Employing a Change Management Mindset in the Midst of a Pandemic

Posted by admin on Apr. 7, 2020  /  Spotlights, Home Page Highlights  /   0

Employing a Change Management Mindset in the Midst of a Pandemic

Grace Miller, PMI Houston contributor


There is a famous quote by a Greek philosopher named Epictetus that says “it is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”.


Over the past month, the COVID-19 pandemic has made us reevaluate everything from our immediate needs and health, to our relationships, and perhaps even to the small things we do on a daily basis that bring us joy. It seems as though everything right now is indefinitely on hold.


From my observations, even though this pandemic is unprecedented, I would argue that some people are handling it better than others. The people that are handling it well (I assume) know the importance of remaining calm and reasonable in the face of uncertainty. This group most likely learned this lesson through personal experience, living through other unexpected crises in their lives. Others are in full panic mode. On the other hand, I have observed some that deny there is any “real” situation to be concerned with and blame the media for unnecessary hype. In my opinion, besides the healthcare professionals and other workers doing essential jobs to keep our communities running, the ones truly keeping all of us sane are those acknowledging that this is a serious situation, yet finding the silver lining and sharing some light-hearted humor with the rest of us.


Finally, to complete the summarized list of reactions I’ve observed,  I’ve noticed there are some that can’t figure out what to do, so they choose to do nothing. They sit and gather more data so they can continue to contemplate all of their options, without actually taking a step towards one particular attitude or action.


Whether we realize it or not, even a lack of a response is a response. Similarly, in a project, whether you react to the changes being implemented in your organization or not, the changes will eventually make an impact in some form or fashion. Besides the actual changes, the way in which the changes are managed will undoubtedly affect the organization as a whole, in addition to the outcome of the project.


According to Prosci, by definition, “change management is the process, tools and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required business outcome” and these tools “can be utilized to help individuals make successful personal transitions resulting in the adoption and realization of change.”


Change management is a key element in project management. The concept of change management seems pretty straight forward, but when overlooked or not managed appropriately, it can have a huge impact on a project. As a project manager, it’s your job to integrate change management into the project. As a part of this responsibility, one of your roles is to ensure your stakeholders are on board with the planned changes.


So, how does one go about doing this exactly? And how do we apply this concept to handle the drastic changes that are currently affecting our daily lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic?


The Kübler-Ross Model (or sometimes called the Kübler-Ross Change Curve) may be one solution. It was created in 1969 and is based on a book written about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This model is most commonly used by people experiencing grief, but it is also used in the business world. The importance of this model, when used in business projects, is for companies planning to implement major changes to, first and foremost, consider how the planned changes will affect their employees and/or customers.


One way to employ this model and a change management mindset in the midst of a pandemic is to apply the five stages to your current situation, whether that be a new work arrangement, dealing with feelings of isolation due to limited social interactions, or actually knowing and/or caring for someone that has contracted the coronavirus. When applied correctly, it can help you to adjust your perspective on your particular situation and process the emotions associated with that change more quickly. Recognizing what stage of the model you are in, whether that it is denial, anger, or even depression, can help to explain your reaction. This will give you a sense of validation that these reactions and concerns are normal and are a direct result of the changes you are experiencing. Once you’ve identified all of your concerns, you can make an action plan with steps to address those concerns and consciously move forward into acceptance of your new reality.

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