As many as 97% of enterprises could look to adapt their business models in the aftermath of COVID-19, yet organisations’ change portfolio strategies during the pandemic are directly working against this ambition.
This was the major conclusion drawn from a study involving senior individuals from varying organisations when exploring the impacts of COVID-19 on their change approach and performance.
Inevitably, in the immediate term to mitigate the impacts of lockdown, the focus for the majority has been on cost reduction; leading to drastic descoping and anticipated project base slippages for the next six-12 months. Companies are scrabbling to solve present challenges with change agendas designed for these new capabilities
However, this current action coincides with a simultaneous stated ambition that they will look to accelerate change and significantly adapt business models in the months after COVID.
That’s where a gap is formed, which many organisations are vulnerable to fall into. Change isn’t just for lockdown – it’s here to stay and requires a consistent strategy that is both applicable now, and doable into the future.
THE BALANCING ACT
The problem derives from very few companies adopting the right approach to achieving change. COVID-19 has shone a rather severe spotlight on this shortcoming, with many being exposed for a lack of agility, accountability or preparedness across their organisation.
The reaction from many reflected a conflict in strategy:
The issue: reactions one and two are directly inhibiting the possibility of reaction three in a lot of cases.
It’s not an easy balancing act to achieve of course. The term ‘unprecedented times’ is being banded around for a reason. But this is exactly why consistent and sustainable change capabilities are so critical; in order to offset the unforeseen or the potentially harmful.
“What our study showed was that people are trying to be seen to react appropriately. They’re strategically prioritising projects, radically descoping as a consequence, and then setting out plans to fundamentally change their operating models once this is all over,” explains Proteus Co-founder, John Roberts. “However, what we also found is that two-thirds of respondents believe their leadership of change could be improved; 89% believe the way they measure change could be improved; and 88% perceive the levels of change required to be highly complex.
“The intention is there, but the capability and culture to ensure sustainable reactions both now and post-COVID, aren’t.”
SURVIVE OR THRIVE
The need to reduce costs and delay projects in order to ‘survive’ simultaneously creates adverse consequences on benefits and can create future capacity issues for businesses.
Yet, in the same breath, those same businesses are already earmarking business model overhauls as well.
Today’s answer is solving today’s problem, but that answer is actually creating even bigger issues for tomorrow, which will prevent the ultimate ambition of change when this is all over.
John continues: “That’s the difficulty with balance. You can improve the way you do things today by looking at the financial side of your tactical answer. But you also need to start investing in your own capability for the future, now. You also need to start preparing for how you’re going to do change differently post-COVID.
“It’s not an easy balance to strike, but it’s a balance that organisations must get right if they want to both survive the current situation, and thrive after it.”
MIND THE GAP
John and Proteus are keen to remind that the balance of setting out a change agenda for both now and the future isn’t easy even in normal times. It is, however, our specialty as a data- and AI-driven business focused around turning ambition into doable strategy and developing internal capability into a core asset for a client’s organisation.
To this end, there is a list of paramount guidance that we impart to clients in both precedented and unprecedented times to help them address the balance, and offset the risk of falling into your own gap between strategy and capability:
Better understand your strategic objectives from a current and future do-ability perspective
To descope now without expecting repercussions next year is a big mistake. The overwhelming likelihood is that projects will be delayed and carried forward to next year. The backlog created as a result will constrain capacity and what is possible in the aftermath of COVID, so don’t start planning to ‘do’ things beyond your current portfolio, when that portfolio is already at full capacity.
Re-baseline existing projects to better understand realistic expectations
Scope, time, budget and benefits are all fluid notions at the moment with nobody quite knowing the ramifications on each. By reassessing more realistic expectations on projects, you can offset the likelihood of any unnecessary or nasty surprises, and the bigger fear of letting stakeholders down.
Develop internal capability across leadership, delivery resource and assurance
There needs to be an uplift in internal change capability - focused around outcomes and based around confidence and enhanced collaboration. We call it the art of creating a Common Language of Change™ and it ensures that you become faster, better and more cost-efficient across operations.
Make sure that change demand is aligned with the holistic change capability of your organisation
This holds true both for COVID, and post-COVID, times. We’re living in a new norm now, which will likely foster another, different, new norm in the pandemic’s aftermath. And you can’t keep altering priorities or change demand as each stage comes and goes. A cultural shift and organisation-wide approach to change capability needs to be created so that a focus on project resources or method is altered to a focus on core capability and optimising what’s actually doable.
Improve measurements of change performance
By doing this and by strengthening the assurance regime, you can better understand the status, prognosis, trends and thematic insights that derive from your operations. Bespoke sustainability derives from this ability to not just change for change’s sake, but to do so according to your own requirements and capabilities; no matter the ecosystem, climate or challenges around you.
All data is anonymised and not attributed to a person or organisations.
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The next 6 months and beyond is going to be a journey which will continue to test organisations’ resilience. We want to support you on this journey.
One way in which we can do this is by providing regular updates on the changing response strategies of other organisations and by giving you the tools to assess how you compare.
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