If there was ever a time to deploy Change Management strategies – It is right now. Change, unlike risk, simply appears and is then an issue we have to address. Risks, on the other hand, are usually something we can identify ahead of time and then plan for it. For example, we are identifying the potential of an airline strike occurring sometime in the future, as well as its potential impact on our business. This is a “risk” we can identify early on in a project based on our experience as well as through empirical data. An airline strike in the future would be a “risk” because it hasn’t’ happened. It is a potential occurrence we can identify. Change, however, is something that often simply occurs, and we have to deal with it, often without much warning or time for proper planning.
Our current situation with the COVID-19 crisis is an appropriate example of a change. This incident has occurred, and there was no pre-identification of it as a risk. And even if there had been, the crisis is here now, and nobody foresaw the level of collateral damages it has generated. So what do we do now?
Case 1: If we are in the middle of a project, we can access the project’s change management plan where, one could assume, there are steps to be taken once a change has surfaced. These steps might include:
- Submit a change request (CR) form to the project manager, including the identified impact to scope, schedule, cost, and so on.
- Provide options for how to address the change
- Mechanisms for going through the review and approval steps
In this sample project, we would assume that it would either be terminated or, at a minimum, be placed on hold. However, these are solutions that are not typical and can have lasting adverse effects on the project and the team. Therefore, since the future is still very uncertain, it would be best to use this example of “change” to firstly identify new risks, such as the long term negative impacts on the stakeholders regarding stopping the project, as well as some potential benefits, such as the extra time generated by the project being placed on hold, which might provide the opportunity to improve the project by decreasing costs, increasing quality, or some other advantage. These potential benefits could be communicated to the stakeholders, in particular to the project sponsor and client, thereby providing buy-in and productive engagement.
Case 2: If we are talking about something more global, such as “operational change,” which is currently what many firms are having to address, such as downsizing, cutting production, transitioning their product line, and, in some extreme cases, shutting down completely. Since the latter is a different approach altogether, let’s skip that one for now and discuss the other options, such as “cutting production.”
Cutting production would start by identifying foreseeable sales, making reductions, and, typically, would also include downsizing staff. Once these decisions have been determined, it is crucial to run a risk analysis for each path taken to identify how to mitigate potential adverse risks (threats) as well as how to make the positive risks (opportunities) happen.
So does that mean that the current situation is not about change, but rather about risk? The short answer is that it is both and will run in a loop until some semblance of the new “normal” is created.
This approach would include the following:
- Identify which “change” or “changes” we must address as they pertain to our projects and organizations.
- Thoroughly analyze the solutions to address these changes through risk analyses, which might now, and moving forward, also include the resurgence of this current virus, or a mutation thereof, as a potential risk.
- Once both positive and negative risks have been thoroughly vetted, analyzed, and addressed in potential responses, they can then be used in deciding which changes are the most optimal to carry us through this situation.
Though it is currently challenging to see the positive side of the current situation, it is always wise to try and learn from any crisis to avoid it in the future, in the best of circumstances, or, at a minimum, know how to mitigate and minimize their impact.
Feel free to contact us should you have any questions or comments. We would also be glad to provide consulting and training services to you and your staff regarding change and risk management, as well as other areas of expertise.