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An outlook on 2021 from a change management perspective

Louise Ellekilde Fogstrup, Founder and Partner, Enabling ChangeLouise Ellekilde Fogstrup, Founder and Partner
An outlook on 2021 from a change management perspective

With vaccines now rapidly rolling out globally, a new normal is on the horizon. In the area where I live, many refer to this ‘new horizon’ as the ‘new Weimar period’, the time just after World War I, where culture bloomed along with an increase in creativity and sociability. Personally, I am hoping this will be the case.

When I follow my social media feeds, I would like to highlight following trends when addressing ‘leading change’ in the new normal world:

• The digital ways of working have shown their value and will have a lasting impact on both flexible working and business travel. In short, more flexible working and less business travel compared to the pre-Covid world.

• It is estimated that 20% of high-skilled jobs can be handled as effectively working from home as from the office. This removes the need to relocate individuals for business, as the business can be handled from wherever they are based. This promotes hybrid-organizations.

• The phrase ‘constant change’ is here to stay. Technology is one of the fastest-moving factors.

So what does all of this mean for the discipline of change management? Here, we can learn from the agile world.

1. Find your constant

Only a few people thrive with constant change, most need some stability. So how can organizations provide stability, knowing that change is coming or when operating in non-stable environments?

We find what unites us, our purpose or guiding star.

Organizations, departments and teams need to be clear on what drives them, where they are heading and the value they wish to create. A clear guiding star enables us to be flexible as we work towards our goal and is a constant at the same time.

Why is this relevant? A shared constant unites us across technology, locations and cultures and a clear guiding star ensures we move in the same direction, though the road ahead may be unclear.
2. Improve your adaptability - build competence to succeed and thrive with change

Looking ahead, acquiring competence for change will be as common as learning other skills. As organizations, we train our people when launching new products or introducing different processes, so building competence for change simply makes sense.

When building competence for change, two main factors become apparent: 1) building change competence will be part of any leaders' core toolbox, and 2) enhancing our organization's adaptability to thrive with constant change.

Firstly, skills for leading and implementing change will be at the centre of any development initiatives. This is a given!

Periods of change - as we are experiencing now - make us reflect on necessary prerequisites for our future leaders: personal characteristics, the ability to lead teams and organizations and ensure they thrive in an ever-evolving world. We will see resilient leaders who have the ability to act on what they can influence and are at peace with their insecurities. It is precisely these skills on which we must focus.

Secondly, when constant change becomes the new normal, how do we improve our strategic and operational adaptability as organizations and which skills can we apply to help us adapt going forward?

Focusing on smaller, easy-to-implement initiatives can make a huge impact and will immediately improve adaptability. For example, applying ‘After Actions Reviews’ (AAR) to all initiatives and asking ourselves ‘what went well?’ and ’what didn't work?’, thus collecting constructive suggestions for continuous improvement.

Using tools such as AARs enables us to see whether initiatives create value and bring us closer to our purpose, therefore enhancing organizational adaptability by incorporating continuous learning into our ways of working.

3. Move quickly - speed is a differentiator

When leading and implementing change in a constantly-evolving environment, speed is key. Change processes must be agile with a focus on impact, value and immediate achievement. Implementing 80% of the change over a short period of time is preferable to realizing that the mapped-out 100% solution no longer works in an ever-changing world.

This is achieved by delegating to those who can facilitate change fast, and accept that the process will not be perfect from day one.

2021 – the sun appears to be rising

Looking ahead, change is certainly on the agenda. For the latter part of 2021 at least, I believe that things are looking up: free and creative thinking will follow and relationships will thrive, both physically and virtually.

Personally, I welcome the post-Covid period driven by optimism and creativity!