain areas within the organization that might try to resist change? If so, plan the team accordingly. We want to include those with strong credibility to ensure people will listen and accept their direction. The team should not just include the senior management. We want to make sure the team will include diverse perspectives especially frontline employees and middle managers. Once the team is selected, it is time to build trust and mutual goals. Trust can be built through time together openly discussing the organization’s challenges and opportunities and being deliberate about developing psychological safety among the members.  

3. “Developing a vision and strategy”

The guiding coalition must work to develop a vision for the organization. Kotter suggests, “If you cannot describe your vision to someone in five minutes and get their interest, you have more work to do in this phase of a transformation process” (p. 81). The vision and strategy can be a multiple page document and also a more concise statement that is shared more often. If the organization is particularly impacted by the current crisis, we might develop a vision for how the company will operate in the coming months. Perhaps we will focus on innovation, improving customer relationships, documenting processes, or training team members. The strategy might also include multiple scenarios and how the organization will respond to them. It is very important that the guiding coalition is involved with the development of the vision and strategy and have buy in.

Kotter shares an example of a clear and focused vision:

“The vision driving our department’s reengineering effort is simple. We want to reduce our costs by at least 30 percent and increase the speed with which we can respond to customers by at least 40 percent. These are stretch goals, but we know based on the pilot project in Austin that they are achievable if we all work together. When this is completed, in approximately three years, we will have leapfrogged our biggest competitors and achieved all the associated benefits: better customers, increased revenue growth, more job security, and the enormous pride that comes from great accomplishments.” (p. 81)

4. “Communicating the change vision”

During this time of uncertainty, we probably cannot overcommunicate where we are going as an organization. We need to use all available forms of communication to ensure our organization is fully aware of where we are going. The message needs to clear, concise, and free of jargon. Kotter points out the importance of addressing “seeming inconsistencies” (p. 99) by describing a company’s vision to reduce unnecessary spending but continuing to provide private jets for the executives. That inconsistency can stall change management efforts and must be addressed, or we must communicate a compelling reason for the inconsistency. In addition, the guiding coalition plays a key role in the vision’s implementation by role modeling the desired change/

5. “Empowering broad-based action”

Once the vision is communicated, employees must be empowered to implement. The guiding coalition should spend some time determining how to empower employees and remove barriers. Barriers to empower employees must be eliminated, and Kotter identifies four common barriers: (1) “ Formal structures make it difficult to act,” (2) “A lack of needed skills undermines action,” (3) Personnel and information systems make it difficult to act,” and (4) “Bosses discourage actions aimed at implementing the new vision” (p. 106). When we change the way our organization operates, we need to make sure we spend adequate time training employees for the expected change. In addition, we need to align the efforts of each organizational department, division, etc., with the new vision. Performance evaluations should be aligned with the vision.

6. “Generating short-term wins”

The COVID-19 pandemic has created anxiety within our organizations related to concerns about the illness and its financial implications. We need to make sure we have developed a vision and strategy that will allow us to celebrate short-term wins. In times of crisis, we might develop weekly, monthly, or quarterly metrics for short-term wins to keep the organization focused on where we are going. Kotter writes, “A good short-term win has at least these three characteristics: (1) “It’s visible; large numbers of people can see for themselves whether the result is real or just hype,” (2) “It’s unambiguous; there can be little argument over the call,” and (3) “It’s clearly related to the change effort” (p. 126).

7. “Consolidating gains and producing more change”

Step 7 can be one of the longest lasting steps in the change management process. Leaders need to think long term about their organization. As we generate short-terms wins, we work to take on larger scale changes that align with our vision. Shifting responsibilities, new skills, or additional staffing might be needed to more fully achieve the vision. The role of managers continues to be very important to articulate the vision and communicate the urgency for change.

Kotter emphasizes the need to eliminate “unnecessary interconnections” by sharing how many organizations have developed unnecessary barriers over time to achieve the new vision. He writes:

“Cleaning up historical artifacts does create an even longer change agenda, which an exhausted organization will not like. But the purging of unnecessary interconnections can ultimately make a transformation much easier. And in a world where change is increasingly the norm rather than the exception, cleaning house can also make all future reorganizing efforts or strategic shifts less difficult.” (pp. 149-150)

8. “Anchoring new approaches in the culture”

Throughout these challenging times, we might make changes that become competitive advantages, and we ultimately want these types of changes to be rooted in the culture of the organization. If you are focusing on improving productivity during this time of crisis, this vision if fully adopted by the culture will ultimately make your organization stronger in the long run. When our organizations see the results that come from our changes, the new way of doing business will become part of the culture.

I sincerely hope the coming weeks and months are a time for your organization to adapt and change in ways that will make you stronger in the future.

Reference: Kotter, J.P. (2012). Leading Change. Harvard Business Review Press.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Ready to learn how we can help your organization develop an effective crisis management or strategic plan?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.

The new normal

A lot has changed since the middle of last week as a result of COVID-19. On Thursday night, the president addressed the country, and on Friday social distancing became a common phrase, schools were cancelled, universities moved to all online classes, travel plans were changed, and businesses started feeling the impact of the pandemic. I am not a health expert but have closely followed the news. Based on what I continue to read, things will get worse before they get better, and we all need to find ways to adapt.

As a self-employed consultant, I have started to feel the impact of COVID-19. Some of the in-person workshops I am scheduled to lead have been postponed and others have been moved to an online format. Onsite group facilitated meetings might be cancelled unless another alternative can be arranged. My work will continue, but I will need to adjust to the new normal. I recommend organizations do the following during these challenging times:

  1. Stay the course. It is easy to get overwhelmed right now, but our organizations need to keep moving forward. Our products and services are still important and needed. The economy needs business activity.
  2. Plan accordingly. The US Chamber of Commerce has shared resources for businesses in response to COVID-19. Their checklist suggests businesses “prioritize critical operations, prepare for school closings, create a communication plan, establish possible teleworking policies, and coordinate with state external & local external health officials.” Encourage your employees to take the necessary precautions to eliminate and reduce the spread of the virus.
  3. Adjust. I have tried to stay positive during this time and continue to consider new ways to leverage technology to deliver services. In the coming months, I anticipate delivering more online workshops and using videoconferencing tools to conduct meetings. These tools can keep our organizations moving forward and reduce travel.

We are skilled at utilizing technology to deliver leadership training / coaching. In addition, we have had success working remotely with clients facilitating meetings, developing strategy, and leading creative problem solving. It can be difficult to replicate the experience of being in person, but there are many great tools available for organizations. In addition to leadership, strategy, and creative problem solving services, we have helped organizations leverage technology to deliver training.

The coming weeks and months will likely give us all more time at home. I hope we can all make the most of this time to devote our attention to family and friends. In addition, I sincerely hope that we can all adapt and become stronger as a result of these challenges. Stay healthy.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Ready to learn how we can help your organization’s leadership, strategy, creativity through the use of technology?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.

Ways I have improved my productivity

When I started working full time as a consultant, one of my goals was to improve my work-life balance. I have always worked more than the standard 40 hour work, and I desired to spend more time with family and friends.

To help achieve a better work-life balance, I have worked to improve my productivity. Some of the areas that have helped include the following:

  1. Physical activity: We know that physical activity is good for our brains. Exercise improves memory and thinking and decreases stress. I try to start the day with push ups and/or sit ups, and I find this helps me wake up, get the brain working, and immediately provides a feeling of accomplishment. In addition, I try to spend time walking during breaks throughout the day.
  2. Structured breaks: Many of us try to work longer hours to get more accomplished. This article suggests the ideal length of time to focus on a single task is 52 minutes followed by a break of 17 minutes. I find 45-60 minutes on task followed by a 10-15 minute break allows me to be very productive and mentally fresh. My breaks often involve a quick walk, reading, or a mindless task such as emptying the dishwasher.
  3. Mindfulness: My life feels constantly busy, and I find taking some time to meditate quiets my mind, sharpens focus, and relieves anxiety. Here is one of many articles about the topic. When I read Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, I was surprised by the high percentage of successful people he interviewed that regularly practice meditation or mindfulness (80%).
  4. Schedule time to accomplish difficult tasks: I have worked hard to schedule my time better. My best mental focus occurs early in the day, so I avoid early morning meetings and other tasks that are not very mentally demanding when possible. I strive to keep the mornings open to focus on projects that require a great deal of focus, including complicated proposals, report writing for clients, blogging, and reviewing documents.
  5. Email: Most people I talk to struggle to keep up with their email. Some have suggested that people are more productive when they skip checking email when they first get up. I try to only check email when I am in a position to respond. In addition, I schedule time for email “blitzes” to knock out a lot of email in a short period of time. Fifteen minutes of uninterrupted email time can be very productive.
  6. Stop multitasking: I used to pride myself on my ability to multitask and was often working on multiple projects all at once. Instead, I endeavor to focus on one task at a time, and I find this approach allows me to complete tasks more efficiently than before. There are numerous studies that support the negative impact of multitasking on productivity, including this review of research from the American Psychological Association.
  7. Listen to audiobooks: Reading helps me increase my knowledge base as a consultant and stay current with best practices in my industry. It can be difficult for me to have uninterrupted time to actually sit down and read. I subscribe to Audible and listen to books in the car or when I exercise. Many public libraries offer free audiobooks for cardholders. I listen to audiobooks at 1.25X speed, and I know people that can listen at even faster speeds. The increased speed helps me listen to more books, and this Audible article suggests that comprehension can improve at faster speeds.

I’m not perfect. There are some days when I am more productive than others, but I find that intentionally focusing on productivity has changed how efficiently and effectively I use my time. What boosts your productivity?

We provide leadership coaching for clients in a wide variety of industries, and the coaching is customized based on each individual client’s needs. There are times when we help clients improve their productivity and carefully focus their use of time through a leadership development plan.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Ready to learn how we can help your organization’s leadership, strategy, or creativity?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, creativity, and strategy consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer. 

Creative Problem Solving for Congregations

Dr. Tad Dickel will provide “Creative Problem Solving for Congregations” workshops through the Center for Congregations on March 12, 2020, in Fort Wayne, Indiana and April 2, 2020, in Seymour, Indiana. The workshops will help attendees improve how they creatively approach complex problems encountered by their congregations.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

All attendees will take the Basadur Profile in advance of the workshop to better understand their preferred creative problem styles. During the workshop, attendees will learn how their styles influence their creativity and problem solving as individuals and in teams. Other topics include effective meetings, productive conversations, and team building.

The workshop will introduce ways to enhance creative thinking and apply these skills to real problems experienced by congregations. Learn more at the following link:

https://centerforcongregations.org/workshop/creative-problem-solving-congregations

Ready to learn more about how we help organizations enhance creative thinking and collaboration to solve complex problems?

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, creativity, and strategy consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer. 

Simplex Workshop in Evansville

Are you looking for a process to help you build more effective teams, improve creative thinking, enhance collaboration, and facilitate complex problem solving?

Dr. Tad Dickel will be leading Basadur Simplexity Thinking Levels 1.0 and 2.0 from September 16-18, 2020, at Innovation Pointe in Evansville, Indiana. This program has not been offered to the public in Evansville since September 2018. We hope you will reserve your spot now. 

Think about the amount of change that has occurred in the last 10-20 years. As we get access to more information through technology, we are experiencing an accelerating rate of change, and organizations need to be more creative and innovative than ever before.

Most organizations understand the importance of creativity and innovation but lack a strategy for fostering a more innovative culture. This three day workshop will give attendees a process for creatively and collaboratively working through complex problems, challenges, and opportunities. Here are descriptions of Levels 1 and 2:

Level 1: Using Applied Creativity

People who work in organizations are constantly faced with change issues and ill-structured problems. This workshop builds skills in proactively seeking out problems and opportunities and implementing creative solutions on the job. This includes understanding the nature of problems and using a process to creatively deal with them for positive change. It emphasizes working with others in harmony to discover important opportunities for improvement in both products and procedures and creating and implementing practical new ideas. Participants learn by applying the Simplexity Thinking system individually and in teams to their own work-related problems. (From basadur.com).

Level 2: Leading Applied Creativity

Participants build skills in facilitating small groups through the Simplexity Thinking process and gain a deeper grasp of the Simplexity Thinking system, preconsulting, meeting roles, phases, group dynamics and debriefing. Participants facilitate actual problem solving meetings. Not only do these skills improve the ongoing productivity of teams, but participants gain a greater understanding of Simplexity Thinking and its use in formal and informal situations. The facilitation skills learned also develop a more facilitative leadership style. Graduates can proceed toward certification as Simplexity Thinking Facilitator.

To register, go to: 

https://www.usi.edu/outreach/lifelong-learning/professional-development/simplex-10-20-solving-complex-problems/

Previous workshop attendees wrote the following reviews:

“Grateful to have gone through this valuable training.”

“The whole process was a wonderful experience .”

“I really enjoyed it and felt so much more confident at the end.”

I greatly enjoyed the workshop and its facilitators. The class style was perfect.”

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, creativity, and strategy consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.

Want more information?