How to Assess and Address Change Impacts Quickly
Written by Andrew Horlick
COVID-19 has required organizations everywhere to respond quickly to shifting conditions. At such a stressful time, it can be difficult to know where to focus your efforts and how to execute appropriately. During times of crisis, it is essential to remember that any organizational achievement is the collective result of individuals and their combined efforts. We must determine how to prepare, equip and support these individuals to do their jobs differently—and we must make that determination quickly. Here's how to do just that.
Name It To Tame It
Before deciding how to help people with the change, you must be clear about the impacts of the change. Defining impact helps you bring the change into focus at the individual level and clarify what adoption and usage look like for the change. This is critical because it enables you to drive the improved results and outcomes you need. Defining impacts also helps you empathize with people, identify areas of resistance, and determine the specific support they need for the change.
Completing a Yesterday-Tomorrow Exercise with the 10 aspects of change impact framework can help you assess the ways people or groups in your organization are being impacted by changes today. As an example, let’s consider a change caused by COVID-19 that is impacting teachers and students around the world: the requirement to close schools while continuing to deliver classes using virtual instructor-led training, eLearning and self-study options. While many post-secondary institutions already provide distance learning options, this requirement is a huge change for most elementary and secondary schools. And it must happen quickly.
Defining yesterday and tomorrow
To determine which aspects of people’s work will change and the degree of impact they will experience, we need to consider both the way things were done before the change became necessary and how the work will need to be done as a consequence of the change. The nature of the changes associated with COVID-19 means that for some, the tomorrow being planned for is literally the day after today. The required change is shifting on a daily or even hourly basis.
Using the shift to online learning as an example, let’s review six of the 10 aspects of the change framework affected most for the two significantly impacted groups: the teachers who deliver the learning and their students. Note that we identified significant impacts to at least six of the 10 aspects. Your initiative may or may not include all 10 aspects, but systematically working through the full list enables you to define both what is and what is not changing while surfacing the important aspects of the change you must consider.
1. Processes – the actions or steps taken to achieve a defined end or outcome.
For teachers, the processes used to deliver high quality learning in a classroom are well established. These include developing lesson plans, facilitating individual and small-group activities, and assessing knowledge through assignments and tests. In an online learning environment, teachers need to make changes to these processes.
Students are accustomed to following defined processes under the observant eye of a teacher. The switch to online learning will require new ways of learning and increased self-discipline. For younger learners, there is a need for greater parental involvement to support the learning processes.
2. Systems – the combination of people and automated applications organized to meet a set of objectives.
Teachers may need to modify existing educational systems, such as tracking attendance and learning progress, to support online learning.
3. Tools – the items or implements used for a specific purpose, such as machinery or web authoring tools or a software program.
The impact on this aspect is significant for both teachers and students. Online learning delivery requires teachers to learn how to use new applications that support online interaction. Examples include polling software and technology tools such as webcams to support virtual connections. For some students, needing access to required technology tools, such as a laptop with a webcam, may be a significant challenge.
4. Job Roles – the description of what a person does, including competencies essential to performing well in that job capacity.
Although the teachers’ job role is essentially the same, moving from yesterday to tomorrow requires new competencies to be effective in that role. Delivering a high-quality virtual learning experience requires the teacher to use different cues and approaches from those used in an in-person classroom setting.
5. Critical Behaviors – the vital or essential response of an individual or group to an action, environment, person or stimulus.
6. Mindset, Attitudes and Beliefs – a mental inclination, disposition or frame of mind reflected in behaviors.
One of the most significant mindset shifts, particularly for a teacher with many years of classroom experience, is acknowledging that high-quality learning can be accomplished without a physical presence. For students, who are used to being surrounded by classmates in a social environment, learning more on their own also requires a significant mindset shift.
7. Reporting Structure – the authority relationships in a company or organization (i.e., who reports to whom).
8. Performance Reviews – the process for and indicators of how an organization measures and assesses performance relative to objectives.
9. Compensation – the amount of the monetary and non-monetary pay provided in return for work performed.
10. Location – a physical geographical place that provides facilities for a stated purpose.
The move to online learning represents a significant shift in location for teachers and students. The requirement of a quiet space for delivering or participating in a class represents a significant challenge, depending on individual living situations.
The ADKAR model
The ADKAR Model is still the easiest, quickest way to plan a change, even when the change requires high levels of flexibility and agility. After completing the Yesterday-Tomorrow Exercise, you can apply the outputs to each ADKAR element to arrive at targeted, actionable steps quickly.
A – For teachers, targeted action steps for building Awareness include enabling senior leaders from the school systems organization explain to students, teachers and parents in a clear and compelling way why the shift to online learning is required. They should also express the urgency of making the change now along with risks to the educational system if the change is not successfully managed.
D – To influence Desire, action steps include appealing to teachers and their commitment to their role as educators. This helps them see the personal benefits of developing the skills necessary to teach effectively in a virtual setting and committing to support other teachers as they develop the necessary ability.
K – Developing Knowledge of how to teach online means teachers need immediate access to the required tools and training on how to use them.
A – Action steps for developing Ability could include pairing teachers who have experience delivering online learning with those who don’t, to provide coaching and encouragement. Providing timely access to technical assistance is also a helpful tactic.
R – To ensure that the change delivers desired outcomes (achievement of learning objectives by the students), teachers need Reinforcement in the form of positive recognition for their efforts in making the shift from the classroom to online learning. This recognition must come from senior leaders. Practical steps could include leaders observing teachers in action and providing positive feedback on their efforts and ensuring access to additional support as needed.
Don’t Discount What You Know
Although detailed assessments and the five traditional change management plans won't help with crisis-related changes requiring a rapid response, the ADKAR Model is still the easiest, fastest way to plan a change. If yesterday’s plan could be invalid tomorrow, combining the Yesterday-Tomorrow framework with the ADKAR Model can yield concrete, actionable steps while enabling you to re-adjust as needed.
Need to assess a change quickly? The Prosci Yesterday-Tomorrow Exercise can help.
For more information about how to use the Yesterday-Tomorrow Exercise, watch our on-demand webinar on Defining Change Impact