Thought Leadership Articles

    The unplanned transformation of 2020: thoughts and reflections from the view of change management

    May 26, 2020 | Posted by Imogen Parnham

    The Current, Transition and Future States

    One of the underpinning concepts of most change theories is the idea of movement through a series of states, whether it be Unfreeze, Change, Re-freeze from Kurt Lewin or Ending, Neutral Zone and New Beginning from William Bridges or the Current, Transition and Future states from Prosci.

    If you look anywhere in the news you will find a journalist speculating about how and when we will enter into our future state. I say future state as it is becoming increasingly apparent that our future will not be the same as the current state we left on the 23 March.

    In fact, we are rapidly moving through states of change. From the current state we left in late March, to the transition state of learning how to communicate and collaborate with colleagues whilst working remotely. This rapidly became our future state as we have settled into this new way of working and, stick with me, in matter of just a few weeks this future state has become our new 'current state'. We are seeing further transitions as we change our way of business, for example at CMC, moving from in classroom training to, at the time of writing, wholly virtual instructor-led delivery.

    Once we begin to re-open businesses, allow non-essential travel and permit individuals to gather in groups outside of the households we will move into a new transition state. We will have to move from this current state of isolation into a new future state when we take on re-entry. How that new future state will look is unclear. As the weeks go by, organisations and government bodies discuss its potential characteristics. What we do know, is that it is unlikely to be a snap change like our transition into lockdown. In fact, it could take many months of gradual movement before the change is complete; only recently, the main news broadcasts were carrying stories about the need for two metres of social distancing being with us until perhaps early 2021.

    Although the future is unclear, we can still help our organisations and teams plan ahead. For example, one of my recent customers was sharing with me how the chief executive at her organisation was showing great leadership and fulfilling her ABC roles by recording video messages to staff to communicate how she was dealing with the challenges and changes Covid-19 has inspired and sharing how she thought would be the (near) future shape world of work for her organisation.

    ADKAR graphic

    The Individual Change Journeys of 'Re-entry'

    On top of the organisational change journey, each individual is travelling their own change journey too. Some are learning to balance the supervision of school work and the monthly leadership meeting. Others are discovering how to cope with their only human contact being with colleagues and friends over video meetings.

    Supporting their teams who are continuing to work through this pandemic is a critical role for our managers. They have assisted the move to working from home, the digital transformation, and the (likely) change in key objectives as businesses reel from the impact of Covid-19. Let’s not forget, of course, that first and foremost our people managers are employees facing this change for themselves and for the last six weeks or so have been adapting to and, by and large, embracing the dual aspects of the change: changing their own ways of working and then supporting their direct reports through the change to remote working, coming to terms with the absence in teams of furloughed staff, etc, etc.

    Download: Manager/Supervisor's Role in Change Management

    Managers Role in Change Management

    There will be no let-up for line and people managers any time soon as their team leadership role will be vital as and when the lifting of restrictions begins. If lockdown restrictions are lifted incrementally, as some reports suggest, managers are likely to be enabling and supporting individual team members facing very different versions of “re-entry”. At this point, it seems to me that the critical skills Prosci recommends for managers of coaching, liaison, advocacy, resistance management and communications will become even more important; the unconditional imperative of 23 March’s “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives” message is likely to be replaced by a series of more nuanced messages if a phased lifting of lockdown is pursued. Staff will look to their managers for cues and clarity when this next phase of the pandemic-inspired change lands.

    In the virtual classroom over the past three weeks we have heard remarkable stories of leadership and team management. What has been your experience? We always welcome comments, questions and challenges about our reflections. Please do get in touch.

    If you’re interested in gaining Prosci Certification this month or next in UK, Singapore or Italy time-zones, and in recognition of the unprecedented levels of change we are all having to manage, we are delighted to offer a complimentary, two-hour coaching session with one of our Prosci Certified Advanced Instructors as part of your enrolment –  take a look at the upcoming dates we have available.

    We can also offer Virtual change management training privately for your organisation. If you would like a conversation with one of our team to discuss how we can help- get in touch!


    Topics: Leaders of Change, Sponsors, Getting Started with Change Management, Virtual Learning, Managing Change


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