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Principles, Assumptions and Etiquette on Virtual Change Management (VCM)

Posted June 2020

Now that we are starting to come out of lockdown across the world, people are starting to look at business to help us recover, economically and personally I would say mentally as well. However, there is a wide recognition that the world is not the same as it was before and most likely will not ever be the same again – this includes the world of delivering change within organisations. Now more than ever organisations will be taking a look at how they have conducted business before and review these practices, models, processes of operating in the new light of Covid19.

With all of this, many organisations have already stated that they will continue to enable their people to work remotely in some cases for the foreseeable and in others for at least the rest of the year. Whichever the case may be, the chances of the numbers of people entering an office going forward, I would argue and I think many would agree, will not ever be the same as they were before Covide19.

If this is the case, then how do we deliver change and ensure engagement of staff is at a high level to enable adoption?

Below I have established a set of principles, assumptions and etiquette that I think need to be implemented to enable a virtual change management (VCM) programme.

Firstly, more ownership will be required by the colleagues to obtain and participate in the different activities and communications. If we review our previous change strategies and plans we will find that a good deal of the activities were completed in f2f environments. Going forward, many of these activities will need to be adapted to a mix of virtual and real settings but with the majority of them completed in a virtual one. The reason for this is a virtual change programme can reach and engage a wider audience as there is less dependence on locally delivered activities and people being ‘in the office’.

The principles of a virtual change programme are:

· Flexible and adaptable approach to create an agile organisation ready for change

· Help employees seamlessly shift energy, time and mind as nimble contributors

· Create opportunities for colleagues to engage using multiple mediums

· Competency framework that can flex and adapt to evolving environments and factors

But how do we go about delivering a virtual change programme?

Secondly, I think there are a number of assumptions that need to be in place to help make all this happen:

· Cameras need to be on – video is essential for all meetings, events and activities to help establish facial interaction that enables emotional intelligence to be utilised in communicating.

· Collaboration tools need to in place and available for all to use, which are different to communication tools. Some examples are listed below:

o Houseparty, Zoom, MS Teams and MS Teams Live Events

o Access to, vevox, and/or other interactive tools

o There needs to be one source of truth established and accessible for key stakeholder groups and all colleagues such as a project website or some stakeholder SharePoint pages

· Bandwidth also needs to be available to support all the above technologies along with other BAU activities to support virtual and remote working and delivery

Lastly, a certain amount of etiquette will also need to be established in order to maximise resilience and effectiveness of the engagement:

· Cameras on – as before

· Dressed for work, i.e. you shouldn’t be in pajamas / dressing gowns

· Patience

o Team members may be in a shared accommodation – acceptance that personal life may be happening in the background

· Need to be mindful of timing of events and meetings – ensure they are during the ‘accepted working hours’

· Look for opportunities to have interaction in the events – make sure they are not just ‘downloads of information’, i.e. take polls or obtain feedback with live digital questionnaires

· Try and use different mediums for communication besides emails – we all get tired of receiving emails, so see if there is another way to communicate with our colleagues

· Have regular check in points with team members – this helps build and maintain relationships which are key in delivering change

Finally, ensure you take regular breaks – when you are in the office, there are a number of ‘natural’ breaks that occur during the office workday: time out for coffee at a café, out go purchase lunch, colleagues dropping by for ad hoc conversations. All these moments give you breaks away from the screen. When you are working remotely, these moments do not happen, so you will need to make them happen for yourself – whether that is you schedule in the time or when one meeting finishes and before another one begins – whatever works for you, make sure they happen. A key thing to remember is if you do not enable these moments or breaks to happen then you may start to get headaches, frequently, your eyesight may diminish, you become irritable, particularly to those around you and on a very long term arena you could potentially end up in burn out, which takes several years to recover.

So, Covid19 has given us a great opportunity to really explore new ways of working and communicating with one another, but we need to be mindful on how we enact this so that we can maintain a level of work/life balance, humanism and frankly, sanity.

We can deliver change management virtually and we can do this with high levels of engagement, we just need to make sure we have all the support mechanisms in place to enable us to do it – after all, change management is not a one person activity – it takes a community / team for it happen.

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